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When someone first starts to learn about reducing a family’s expenses, one of the first pieces of advice they’re likely to hear is to “cut the cord” of cable or satellite TV. It might surprise you to learn that when we first started out on our journey to freedom from debt, we kept our satellite TV, even while we were doing crazy things like selling BOTH of our cars. We started down this path in late 2008 and didn’t get rid of our satellite until early 2015, almost SEVEN YEARS LATER. It’s painful to think that we spent around $100/month for a total of about $8,400 during that time. We did play the system to try to lower our bill as much as possible during that time (calling to ask for deals every 6 months or so), but it’s still never cheap.
So what held us back? How could we be so enthusiastic about optimizing our finances in some areas, but not do a simple thing like cut out the TV service? Well, one reason is that my husband and I both enjoy high quality television. Back in 2008, streaming services like Netflix were still new and did not have the kind of quality programming that they do now, but that has improved with time.
The BIG reason we couldn’t let it go was that we couldn’t imagine not having a DVR! We knew that we could watch all the local network programming with an antenna (likely with a HIGHER quality digital picture than we got with our paid service) but we’d have to watch it LIVE instead of recorded. After having the convenience of a DVR for years that allowed us to watch whatever we wanted WHENEVER we wanted, that felt like going back to the Stone Age! With two young children and very busy lives, the thought of having to be in front of the TV at exactly 9pm on Thursday to watch our favorite show was just too much. I know this is a “first world problem”, but I want to share honestly about what took us so long. We were willing to make cuts in almost all areas of our lives, but the expensive TV service remained.
So what finally changed in 2015? We found a solution to our DVR problem! The Channel Master DVR+ functions just like a cable DVR with an on-screen guide where you can set your favorite shows to record every week (even selecting all shows or only new shows). The guide data is completely free but works best with an internet connection. The best part is that there is absolutely ZERO SUBSCRIPTION required to use this DVR for over-the-air programming. The price is not cheap and you will also need to purchase an external hard drive to connect to it for storage, BUT for a total cost of around $400, you will recoup your start-up costs in about 4 months of not having a monthly TV service bill.
The DVR+ has some streaming capabilities, but we found that adding a Roku to our set up was worth it for the added convenience so that we could access Netflix and all the streaming services from one convenient and inexpensive device. Maybe in the future the DVR+ will add more streaming capabilities to make it more of an all-in-one replacement for the cable box, but for now, two devices work fine.
For our start-up costs, we bought the DVR, an external hard drive, a Roku, and an antenna. All together, we spent about $500 getting set up. We made a pact that we would try out not having TV service for at least 6 months (to at least break even) and then decide if we wanted to bring it back. A year and a half later, we’ve never had any doubts that we made the right choice and we certainly don’t miss that big bill every month!