“Wait, really?” “Don’t you miss it?” “I could never do that.” These are the types of things I hear from people when they find out we don’t have cable television. It gets worse once they hear we don’t have Netflix, Hulu, or any other streaming service either. We might as well be time travelers from the 18th century. Do we even have indoor plumbing? Why do we do this to ourselves? How do we live without infomercials, holiday specials, Sunday football, and the endless current of over-the-top reality shows? Actually, it’s been easier (and better) than I imagined at the start. And we even still blend in with the rest of cable-connected society…at least I think we do.
Of course I’m not implying cable TV is all bad, or that any family is wrong for having it in their home. We had cable up until two years ago, and I think we were doing pretty well on the parenting front even then. But if you happen to be on the fence about pulling the plug (or if you’re wanting to see it gone and need some help convincing your kids or your spouse), here’s a look at our cable-free journey and what it’s done for us.
When we first started preparing for me to leave my job a few years back, our first step was deciding which unnecessary expenses we could eliminate from our monthly budget. One expense that jumped out at us right away was cable TV. We were paying over $100 per month for what amounted to three channels anyone in our house actually watched. We didn’t need this luxury for survival, so it seemed like an easy thing to give up. Still, I was a bit hesitant to let it go completely. I had grown up with TV shows dictating two whole evenings of my week (thank you, TGIF and SNICK). Besides, every person I knew had cable in their home, and we all know what kind of compelling force peer pressure can be. As an adult, anytime I moved somewhere new I scheduled cable service as swiftly as I scheduled water, gas, or electric. It was something I thought we needed.
Even so, I reasoned it was worth a try to give it up in order to help our budget. We could always call and reconnect once we realized our horrible mistake, right? So we canceled service and explained the decision to our boys and, surprisingly, they didn’t completely balk at the idea. They understood we were taking steps to bring me home with them and, more importantly, we assured them they could watch as much Disney Jr. as we could find on DVD.
The first month or so was a little strange, but being cable-free quickly became the norm at home. Since making the change, I’ve seen there are advantages aplenty.
We’re Saving Money
This is pretty obvious as it’s the reason we canceled cable in the first place, but you don’t always realize the impact of money-saving until it happens. One hundred dollars a month easily pays for our daughter’s gymnastics classes, or an extra eat-out night each week, or lots of specialty coffees for me. In any case, saving money is awesome!
Program Monitoring is a No-Brainer
Everything that plays on our TV is from a DVD we’ve either purchased ourselves or borrowed from the local library. If we feel a show or movie is inappropriate, it doesn’t come into our house in the first place, so there’s no worrying about what the kids are watching. There’s no option to surf through channels and accidentally hit on something unsuitable. It could be argued this same thing can be accomplished using your TV’s parental controls, and I believe that’s true. I also believe in the technological genius of children and realize it would take only a small effort by a determined child to get around those same controls. Mom’s piece of mind…check.
No.More.Toy.Ads.Ever! (Well, mostly.)
If you’ve ever watched more than three minutes of a children’s programming station, you know the incredible amount of money and energy spent by toy companies to advertise all their latest and greatest pieces of plastic to our kids. As materialism in our youngest generation increases year to year, I think there’s a lot to be said for less commercials. Now, before you start feeling bad for my kids for not knowing about the hottest new toys, let me assure you they are still well-versed in all playthings. Their grandparents have cable TV, after all, and they also see the not-so-subtle store displays, so they aren’t at all missing out. We’re just curbing the avarice.
More Show, Less Junk
This one sort of piggybacks off the advantage above. Since we don’t have to deal with commercials, a typical episode of my child’s favorite show is 20 minutes (sometimes less) instead of 30 minutes or more. This gives me more freedom to say yes when they ask to watch “just one episode.” It also cuts down on the amount of TV they’re watching while making them feel like they’re getting a good deal. Two cartoon episodes on cable TV? Sixty minutes. Two cartoon episodes on DVD? Forty minutes or less.
We really haven’t missed much about cable in the last two years. Not having it has become a way of life that saves us money and hassle, which seems like the ultimate win-win. If you’re thinking of trying it, whether for budget reasons or something else, I highly recommend it. Trust me, if it turns out you don’t like the change, your cable provider will go out of their way to discount your reconnected service.
Are you part of the cable-free club? Do you never want to give it up? I’d love to hear your thoughts from either side of the coin.