Now It's Easier than Ever to Cut the Cable
Think your cable bill isn't that big a deal? Think of it this way: It's "Like buying a new 50" TV each year and tossing it in the dumpster," asserts the Web site Cancelcable.com.
Fortunately, it's now easier than ever to enjoy a good picture and a wide range of programming without paying the cable company. Here are the changes and services that are allowing more and more people to cut the cable:
1. The Digital TV Transition: Clearer picture, more programming
As Linsey Knerl reminded us earlier this year, you can send away for coupons to get those digital TV converter boxes for pretty cheap. I've been putting off buying mine (in fact I let the coupons expire, doh!) and grumbling about the inconvenience of it all -- until recently. That's when I heard that once we hooked up this box, we would receive the kind of clear picture that cable subscribers receive -- on many more channels. In fact, when I checked a helpful site called AntennaWeb, I found that my zip code should receive TONS of stations, including five different versions of PBS.
One reason some folks pay for cable is to get quality programming for the kids. With five versions of PBS, I feel pretty confident I could find something they want to watch at about any time of the day.
And although the transition to digital TV doesn't happen until early next year, you can buy the converter box and begin receiving broadcast channels now with better reception than you've been getting with an antenna.
The one thing we miss most by not having cable at our house? "The Daily Show," of course. So lately we've made it a little night-night routine to watch "The Daily Show" on my laptop via Hulu.com in bed. Yeah, it's yesterday's episode, but is getting the same episode 24 hours earlier worth $60 a month? Not to me.
And since I'm busy tomorrow night during the season premiere of "Grey's Anatomy," I'll be watching it Friday -- on ABC.com.
3. Low-Cost Programming: ITunes and Netflix
Netflix is the one thing that makes me wonder why ANYONE has cable. Then I remember all those poor football fans being held hostage by the Cable-Atheletical Complex. But back to me: With Netflix, anytime we feel like vegging out in front of the tube, we usually have something we're interested in sitting here to watch. And if we're between movie deliveries, there's also Netflix's streaming service. Or, you know, Blockbuster.com, Redbox, whatever floats your boat. Whichever you choose, you're looking at a monthly cost from $0 (if you use Redbox coupon codes) to $4.99 (Netflix's cheapest tier) to $19.99 for Blockbuster's top plan. Beats the pants off cable.
Need more instant gratification? You can also buy TV episodes one-by-one from iTunes for $1.99-$2.99 a pop.
Now you have the tools you need to figure out if cancelling cable would save you money: Write down what shows you watch. Use the Showfinder gadget on CancelCable.com to figure out where you can get those shows besides on cable TV. Take the cost per episode on Netflix, iTunes or whatnot, and multiply it by the number of episodes you watch per month. Is the product less than the cost of your current cable package?
For example, if you pay for cable in order to get HBO shows, you'd have to download 31 "premium" episodes a month to run up a bill that matches the $93.99 that Comcast charges for a digital package with HBO.
I'm guessing that almost everyone will feel that cutting cable would save them money, even if they watch a lot. Then it's just a matter of the reception quality. If you don't have one of those digital converters, I urge you to stop by the home of a friend who does and take a look at their picture. If you like what you see, there's your answer. I know what MINE is.