Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mr. Tightwad Shows How to Cut the Cable

From the SouthTown Star. Okay, okay--THIS isn't a false economy, but I do have some comments.

"Just when Mr. T thought he had pinched every penny in the budget, the monthly cable bill - all $85 of it - was staring right at him."

$85? What in the world was he watching for that money--HBO? Christ, he could've cut his bill in half just by going to satellite, and still be getting the same or more channels!

Downside to satellite: phantom load of electricity--the box needs to stay plugged in 24/7 to hold the satellite signal. Otherwise, it has to reload your TV's info every time you turn the box on and off. Another downside I've recently discovered is the abundance of useless channels devoted to marketing. Does the Nu-Wave Oven REALLY need an entire channel?

"That's a lot of money, Tightwad or not, to be paying just to park your rear on the couch and stare at the idiot box.

The Tightwads aren't alone. According to research firm Centris, the average person is paying $75 a month for cable, and some are paying closer to $100 for premium packages. Add in that the average bill increases 5 percent per year, and it's downright ridiculous."


"In one weekend, the Tightwads took the drastic measure of canceling the cable. But we weren't giving up on TV. What we did find out is not only were we diverting money from AT&T to our savings account, but we were being more selective in what we watch- while still able to watch the shows we truly enjoyed.

There's a number of ways to do it at a fraction of the cost. It's not as convenient as simply turning on the TV and flipping the channel, but if you're a Tightwad, the tradeoff is worth it."


"Here's how to do it:

HD antenna

This can be a good option if you want to watch all of your local programming in high definition. Beware though, it's not as easy as picking up the cheapest HD antenna and hooking it up. If there's ever a time where you get what you pay for, this is it.

The selection and price point - and more importantly, quality - varies greatly.

There are indoor and outdoor varieties and each specific model has a different range. Most local stations broadcast from the heart of downtown, so you'll need to calculate the distance from your house to the city, and get an antenna with the correct range. You'll also need to be able to aim it toward the broadcast transmission locations, which can be found at

The closer you live to downtown Chicago, the better results you'll have. The Tightwads live too far southwest (about 60 miles) and after trying three different HD antennas, one of which cost $120, we had to throw in the towel on this one. But most everyone in the Southland should be able to get an HD antenna that works.

With your laptop

If you have a laptop in your home, you can easily hook it up to your TV. Even your 42-inch flat screen. And you'll find that often, the picture will be very close to high definition. While there are other ways to do it, these are the two easiest methods that don't require you to be a member of the Geek Squad:

1) Most newer laptops come equipped with an HDMI port. This is going to be the easiest method, by far, to connect the two. Simply plug an HDMI cable (it'll run you about $40, depending on the length of the cable you buy) into your the port on the laptop and into the other HDMI port on the TV. Once you turn your TV onto the HDMI setting, you'll now see what's on the computer screen on your TV, although it'll be a bit brighter and sharper than what you see on your computer.

2) Have an older laptop? Don't worry, you can get hooked up using the RCA connectors. Simply plug the red, white and yellow plugs into the corresponding ports on both the laptop and TV.

Side note: No matter which way you're connected, you'll want to make sure your computer's screen resolution is on the highest setting in order to get the best picture on your TV.

You're hooked up, now what?

Now that you have the laptop and TV talking to each other, where do you get all of your favorite TV shows? There are a number of online sources for streaming. And if you don't want to hook up to your TV, or can't figure out how to, you can just watch them full screen on your computer.

1) Netflix: Instant streaming will cost you $7.99 per month. There's a good selection of full seasons of TV shows, in addition to movies. TV shows will usually be a season or two behind the current year. One added bonus to Netflix is that you can watch the shows through your Wii, PS3, Xbox 360 or iPad, so you don't have to tie up your laptop.

2) You'll be able to get a number of older shows, plus the last five shows that were aired of the current season's episodes. The current season's episodes are available one day after they originally aired. The viewing quality is remarkably good. All shows have a very limited number of commercials, usually two or three 30-second jobs per episode.

For a monthly subscription fee of $7.99, you can get the full run of hundreds of TV shows. Plus, episodes from the current season will not be limited to the past five episodes.

3) Network sites: CBS has decided to not play nice with Hulu, and therefore, you won't find any CBS shows on there. But, it does put all of its own shows on, so it's as easy as a few mouse clicks to get Letterman, The Amazing Race, Survivor and more. You can also find ABC's full lineup at, and fox also streams at For the little Tightwads, gives them their show. If there's a particular show you like, the easiest thing to do is go to that station's Web site and see if they stream it.

4) For the sports freak: The Tightwads stumbled upon when looking for a way to watch the Bears. Here, you'll find a wide variety of sporting events, plus some regular network shows. NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and college events are streamed, in addition to a lot of European soccer.

Depending on the feed, you may have to do a one-time download of a media player. A lot of the streams are from foreign sources (for example, an ESPN feed being broadcast in Europe) and the quality does vary. However, for big games, such as Sunday night or Monday night football, you'll often have two or three feeds to choose from and there's usually one that's very close to HD.

One of the cool things is that because its mostly foreign feeds, you'll get to see the foreign commercials, usually in a different language. The uncool thing is that there are usually only four or five different commercials shown over and over the entire game, and all of them have really bad acting. Which often makes the Tightwads wish we knew what the Swedish people in the commercials were saying.

5) Slip a friend $20: Luckily the football crazy Tightwads didn't have to do this, thanks to father-in-law Tightwad, who is a Tightwad strictly through relation and not by lifestyle. He subscribes to DirectTV's Sunday Ticket. With that subscription, he gets the Sunday Ticket On-The-Go, which is a streaming application for the computer. He's so nice he lets us log into his account, therefore giving us access to every game on Sunday (with the exception of the Sunday night game, which we then watch on Be extra nice to one of your friends or relatives and maybe they'll let you do the same.

Ripoff alert

No matter what you do, never pay money on a site that promises thousands of channels streamed directly to your computer. When going through this process of killing the cable, Mr. T researched a bunch of these sites and found out they're all a scam. Basically, once you pay for it, it'll just give you links to other streaming sites, all things you can find on your own for free."

I myself have found that by doing more from scratch, and making more by hand, that there really isn't time for TV like there used to be. Another finding: most TV programming is crap I don't care to watch, and now only have two nights where I actually sit and watch TV--Mondays and Thursdays. This leaves gobs more time to do what I 'm more interested in, like bulk cooking for the freezer, or sewing quilts, or reading up on new gardening techniques, or even surfing the web looking for stories to bring here.

When my satellite contract is finally up, I intend not only to cut the wires, but get rid of the TV as well, because the majority of my shows are on Hulu for free, which I can watch here at the computer.

Speaking of the computer, I found out yesterday that Sam's Club is now a wi-fi hot spot, so if you're a member, you can take the laptop along and surf in the food court while spouse and kids wander the aisles.


Post a Comment