Not too long ago, I was discussing TV shows with an acquaintance. At some point in the conversation, she mentioned her cable bill seemed kind of “high.”
“What, like a hundred bucks a month?” I inquired.
She thought for a moment and then dug around her desk. She handed over the current month’s bill and my jaw quite literally dropped when I saw it. Two hundred and five dollars.
“But what exactly are you paying for? Do you even watch all these channels?”
“Oh, no,” she said. “Mostly just whatever’s on ABC or Fox and stuff. But, I mean, it’s cable. How do you watch TV without cable?”
A couple of decades ago, that was a good question. Modern technology has raced ahead, however, and there are plenty of options for watching TV shows that don’t involve shelling out money to a cable company! Certainly, if you are okay with paying $200 or more a month for TV, I suppose you can keep on trucking, but for those of us who are looking to save on TV, there are options.
The most common option is using on-demand streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. These companies contract with the license holders of TV shows, past and current, and upload them to their websites. You pay $7-10 a month for access to those websites, and you can watch whatever they have uploaded, at your leisure, an unlimited amount of times. They may not have every single show you’d like to watch, and many currently airing shows only upload the past 5-10 episodes, so you might not be able to binge watch an entire series. However, paying $120 per year is far cheaper than paying that same amount—or more!—per month.
Before all broadcasting went digital, many people used “bunny ear” antennas to get basic cable channels on their TV for free. Those old bunny ears won’t work anymore, but the good news is that digital antennas are absolutely a thing. You can pick one up for about $40, plug it into your TV, and bam, you have all your local stations and the big broadcast stations like ABC, CBS, PBS, etc. $40 can be a bit much for some people as an upfront cost, but then again, you have no recurring monthly costs after that, and you can watch most current shows as they air.
How else do you save money on cable?
I may not have consumer debt, but sometimes I have consumer guilt. It’s that feeling that I should have more than I do. I have a career, a family, and I’m at an age where I should have accumulated nicer stuff. But I haven’t. Yet I sit down in front of the evening television shows and feel bad. I don’t see a group of people I can relate to. Sometimes I see a group of people who are worse off than I am financially, yet have an amazing home, new car, and name brand clothes. It’s enough to make some people go into debt to compete with an imaginary family. What am I doing so wrong that I am so far behind? Oh yes! I’m not going into debt for clothes, new cars, and a home I know I can’t afford. Not all television shows are like this though. There are a few that can and do come across financially realistic.
How I Met Your Mother
If you are single and feel a need to relate to a television group, try How I Met Your Mother. People lose jobs, lose apartments, and have horrible apartments. Characters have financial flaws such as credit card debt and live with the consequences of those decisions. One of the character even has a beat up car with a tape stuck in the tape deck. There are career changes, moves, and family problems. There are even business ventures that just don’t work out. You may find the plot funny and sometimes bizarre, but you won’t feel behind financially because they have the same financial issues that we sometimes do.
I love this show when I feel like I’m just not getting anywhere financially. This is a family with three kids. The power is out. They buy items on sale. Laundry is all over the house. There were even instant mashed potato flakes at thanksgiving dinner. Not only that, but they are putting a child through college, have used the fun money for living expenses, and had to drive the church van as a family car for a while. Yet these people are happy and live an everyday life. This doesn’t make me feel consumer guilt at all.
This is a show about siblings that went on very different walks in life. One sister starts the show moving in with her parents with her two teenage children, works in a bar, and feels bad because of her life choices and how they are affecting her children. The younger brother lives on a house boat. Once again real life problems when it comes to finances, from job loss to biting off more than one can chew financially. Even the nice homes come with an emotional price. I would recommend this show as well.