What This Mom Learned After Two Years Without Cable TV

I was sitting in the drive thru lane of a fast food restaurant last week waiting on a salad I had ordered for my husbands lunch (because this lady has no time to worry about making a lunch for my husband… sorry babe) and for some reason it donned on me… we’ve been without cable/satellite TV for nearly two years now. Wow!

We first got cable TV when we had been married for just a few months; so that was about 12 years ago. Joshua and I were super broke newly weds trying to survive on my part time, minimum wage ($6.75 an hour back then) bank teller job and his part time $7.50 an hour bank teller job, plus any side jobs we could scrounge up. Even for two young people with no debt who were sharing one vehicle and living in a $460 a month apartment, our approximate monthly income of $912-ish a month was barely (not even) getting us the basic necessities. So when my husband was hired for a second part time job, we felt rich! As a treat we signed up for cable TV. It was a big thing for us to commit to that monthly bill of $14. Ahhhh… to be young and poor… so cute. 🙂

For the next 10 years we almost always had cable or satellite TV. There were a few times that we moved and went without for a couple of months to save money. But then then Lost happened and we “needed” TV, so we signed up again.

Once we learned of the wonder of the DVR, I decided we’d never go without a DVR ever again. I would seriously rather have NO TV than to have TV with no DVR. I mean, what is even the point?! Man, I’m too busy to work my life around the TV schedule. So modern of me.

But seriously, the DVR is the best thing to happen to TV since color.

Almost two years ago we moved back “home” and lived with my parents for 7 months during the transition. They have satellite, but we rarely watched their TV and when we did it was usually DVD’s or kids shows, so I count that time period as going without cable/satellite. When we moved to our current house we found that our only option was cable and that the packages in this area are RIDICULOUSLY overpriced. This is when the belligerent Carissa shows up and says “uh, forget you, Comcast! You are not the boss of me!” As it turns out, people are getting wise to the fact that we now have many options when it comes to TV. We do not have to pay $60 a month for the most very basic cable package, or $120 a month for a decent number of channels, or even $200 a month for a TV/internet package. Nope!

Back in the day when we lived in a house without huge trees blocking the signal (and I’m a total tree lover, so the trees stay) we could usually keep our satellite bill down to around $35 a month WITH a DVR. We did that by staying with a basic package, no extra sports or movie channels, no more than two TVs in our house, and by switching our provider whenever we were out of our contract and could get a lower rate elsewhere. Since the satellite option is now off the table for us, we’ve gone rogue. No more “real” TV.

After two years, I’m ready to give you my true, honest thoughts on ditching cable TV. Here we go!

What This Mom Learned After Two Years Without Cable TV

I STILL MISS LIVE TV

People who get rid of “regular” TV often say that there is an adjustment period after which their family gets used to not having live TV as an option. After a few months it’s no big deal. Honestly? Not true for me. Almost two years here and I still often think about how I miss actual TV.

I miss the local evening news. I miss Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune after the news when we’re all cleaning up from dinner and scattered around the house. No one really watches these game shows, but they provide comfortingly familiar background noise as a backdrop to our evening family routine. I miss holiday specials. I used to miss QVC because I’m a weirdo, but we just got an Apple TV and can now watch the QVC channel. Yay!

It’s true – two years after ditching live TV and I still miss it.

So there’s some honestly for ya! Getting rid of your cable or satellite is not always 100% easy, but hey, you’ll survive. We’re all still alive here. Let’s put this in perspective: this whole topic is SO first world probs.

If you’re struggling to make ends meet financially, you do not get the luxury of cable/satellite. Straight talk here. It’s one of the first things you need to cut, right behind cigarettes.

If you’re trying to save for a trip, put kids through private school, finally get money into savings, start a business… you do not need live TV. It may be a bit painful to leave this luxury behind, or it may actually be easier than you thought it would be. Either way you will have made one more necessary change to get you closer to your financial goals and you’ll be wasting less time parked in front of the TV. Good for you! And seriously, no judgement here; parking it on the couch for a restful evening of TV is like, one of my most favorite things to do!

ROKU VS APPLE TV

There are various options for you to choose when selecting a Digital Media Player (DMP). I’ll just talk about Roku and Apple TV because those are the two I have experience with.

Roku – We got our Roku more than 4 years ago and it’s still going strong. It’s hooked up to our small TV in the bedroom (yes, I have a TV in the bedroom. Step off, sister!) and we stream Netflix and Hulu. It was about a $100 investment all said and done, but it’s been very useful. Now that it’s getting older (HATE how long electronics last… or DON’T last these days!) it’s starting to have some issues with freezing. When this happens I just unplug the Roku for a second and then plug it back in and it works again. This is happening a few times a week. No big deal.

Overall, we really like the Roku. Pretty easy to use, not too expensive, and gets the job done.

Apple TV – Our Apple TV was a Christmas gift from my in laws. We’ve had it for three months now and it’s awesome! If I had to choose between Roku and Apple TV, for sure the Apple TV would win. There are so many apps and options. We use Siri to search for shows. It came with a QVC app as I mentioned before, so that’s fun when I want background noise at home.

One thing I will caution you on is how easy it is to make purchases in the Apple TV. My four year old has been so kind as to buy us several different fireplace apps. You know, to make our living room feel more “cozy.” Super sweet of her to spend our money on that. 😐 I haven’t figured out how to block the in app purchasing options. I’ve heard from other parents that this is a big issue. Since the Apple TV is so easy to use and our children are apparently way smarter than we were at their age, they can figure out how to buy junk on the TV faster than you will be able to, for sure.

HULU AND NETFLIX AND AMAZON… OH MY!

There are sooooo many options for streaming shows now, it’s crazy! And for reals, none of them have it all. If you subscribe to all the apps and services that you want to get you all the shows you may want, you’ll for sure end up paying as much as you would for cable TV… easily.

Be very judicious when selecting which streaming services you want to subscribe to, because it adds up fast. Here are my thoughts on the services I have personal experience with:

Amazon Prime – Tried it. Still not even sure what I actually get with this service that I don’t get with Netflix or Hulu. Not impressed. Did not renew the membership. (Sorry, Amazon. I still love you.)

I do like that you pay for Amazon Prime once and then have it for a whole year. It also allows you free 2-day shipping on most Amazon orders, and while I’ve used that benefit and it’s awesome, as an option to watch shows alone, Amazon is not my choice.

Pricing: $99 per year

Hulu – Hulu is the best streaming service (in my sweet, humble opinion) for current TV shows. CBS is stupid, so you won’t be seeing your favorite CBS shows on Hulu, but basically everything else is there. My daughter loves Disney Junior shows, and they’re available on Hulu. I enjoy keeping up with Nashville and a couple of other sitcoms, and Hulu let’s me do that. Hulu usually releases new shows about 24 hours after they air on live TV.

Pricing: Basic Hulu is free for limited shows, $7.99 a month for Hulu Plus (what I use), $11.99 for Hulu Plus without commercials.

Netflix – My fav. Netflix has the most of what I want to watch. Two summers ago I spent some time every evening making my way through Parenthood and then Gilmore Girls. I love being able to watch an entire series at my own pace!

The Netflix app is awesome for entertaining kids while traveling. Just watch your data usage on your cell service!

A big bonus with Netflix is the many shows now being produced and streamed exclusively by Netflix.

Pricing: $7.99 a month for one screen, $9.99 a month for two screens, $11.99 a month for four screens.

CBS All-Access – Gumble. I HATE that CBS is stingy and won’t sign a contract with Hulu or Netflix to stream their shows. Instead, they have their own CBS All-Access app. It’s fine. It’s all CBS shows, but not necessarily all seasons of all their shows.

This app is fine. I’m just super annoyed that I would even have to buy yet another subscription to watch the few CBS shows I really like.

Price: $5.99 a month.

iTunes – If you want to go broke fast, start buying seasons of shows on iTunes. Seriously. By your kid braces, or buy 6 months worth of shows.

Price: pay to buy each show or season – adds up fast.

FREE TV!

There are still options for watching TV without paying anything. Again, I’m only sharing my own experience here, so these are my thoughts:

TV Antenna – Apparently there is a way you can get a digital antenna, run it through your house and up onto your roof and actually get some live local TV stations. I’ve not attempted this, but I have friends who have and they were getting about 14 channels totally free with decent reception.

Did anyone else grow up without cable TV? Me! As a kid and teenager we only had free local TV and we used a TV top antenna covered in foil. We’d move it all around when we changed the channel to try to make it a little less fuzzy, which never seemed to totally work. Ahhh… the cave man days!

Now in the digital age, it’s not as easy and cheap as it used to be to get access to free TV with an antenna. But it’s still a possibility. If you have experience with this, please comment and tell us how it works for you.

The Library – We love the library! I take my daughter to our local library weekly to read books, attend story time, and check out movies for FREE.

I encourage you to become a regular at your local library. It’s an important place of learning and community. Just be sure to come up with a foolproof system at home for preventing library books, CD’s, and DVD’s from getting lost. Avoid the late fees!

 

Well friends, that’s about all the knowledge I can pass on at the moment on the topic of ditching cable/satellite. The moral of my store is you can do it, it may really suck, and you have options.

Buh-bye big TV bills. We don’t miss you.

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9 Comments on What This Mom Learned After Two Years Without Cable TV

  1. Emily
    February 28, 2016 at 11:38 am (2 years ago)

    You should check out vidangel, you “buy” a movie for $20, stream it then “sell” it back for $19. The best part is that you can edit the movies.

    Reply
  2. Jennifer DeFrates/Heaven Not Harvard
    February 29, 2016 at 12:10 pm (2 years ago)

    We just signed up for another year on our contract, so I know our TV isn’t going anywhere soon, but I appreciate the feedback about devices as I find our viewing is more and more limited. My husband likes sportsman networks and cooking channels, those would be the most important to find on one of these apps/devices to make sure he gets what little tv he likes. Also have you tried PureFlix? Or Hallmark Streaming? Just curious

    Reply
  3. andrea
    February 29, 2016 at 6:52 pm (2 years ago)

    SO many great ways of watching TV and video WITHOUT cable! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Rachel - À LA MODEST
    February 29, 2016 at 8:49 pm (2 years ago)

    What a fun post. I enjoyed reading this! I think it’s been almost two years ago now too since we moved back in with my husband’s parents. Ah, Lost! I miss those days. TV makes me nostalgic and is slowly going away now with all the online options. I generally prefer offline/physical entertainment (CDs as opposed to mp3s, DVDs and theater as opposed to streaming), but if it means saving money, I go for online!

    Reply
  5. Brandi Penguins in Pink
    March 1, 2016 at 1:43 pm (2 years ago)

    We ditched cable almost 3 years ago. And I love not having it. We used Hulu at first but use Netflix and Amazon now. We got a Amazon Fire stick for Christmas and use it for watching tv and movies. We are moving to all digital movies and Amazon links with our Disney movies account which means we don’t have to rebuy most of our movies. I do find that prime lacks a lot of shows I would like to watch but it makes up for it in movies.

    Reply
  6. Janella
    March 1, 2016 at 6:57 pm (2 years ago)

    I have been wanting to cancel my cable but i worry about the adjustment for the kids. I think I may look into these avenues and see what they offer

    Reply
  7. Susan
    March 3, 2016 at 9:09 am (2 years ago)

    Great advice ! Like u I like live Tv so I ordered the Mohu 50 . Very easy to set up I’m able to receive 45 channels. My zip code said maybe I would get 10. I get CBS NBC Fox.

    Reply
  8. Tara
    March 12, 2016 at 9:58 pm (2 years ago)

    We just ditched our satellite in January. It was difficult but we installed an antenna in the attic and it works great unless it is windy or heavily raining (in which case the satellite didn’t work, either). We also use Netflix and SlingTV on our Roku stick. SlingTV is what made it easy to switch…for $20 per month you get all of the cable (not network) channels you really watch, such as HGTV, Food Network, AMC, TBS, Disney, ESPN, ABC Family (or Freeform), CNN, and more. I occasionally miss DVR but with the network apps on the Roku it is almost like DVR except on ABC I have to watch them a week late if I miss it live. Oh, and I also gave my husband a year-long subscription to Qello Concerts for Valentines day. $30 a month sure beats over $100!

    Reply
  9. Josh Nielsen
    September 3, 2016 at 11:37 am (1 year ago)

    Don’t forget that you can get very basic television channels (HD) for free if you live in/near a city with a modern digital antenna/”rabbit ears”. I used that for over three years of having no cable. And honestly I barely watched it unless there was something very specific I wanted to watch. That way you can watch local news, weather, and a select few TV shows (ABC is present in my region for free). I was actually completely on internet streaming services until the 2012 Olympics, and then I was in a bind because I could NOT miss the Olympics. How would I get NBC? Cable? Nope. Went to Walmart and bought a $35-50 digital and antenna and voila, beautiful HD coverage of the Olympics instantly. No need to be chained to a cable company and their contracts.

    Reply

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