What did your kid want for Christmas? A Leap Frog? A Playstation Vita? Chances are your child discovered his or her new desired toy by one of two ways: either talking to other kids or seeing the products during commercials. Most holiday crazes from the past few years are borne out of incredibly nifty television campaigns aimed at little children during SpongeBob commercial breaks.
Want to know what our daughter wanted for Christmas? An outfit, a mask and some books. In spending roughly $45, we’d filled our seven-year-old’s Christmas list. And how did this happen? We don’t have cable. And it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.
Not only is cable insanely expensive (after your initial two-year deal is over prices skyrocket into the hundreds), but the commercials really have a negative impact on kids. All the ads do are pump a new must-have product into your kid’s brain while perpetuating troublesome self-image issues. Also, if you have a hectic parenting schedule like I do you’re probably not going to be able to catch the brand-new "Scandal" when it airs anyway.
The most difficult part about giving up cable is mental. People have lived with cable so long that they forget it’s not a necessity. As soon as some people move into a new place, their first course of action is to pick a cable provider as if the package is as integral as water. That’s not that case. Cable is becoming more and more of a luxury as streaming sites and other alternatives have made it easier to function with the basics. So, take a deep breath, have no fear and follow these easy steps.
1. Netflix and Hulu: With these two programs you won’t ever go without something to watch. Netflix allows you to watch just about any movie you want and you can binge watch some great series when you’re bored. Then Hulu shows almost every show on TV the day after it airs (including "Scandal"). Each costs about eight bucks a month. Sixteen dollars is much more manageable than the hundreds you’ll spend with cable. Netflix also has a tremendous kids section so your little one can watch all of the "Sesame Streets" or "Yo! Gabba Gabbas" her heart desires.
2. HD Antennae: So you can catch the TV shows you want but what about sporting events? Not too many people capitalize on the availability of HD antennas. They’re essentially like the old-school antennas (or coat hangers) you used to put on the back of your bulky televisions back in the day except these display shows in 1080p. That means you can watch all of your local channels in high definition—including your local football games. The best part? They don’t cost any more than $50.
3.Find Out What’s Streaming: Most shows that aren’t on Hulu still stream on the network’s website the next day. For example, "How I Met Your Mother" (a show I got into thanks to its back catalogue being available on Netflix) is available on CBS ever Tuesday, so I never miss an episode. Most NBA games that air on TNT stream live on NBA.com and most college football games stream on ESPN3 as well. Basically, if you do enough digging you can find any show you want online. Most guys I mention dropping cable to say, “I can’t live without ESPN.” I was the same way, but all highlights that come on SportsCenter come on ESPN.com and the TV shows are OnDemand on ESPNRadio too. You’re not missing much.
The idea of going without cable is such a foreign concept to most of us who have lived with it most of our lives. We think that not having cable means we’ll be stuck with three channels that turn off at midnight like in the 80s. That just isn’t the case anymore. You can cut out cable and enjoy the shows you want as if it never left. More importantly, you can save hundreds of bucks a month while helping your child avoid the cavalcade of marketing schemes and self-image issues big companies try to push on her. You’d be amazed at how little your child will beg for meaningless junk when commercials aren’t around to influence her.
Oh, yeah, your kid may even read a little bit, too.