Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reducing Our Cable Bill, Part 2


In Part 1 I explained how we got rid of our DVRs and at which websites to watch TV online.  Here's the rest of my story.




Hardware

Choosing what to watch TV on  has been one of the most confusing parts of this whole thing.  There are many options from using your computer to buying some sort of device like a Network Blu-Ray Disc Player, WiiXbox 360PlayStation 3, or other device.  The devices other than a computer are limited to streaming Netflix, I'm not sure they are equip for watching online shows.  The most popular TV computer is this Acer AspireRevo AR3610-U2002 Desktop because it can hook up with an HDMI cable.

For now, we are choosing to use the laptop computers we already have.  Later on we may invest in something else.  We can watch either personally on our own computers or hook up one to a TV and watch together.  We have a very old laptop that plays shows great we have designated for TV watching only.  Yes, it's old, but it doesn't have any programs on it other than the operating system, so there's lots of free space.  It's easy to move it to different TVs (although I'm sure we will get tired of that).  We have another mini laptop we use downstairs in the child care area.


Cords
Once you decide what you're going to hook up to your TV you will need to figure out what sort of cords you will need to hook up to your TV.  Look at the outputs on your computer and the inputs on your TV.  

New computers and TVs might have an HDMI Cable output/input.  That would be the easiest and best quality.  An HDMI carries sound and video in one cord.


One of our laptops has an S-Video output and most TVs have that input.

All computers and laptops I have looked at have a VGA output.  It seems pretty standard.  It just so happens all three of our TVs have VGA inputs.  That takes care of the video.

If you use an S-Video or VGA cord you will need a way to get sound either to your TV, surround sound system, iPod speakers, or you can just listen out of the computer.  The way to get the sound out of your computer is through the headphone jack.  That is a 3.5mm jack.  Depending on what you will be plugging the other end into will determine what you will need on the other end of the cord.  Our surround sound system has something called an MP3 input which is another 3.5mm jack, so I would need a cord with a 3.5mm male end on each end.

Now take your time with figuring out the cords.  If you're not good at cords and connections, don't be afraid to ask someone to help you figure it out.  If you would like to have the computer placed near where you sit in the room, consider buying cords long enough to reach from the TV to your spot.  We are buying 25-foot cords so we can route them around the room.

The best place I've found for buying cords is Amazon.com.  I've found all the 25-foot cords I need for under $9 each, including shipping!



Antenna
We considered dropping cable altogether and having our antenna hooked up to get the basic network channels.  The number of channels offered in each area differs greatly.  Havasu has over 30 channels available (but that will depend on your area of town and how powerful your antenna is).  Once you get your antenna hooked up, it's free TV.  You may already have an antenna on your house.  Maybe you know someone who can come hook it up, or your can hire a communications person to come do it.  You could also have an antenna installed. Before you hire someone, you may want to ask around and find out what channels are offered in your area.

I cannot find anywhere online to watch a TV channel live, only choose individual shows to watch, which isn't so bad, because you can choose what to watch.  So, an outdoor antenna may be an option for you.


We were given a 2-month free Netflix subscription and are nearing the end of it.  At first we were just ordering the DVDs to be mailed to our house and had planned to cancel the subscription when it ran out.  When looking into free TV, everyone seems to have the Netflix subscription for about $9/month.  We were missing a whole other service!  With this, you can watch as much instant items as you like on four devices and you can order one DVD at a time to be mailed to your house, too.


There are TV episodes, movies of all types, comedy shows, children's shows and everything else available, too.  If you have never signed up for Netflix, they offer a free trial.  It's very worth it to try!

You can get Netflix on more than a computer.  It can work on a gaming system, some TiVos, some Blue Ray players, and Home Theater Systems and TVs with internet connections.  The list is on the Netflix website:  http://www.netflix.com/NetflixReadyDevices


For the $9 per month, you are allowed to watch as much as you want, it's unlimited.  Not every movie and show is available to watch instantly, but there are many!

Boxee
I haven't been able to look at this closely, but it's a way to find your shows online:  http://www.boxee.tv/


The Rest Of My Story
When I got the updated cable bill with the DVRs taken off and the new "Digital Gateway Package", I was confused to see a charge for "digital cable"?  I called and asked and they explained that what was included in my package was internet, basic cable, and free rental on the "digital cable box" , but they charged for digital channels separately based on which package the customer wanted.  (I found out later I HAD to keep the cable box or they would have to charge us more per month?  I have it in a closet now, lol).

After some thought, our final decision is to return that digital cable box and cancel the digital cable part.  This will bring our over-all internet and cable bill down $60 per month than what we were paying with the DVRs and digital cable.  The only channel we used on the digital box was Nick Jr. for the child care.  It turns out those children's shows are available on Netflix.

We don't have another good option for buying internet in our area, and until we do, I can live with paying the $25 per month above the regular internet price for basic cable.



Conclusion
Maybe it's time to reevaluate your cable situation.  Start with what you have and try the cheapest thing first.  

Even if you just downsize your cable bill, you are ahead of the game.  Don't be afraid to ask your cable company for a package you can afford, or if you are not in a contract, shop around for other options.  Almost everything is negotiable.

Don't be afraid to think out of your box.

We were not in any contracts, but stayed with the same cable company because it's the best place to buy internet from.  After all the changes we are saving $60 per month on our cable bill, adding a $9 per month Netflix subscription, and adding about $20 worth of long cords.  Over the course of a year, that's saving $600!



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