Living off the Grid

We did it. We made the leap. We got rid of our satellite dish.

It all started when I was reading an article at my mom’s house, I believe it was in Newsweek, about a guy who had decided to cancel his cable television. His main point was basically that most shows are online, or on Netflix, or some other medium. Of course, not all shows were, but for the money he was paying for cable, it would be worth it to miss those shows.

This really resonated with me. Most of the shows we watch are on network television. Yes, there are a few shows that aren’t available online and aren’t on network television that I will miss. But are those few shows worth the money we pay? If someone came up to me on the street and said, “Hey, if you stop watching show X, I’ll give you $500 a year.” I would take it so fast the guy’s head would spin.

There were a few other factors as well that affected our decision. First off, as you probably know, we don’t watch t.v. with Evie. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no t.v. before the age of two. But of course, after two years of not watching t.v. with her, there didn’t seem to be much point in starting when she turned two. We have plenty to do in a day. So the t.v. doesn’t come on at all until she is in bed. Depending on how tired we are, we can probably watch (at most) two shows. So we’ve already weaned ourself down quite a bit, to where the t.v. isn’t on all day.

Second off, if t.v. is so bad for kids, is it really so great for adults? Don’t get me wrong, we still watch plenty of t.v., but I’ve been making an effort to watch left. Honestly, I feel like I never have enough time for my hobbies as it is, and I’d really rather be doing them than watching t.v. in most cases.

For me personally, there was a third factor to consider. We have had our Tivo for years now. It worked great when we just had regular cable. But with any sort of box, satellite in our case, but also digital cable, etc., the Tivo has some trouble. Most people rent a box with a DVR included in it, so they don’t have these sorts of troubles. But it didn’t make sense to pay extra for that when we already had something. Anyway, long story short, but if we didn’t remember to “fix the t.v.”, the Tivo would blindly record an hour of satellite screen saver. This happened constantly, meaning we were missing shows left and right. And if we were gone for a weekend or something, forget it.

Okay, so, the short version is, for whatever reason, we don’t watch much t.v. anymore, and we decided it wasn’t worth it. So I got a digital converter box for my birthday and decided to give it a whirl. After a short trip to Best Buy for a $13 antenna, we’re in business.

I have to tell you, I couldn’t feel better about this. Basically, the downside is missing a few shows I used to watch (and I basically only mean The Soup and Robot Chicken, maybe the occasional football game). The upside is saving about $500 a year and not missing shows from when the Tivo / satellite connection messes up.

And let’s be clear, this isn’t exactly like going down to 4 channels, like when I was a kid. The combination of digital signals adding sub-channels, and maybe the fact that I live in Chicago now, I receive a full 39 channels. That’s like how many basic cable used to give you.

So anyway, I dumped all of those horrible monopolistic television providers, and I have a new lease on life.  A spring in my step. And I recommend to all of you to do the same.

One funny anecdote about the whole thing. When I went in to Best Buy, the checkout lady tried to get me to get a credit card. She asked me, “Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas? We have no interest right now, you could get that big t.v. you always wanted.” I looked at her and said, “Are you seriously trying to sell a big screen high def t.v. to the guy who just bought the cheapest pair of rabbit ears he could find?” She repeated about the no interest, and I just laughed and left.

6 thoughts on “Living off the Grid

  1. Way to make the leap Shane! We did everything we could to remove ourselves from paying for television back in the States. We watched everything through the internet and we did it legally, no piracy whatsoever. Netflix streaming, Hulu, abc.com, and podcasts were more than enough.

    You can now get nearly every show either through amazon unbox or iTunes. For example if you miss Joel McHale so much you can buy the season pass on iTunes for The Soup. Even buying a couple shows like this is still far less than the $500 you spend annually on satillite.

    Here in NZ we just watch the 4 crappy over-the-air channels when we have the urge to veg in front of the TV. But that happens rarely and we almost always go without. For some of Jamie’s favorite U.S. shows, I just bought season passes on iTunes and she can watch them at her leasure.

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  2. Ha, we went through this. Had DirecTV, that contract finally ended, went to rabbit ears, realized that it took our dual tuner Tivo down to one (I’d try to explain why, but I’m pretty sure I’d leave us both confused), went to basic $9.99 (for one year) cable, and then went through Purdue B-ball withdrawl (since most games are now on the Big 10 Network), and we’re now back to paying too much for cable. It’s a vicious cycle. But, you’re right about the money. We pay an awful lot for that one extra channel because we don’t have time to watch the others, and we barely have time to watch our other Tivo’d shoes.

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    • I understand why it took your dual tuner down to one (although I think you could have kept two if you had two digital converter boxes, though maybe not; I’m not sure how the IR Blaster works with 2 boxes).

      Anyway, we’re not saying we’ll never get cable or satellite again. But if we can hold off for even 5 years, that’s $2,500 in our pocket!

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  3. There’s obviously a real advantage to big city life. Grand Rapids doesn’t compare to Chicago, ’cause I tried a converter box and Best Buy’s best rabbit ears (around $50) late last summer, and although we had about 16 channels available, their signal strength just wasn’t good enough. It acted much like a satellite in bad weather – the picture would break up, then freeze. So, the rabbit ears went back. I may try again with a real outdoor antenna when this last cable deal expires. But I very much doubt we’d ever be able to get CBS since it’s 50+ miles away. But then again, I just watched an old Twilight Zone on my new Droid through our wifi and it was great!! So I’ll be set whenever we visit you (ha!).

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  4. Pingback: Alas poor Tivo, I hardly knew ye | Is this thing on?

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