Thursday, April 12, 2012

TV and Cable expenses

A little over two years ago, my family demanded cable. We'd had it off and on while we got situated to our new life in the city but when we moved to our current apartment we did subscribe to television. It was July and we had plenty of movies and non-tv activities to occupy us. Winter in the Palouse is very cold and dark. TV becomes a source of entertainment and in some cases the only source. We had bundled our cable and internet which proved to be an amazing deal. We could add Directv for just a little more. That December we gave in and added Directv to our lives. It was more than affordable. We got a ton of channels and Showtime for free. We made sure to cancel the Showtime before the free trial ended. What we didn't expect is that the bill would grow and grow until we were paying nearly $100 for our cable. The worst part - we signed a two year contract and we were stuck. Those two years were up this past December. Keeping up with that bill was hard and we eventually opted to rid ourselves of Directv. I will say we loved the service and we were spoiled by the DVR and the number of channels. We didn't watch enough tv to justify $100. (I will say trying to cancel was tough - no one was responsible for helping us cancel and now we can't get them to take the equipment that they say we won't return and will have to pay $250 for.) We had already started working on an alternate plan. Before canceling we wrote down all the shows we DVR'd. It didn't take long for us to find out which ones we could watch on the internet for free and which ones we had to come up with an alternate plan. Some we just have to give up or wait until they are released on DVD. At first that was hard but now that we've been doing this for a few weeks, we actually forget what shows we have missed. It's not that important and we are finding other things to watch (we are just showing signs of the weather changing). During this time, we've done all the free trial memberships - Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. We loved the Netflix. My son has discovered a ton of new anime series. My husband and I got to enjoy tv shows we either watched ages ago or always thought we wanted to watch but were up against other things. We've been working our way through Supernatural and have talked about doing Lost next. We like Hulu anyway and found that the Hulu Plus membership did make some shows more accessible. Both of those are only $7.99 a month. We started a real membership to Netflix this week but are going to wait on the Hulu Plus until this fall when all the shows start premiering again. Now Hulu Plus does make some shows accessible earlier than waiting for them to be available for free. Fox holds their shows for non-paying viewers for 8 days. We have felt that waiting those 8 days was not all that big of a deal except a lot of the shows we like weren't on during March so the family felt they had waited enough. We're back to the waiting game now and I didn't take the time to look for shows that weren't available for free such as those on TNT and Discovery channel. However, both those channels release their shows on DVD so we can wait. As for Amazon Prime - we didn't get it. We don't do that much shopping online and their tv/movie streaming for that price wasn't worth it. If you shop from them on a regular basis, the cost is the same as Netflix but it's a one lump sum for the year. There are other benefits to Amazon Prime that might suit you but as for just watching tv it wasn't worth it. My husband did find a site - that I can't remember the name of - that offers some better access to some shows. He swears to me he did all the research to prove it was a legitimate site but I still have my doubts. The last thing I want to share is how we are watching these shows. Currently we have a HDMI cable strung from our computer to our tv. This is a cheap solution but we hope to keep it temporary. There are some disadvantages to this system - the sound goes through the computer and not our tv and it limits what can be done on the computer while watching tv. There is a cheap solution to this that we are saving towards - a streaming media player. These devices attach to the television and allow access to sites such as netflix and hulu. This won't be perfect because you can only access the programed sites (the salesclerk said they act like apps so you can add more). We figure we have the hooking the computer to the tv perfected so we can use that when we have other sites we want to watch. The other thing is you need wireless. We found a good router for about $25. We figure that the entire set-up will cost us about 1 months worth of cable - not too bad. I'm including a link to a media streaming device. We're buying ours from the local Walmart and they only offer one type and one brand but we felt it met our needs. However, I can't remember what it is so this is one that is about the same price and a chance to see what I am talking about.

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