I was in my office at work the other day when a coworker came to my door. “I need some advice on which service to go with. Would you recommend Time Warner Cable or DirecTV”? I sat there looking at him for a moment, imagining myself just a few years ago asking the same question. “You’re not going to like my answer”, I told him. “We don’t have cable, and haven’t had it for over 5 years. Not only that, we don’t want it.”
My coworker knows me well enough, so he just sort of rolled his eyes at this statement. Then, he began to lay out the details of his comparison shopping. Most of it was over my head, because I don’t use DVR technology or bundle my services, but I tried my best to help him weigh his options.
Then he talked pricing. Oof! The numbers astounded me. $80 a month for the cable packages he was looking at, plus additional sports packages? Wow. Once I heard that part, my mind immediately jumped elsewhere. I started thinking about all the things I could do with an extra $1000/year.
But to be honest, I wasn’t always a no-cable guy. It took my wife and I a little while before we reached that decision.
When I Was First Married
My wife and I were married in 2005 and one of the first things we did was set up our internet and TV service. As an IT guy I’ve got to stay connected to the internet at home, but cable TV was something neither of our families had subscribed to as we were growing up. But, we thought, now that it’s just the two of us, maybe it’s something that we need.
It only took us a few years to start changing our minds. As it turned out, we watched a LOT more TV once we got cable. That may seem like an obvious statement to make, but it wasn’t what we were expecting. There were more sports on, and so I felt obligated to watch them. We had access to more shows, so we would check more of them out. We watched TV while we ate dinner, which was something we’d never planned to do before.
This was in the days before HDTV was everywhere, so we only had a basic cable package, I think we paid around $35/month for it. But that didn’t bother us at all! It was the amount of time we were spending in front of the TV that began to concern us.
More About Time Than Money
My wife and I would get to the end of a Saturday or Sunday with pleasant weather and think “why in the world have we been sitting inside ALL DAY LONG?” Or we would turn the TV off after an hour of dinner-time Seinfeld and feel like doing nothing for the rest of the evening. Our brains had been shut down and were difficult to get warmed back up.
One day we’d had enough. We talked it over and decided we don’t even want this service, even if it were free! I called up the cable company and the next day it was gone.
What were the results of disconnecting cable TV for us? Here are a few of the major changes that took place:
- We got our evenings and weekends back. Talking with each other over dinner became normal again. Getting out of the house and going on an impromptu date didn’t interrupt anything else. Going to bed on time became MUCH easier. We even got some reading done! Did we miss the sports and shows we’d had access to before? Not really, although this will vary depending on how attached you are to them. What I found, though, is that the less you’re “keeping up” with the shows and teams out there, the less you desire to tune in every week. Almost like an addiction, the less TV you watch the less you’ll crave watching.
- We saved a little bit of money each month. This wasn’t a big deal for us at the time, but looking at cable and satellite prices now makes me think that if we’d kept cable around we would be paying quite a bit more for it these days. We cut the cord at a good time.
- We are raising our kids without the TV being on very much. Now, they still have videos that they own or borrow from the local library, and there are a few videos they enjoy watching on YouTube, but watching TV is a sit-down event that is special for them, not a part of their daily routine. We’ve seen firsthand how much our kids’ attitudes are affected by watching TV too much, either on a daily basis or for too long of a stretch. It’s an attitude and imagination killer, even when the kids shows are fun and educational!
- My wife and I are more productive. From hobbies and volunteering to yard work and side hustles, having no cable service has given us more of a desire to get things done. Looking back on the weeks, months, and now years of having no cable is very satisfying.
A friend of mine at church this morning told me that he was recording 4 shows at once now with AT&T Uverse. “I’m recording them all! Now I’ve got ultimate power!” I wanted to pull a double face palm right there.
I know that getting rid of cable isn’t for everyone. Some folks have more self control and sense of purpose with their TV watching than I do, and that’s great. But if you’re interested at all in cutting the cord, I heartily recommend it! Do yourself a favor and tally up how much time you and your family spend in front of the TV and consider the alternatives. It might surprise you how much of your life you could get back with that one small switch.