Cancel Your Cable TV and Keep Watching All Your Favorite Shows – Smooth Move

December 21, 2009 at 9:00 AM Leave a comment

Six months ago, my fiancée and I watched a lot of TV. Any time House, LOST, Seinfeld, any Real Housewives, MTV’s Made and True Life, or just about anything entertaining was on, we’d be glued to the couch.

Today we’re still watching all our favorites . . . but we don’t pay a dime for cable. One day in June, we called Comcast and asked them to cancel our cable (but leave the internet on!).

We were scared, to be honest: We spent most of our free time with our TV on in the background (or as the main attraction), and not having the familiar babble of trashy shows, morning news, weekend movies, and prime time drama was going to be weird. But here’s what made us pull the plug:

  1. Cable TV is a big money waster. Even with bundled TV and Internet, our cable cost us $50 per month. It was $50 we really used, you could argue—but it was $50 we didn’t need to spend, too.
  2. When the TV goes on, our brains shut off. Watching cable is one of the most passive pastimes there is: you turn it on, pick a channel (or don’t bother and go with whatever’s on), and veg out for a while. That’s relaxing and enjoyable in small doses, but mind-numbing and a little depressing after a while. And whenever the TV went on, we were always there for a while.
  3. Without our cable default, we’d find new ways to spend our time. When we had cable, our nights always looked basically the same: come home, make dinner, and plop down in the living room to eat in front of the TV. Then just to watch TV. And before we knew it, any healthy bedtime had already passed. This is no life: maybe cutting out TV would help!

So we did it: We called and cancelled our cable.

Now we still watch our favorite shows—they’re all online on hulu.com and at their network’s sites! We’re always a couple days behind (and have to plug our ears—mentally or physically—when our co-workers start talking about “last night’s episode”), but we’re still up to speed.

And for back-season episodes, we use Netflix‘s fabulous Instant Play feature. This lets you watch movies and shows the moment you pick them, and most of Netflix’s subscription plans come with unlimited Instant Play time. Use it for a few hours each week and you’ll make up the cost of your subscription before you get a single DVD in the mail!

Now let’s talk benefits. The first result of cutting cable, of course, was big savings (though not as much as we’d hoped). Our Internet bill jumped from $50 (half of our bundle) to $60—even after a phone call to try to negotiate it down—but our overall monthly bill went down by $40, for an annual $480 savings.

Secondary savings: Our TV used to be on all the time, and when either of us went through bouts of unemployment or had a few days off, we saw our electricity bill spike at the end of the month. We haven’t broken down the figures, but our monthly bill has certainly gone down since we ditched cable.

But the financial gain is just the start:

  1. We spend less time staring at a screen. Even though we feel like we watch a lot of internet TV (we tore through all of The Office in the past two weeks), we spend hours less time per day glued to a TV screen. We both work at computers all day, so this is a big payoff when we come home.
  2. We can be much more selective about what we watch . . . and when . . . and how. We’re too used to it to notice, but TV is a terrible service: you can’t choose what’s on or when it starts. You can’t fast forward, can’t reverse, and can’t get the instant gratification of watching the next episode of something right after the last one ends. To get that kind of control, people pay $10-20 for DVR service (on top of whatever the initial fee is—too steep!) Watching shows online gives you control over your TV experience . . . which makes it a more enjoyable one.
  3. We care a lot more about anything we watch. This is a tougher one to nail down, but I think it’s like this: Because we chose a show—not just the channel, but the show itself, out of the billions of alternative things to do online—we enjoy it more.

Cutting cable might not be for everyone. If you’re considering it, you should think about your lifestyle—both the way you live and the way you want to live—and ask yourself if a mostly dark TV screen fits into that lifestyle. And if you cut cable but don’t want to live without TV, you should know your replacements—like hulu or netflix—ahead of time.

Cutting cable has lined our wallets and improved our lives. Could it be for you?

What Others Are Saying

Cancel Cable: How to cancel cable TV and still watch your favorite shows

PC World: Cancel Your Cable, Watch TV on an Xbox 

Counting My Pennies: Cancel Your Cable? 

Bargaineering: How to Cancel Your Cable TV Service 

Mr. Cheap Stuff: 10 Reasons You Should Cancel Your Cable TV Right Now 

Gather Little by Little: Cancel Your Cable or Satellite?

Free Money Finance: Money Saving Tip: Cancel Your Cable TV

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Sam Warren

I write about money matters that apply to my life—and hopefully yours!

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