It was over a year ago when I worked up the nerve to finally make the call. It was time to break up. I was honest and made a clean break. "We both know it hasn't been working for a long time," I said. "And I can't afford to pretend any longer."
In just a few short minutes, I put an end to my 20 year relationship with cable television. And it wasn't long before I fell in love with TV all over again.
Cutting the Cable
There are plenty of reasons to be sick of cable TV. You can make excuses and skirt the problems by switching your cable service to a new provider. You might even save a few bucks in the process (yeah, I tried that). You can even pretend that your kids just couldn't live without their Disney shows. But the reality is that there's never been a better time to ditch cable.
If you do it like I did, you'll save a big wad of cash, too.
I worried that my family would never forgive me for giving cable the heave-ho. I worried I'd miss flipping on the TV and dozing off to the sounds of SportsCenter. And I worried that I'd have to call AT&T up after just a few weeks and beg to have my U-Verse re-installed for free.
But one month later, I had saved $60 and it was AT&T that was calling and begging for another try (with guaranteed rates). But I was so happy, I never looked back.
Here's my advice to anyone who wants to cut the cable, save money and enjoy television once again. Follow these three steps to television freedom (with an emphasis on free).
Step One: Meet Your Television's New Provider
My first step to ditching cable TV was to figure out how to pipe the shows I still wanted to watch to my HDTV. There's even more options now than when I cut the cord, so you'll have plenty of choices. You might not even need to spend a single cent!
What you need is a pathway for the shows you want to watch to make it to your television. But cable providers no longer have a near-monopoly on programming delivery. The most common choices include video game consoles, such as Sony's PS3 or Nintendo's Wii, and small boxes such as Roku and Apple TV.
I chose Apple TV for my living room, but my daughter uses her PS3 in her bedroom. Both connect wirelessly to our Internet router, and both allow access to both Netflix and Hulu Plus, two early pioneers in cable-free programming delivery.
But it gets better. I no longer even need to pay full price for Netflix or Hulu Plus.
Step Two: Determine What You Really Want to Watch and When
My second step was to make a list of the programming I used to pay my cable company between $70 and $80 per month to watch. Of course, I had access to literally hundreds of channels. But when it came down to it, my family and I only really cared about a handful of shows.
Once you have the list of what you truly want to watch, point your web browser to Clicker, a TV Guide-like list of television shows and where they can be accessed for free via the Internet. Clicker covers too many sources to name here. Don't be surprised if you find that you can watch all the shows you miss for free - and often on your schedule.
In many cases, I discovered that the networks that carried my favorite shows had iPhone and iPad apps that provided free access. Be sure to check out the apps from ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS, all of which have great features for no cost.
If you discover you want to watch cable TV shows that aren't available for free online (and there aren't many), check Netflix and Hulu Plus for availability. But be prepared to pay between $8 and $20 per month for access - still a big savings. Another new option is PlayOn, which is both iOS and Android compatible. For a $29.99 annual fee (or $4.99 per month), you can access a boatload of programming. So, yes, using PlayOn I can still doze off to SportsCenter.
Step Three: Love Your Cable-Free Life
After consulting Clicker and realizing that I didn't need to pay for cable TV (or mess with cables at all), I began to love television again. Most of my viewing is now commercial-free. The few ads I do watch are shorter - and not insanely loud.
Free cable programming? That's great. Commercial-free cable programming? That's superb. But commercial-free cable programming wherever and whenever I want - that's exquisite. My favorite part of being cable-free is the freedom of watching shows I enjoy wherever I happen to be.
I do sometimes activate Netflix or Hulu Plus because it saves my family money on movies or older television shows we want to access. But even so, I figure I save an average of $60 per month.
And best of all, I don't hate knowing how the meat is made. I love being free of cable TV. It's left me free to focus on the quality of the television, and not the cost of the cable.
*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.
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- cable television