Last year I decided to switch to DirecTV to save some money on our monthly cable bill while gaining access to all of the NFL games last season. Don’t laugh. So I canceled my Time Warner Cable package and signed my 2-year contract with DirecTV for something like $85 a month. A savings of about $40 bucks a month when all was said and done. I went back to my wife, who’s veins flow with mad negotiating skills and bragged, “I just talked this DirecTV lady down and she gave me crazy discounts! WHO’S THE SHARK NOW?! HUH?! YEAH! I’M THE SHARK!”
I’m the shark…
Six months later my bill went up $20 dollars. What?! Wait! I confirmed three times with this lady that $85 was my monthly bill moving forward. What is this nonsense? Oh well, it’s only $20 bucks. Still cheaper than what I was paying before. In another three months my bill went up yet again. I’m the…shark?
I called in and surprise, surprise. Yes, discounts WERE applied to my monthly bill. BUT, each discount was a separate “promotion” and therefore expired at different points into my contract. These are all things a real shark would…ya know, READ ABOUT and understand before signing up. “Who’s the shark now, Rick?” asked Rachel. Hurtful So very hurtful. But fair.
It turns out that I’m a guppy! It’s cool though, cause guppies are highly adaptable and thrive in many different environmental and ecological conditions. SUP NOW SHARKS!
When I realized that by the end of my DirecTV sentence I would be paying over $200 a month, I decided enough was enough. I called up, spent an hour convincing customer service that yes, I’m sure that I want to cancel my contract, and paid a $275 cancellation fee. $275 for freedom, you laugh? Mel Gibson paid the ULTIMATE PRICE for freedom in Brave Heart. HIS LIFE, PEOPLE!
When we relocated to Seattle a few months later, I was done with cable. Five years, four different homes, four different states. I’ve had enough. I paid a premium for a thousand channels I never wanted or watched. I’m sick of bundles. Cable TV is like going to the market for organic baby spinach, but being forced to buy off-brand cheerios AND “freshly baked yesterday donuts” with your greens. Before you know it you’re watching a Lord of the Rings marathon that lasts from 10AM to 3AM the next day on SPIKE while munching on Cheer Heroes!.
All this when all you ever really wanted was HBO, HGTV and the weather channel (before they started sensationalizing and naming every.single.storm).
A La Carte in a Box
This idea has been floating around for a number a years and it’s finally catching on. Pick what you want to watch and pay for it. You mean like everything else we do on a daily basis? YES! In order to cut your cable, you need two things:
1. A streaming device
2. A wireless connection
SO which streaming device? I decided to go with Amazon Fire TV because I already pay $99/year for their Prime service, which also gives you 2-day shipping, access to 40,000 Prime video titles, over a million songs and something like 5GB on their cloud service (for pictures, etc.).
If you’re tied into Apple’s ecosystem you may want to consider the Apple TV. I was very close to picking up a ROKU box as it sports very similar technical specifications as the Fire TV. If I didn’t already pay for prime, I probably would have gone for the ROKU 3.
Once you get one of the above boxes, you’ll have access to that ecosystem’s TV and Movie catalog along with all of the major streaming services.
Newer to the market, these little USB thumb drive sticks are all the rage now…and I see why! What are they? Well think of them as mini me boxes with inferior tech specs (especially for gaming) but enough gusto to get the job done. They plug right into your TV’s HDMI slot.
I just picked up a FireTV Stick for $39. It works just like the FireTV, but the size of a thumb drive and less than half the price. The FireTV stick sports a dual-core processor, 8 GB of storage and 1 GB of memory.
Roku also has a streaming stick for $49. The Roku Streaming Stick has 256MB of storage and 512MB of memory. I don’t have any experience with any Roku devices, but they’ve got overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Also on the market is Google’s Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player. You can plug this stick directly into your TV or computer monitor and have access to all of the major streaming services along with the Google Play store. It has 2GB of built-in storage and 512MB of memory. Again, I don’t have any experience with this device, but it’s the #1 bestseller in it’s class on Amazon. If you’re an android user and deep into Google’s ecosystem, this may be the stick for you!
To fill in some of the holes left from cutting the cord, I did the following:
1. Purchased a digital antenna called the Mohu Leaf to get 50+ local channels over the air in HD.
It hooks up right to your TV’s coaxial cable. You can pin it right behind the TV on the wall, or stick it to a window. Mine is completely hidden by my TV.
With the Leaf, I get ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS. So that’s news, weather and sports, in HD, all for a one-time fee $40. Crazy or common sense?!
2. Added subscriptions to Netflix (8.99/mo for HD) and Hulu Plus (7.99/mo HD). These apps can both be watched on any of the above streaming boxes AND mobile devices. Hello, iPad!
Resistance and Silly Push-Back
Whenever you suggest taking something away that most people grew up with or have had access to for most of their lives, there’s always push back. Like when I started eating a mostly Paleo diet, people would say…how can you deprive your LITTLE GIRLS of peanut butter and jelly? What’s wrong with PB&J? You monster. Same with cable. How could I deprive my girls of Nickelodeon and all of it’s sub channels? Am I a monster? No fool, I’m a GUPPY!
For naysayers, Nickelodeon shows ARE available on Amazon Prime Video for streaming. Amazon/Nick dictate which seasons are available in the Prime catalog (included in your yearly subscription), but you can always purchase whatever you want at any time from any season that’s available. Just as an example, right now about two of the six seasons of Nick Jr’s Dora the Explorer are available for Prime Instant Video. The prime offerings rotate over the course of the year. The rest are available for purchase if you so choose.
And unlike cable, there are no commercials when you buy shows individually or stream from the Prime catalog or Netflix (except for Hulu Plus). So with the FireTV, my girls don’t have to sit through mind-numbing amounts of product pushing while watching a twenty minute show (as they would with cable). Additionally, with the Mohu Leaf I get PBS over the air. So while I get breakfast started for the girls and drink my cup of coffee, my 2-year old watches a show or two on PBS. I like PBS.
The really, reallys.
Before cutting the cord:
Cable – $200/month
Internet – $80/month (I think TWC was ripping me off)
First year savings of: $2,258 (due to the one-time equipment purchases above)
Annual savings thereafter: $2,397
Keep this in mind…
I had Rach read this over and her eyes bulged as she once again realized the yearly savings that this bad-ass super awesome guppy achieved. From there it devolved into a mini debate about how I HAVE to mention that I rent one movie a week and that adds up. FIRST OF ALL I don’t rent one movie a week. Maybe two per month. But for fun, let’s say that I did rent one movie per week for a year at $5.99 per HD rental (you can pick standard def or high def, high definition being a dollar or two more). That’s about $312 a year. For us, it’s still a savings of $2,085! Sup Sharks.
And with that bullet-proof point, it’s important to remember that any extra content that doesn’t fall into one of the streaming catalogs of Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, will have to be purchased individually or by season if it’s a TV show.
The Lost & Forgotten
Letting go is hard. If you’ve ever had to downsize and move into a smaller home, you can empathize. It’s the same thing for cutting cable. ESPN, my sweet prince…how I miss your daily Johnny Football gossip.
While there are apps available on streaming devices for ESPN and HBO, they require a cable subscription to view any content. While other channels such as AMC, HGTV, DIY Network don’t even have apps. They’re simply gone, babe. Gone. The good news is this: You’ll get over it. OR you’ll just watch whatever show you’re missing out on whenever it gets released to one of the streaming services you subscribe to. OR you’ll purchase it when it’s available. OR you just won’t leave your cable bundle!
The Good News
It’s pretty clear that change is in the water. Over the next few years I fully expect major networks to break free from their cable contracts and offer programming a la carte to streaming devices. Once HBO offers their programs without requiring a cable subscription, watch for others to quickly follow suit.
But when, Rick? When!
I’m afraid guppies aren’t privy to the business of sharks.
As a dad, breaking free from cable and satellite was a really big deal for me. It not only saved my family A LOT of money monthly, but also put me back in the driver seat on what my girls are exposed to (no commercials).
In this post I feature Amazon products while mentioning others on the market. The reason I did this was because they’re the only ones that I have experience with! I did a lot a research prior to grabbing the FireTV vs the Roku and AppleTV, and it just happened to be what fit for my family. So please keep that in mind if you do decide to get rid of cable.
Do what works for you! You’re an adult!
Pros to cutting the cord:
– Over two thousand dollars in savings annually
– No Commercials
– I control what my children’s eyeballs are exposed to
– No contracts or shady business on my bills
– No hideous set top box (with outdated software) sitting on my TV stand
– Not all content is available
Get over it!
Check out part two here!