It is a fact: I am a media nerd. As a film school graduate and former TV news and sports producer, I have– for a large part of my life– been ensconced in media. Creature will be, too. While we’re not going to be shove an iPad in front of Creature’s face after Minute One of life, it is an inevitability that media is going to become part of our child’s life somewhere along the way. It is 2016, after all.
As a result of my voracious appetite for media, I am (almost single-handedly) responsible for the amount of money Kathleen and I spend on entertainment. The reason is simple: I love it. I love television and movies and streaming services. Music, too. But we spend a disgusting amount of money on this stuff, and considering I recently left my job to be a full-time dad, it seems wise to think about easy ways our family can cut back on spending.
So, my project for the week was to conduct a media audit to see just how much we spend on each media source, and how much we use it (prices are on a monthly basis).
Comcast Cable Bill ($184.84)
Holy crap! That’s over $2,200 a year. This is an eye-popping cable bill, so let’s itemize out the individual pieces to gain a better understanding of what can be excised:
Kathleen works from home, her business is online media and consulting, we need the Internet for her work, and we need a fair amount of bandwidth. We may be able to drop down a level, but it’s unlikely. The good news: Internet access is “ordinary and necessary” for Kathleen’s business, so it qualifies as a business expense. It’s hard to pinpoint the taxes and fees, but I think 10% is a fair estimate. So, let’s say we’re paying $1,042 a year for Internet service.
That means that our actual Cable TV cost is closer to $98/month. That’s still a LOT of money to be shelling out (over $1,100 a year), but at least we can see exactly what we’re being charged for, now.
Sports Package ($10)
I used to watch a ton of sports, today I watch a lot less. I do watch the NFL pretty regularly, but most of those games are available on free network television. The real reason I bought this package was for NBA TV so I could watch more basketball games. Turns out, I don’t really watch NBA TV, so there’s not a compelling reason to keep this.
HD Up-charge ($10)
This feels extortion at this point with Comcast. We’re over a decade into the HD era, do we really need to add an extra fee for this? I can’t really get “rid” of this without cutting the cord altogether. Another compelling reason to ditch cable…
I use the DVR a lot. A lot, a lot. However, I have to divide the shows I watch up into three subcategories.
1. The Shows I Actually Want to Watch
With the exception of Survivor, all of the shows I watch regularly are on cable. Shows like Better Call Saul, The Americans, and Fargo. But you don’t need cable to watch them legally; you can buy these shows individually on Amazon. A Season Pass to the new SyFy show The Magicians costs $24.99. Even if I buy every single show I watch, it’s still going to be cheaper in the long run than cable. Hmmm…
2. The Shows I Watch Because I Have Cable
I love the show The Profit. It’s a lot of fun, and Kathleen loves it, too. But we wouldn’t watch it if we didn’t have a DVR to record it, and I suspect we could live without it. There are probably three or four other shows like this that we don’t really seek out, but enjoy specifically because we have a DVR.
3. The Shows I Use as Background Noise
I love throwing on a cooking show while preparing dinner. Usually it’s Chopped, but it can be just about anything. There are so many options on streaming services that it makes this a very stupid reason to keep paying for the programming.
The DVR is great, but it encourages us to watch more TV than we normally would. I think if we ditched it, we’d probably be better off.
Random Nickel-and-Dime Fees ($10.74)
You can tell I’ve never scrutinized my cable bill before because I’m realizing for the first time that I’m being charged $3.75 a month for network television. I can get a high-quality TV antenna for less than $70. Other things rolled here: a “service protection plan” I had no idea I was paying for ($5) and a $2/month charge for regional sports that I never watch (despite enjoying the NBA, I am not a Blazers fan). This is another one of those things that I can’t get rid of without ditching cable altogether, but still…
When you strip out all the extras above, we’re still left with about $58/month just for the base cable service.
Amazon Prime ($8.25)
Amazon Prime is probably the best deal online. You get access to their streaming library, which includes all of the HBO back catalogue, and free two-day shipping on most things you buy from Amazon. The streaming library alone would almost be worth the price, but the free shipping makes this service a steal. I have no second thoughts about keeping this service.
Netflix just raised their prices, but it’s still an amazing value. There is some overlap with the Amazon Prime library, but there’s enough exclusive and original content that having both Netflix and Amazon makes sense for me.
It’s Time to Cut the Cord
This has been a long time coming, but I need to face reality: it’s time to get rid of cable. I think I can hack together any holes in programming with a combination of alternative services and individual show purchases, but let’s start with just cutting the cord and seeing how that impacts our lives on a daily basis. I imagine it will improve things.
I’ll report back with more, including some product and service reviews on alternatives to having cable.