One of my first adventures in “libertarian parenting” has been to evaluate the household budget and look for savings that could be used to pay for child care expenses. As a universal truth about babies: they ain’t cheap.
From diapers to car carriers to day care, the expenses pile up. As I looked over my monthly budget, one item has stuck out for some time now as not adding much value for the price paid.
It’s the cable bill.
The cable provider collects nearly $110 per month for content, equipment, and of course, taxes. And what do I get in return? I can watch a show from hundreds of programming choices – and record up to 4 others to watch later.
Sport events? I don’t really care – yet fees for channels like the battery of ESPNs has historically accounted for nearly 20 percent of cable bills. Meaning I’m paying the bill for others to get their fill of live event coverage and in-depth talking heads offering their opinions about why Player X is having, about to have, or had, a good, bad, or mediocre game/day/week/season/whatever.
I noticed my leisure time, spent with my wife and newborn, consist of watching movies or shows on Netflix. Despite all the programming content that the cable provider offers, I sadly live an analog reality of only being able to upload one show at a time into my visual cortex.
I also noticed cable usually provides a backdrop of familiar – and admittedly at times comforting – noise while other things are going on. We dutifully watched evening news programs while surfing the ‘Net or cleared out the DVR storage from time to time by watching current and past re-runs of Big Bang Theory, Pawn Stars, and Hell’s Kitchen.
But is that worth $1,320 per year? The answer for me was a decided, and firm, “No!”
So I joined the ranks of an elite and shadowy syndicate known as “The Cord Cutters.” (Not to be confused with The Stone Cutters.)
A Cord Cutter is someone who is comfortable with using the Internet as the primary, and sole, means of providing media entertainment. They—not quite literally—“cut” the cable cord to their home. The actual “cutting” going on refers more to the cable service (and monthly bill) rather than taking an actual pair of scissors or wire cutters (not recommended) to your home’s wiring diagrams.
All you need is a broadband Internet connection. Likely, you’ve already got one of those.
Next, you’ll need some content providers. I was already paying for two before I joined the Cord Cutters “guild.” So in reality, my starting point was my monthly cable bill, plus my existing content providers. At the moment, I’m using two: Netflix and Amazon Prime. But there are plenty of others. I might consider adding Hulu if I start missing my broadcast shows enough. And HBO Now gives me my Game of Thrones fix.
We’ll pretend that we didn’t have Netflix or Amazon though, since it’s easy to finance your new content acquisition from the cable bill savings.
Here is the fiscal tally:
Cable Cancellation (-$110/month)
Netflix ($7.99/month for the Basic plan)
Amazon Prime ($99/year; $8.25/month)
Cable Savings = $110.00/month
Expenses = $16.24/month
Let’s go as far as to add Hulu and HBO Now: $7.99/month, 14.99/month)
Monthly Expenses = $39.22
Monthly Net Savings = $70.78
Next, unless you want to attach a laptop to each of your TV screens, it’d be helpful to obtain some hardware. I went with Amazon FireTV. The voice enabled remote edition is $50. This is a one-time cost for each TV you want to include. No monthly equipment fees or taxes.
So if the average home has 3 TVs, budget $150 in equipment costs. This is a one-time, non-recurring expense, as long as the Amazon hardware doesn’t break.
One-time equipment costs: $150.00
By your third month you’ll be generating positive cash flow to your cord cutting project. ($150.00/$70.78)
And I’ll be saving about $850 per year that I can use to pay for day care and buy the odd season DVDs or movie that I might not be able to get from my cord cutting strategy.
Breaking the Shackles…of the Mind
Within a few days of cutting the cord, I noticed something that may be even more remarkable than booking the monthly savings from cancelling an un-necessary bill. My TV watching habits became deliberate choices instead of sharing similarity with a Pavlovian-trained hamster, racing away in my little wheel.
I wanted to watch House of Cards or Breaking Bad. So I watched an episode or two and then moved on to the next task on my daily agenda. I didn’t simply turn on the TV and “vege” out to the soothing background din of a couple hundred channels of content that I still can only watch one at a time. I actively chose how to fill my time.
Not only did cutting the cord free my wallet from the cable overlords, but it also freed my mind from feeling the need to mind meld with my TV on a daily basis. And what price can you put on that kind of freedom?
About the Author:
ERIC EGGER is an editor and founder of Freedom Forge Press.