Talk about the need to cut living expenses, and the conversation will inevitably go toward eliminating cable TV. It’s a solid suggestion, but the problem is that it doesn’t always save money.
Sure, you save money as far as the monthly bill to pay for your cable service. But you may find that you more than make up for it by paying for alternative means of entertainment.
Here’s what I mean…
You May Add a Replacement Package That Eats Up the Savings
If you’ve ever contemplated eliminating your cable TV, you probably also investigated potential replacement packages. And you probably found that with cable TV, as with virtually everything else in life, there’s truly no free lunch.
I know because I’ve investigated the possibility. While it’s true that you may be able to connect to broadcast TV via the local airwaves, that isn’t a perfect solution. There may not be many stations in your location, and reception may be poor at that. Most of us need some form of direct TV connection if for no other reason than to stay on top of local news, traffic, and weather. Unless you are willing to swear them all off, there’ll be some form of monthly fee for connecting to at least some minimal package of stations.
On top of that, you can also add à la carte services, like Roku and Netflix, or other streaming video services. Roku is an excellent package – in theory. But you have to pay for additional services within the package if you want to get any type of meaningful TV quality. Much depends upon how much TV you like to watch, but if you’re going to attempt to re-create what you have with your cable package, you may find yourself getting incredibly close to what you’re paying for your current package – but with a lot more complication to boot.
You May Compensate With More Expensive Forms of Entertainment
Monthly cable TV bills notwithstanding, TV is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment there is and that at least partially explains its popularity. This is true at least in part because it’s one of the few forms of entertainment you are not required to leave your home for. That means that you don’t have to go out for dinner or buy snacks at a movie theater.
If canceling cable TV means that you are seeking more entertainment outside your home, by going to restaurants, bars, movie theaters and the like, the whole plan could backfire. You can easily find your budget in worse shape as a result of canceling your cable service.
You May Find Yourself Compensating With High Cost Entertainment Equipment
Alternatively, you may find yourself investing more money in higher cost entertainment equipment, with the thought that you will be eliminating the recurring monthly bill that comes with cable. But that can backfire too.
If you find yourself investing money in upgraded computers, new sound systems, and even widescreen TVs to better watch DVDs on, you may end up spending thousands of dollars. If these are purchased with debt, you may simply be replacing one monthly payment (cable TV), with another (the debt service on the money borrowed to pay for the upgraded equipment).
In addition, high cost entertainment equipment has to be maintained, and parts sometimes have to be replaced. That will add to the cost of keeping the systems, and further reduce the savings of canceling your cable TV service.
If TV is Really Important To You, You May Find It Difficult to Give Up Cable
In theory at least, we can – and should –learn to live without TV. After all, there’s so much that you could be doing instead of watching TV, and most of it will do a better job of helping you to improve your life than TV ever will. But let’s be honest – not everyone is wired that way!
Personally, I don’t care to watch much TV, and there are very few shows that I watch on a regular basis, or for very long. But I know plenty of people who are virtually addicted to TV.
For a lot of people, giving up TV would require a lot of sacrifice. If you’ve ever been on a diet, or tried to kick a bad habit, you know what I’m talking about. It isn’t simply about turning off the TV, canceling your cable service, and getting on with your life. For many people, a void will be created that will need to be filled. As is the case of breaking any kind of habit, you may find yourself filling the hours with other bad habits, like overeating, or even increased alcohol consumption.
Everything has to be balanced out. You could find that based on emotional factors, keeping your cable TV is the most cost effective thing you can do.
Cutting Back May Be a More Practical Way to Save Money
I realize that a lot of people have successfully eliminated cable TV, and have seen no measurable decline in the quality of their lives. But for most people, it may be better to cut back on cable TV rather than eliminating it completely.
This can involve taking a basic package, or at least eliminating one or more premium channels. At least in theory, this should be easy to do, since most of us watch only 20 to 30 of the 200 to 300 channels that are offered in a typical cable TV package. That can reduce the bill to a more tolerable level, and help you to pursue other less expensive alternatives.
In the end, you really have to analyze which will lower your expenses more – keeping an $80 per month cable TV expense, or creating a package of alternative entertainment that may or may not be less expensive.
Like a lot of other things in life, it’s not as simple as it seems at first glance. Have you considered the possibilities?