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We Cut the Cable and Haven't Looked Back

Photograph by Twenty20

Cable TV was the drug that I just couldn't quit. I knew it was bad for me and my wallet, but I couldn't go a day without it. Even when I didn't enjoy it, I still used. I'll admit: I was a cable junkie.

I wasn't alone, either. My sons, my husband, we were all remote-toting addicts. Even with 1,000 or more channels, we couldn't glean an ounce of satisfaction. Every time we upped our dose, we needed more.

We added premium channels, purchased NFL and entertainment packages, and when it wasn't enough, we paid for monthly or yearly subscription services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

I remember a year ago this month, looking at our cable bill and feeling sick. We were spending more than $1,100 a year on cable alone, all in an effort to distract ourselves. We complained about not having anything to watch, we complained about being broke, complained about not spending enough time together. We all knew the real problem, but someone had to come forward, accept responsibility, and make a change.

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I took it upon myself a few weeks before Thanksgiving, while my husband was away on deployment, to sit down with my sons and share my thoughts.

"We're short on money, we're bored with what's on TV, and I think we should cut the cable," I said. I was matter-of-fact with them, not wanting to betray my real feelings of fear at the thought of losing the thing I loved almost as much as them.

I was prepared for the arguments, the litany of defenses, but my sons surprised me. They both agreed.

"Sounds good, mom," my oldest said.

"Yeah, I think that's a great idea," my youngest replied.

I'll admit something that I've never told anyone but my sons: It was a little scary that first day the TV stopped working. Television had long been my mental crutch, a way to disassociate from the world, a way to bond, a way to stay informed.

I'll be honest, I was a little offended at their lack of protest. I mean, I'd paid nearly $97 a month (more or less) for their entire lives, and it turned out they didn't care either way. I may have been projecting my needs on them a bit.

Within 30 minutes, a disconnect date was set for one week later. During that final week, in our free time, my kids and I binged on Comedy Central, Bravo (OK, I binged on Bravo) and post-apocalyptic supernatural shows on the CW. Like masochists on Thanksgiving, we kept going back for more. By the time we reached our deadline, we were too full to care. Our eyes were glazed-over; our minds saturated in ultra high definition alternative realities. I'm not saying it was the healthiest way to go out, but it worked for us.

I'll admit something that I've never told anyone but my sons: It was a little scary that first day the TV stopped working. Television had long been my mental crutch, a way to disassociate from the world, a way to bond, a way to stay informed.

While we still kept our monthly subscription services, it wasn't the same as clicking through one thousand channels as our butts melted into the soft confines of our couch. Plus, I had to wait until the next day to watch certain new episodes of my favorite shows (like "Jane the Virgin," "The Mindy Project" and "New Girl"), and some shows weren't available at all. Like, ever. Parting ways with my beloved "Real Housewives" was probably the hardest blow.

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The savings were hard to beat, though. Before cutting the cable, we paid roughly $170 a month for internet, cable TV and our monthly subscription services. After axing cable, our total payments added up to just $73 a month.

Somehow we survived those first few weeks sans a cable subscription. Foreign as it was to not have cable TV wired in every room, we found that we did strange things, like talk more and plan activities outside the home — together.

All that money we saved from cutting our cable went instead to cool activities, like our recent family trip to India and Japan. We don't miss cable at all. It's weird to say that, but it's really true.

No, we didn't start playing banjos and canning our own food, although that would've been kind of cool. Instead we fell into a new routine, one where TV wasn't the central focus of our lives. It's been a year now and we still don't regret our decision. All that money we saved from cutting our cable went instead to cool activities, like our recent family trip to India and Japan. We don't miss cable at all. It's weird to say that, but it's really true.

Looking back, it feels like cable TV is an ancient artifact, something people did in the good old days, something that died out when better technology came along.

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Just like VHS and cassette tapes, I think cable TV is on its way out the door. People don't want to be limited by pricey contracts or costly equipment rentals, and we want the opportunity to see the shows we love, when we want to watch them, wherever we feel like watching them. I've done a great deal of television watching sitting in my car (not while driving) waiting for my kids to get out of practice.

None of us regret cutting the cable. When my husband returned from deployment, he was already used to not having easy-access television at his fingertips, and he liked that we were saving so much money, although he did buy himself an antenna to catch his weekly football games.

If you're wondering if you could possibly manage without cable, I say go for it. You may just find, like us, that you have more free time, more money, and more control over what you watch. How can that be a bad thing?

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