Monday, July 27, 2015

Eliminate the Unnecessary: Cable TV

I've decided to start a new little feature here on Enthusiastic Fantastic called Eliminate the Unnecessary. I believe there are many things in life everyone can do without. Yet each of us have different unnecessary items on our lists—i.e., one human's trash is another human's treasure. As I discover my unnecessaries, I'll share them here! :)

*Before you continue, please note that I've not been compensated in any way for my reviews of products listed here. I wrote this post because of my sincere desire to share my experiences and information to help others. :)

My husband loves ESPN. Because of that fact, we've had cable TV—on and off—for many years of our marriage. Greg and I signed up for cable TV in the summer of 2000. It was literally the first time in my life I had had cable TV in my home! Yes, I grew up in a semi-minimalist home where cable TV was considered an unneeded luxury. Thus, I was quite the couch potato during our first round of cable TV. I recorded at least 30 movies and watched channel after channel because I wanted to make sure I was getting my money's worth! I soon realized, however, what a colossal waste of time my cable TV habits were. I was glad Greg and I decided to let go of that promotional rate deal and we canceled cable altogether.

The second time we enjoyed cable TV was in 2004. It was given to us for free because our upstairs landlords (we lived in a basement apartment) had signed up with a satellite dish company. I was smarter that time and didn't have a need to watch it constantly because I wasn't paying for it. Thus, there was no need for me to feel like I was getting my money's worth! :)

The third time Greg and I had cable TV was when we moved to Colorado in 2004. We signed up out of necessity because there was literally no other option for TV. Thankfully, we had their very basic standard network TV channels package (a downgrade from what we had in Utah), so I think we paid only $13/month! It was crazy-cheap and we got a few extra channels thrown in for free!

When we moved back to Utah in 2008, Greg requested that we sign up for real cable TV because he just couldn't live without ESPN any longer. He didn't say those exact words, but that's how I interpreted his request! ;) Because we had been through so much (his mom had just died, we sold our dream home at a loss, and he switched jobs) I figured it was the least I could do for him. ;)

Our move to Texas in 2010 meant that we naturally had cable TV because we had to use the same company for our home phone and internet access. Their triple-service bundles saved us so much money that we couldn't say no to their cable TV package!

All of that said, when we moved back home to Utah in 2013, I really did not want cable TV in our lives anymore and said as much to Greg. He would not be swayed from his love for ESPN, so I agreed to sign up for cable TV again. I came to terms with it because Greg works from home most of the time and we needed the cable company's high-speed internet in order for him to do his job effectively and efficiently. Again, we couldn't beat their internet/cable TV bundle!

I think we would have stayed semi-happy with our cable TV company if it weren't for the fact that they kept raising their rates. I detest having to call their customer service line each year trying to get the best deal. I mean, I would rather just have their prices set—without a contract—like Netflix! I think cable TV companies would keep so many more customers that way!

This year, Greg and I were both greatly disturbed by our cable TV provider's rate increase. Each time we called their customer service department to see what we could do to lower our bill (we hadn't decided what to do after only one phone call), the prices they quoted us just kept rising! When we would semi-settle on a contract option, they would say, "Oh, yeah, that price is before taxes and doesn't include your extra set-top-box." I was at my wit's end!

The very last time I called our cable TV company for rate deals, I had Greg listen to see what we wanted to do. Greg agreed with me that we should keep only our internet service, cancel cable TV altogether and go the digital antenna TV route. I couldn't believe my good fortune! I was beyond excited that Greg was finally on the same TV channel with me! Ha ha.

Thus, I told the customer service rep, "Yeah, that's just not going to save us enough money—it's not worth what we're paying for how much we use it." So we kept our internet service with them, but canceled cable TV! What the customer service rep. didn't know is this: we've had two Rokus and a Netflix subscription for years, and we just discovered Sling TV! I also finally signed up for Amazon Prime this year (Hi! Free shipping!), but I haven't tried out their TV/movies on our Rokus yet.

The very afternoon we canceled cable TV, I returned our set-top-boxes—after waiting 45 minutes, of course. Ugh. (I was a little annoyed.) I can't tell you how liberating it was not to have those electricity-sucking boxes in our house anymore! Super big smiley face!!! :) That said, I knew we wouldn't have even regular TV access in two of our three rooms if I didn't buy two more digital antennas—we had an old-school rabbit-ear digital antenna, but it wasn't great quality and frequently blipped out.

After doing quite a bit of online research I decided to buy three new antennas. (Three TVs in our house may seem like a lot, but we have one in our small upstairs family room, one in our downstairs family room, and an old-school TV in Greg's and my bedroom that uses a digital converter box.) The reason I bought three new antennas is because I realized that our house is about 35 miles away from the digital TV broadcasting signals in our state. *Click on the DTV link to see how far away you are from the broadcast signals in your state. I finally understood that the reason our basic rabbit-ear digital antenna wasn't working very well (it would go fuzzy anytime someone walked in front of it the wrong way) is because it's not meant to pick up signals that are 35 miles away!

Anyway, I bought a package deal at Sam's Club: two Mohu Leaf HDTV antennas for the price of one(!)—which included the Mohu Leaf Ultimate (50-mile reception) and the Mohu Leaf Metro (25-mile reception). At another store, I bought an RCA 50-mile digital reception amplified antenna. (I won't include the RCA antenna link because that store's prices and links always change. Plus, I'm not giving it my Enthusiastic Fantastic Seal of Approval. {I just made that up. I don't know if I'll continue using it, or not!} To know why, read on! ;) ) I also bought one more Roku 2 for our little upstairs family room because we love our Rokus so much! They are worth every penny!

I was utterly amazed at the picture quality of the Mohu antennas—they have the best reception! I was even able to get a signal in our basement without a window near the antenna! Our basic digital TV picture quality is even better than our old and expensive cable TV signal!

Happily satisfied with my Mohu success, I decided to connect the RCA antenna upstairs because our TV is literally right in front of a rather large window. I thought for sure that our upstairs TV's picture quality would be just like our TVs with the Mohu antennas, but I WAS WRONG. Yeah, I'm truly so sorry to say that the RCA antenna didn't cut-it compared to the Mohu antennas—not even close! Thus, I boxed up the antenna exactly as I bought it and returned it to the store.

Actually, I went back to Sam's Club first before returning the RCA antenna and bought another Mohu antenna two-pack. At that point in my get rid of cable TV adventure, I didn't care about the antennas price because of all the money we'll be saving every month by not paying for cable TV. Plus, it's a one-time purchase that will last us indefinitely—unlike cable TV! I thought even if we just kept the extra antenna for emergencies, having a clear reception is totally worth the cost! :) Yet when I told my mom about the extra antenna, she decided to buy it off me for $20. Of course I said, "Yes! Thank you!"

But back to getting the extra Mohu two-pack antennas: you would have laughed so hard if you could have seen me at Sam's Club that day. You see, there was only one box left on the shelf and it looked like it had been ripped open. I was worried that the quality of the antennas might have been compromised and seriously debated about ordering another one online and having it shipped to me.

After looking around for a minute, I saw that another big box of (probably) six Mohu combination antenna boxes had fallen half-way off the back of the top shelf and were tipped up so you couldn't see them unless you were specifically searching. Yes, I'm quite the ocd Monk! ;) I was instantly excited! On the bottom shelf, I scooted the other small electronics' boxes to the side, looked around to make sure no one was coming (Not that it mattered what anyone else thought, I just didn't want an employee to be like, "Hey! What are you doing?!"), pushed my purse up tightly around my shoulder, slipped under the top shelf, walked back a ways and reached waaay upI almost couldn't touch the Mohu boxes, but I did! I grabbed one Mohu antenna box, looked at it, decided I wanted to try just one more (I know, I'm weird), liked the second box better, backed myself out of the bottom shelf and put the first antenna box back in the main big box on the top shelf. Whew!

Those two previous paragraphs were probably unnecessary (In fact, is anyone still reading my blog post at this point?! Ha ha.), but I was beyond pleased with my success! :) Finally content with my efforts, I drove home, connected our second Mohu Leaf Ultimate to our upstairs TV and fully collapsed on our couch.

I was so excited that my tiring two-day TV adventure yielded such fantastic results! (I really was bushed with all my researching, running around and connecting/disconnecting of technology.) Now my little family can watch regular network/public TV, Netflix (and all the other free goodies Roku has to offer {like BYUTV, Mormon Channel, TED Talks, PBS, PBS Kids, etc., etc.}), and Sling TV in three rooms! Before we cut our dependence on cable TV, we had only two rooms that could get two of the three entertainment options. And we were paying a ridiculous amount of money every month for cable channels we weren't even watching! To some, our current TV setups might seem excessive, but we are a family of five with different tastes in entertainment, so I'm grateful for the many options we are given through modern technology!

My disclaimer about Sling TV is this: you still have to pay $20+/a month for it, and you only get to watch it on one TV at a time—no matter how many Rokus or other digital devices your account is connected to. Yet the $25/month we'll be paying (Greg requested the $5 sports package) is such an awesome savings compared to what we were paying for cable TV! Not to mention, we rarely watched more cable TV channels than what Sling TV currently offers. As Greg and I debated switching to Sling TV, we realized that they have all the main channels we watch anyway! :)

By the way, being able to watch Sling TV on only one TV at a time really doesn't phase any of us because we have basic TV and all the other free options on Roku to choose from on our other two TVs! Also, in our I-get-everything-I-want-right-now society, I don't mind having my family share and take turns with each other! :) Oh, I sound like such an old lady! ;)

Bottom line: my heart feels amazingly free, happy and light because we canceled our expensive cable TV package! Wahoo!! Yippee!!! I'm ecstatic knowing we have access to the world and its entertainment at a discounted rate! I love that my beloved sports-minded Gregor—who works so hard for our family—can still enjoy his favorite thing besides me! Ha ha. Just kidding. (He loves many other things—including our children and playing basketball three to four times per week.)

I've fully accepted the fact that ESPN will never be out of our lives, and now I'm truly (and finally) okay with that! :)

P.S. Just to clarify, I've never not liked ESPN. I like ESPN! It's just that ESPN isn't my go-to channel by default because I have so many other interests. That said, I like watching many programs on ESPN with my Gregor—especially 30 For 30 and their other featured stories about athletes. I love hearing everyone's life stories! I also truly enjoy watching Stephen A (Smith), he's a pretty fun guy!

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