Taking a break from recipes I thought I would write up a post on  being cable free. Existing as one of those Mythical cord cutters that cable company execs are sure don’t actually exist. I’m a unicorn. At least I know it now.

People are always surprised when I tell them we don’t have cable. Many seem to think either we are poor to the point of being impoverished or really really out of touch. I get comments like “ your poor kids” “ oh you;re the mean mommy who threatened to take away the TV and really does it”, “ yeah it’s  so expensive I wish we could cxl ours too”, “it must be hard to miss your shows huh?” or the most popular “ well then what do you watch??” LOL. It is truly laughable.

My secret? We didn’t have to give up much besides a 169.00 bill each month to get great cheap TV.

What moved us to cut cable TV was the fact that we needed a bigger place. My toddler was crawling and all over the place and we were crammed into our old duplex like sardines. The prospect of a new larger home meant a new larger monthly payment. The money had to come form somewhere, and though I diligently checked none of my trees started growing twenty dollar bills .Therefore we had to cut some bills. I had recently joined Sam’s club and was reveling in the savings of bulk buying, and Aldi had recently come to town.

We sat down and really figured out where we had money to save. Insurance policies were consolidated. I realized if I looked at places that didn’t have the big vaulted ceilings I could potentially save a bundle on heating and cooling costs.  Armed with the knowledge of our price range, how many bedrooms  we needed, and what energy wasting features to avoid; the Lord blessed us with out current home. The previous owner had made the home more energy efficient. The utility bills were cut in half. But we still needed to whittledown  the cash outflow.

We considered cxling the home phone and TV right off the bat, but thought we’d see if maybe there was some kind of discount  or way to lower our bill. At first I just lowered our package and they gave me retention pricing but my bill came and it was wrong it was too high by almost $100. Then the next bill came and it was $50.00 to high. The third bill arrived at our new home. It too was wrong. Something wasn’t adding up.  I finally decided to take the plunge an cxl my U-verse.

I had been researching ditching the cable TV for a long time. My friend Laura and her Hubby have never had cable, she planted a little seed.  While looking into internet capable devices,I realized I was underusing my Wii. We used it to download games and demos but we had a Netflix subscription and with it I could get streaming TV shows and movies. What’s this??? A download-able app you say?? I had to have it. The whole family loved the instant access of streaming but were a little bummed that there weren’t more current seasons. Then my research led my back to antenna TV. Remember antenna TV from being a kid? It was fuzzy you got between 3-12 channels depending where you were and there was no kids programming after 5pm? Oh, have things ever changed. Learning more about the digital conversion of 2009 was truly enlightening. By mandating digital broadcasting the public now has access to stunningly clear programming in HD with almost no signal compression.

What does that mean?? Your HD pic is crystalline. Literally. The poor signal cable satellite and telco call HD is shameful compared to the free over the air( OTA) signal. Additionally, the networks can now broadcast multiple channels in the same bandwidth. Here in my area for instance we have PBS on channel 13.1 and channel 13.2 is PBS international. Channel 5.1 is NBC channel 5.2 is NBC entertainment channel and 5.3 is NBC weather channel. This area gets around 55-60 channels. If you remove the duplicate channels and foreign language channels (Spanish and Vietnamese) we have roughly 30 unique channels.

Most of the locally broadcast channels have a cable equivalent. Retro TV has similar programming to Nick at Night. Daystar is a christian broadcast channel, Qubo is a free network channelthat carries kids programming 24 hours. Yeah, that channel that your cable or satellite provider might not even carry and if they do they put it in the more expensive kids tier? That expensive channel that your kids love???Free, just like PBS. As for the Sprout channel, it has a few original programs but mostly replays PBS shows. Many areas have PBS educational channel and from 6 am until 8 pm it has a very similar line up to Sprout. Not to mention My TV, ABC, CBS, Fox, The CW, ION and more. In this area channel 21 plays all the locals games. I live in the Dallas area. That covers the Mavs, Cowboys, Rangers, and Stars. Not ESPN but definitely covers the basics.

If you have seen a Tivo add, they have a very interesting factoid. 98% of all TV viewing is from network (free) programs.

But how do my old analog TVs get a digital signal? That was what the government converter box program was about in 2009. It provided 2 coupons for said digital converter. Most of the time the coupon didn’t make the converter free but took $30.00 off so the consumer only had to pay $15.00-$30.00 dollars for the converter. The digital converter takes the new digital signal and converts it into a format an older TV can play. Since this household didn’t switch until 2012 the converter program was long gone. Instead bargains were found on a couple of well rated converter boxes on line for $29.99. Using that company’s site to store shipping there were no shipping costs. This is the most important part. Remember how with the old analog signal you didn’t need an antenna? With out it you could still get a few channels even if they were fuzzy? Not so with digital channels. The New tuners must have an antenna connection. You will see a lot of people talking about these expensive $30+ antennae they have per TV. Not always necessary. I bought cheap-o $10.00 bunny ears for each set. Check what channels are available in your area at antennaweb.org. Before I bought my 4 antennae, I bought 1 set of bunny ears and tried them out on one TV. We were still running U-verse and the difference in picture and clarity was breathtaking. For a one time $40.00 total per television we get 30 or so  free english language channels. My home is wired for cable so my eventual plan, some time next year, is to get one roof mount antenna that will run to all of my televisions. I want to eliminate some of the indoor clutter and it does get old readjusting the antenna.

What about the Netflix? That was expanded to all sets also. Thanks to my streaming set top box, Roku. What is a streaming set top box? It allows you to watch many internet programs on your television set with out buying a new expensive web connected TV. There are a plethora of set top boxes on the market Apple’s Boxee box, Google TV, Tivo, netgear streaming media players, Roku and even many blue-ray players have some internet connectivity. We switched our internet to Time Warner Cable to take advantage of the higher streaming speeds at a much better price, only $50.00 per month. That price includes WI-fi. I have 2 Roku LTs, a Roku HD and the Wii. With them I have access to Netflix, Hulu plus and a host of other Roku channels. Many of the Roku channels are free. The cost for the Roku LT was $50.00 per set top box. I bought the Roku HD on sale for $39.99. And it is so tiny. Really about the size of the palm of my hand. We upgraded our Hulu to Hulu plus. That allows much of Hulu’s programming to be watched via the Wii or Roku’s. Hulu also allows me to watch many cable shows right on my laptop with out needing to subscribe to those channels. It costs $8.43 per month and we have found it to be a great value.

The other item I wanted to mention was home phone. Many people have abandoned this service in an attempt to save money, for the convenience of cell phones, to eliminate redundancy etc. Well we still have it primarily for the ease of 911. If one of my kids goes into anaphylaxsis I do not want myself or the sitter to have to remember our address like you would from a cell phone. I want the 911 operator to be able to find us. Once I discovered Magic Jack has e-911 and you can port your phone number I was sold.

What is magic jack? It is a usb device that turns a high-speed internet connection into a phone line. It does not conflict with internet use like old dial up. You can watch Netflix, scroll facebook and talk on the phone all at the same time. There are 2 types of Magic Jack, one version needs to plug directly into the computer or laptop and that device must be on, in order to use to “phone”. The other can plug directly into your router or modem and does not need to be connected to a computer. The former is $19.99 for 1 year of home phone service with unlimited long distance. The latter is more expensive. It is $69.99 for the first year and you can purchase an additional 5 years for $99.00 that breaks down to $20.00 per year. So 6 years of home phone for $169.99. that’s an average of $2.83 a month for home phone.

If you’ve been keeping tally for my four televisions; that brings my total up front expenses to appx $140.00 for the Roku’s, $120.00 for the digital converters, $40.00 for the antennas, and $70.00 for home phone. Soooo $370.00. My monthly expenses are down to $50.00 for internet, 2.83 for phone and 8.43 for Hulu. I do not count the cost of Netflix as an additional expense because we had it long before I considered cutting the cord. Total monthly cost appx $61.27. Down from $169.00 per month.

Savings of $1292.84 per year. Less first year star up costs net savings of $922.84.

That’s the dollars and cents of it. Over a thousand dollars less each year and I still get the shows I want.