As a few of you know, Ellis and I decided to cut off our Time Warner cable. I grew up without a TV for the bulk of my formative years. When I was in my teens, we finally got the thing going. But because we lived out in the country, the only channels that we were able to receive were the local CBS, ABC and about four PBS affiliates. I don't know how we missed NBC but got four channels of the McNeil Lehrer News Hour. This, in retrospect, was a blessing in disguise. I never really acquired a taste for TV growing up and all that time I could have been watching 90201, I studied, read, and played ball. It wasn't until college that I ever had access to cable television and honestly, I felt like the preacher's kid who'd been turned out into the wild evil world for the first time. In a true homage to my inner nerd, I got totally hooked on the educational shows. Between Discovery Health and Law and Order marathons, it amazes even me that I'm not doing medical malpractice. During the intense pressures of law school, tv (which consisted of rabbit ears until my roommate Meg converted me to cable tv and internet) was a much welcome escape. A little mindless entertainment was worth its weight in gold. But once the two of us really fell into our "work groove," we found ourselves coming home after a long exausting day, flopping on the couch and watching whatever was on until it was time for bed. Don't get me wrong, I got some great tips from Clean House but after a few months we came to the same conclusion. Because both of us have demanding work schedules, the quality time that we could spend together is very limited. Was vegging on the sofa really the best way to spend those precious few hours together in the evening? We came to the conclusion that between the ever rising cost of cable and our ever falling amount of free time, that we were going to cut the cord... *cough cough* I mean cable. We called our trusty friend Will with Time Warner and said goodbye to about 150 channels, and it was the best decision we have made yet, and here is why:
"Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free!" - Everyone's grandma
No, I'm not talking about "that"! Me, even as technologically challenged as I can be* almost everything I could ever want to watch on TV, I can find for free online. Now by "free" I don't mean illegally downloaded on the internet "free". I unapologetically have HUGE issues with the RIAA, digital rights management and other intellectual property rights issues**, I don't condone outright stealing. But even for the IP protection purists out there, there is enough legit online media to keep me entertained for years. The first new love of my life is Netflix streaming. Even with the cheapest priced deal (which is about 9 bucks) you can stream as much of the online content as your little laptop will allow. Watching Deadliest Catch on your 12' Eee PC doesn't sound like your idea of a relaxing night? Well if you have an Xbox, you can make by the magic of technology throw it up on your 65' plasma screen TV so big you could see it from space. There are tens of thousands of titles available in both tv and movies available. While they don't have everything, there is plenty of escapist material to keep me satisfied. And while I've not watched it personally, I have it on good authority that every episode of Law and Order SVU ever can be streamed through Netflix. For more current shows, I've also fallen in love with Hulu. As if their super bowl commercial wasn't enough, they have more recently aired shows available for viewing on demand from their website. Unlike Netflix, they are commercial broadcasts, but often you can opt to watch a show (the Daily show for example) without interruption if you watch an extended commercial in the beginning of the broadcast. For keeping up to date on more current broadcasts this can't be beat.
"He chose poorly." - The Grail Knight - Indania Jones and the Last Crusade
Now, without even digital rabbit ears, every media consumption decision that we make in our household is a proactive decision. The days of getting home, turning on the tube, and vegging out to a marathon of What Not to Wear are over. The shows that I want to watch, I have to find. Looking at what is available via streaming, webisodes, and even Blockbuster has opened me up, interestingly enough, to a much wider variety of media. I've seen some WONDERFUL documentaries that I would have missed(SEE KING CORN, it will amaze you). I also have been able to create my own viewing marathons(30 Rock is best when consumed in bulk).
"Your house is your larger body." - Kahlil Gibran - The Prophet (On Houses)
I would say that by far the best part of cutting out our cable television has been the calm it has brought to our home. Of this, I have been very pleasantly surprised. I come home, not to a house with the six o'clock news blaring the days bad tidings, but to classical music. The wonderful impact of this is only further multiplied if Ellis beats me home and I'm also greeted at the back door by the smell of garlic wilting in olive oil as dinner has been started. I have read much more. Let me just say, READING the local news online is much more palatable than watching it when I get home between screaming car salesmen and sofa superstore liquidations. Adding even a small bit of calm into your home can make such a huge impact on your overall state of mind! I don't think I'll ever go back to broadcast television. Thank goodness for the internet!
Now, because this is a financial blog, I wanted to end with a little info on the returns for cutting out cable can have on your pocketbook. Currently Time Warner's basic package for cable is about $50.00. Excluding tax, installation, and hardware, by simply cutting the cord on your cable company you can save $600 a year! Do that for 5 years and invest and you can easily turn that into $3,240.44 (assuming 3% return). So what would you rather have? 100 channels of "nothing on", or a cruise to Jamaica? I say, get the pina coladas ready mon!
*I can find for free online.I knew I was in over my head when the remote control for the tv had its OWN TV!
**For more on IP, feel free to email me. My mentor and favorite professor in law school is the Queen of IP law!