Cut Cable, Save Money | I don't blog, but if I did...

Cut Cable, Save Money

I am always on the lookout for ways to cut parasitic costs from our monthly budget. Home phone was one of the first to go. When you’re paying for two cell phones already, why pay for a landline so that telemarketers can reach you during dinner?  Measuring the savings is fairly easy, but the difference only really becomes apparent when you look at them annually. In the case of our home phone, this was approximately $35 + tax a month, call it $40 for simplicity, times 12 months equals $480 a year. Not too shabby, right? Factoring in our alternatives for long distance and local calling, Skype, which costs us $30 a year, and our net savings was still a sizeable $450 over the year.

Some cuts were easy. Magazine subscriptions and extra bank accounts that incur fees for no reason are good examples. But cable was the holy grail of cuts.

Getting off the pipe was going to be a hard sell for my family. In fact, it took me about two years.  The size of the prize? About $1,000 a year. In the end a few things fell into place to make this happen.

  1. Netflix. Mad Men sucked us in. At least the first four seasons were on Netflix, and at $30 season on DVD, we could afford about 15 months of Netflix before we’d caught up to the cost of catching up on just that one show. So, we were already subscribers to Netflix when we cut the cord with our cable provider. This amazing service for $7.99 a month gave us instant access to tonnes of kid- and parent-friendly programming, and it was fast taking the place of regular TV.
  2. Productivity. Alexandria runs a business, Clippo.ca, I work a day job, and, of course, we also want to spend time with our young kids. There simply wasn’t much time to watch TV. In the end, we realized that we used TV as a time killer, not for purposeful consumption.
  3. Apple TV. When we got Apple TV, we quickly realized that with $1,000 in our pockets, we could afford quite a few $5 movie rentals or $25-$40 TV show seasons that contained no commercials and were crystal clear quality.

Admittedly, a deal-breaker for this plan might have been sports. We don’t watch sports. None whatsoever. Not even the Super Bowl or Stanley Cup, so this really wasn’t an issue. However, you can get NHL, NBA and NFL over Apple TV, but some require a little finesse -more on that in a moment.

So, we embarked on our experiment last summer. It was a good time to go cold turkey, actually, because there wasn’t much to miss, what with shows being on summer hiatus.  And you know what? We haven’t looked back.

For the most part, we don’t even think about it anymore. When the TV is on, instead of cooking, home reno, and talk shows, the TV is playing music, with a slide show of our pictures rolling by.

But there has been one magic bullet for our television cravings: Hulu.

“Hulu? Isn’t that only in the US?” you ask. Yes, it is. Enter UnblockUs (Unblock-us.com).  This magical $4.99/month service grants you access to many popular US streaming services, including the American version of Netflix (which opens up access to popular Disney programming and movies) and the incomparable Hulu. With UnblockUs, sports “apps” are opened up on Apple TV, which just might be the ultimate solution for sports fans because, as far as I know, EVERY game is available, not just the ones locally broadcast. Set up of UnblockUs is simple on a variety of devices. Tech support and helpful guides are excellent.  This is a tremendously good service.

Admittedly, getting a Hulu account up and running is a little tricky, as you need a US credit card and address. UnblockUS has a work around for that, which worked like a charm for us.  For just $7.99US/month you’ll have access to almost all the major network shows you ever wanted, and then some. Instantly, in HD, with minimal commercial interruption. It’s like having a PVR with all your favourite shows on it, and not just last week’s episode – all of them.

So, some quick math: $77 for Rogers VIP, less $13 for the cost of Hulu and UnblockUs  = $64 savings a month (remember, we were already Netflix subscribers before cutting cable).  $64 + tax is $72 over 12 months = $864 a year.  Now, we still buy TV shows, but so far we have bought about 4 of them, or $158 worth, so we’re still about $700 ahead.

What would you do with $700?

Bonus: Because our internet usage stepped up as a result of our streaming all of our programming, I had to call and upgrade our internet package. As it turns out, I was overpaying for internet to begin with, and my internet costs eventually (long story) dropped as a result of cancelling TV. Sweet.

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