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I'm free! No more pay TV for me

I thought the decision to eliminate pay TV from my life would be a simple one. How wrong I was.

By Karen Datko Jun 7, 2010 6:45PM

After months of wavering, I have finally pulled the plug. I called DirecTV and put my service on hold for six months. (OK. I didn't officially cancel; more on that wussy move below.)


Why did I get rid of pay TV, a fixture in my life for decades? Actually, I'm not the only one. Apparently 800,000 people gave up cable TV in the last two years and now get their TV fix online. Another study found that one in eight cable and satellite customers plan to eliminate or cut back their service this year. Pay-TV companies are not yet panicking, but surely they've noticed.


I severed the connection once before -- during a period of underemployment -- because I considered it a luxury I couldn't afford. (Public radio filled the gap.) My reasons are different now: 

  • I wasn't getting enough value for the $55 or so I spent each month. Note: That total didn't include the networks, which I had already dumped because I had to pay extra for them and rarely watched them. (As Trent Hamm helpfully noted in a Simple Dollar post, how much you actually save when you cancel depends on whether your service is bundled. Mine was, so I'm saving only about $50 a month.)
  • I have a new savings goal. Did you know that "people who traveled from Los Angeles to New Zealand got three times as much deep sleep as when they weren't on vacation"? I learned that from reading CBS MoneyWatch's "6 rules for getting some real time off." I want to sleep, eat and explore in a location far from home.

Both are good reasons to ditch the satellite bill, but I still agonized. Here's what I struggled with:

  • Habit. During my newsroom days and now that I work at home, cable news was always on.
    • Reality: I can easily monitor the news online.
  • Background noise. Except for the occasional barking of my two dogs, it can be very quiet around here.
    • Reality: After testing the no-TV life before pulling the plug, I found that silence was enjoyable.
  • Some shows are great. I sorely missed my regular Saturday viewing of Bravo's "House" marathon.
    • Reality: I revisited Season One of "The Sopranos" gathering dust on my VHS shelf. (I also signed up for Netflix the next day and ordered Season 5 of "House.")
  • Sports. That's a biggie. I ordered DirecTV years ago so I could watch every Pittsburgh Steelers game. And I've been looking forward to cheering Italy and Slovakia in the World Cup.
    • Reality: If I really must watch a football game, I can see it at my favorite sports bar. The cost of two beers with Clamato (it's a Montana thing) each week is a lot cheaper (prices may -- and probably will -- vary where you live) than the $300 or so I'd pay for an entire season of NFL Sunday Ticket (actually more like 13 weeks, once you subtract out Sunday and Monday night Steelers games). The World Cup will be streamed on the Internet.

Added bonus: Far fewer obnoxious TV commercials.

So, I'm TV-free. I have more time to read books, garden, and learn a new language (honest!) -- no longer distracted by easy access to endless chatter.


Are you struggling with this? I have some suggestions:


Don't go cold turkey. Some people have the mental discipline to abruptly change lifestyle behaviors and move on without a hitch. Most don't. Try it and see if you like it first.


Free Money Finance, an early proponent of a no-pay-TV life, suggests a "test cancel." "You cancel your cable for three months (enough time for you to get weaned off it and forget 'how things used to be'), then see if you want to buy it again after that time," he wrote.


That's why I suspended my satellite service rather than cut it off. One quick call and I can have my TV back. But the Sunday Ticket is history.

Find other sources of entertainment. If that means Netflix, iTunes or some other paid service, so be it. Don't assume all your TV-watching time will be spent now in meditation or exercise walking. You need time to veg.


Watch TV online. If you want to continue your TV habit without the big bill, TechCrunch's Ultimate Guide to Watching TV Online is a little old but still valuable.


Simply want to negotiate a lower bill? Read G.E. Miller's post at Get Rich Slowly.


Are you contemplating a life without pay TV? Does it sound too painful? If you are, what's your strategy?


More from MSN Money:

Dec 22, 2010 10:42AM
We reduced our Dish package down the the Welcome Package, which is only about $20 a month, and joined Neflix with an instant connection to our Bluray player.  Best decision ever.  Netflix is great.  I can watch seasons worth of great shows and plenty of movies and great documentaries whenever I want.  We had to keep Dish with locals so that we could watch new episodes of our favorite shows like Fringe, American Idol and Survivor.
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