Cutting the cord

One of the fun (?) things about doing the taxes: Finding out you made a smart choice. And I'm going to share this one in detail, because if my Facebook feed is any indication, some of you are considering the same choice. Here's how it worked out for us.

In February of last year, Jim and I decided to cancel our cable. Now, that was a big thing for people who watch as much (too much!) television as we do. We're selective-ish about what we watch, but even with our standards, we follow a good many shows. I pick what I watch for CultureGeek, and we also have a necessity to keep up with science fiction and horror television for our respective writing careers.

We were paying Charter for internet, landline and a full cable package. That was running us about $1740 a year, or $145 a month. For the record, when we dumped them, they were about to jack that up to $175 a month, or $2100 a year.

We opted to keep the landline for emergencies and so that we have a SpamPhone - you know, all those places that want your phone number and you don't want to be deluged with their stupid ad-texts? That's worth a small fee each month. And of course, we kept the internet. I work from home, after all, and our house has way too many items with microchips that need wifi.

That dropped our Charter bill to $71 a month, or $852 a year. But what about all those shows we watch?

Streaming. There are many options, and the camps are beginning to fall into religious wars over which is the best. I hear lukewarm-good things about Roku, and less about the Amazon thingie. We're an all-Mac household, so we picked up an Apple TV for $99 (right before the price dropped to $59, dammit). It ties into the family iTunes account to give us all access to everything we already owned, plus all the streaming services.

We already had an Amazon Prime membership for the free shipping. Its TV offerings were, sadly, limited, at least in terms of shows that interest us. Still, for the sake of completion, let's include the $99 a year for that one. ($49 a year for students.)

Hulu Plus costs $7.95 a month, or $95.40 a year. Of the shows that we care to watch, Hulu carries the majority of them. It has Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, Blindspot, Bones, Castle, Gotham, Minority Report (RIP), Quantico, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural, SVU and Daily Show. (God, when you look at it, how do we ever manage to write books?)

Netflix costs $15.98 a month because we stubbornly refuse to give up the DVD option even though we never use it. Sigh. So that's $191.76 a year, or $95.88 if you're smarter than we are and just go for streaming. It carries Daredevil, Jessica Jones, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and sometimes Doctor Who, though I understand that's going to be a thing now.

What, are there still shows that don't fall in those categories? Yes. Which leads me to iTunes. Buying by season or by episode, we were able to pick up American Horror Story, Bates Motel, Criminal Minds, Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, Madam Secretary, Rizzoli and Isles and Supergirl. Wow, that must be expensive, right? Apparently our total outlay was $204, not including four or five movies we rented or bought via iTunes.

Okay, seriously, I don't watch all of that. There are three of us, you know. But in all honesty, I've watched most of them. I sort of dabble at Gotham and Supernatural, and we gave up on this season of American Horror Story about three episodes on. But the point of this isn't holy crap Elizabeth watches too much TV, but about the practicality of cutting the cord.

In the end, despite our TV-gluttony, we saved hundreds. Even adding together Charter (including the landline), Amazon Prime (at full price), Hulu Plus, Netflix and all those iTunes purchases, we still ended up spending at least $500 less over the course of the year than we spent last year on cable alone. And it'd be significantly more if we let go of the landline and the stupid DVD option for Netflix. Sigh.

There are flaws to cutting the cord, of course. I have yet to figure out where I can watch Colbert, other than pulling it up on my computer (I prefer to let TV shows run on the big screen while I work on my computer at night). And then there's live stuff. I bought a digital antenna ($24.99 from Amazon Basics) that worked perfectly fine every time we wanted to watch live TV (which isn't very often), yet strangely failed us during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day, dagnabbit.

And there are a few shows still difficult to find. I am oddly addicted to The Affair and Homeland, which are available on iTunes. But if you want to watch them without paying $30 for the season, you can opt for a free month's trial of Showtime's streaming service and binge-watch them both and then cancel before they start charging you $10.99 a month. Or you might find that Showtime is worth the cash; in which case, consider adding it to your Hulu membership for $8.99 a month instead. If you're a Game of Thrones fan, you might choose to go for HBO's streaming service, or just buy it outright on iTunes. It does take a little more work.

But in a decidedly unscientific poll taken of People Who Live In My House, no one misses cable. We were spending more than $500 more per year for stuff we never watched. We had hundreds of channels and never watched most of them - even as much TV as we watch. This way, we only pay for what we want. And it makes us more selective - no, really. Since I'm paying by the episode for American Horror Story, I stopped paying when it lost my interest.

Now where's that $500... I must have left it somewhere...


  1. Seriously, if you never use it, cut the cord on the Netflix DVD option and save that money. If you can't get it on Netflix, you should be able to find it on one of the other services, and if you can't, well you can buy the DVD for less--but since you never use it anyway, I'm betting that anything you can't find on any of those streaming services isn't something you feel that strongly about anyway.

  2. Surprisingly, we have more trouble with movies than TV shows; while we can find almost any TV show we like, movies run about 60-40. But you're absolutely right; we can usually buy the DVD we want for less than our $7.99 a month, and even more: we can rent it from iTunes for $2.99 and have immediate gratification. :) We will probably ditch it this year.


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