Having children causes you to review your priorities. One thing you learn pretty darn quickly is “I’m not #1 anymore.” The next is “Holy crap kids are expensive!” which really, is tied for second with “So. That’s what poop looks like on the floor.”
Whether we know it or acknowledge it or not, we seek control of our lives. And in that trifecta from the last paragraph, there’s only one thing we can control — expenses. This is really important, because on top of all the extra money being thrown into the garbage (hello, diapers!) we want to try and put some money away for college funds and gifts. Ah, and travel costs more too! We get hit from almost every direction with increased costs.
We had the “triple-play” package from our cable company that starts out at $99/month for the first year and starts going up from there. At the highpoint we were paying over $125 per month and this was increasing every few months. (That’s more than $1400 per year!) I figured after removing what we really needed (Internet+Phone) it was costing us $50 per month to watch cable TV — about $600 per year. I could think of plenty of things I could do with $600 and after some thought we decided to go for broke… er… for FREE TV.
But first, I gave the cable company an opportunity to give me a discount. “Hello cable company? I’ve been paying for your service for 6 years straight, I’ve been a loyal customer and paid on time every month, how about some love, how about a discount?” They transferred me to their “termination department” after I made sure they weren’t going to just kill my account. I ended up trying to negotiate with what must have been a 13-year old, who gave me a special deal… $10 off! I felt like Superman after that, I was on top of the world, ha ha, I’m rich! But… alas… the discount lasted one month. #@$%@#$!
So this is really pretty easy once your cable company refuses to give you a discount and you put mind to it, and that’s what we did. Cable TV is something we really enjoyed — I can’t tell you how many hours of our lives were lost to watching HGTV, Food Network, the Discovery and Sci-Fi channels. But now with the baby and then number two, we had less and less time to waste on TV — if we were going to spend any time on TV it was going to be targeted and not just to channel-surf.
FREE TV… what’s that? Do you remember, not too long ago, that you could watch TV without having cable, a dish or the Internet? “Over the Air” TV through an antenna and for free. After some time spent Googling and doing a LOT of research I found Denny’s Antenna Service, located in Michigan. The site is very busy, so just stick to the navigation bar on the left, and look for “Digital TV Antenna Selector” — this will take you to a long page. Read it all. He directs you to the FCC’s site where you plug in your zip code and it will show you the relative strenths of all the channels you can get from your location. Close that window, return to Denny’s site and use that information to choose an antenna. Of course, you’ll need to decide whether you want one for the roof top, or one to install in your attic.
I chose “Denny’s EZ HD TV antenna” which I installed in the attic. If we didn’t live in a townhome and have to beg for permission, I would have installed it on the roof for best signal reception. Even so, we get *amazing* clarity, just as good as cable and every broadcast is in HD and most are in widescreen. It’s amazing! You’d be surprised just how much quality broadcasting is available. But the next part makes it all worthwhile.
Next I setup a DVR (Digital Video Recorder – think modern VCR) to take advantage of all that free programming. We constantly have over 100 hours of TV queued up and haven’t been able to keep up. No more channel surfing — we watch shows that we like, when we have time for them. Pause them to get a snack or take a phone call or go shopping and resume when we return. Skip commercials (ha!)
Make no mistake, the DVR isn’t free. But it costs far less than the cost of cable for a year, and you’ll be saving money hand over fist after that since your cost will be $0. But the DVR… that’ll be another post. Hmm, another post, too, for the VoIP phone.
The icing on the cake was the phone calls we started getting. Sometimes from a “survey company” othertimes admittedly from the cable company. One of them went like this:
Cable: “Sir, we’d like to offer you a special deal to switch back from Dish TV.”
Me: “Hmm. Not using Dish TV.”
Cable: “Huh? What?”
Me: “Not. Using. Dish. TV.”
Cable: “Oh, ok, so well, we’re going to make you an amazing offer.”
Me: “Oh? Can you beat free?”
Cable: “What? Free? You can’t get TV for free.”
Me: “ha ha ha!”