When I was in college, I considered cable TV a necessity. I’d hop from one provider to the next, salivating after introductory offers. A $79 bill that’s normally $149? Sign me up! I never really watched much, but I had a DVR box full of cooking shows and HGTV episodes. Sure, I’d binge watch a few every now and then, but it was essentially a form of virtual hoarding, a treasured repository of entertainment tucked away in a fancy box I paid $20/month for.
After I graduated, I was faced with a mountain of student loan debt and dismal job prospects (thank you, Anthropology degree). The reality of my financial situation was hard to swallow, and I eventually had to learn the adult dance of budgeting.
When you take a long, hard look at your expenses, cable just doesn’t make the cut. The average bill is $99, which adds up to over $1,100 a year. And with all those flashy extras (sports packages, multiple HD receivers, voice activated remotes), the total can easily climb beyond that. In fact, the price of cable is growing at a rate 4x faster than that of inflation. Craziness, I tell you!
There are folks who shun digital entertainment altogether – avoiding smartphones and boycotting Facebook, choosing instead to peruse the newspaper or curl up with a good book. Quite frankly, I admire these people. And as much as I’d love to tell you I steer clear of mindless, borderline-brainwashing entertainment, I can’t. In fact, I start every weekday morning with local news and a cup of coffee, and many weeknight hours are spent with Netflix and a glass (or two) of wine.
Between work, money, and relationships, life can be complicated. And while it’s never a good idea to spend your waking life glued to a screen, TV does have its advantages. It can provide an escape, a chance to get lost in another story, to have a good belly laugh or learn something new. There’s no doubt cable is expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out.
When someone asks me if I have cable, I kind of nerd out in my explanation. A year or two ago, my boyfriend purchased an HD antennae. It’s a relatively small, adhesive rectangle that attaches to a window – think glorified rabbit ears (if you’re old enough to catch that reference). For a one-time investment of $20, we’re able to enjoy free, HD local channels, plus several over-the-air broadcast channels like Escape (crime stories) and Buzzr (vintage game shows). Those shows you tune into on FOX, ABC, CBS, and the like? We get them all – without paying a dime.
Why make the switch?
Humans are creatures of habit, and deciding to change your relationship with cable can be hard. But if you’re looking for some extra money in your pocket each month, consider this:
Too much TV wastes your time. According to this article on CBS, Americans watch over four hours of television a day. That’s over 28 hours a week, and I don’t think I have to convince you there are better ways to spend your time. Spend time with your friends and family, work on crafts or projects, read, exercise, or even take a nap.
Cable can cost you over $1,000 a year. That’s 15 concert tickets, two round trip flights to visit friends or family, or over 300 gallons of milk (although that’s probably overkill). Think of all the experiences and practical items you could buy with that extra cash! If you want to stretch your dollars even further, use that cushion to help pay down your debt, ultimately freeing up more spending (saving!) money.
You still have options. While an HD antennae is a great, cheap, one time investment, it’s not the only option. Consider Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime – they’re affordable meccas of online content, usually for a nominal monthly or yearly membership fee. If you’re really looking to save money, check out your local library for a huge selection of DVDs. Many libraries have teamed up with services like Hoopla Digital to bring you even more options.
Do you have cable, or have you already cut the cord? Let me know in the comments!