Reduce your cable bill

In December and January, The Simple Dollar is posting a daily series focusing on specific activities you can do right now to set the stage for a great 2011. Out with the old, in with the new.

By , Guest blogger

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    Thanks to download services like Netflix for movies and older TV shows, and same-day streaming new TV episodes from Hulu, many people are finding that if they have internet service, they don't need to pay for cable, too. Even internet-free families can take advantage of the movie-by-mail service from Netflix to cheapen their monthly entertainment costs.
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Reduce your cable/satellite bill.

So many people find themselves at the end of a long day, worn out on the couch, mindlessly channel surfing for an hour or two before bedtime. They don’t really have the physical or mental energy after a long, compressed day to do much else, so they finish off their hours with a sitcom or a drama program on television.

There are several distinct things there that are notable.

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One, most households get something on the order of twenty over-the-air channels for free. Get yourself a digital converter box and see what channels you can pick up over the air. In my area, we can get eighteen digital channels over the air for free. People in other areas can get more – sometimes many more.

These channels aren’t duplicates of each other, either. In our area, for example, we receive three different PBS channels very clearly and three others most of the time over the air. These sets have a bit of overlapping programming but, for the most part, the programs they provide are distinct. We also get multiple weather channels in addition to digital programming for all the major networks. This is all for free, mind you – no cable bill required.

Two, there’s an overwhelming abundance of programming available to surf through on Netflix streaming (and other services) for $9 a month. A bottom-tier Netflix account gives you unlimited streaming to your home for just $9 a month, which basically means you can sit in front of your television or computer, surf through tens of thousands of programs, and watch them all on demand.

You can get this service directly to your television if you have a current-generation video game console or a newer television. Barring that, you can get a Roku box for $60 (or so) that will give you access to all of this streaming programming – about equal to one month’s cable bill for many people.

The amount of programming available on Netflix’s streaming service is tremendous – and best of all, it’s all without commercial interruption.

Three, you can also watch a free DVD from the library or turn off the television and read a purely entertaining book, again, for free from the library. If you’re just looking for something to entertain you, check out a pile of entertainment from your local library. Rent some movies on DVD, take them home, and watch them. Check out some novels that interest you or perhaps a nonfiction book or two that seem intriguing.

If you’re just spending a couple hours a night seeking out whatever entertainment is available to you, why buy it? Check it out from the library instead.

Four, are you actually watching your channels? What channels do you actually tune into on a regular basis? If you’re paying for channels that you almost never watch, eliminate those extra channels from your bill. It’s silly to spend $15 a month on a cable channel that you watch for a couple hours every few months – you might as well just buy the movie on DVD at that point.

Spend a bit of time asking yourself what you actually watch. You might find that you can really cut your cable bill much easier than you might think.

Finally, the sense of being overly tired and the hour or two spent watching television might just be tied together. If you’re consistently finding yourself completely devoid of energy in the evenings, reducing you to a state where all you want to do is crash on the couch for a few hours and watch television before staggering off to bed, there may be other problems in your life. Are you depressed? Anemic? Do you have a vitamin deficiency? Are you being hit hard by seasonal affective disorder?

Whatever it is, it’s something that’s probably worth a doctor’s visit, just to make sure that you’re not suffering from something that’s easily treatable.

There’s also the question of whether or not you’re getting adequate sleep at night. If you’re finding yourself constantly exhausted in the evenings, it may be worth your while to just crash an hour earlier each night.

All of these solutions lead to one thing – a steep reduction or elimination of your cable bill. Whenever you reduce a regular bill, that means you now have the funds available to tackle other financial concerns in your life – getting rid of your debts, for one.

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