The Great Cable Debate

by Matt B

I read a lot. Especially about personal finance. Between magazines, books and blogs, a good chunk of my time is occupied reading. Much has been written and talked about regarding cable television and personal finance. In most of the pieces that I have read about this topic, cable loses. Many writers that I read regularly claim that it is a drain on the finances for numerous reasons. I refute these claims. Not entirely, but for the most part.

Cable or Satellite may be saving you money
A few years ago, when I did not have cable, I spent more money. I would be away from the house more and spending money on food, gas and whatever else was around. Definitely more than the $50 bucks or so that cable would set me back. Not to mention that I’m a homebody anyway, so the time at home is a plus for me. I am also a sports nut, so without the ability to watch football every Sunday, the NCAA tournament, NBA finals, World Series of Poker (sport or not?) and a zillion other events in the comfort of my home I would needlessly hang out in bars where I would be spending a ton on beer and food. So for many, cable may not be cost effective but in my house, in the financial choice between cable and no cable, the scales tip heavily toward subscribing. Even though there is a bill every month, it is actually less expensive for me to subscribe to cable than to try to avoid it.

Cable + Internet=$120/mo 3 Football games at the bar=$120ish ($20 for beers, $20 for food each visit)

Alternatives to Cable:

If you are a regular watcher of just a few programs, check out their availability on hulu. There are a large number of shows to choose from and the list is continually growing. Chances are that if it is a newer show that you are into, you will find it for free on hulu. There are also many other free and legal sites to watch shows. TV Duck, Fancast, and Flickpeek are just a few of the many sites you can find with a simple google search, and there are more sites popping up constantly.

For a year and a few months, I was a Netflix subscriber. At the time, I was watching movies like crazy and did not have cable. Although you will not be able to get new episodes of shows and you will not get the movies until the DVD has been released, Netflix is a great service. I was very impressed with their speed, setup and especially their customer service. I can recall two specific incidents when I had issues and both times I was completely satisfied with their resolutions. One of them even got me a refund on one month of my subscription due to a shipping mix-up. It was above and beyond what I had expected.

Issues that may arise with cable:

Productivity Issues
Sometimes I will run into people who argue against cable because they claim it ruins productivity and makes you lazy. In my opinion, lazy people will be lazy and people who want to get things done will do so. As I sit here writing, there is an episode of Scrubs playing in the background. I am not locked into the tube like some sort of zombie, trapped in a deep trance and unable to do nothing else. So the lazy and unproductive argument does not hold water with me.

Attention to Others at Home
This is where the great cable debate gets touchy. Some families or couples are at each others’ throats constantly and TV acts as a buffer or distraction from the fighting. Conversely, too much TV can be a creator of ire for family members who are frustrated about the cost or the time being spent watching.

It is best to come to an agreement and compromise when deciding on a cable subscription. Since there are only two of us at home, I will use myself as an example. If Sarah was nagging me or wanted to talk about the cost of cable because she felt that it was too expensive or it was monopolizing too much of my time, I would gladly hear her out and reconsider our home entertainment choices.

The bottom line is, although many will argue whole-heartedly against cable TV, it is not always a negative. For my household, cable is not a necessity, but is also not demonized. Cable provides a relatively low-cost alternative to expensive outings for sporting events. It may not be the same for your situation, but I vote “yes” for cable.

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{ 1 comment }

Sarah April 17, 2009 at 2:08 pm

if i didn’t want us to have cable, we wouldn’t have cable. period. i would whine and nag and threaten you into submission and there’d be nothing left for you to do than watch sesame street and my pilates VHS cassettes (as you would be more limber due to your testicles swiftly shrinking into your torso). luckily, i’m obsessed with Niecy Nash and the multitude of reality shows about families with craploads of kids.
p.s. i’m making hamburgers tonight.

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