This American Podcast
Goals - September 2011

Life (and Savings) After Cable


For over a year now, we’ve been living without cable television, and I highly recommend it.

We used to pay about $80/month for DirecTV and, despite having over 200 channels, we hardly ever found anything we wanted to watch. Still, it took awhile to commit to cancelling. Chris was worried about missing football and basketball on ESPN. I was a bit reluctant to go cold turkey on HGTV. Having cable television felt like something that we wanted to keep around, mostly just because we were used to having it!

But, finally, we decided we’d give it a try and go without. We hated paying so much money for something we rarely used. Plus, we figured if a cable-less life was horrible, we’d just sign back up.

We did still want to be able to watch movies and basic channels (what would Thursday night be without Leslie Knope, Michael Scott, and Liz Lemon?). So here’s the set-up that we have now and the cost comparison to our previous cable subscription:

  • One television in the living room.  We try to be very conscious of television consumption, so even though the television is in the main room of our house, it’s not one of our main activities.
  • One digital antenna.  It's wired through the wall and sits in our attic. This allows us to get the basic news channels. And more importantly our beloved Parks and Recreation, The Office, and 30 Rock on Thursday nights. (purchase price: $90)
  • Netflix streaming-only subscription.  The selection isn’t great but they have two of our favorite television series (30 Rock and Arrested Development) and new movies and shows are added all the time. Most recently we’ve gotten into Mad’s so good! ($11/month)
  • Apple TV. This lets us stream Netflix, Pandora, podcasts (like TAL), and our iTunes libraries through our television and surround-sound system. We can also rent movies and television episodes through iTunes right from our TV. (purchase price: $100)
  • High-speed internet.  This allows us to use Netflix and our Apple TV although we'd still have internet even if we didn't have a TV. ($50/month)

Compared to the $138/month (DirecTV + internet + Netflix) that we were paying, we’re now only paying $61/month for internet and Netflix. The initial investments of the digital antenna and Apple TV quickly paid for themselves after just few months of no longer having to pay the DirecTV bill. (One thing I did not mention is a DVD player - we don't have one! The one we had previously broke and we just haven't replaced it. We don't own a lot of DVDs so we don't miss it too much but we do need to replace it - it's just not Christmas without a few viewings of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.)

Chris adapted surprisingly well after realizing he could still catch most games without cable. He can watch NFL games on basic channels and monitors his fantasy football teams online.  If there’s a Monday night game he really wants to watch, he gets together with a friend or we head to a neighborhood bar a few blocks away. When it comes to basketball, Chris can stream regular season games through Apple TV and the playoffs are on basic channels.  So he's set.  As for me, I made a full recovery from HGTV withdrawal. But, I probably wouldn't turn you down if you invited me over for a few episodes of House Hunters.

So, we cancelled cable. And it’s been completely fine.