Giving up my full time job meant cutting corners. We’ve switched to a less expensive cell phone carrier and our new hobby is comparison shopping. We are avid collectors—and users—of coupons and sales circulars. We don’t eat out as much as we used to think we had to and we have drastically reduced our affinity for impulse buys.
The biggest adjustment, however, was cutting down our cable bill. We had grown accustomed to our cost-saving tri-bundle. Ma enjoyed the extra DVR and phone line servicing her wing of the house. As for the premium movie package, well, we all fell in love with that little add on.
However, the monthly bill crept up each year. When we reevaluated our bills a couple of months ago, we realized we were throwing away the equivalent of a less-than-modest car payment every month. Meanwhile, the folks at the cable company were driving really nice cars.
Our cable bill was out of control. Why were we throwing hundreds of dollars a month at a shiny, loud box to which our family hardly paid any attention? Even if the boys were in the living room with the TV on, they still had laptops, iPods and smartphones in their mitts competing for their divided attention.
When you commit to reducing the household’s income—or are catapulted into such a situation due to the economy or illness—you become keenly aware of the difference between needs and wants. While we wanted cable TV, we didn’t need it.
I’d procrastinated as long as our budget could afford. But last week, I finally made the call I’d been dreading. To the shock and discontent of the customer service person on the other end of the line, we canceled our cable TV service.
The tri-bundle also included phone service. Every occupant of our expanding household has a cell phone. Most are smartphones. Therefore, dropping the cable landline was a cost-saving move we seriously considered, especially since our new, less expensive carrier allows for unlimited calling to any phone on the continent.
However, we’ve grown accustomed to having a back-up line. Our cell phones are our personal lines. We don’t give our personal phone numbers to retail establishments. We also prefer to have Sunday night robo-calls from the public schools directed to the landline.
Add to that list any annoying caller we want to screen and find joy in deleting their messages. We give out our home phone number freely, because we don’t answer that line. We decided the landline was a need, not a want, as it reduces communication stress and therefore our need for costly therapy.
Once the line was established as a keeper, we went phone carrier shopping. We looked into the great deals offered by national companies like Sprint and Verizon. They had an inexpensive phone option that required using a little box. The box could be unplugged and taken on the road if need be, as it did not require a connection to a phone jack.
What was this magical new phone service that was inexpensive and mobile? Not that we’d want to take it to the beach, as the sales rep suggested was possible. Part of the reason we go on vacation is to get away from the people who have our landline number.
When I started asking questions, I found out that the box connected to the world through cell towers. The magical, movable box was merely another cell phone—albeit packaged a bit differently. A cell phone to back up our cell phones was not our idea of a solution.
We decided to stick with the cable phone line. We reduced the number of lines from two to one, because there was no reason all household members couldn’t give out the same screening number to retailers and annoying people.
That left us with the issue of Internet service. We have had no problems with our Wi-Fi. We have a great router. It has two partitions, one for our family and one for guests. It’s secure, reliable and works throughout our entire home and most of the grounds.
Our wireless Internet signal is strong on the porch, in our bedroom, in Ma’s kitchen and on the back deck—which will become extremely important once we put in our pool. What’s the point in having a pool if you can’t update Facebook while leisurely relaxing on the deck? Our cable Internet service was declared a need.
Since we no longer have cable TV, we did sign up to stream movies and shows. For hundreds less a month, we have found new joy in watching old shows as well as selecting movies to enjoy as a family.
Meanwhile, we feel less inclined to sit in front of the brain-melting box in the living room, because we aren’t paying through the nose for its offerings. We freed ourselves from both the monetary and time commitments of television and are happier than ever. I just wish I had made the call months ago.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of "Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville." She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org