Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Year of Living Cable-Less-Ly

We hit 3 years at our condo as of October 1st! One thing this made me think about was how we decided to ditch the satellite box at the end of Year 2 after our DirecTV contract and special rate ran out. Facing $95 a month, on top of escalating internet and phone costs, we figured there must be a better way and considered cutting the cord.

Now, I am a cable television fan - I love me some DIY Network, AMC and FX. And Bob was hard pressed to give up History Channel and The Daily Show. And, truth be told, a little bit of me would be sad that on any given Saturday afternoon National Treasure, Indiana Jones 4 or The Mummy wouldn't be inevitably blaring from our living room TV (seriously - I think those movies are on an endless loop on 8 different stations.)

We set up the cancellation date and haven't looked back since. The secret? We aren't watching any less TV than we were before, but saving about $90 over what we were were spending a month. Here's why:

Netflix ($20 a month for 2 discs in the mail and streaming)
We were paying for this already, with my Netflix account going on Year 9. Although streaming only would gain us even more savings, I love getting discs in the mail because there is still a whole lot out there not on instant. How else would I be making my way steadily through every Woody Allen movie, or show Bob the wonder is that The American President?
Hulu Plus ($8 a month)
With this account, we keep up one-day-late with the network TV shows. I just had to get used to watching Modern Family on Thursdays and Parenthood on Friday nights (I mean. . .Fridays at 4am after I get back from going out to the clubs. . .oh, let's face it - I'm cuddled up on the couch.) We realized not everything could be found on Hulu Plus, so we ran to cbs.com all last year to keep up with How I Met Your Mother.
Chromecast ($30 one time purchase)
With the chromecast plugged into our TV and synched to the iPad, all of our netflix-in' and hulu-in' can be shot up on the screen and the iPad used for other things. Our blu-ray player has apps for both of these, but we find that casting is a little more reliable with our internet speed. I have also heard great things about AppleTV, but we decided to be a bit cheap with the Chromecast.
Antenna (borrowed)
With an antenna in place, we can watch all of the network stations - so we didn't have to say goodbye to Sunday football. . .or Sunday night football. . .or Thursday night football. . .
HBO Go (ahem, borrowed)
We have a login for our iPad for HBO Go, which has allowed us to watch lots of movies and catch up on shows like Veep and The Wire. The Chromecast works for this app as well, so no need to stare at the tiny iPad during movie night.
I also have Amazon Prime which I try to take advantage of, but find that there is a lot of crossover with Netflix offerings. However, I order from Amazon at least once or twice a month (half our bathroom remodel came from Amazon) so the free 2 day shipping helps me justify the annual subscription fee.
So any issues with our non-cable life? Just a few:

No DVR
A small price to pay since Hulu allows us to start our shows whenever we're ready, but sometimes I miss the quick and easy pause or rewind feature.

Antenna Issues
Every time the train passes (which is frequently) we experience some static or interruption when watching through our antenna. Some stations are worse than others, which is why I usually opt for Hulu shows vs. the live deal. Bad memories of a key Downton Abbey moment ruined by the passing Red Line....

Internet Reliability
There is nothing worse than your program pausing to buffer. Until it happens five times in a row and you have to reset the whole thing to get it back in action. Okay, perhaps I exaggerate - there are plenty of worse things. But when you are in the moment, there sure doesn't seem to be. I suppose I need to keep things in perspective:
The other aspect of cutting the cord has to do with 3 of my Pet Peeves: Flipping, Background Noise and Falling Asleep to the Television. It is much harder to flip during commercials when you are watching a show on Hulu or Netflix. I have also enjoyed not having the TV on in the background all day long - as I like to justify my TV habits, "I watch TV with purpose." And without a sat box in the bedroom, the TV on our dresser has not seen much play at all in this last year. I know a lot of people like falling asleep to the TV - Bob is one of them - but it has always been a practice that has stressed me out. (My ideal sleeping conditions: pure darkness and pure quiet!)

So we'll keep funneling the DirecTV offers to the recycling bin and just say no to bundling our Comcast internet with cable for now and continue to save $90 a month. How about you, have you gotten rid of it, or do you have the magic touch with these companies and continue to get great monthly rates? Bob and I are convinced that we are saying the wrong thing because no one every offers us a better deal when we threaten to quit. They just go ahead and cancel our account without a fight. . .

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