Why You Should Ditch Your Cable Company

Liberate yourself.

Do yourself and the planet a favor by breaking up with your cable TV provider. This simple action could impact your life in unexpected yet positive ways.

Calling the cable company to cancel your service is an easy task. However, if you are a long-term television aficionado, like me, it may be surprisingly difficult to actually do it.

When I signed up for cable TV many years ago, I thought it was a good value. I had the basic package, which did not include movie or sports channels. After several years, my cable company began continually raising prices without providing any additional features or services that appealed to me.

This ticked me off.

Periodically, I called the customer service department threatening to cancel my cable subscription. The company usually responded by giving me a promotional rate for six months or a year, but later my bill would go up again.

The cable box irritated me, too. It was an energy vampire sucking electricity even when I was not watching television.

Double Plug with Switch - Entertainment Center

At one point, I began turning the cable box off at night. The cable company shut off my service. When I called to complain, they told me that cable boxes need to be on standby power all the time to receive system updates.

The poor quality cable boxes required replacement every year or so resulting in excessive e-waste. This could have been avoided if the company had chosen to provide good quality equipment. Televisions and remote controls will become e-waste, too.

I canceled my cable TV service in February 2018.

It took me a few months to realize that ditching cable was having a positive impact on me that went far beyond saving money and reducing e-waste. I hope that after you read this post, you will consider giving your own cable company the boot.

Breaking Up with My Cable Company

I admire people that do not watch television or streaming media but I knew I was not ready to go cold turkey. That meant finding an alternative to cable.

My two parameters were that I wanted to keep the cost low and I did not want to buy any equipment that would later become e-waste. Fortunately, we already had an Internet connection in our living room and a cable that connects my laptop computer with the television.

After researching streaming services online, I opted to sign up for Netflix. This was in September 2016.

I got used to carrying my laptop downstairs, plugging it into the television in our living room, and then taking it back upstairs to my home office.

A year later, I was still paying for cable and Netflix and using both services.

Finally, late in 2017, I decided it was time to get rid of cable.

But I delayed doing it because I wanted to be able to watch Super Bowl LII on cable in February 2018. I cannot explain my fascination with football but I have been a Raiders fan since I was a kid.

My Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Raiders Baseball Hat and Black Coffee Mug
This is my well worn Breast Cancer Awareness Raiders hat and game day coffee mug.

A week or two after the game, I called the cable company and canceled my service.

In the back of my mind, I knew I needed to work on a solution for streaming football games but that was months away so I felt certain I would have it resolved before the 2018-2019 season.

You know where this is going, right? I did nothing.

My Cable-Free Plan Hits a Snag

On Monday, September 10, 2018, I was looking forward to watching the Raiders and Rams on Monday Night Football. I mentioned this to my spouse who replied, “You know you don’t have cable TV anymore, right.”

Oh, no!

I figured it would be easy to find an NFL streaming service. I was wrong.

The NFL channel would allow me to watch all the games—hours after they had been played. Other services offered some games but couldn’t guarantee they would not be blacked out. Plus, I would have to purchase a new electronic device to mediate between the Internet and my television.

Then I discovered that CBS offered an online subscription that would enable me to stream live TV (including football games) and watch previously aired TV show episodes using my laptop and Internet connection.

The CBS service would limit me to games on CBS but I supposed I would get at least one or two Raiders games and probably some good matchups between other teams. The clincher was that Super Bowl LIII would be on CBS in February 2019. I signed up.

I did get to watch the Raiders and some other good games, especially during the playoffs. My sister invited me up to her house for the weekend to watch the Super Bowl, where I consumed my annual batch of onion dip and a bag of Ruffles potato chips.

Unexpected Cable-Free Benefits

It took me several months to realize that not having cable gave me a surprising sense of freedom.

Of course, I could watch Netflix or CBS anytime I wanted, but I only like to sit at my desk to work, read the news, or do research. Even though it takes just a few minutes to hook my laptop up to the television, I found that I did not do it every evening. Somehow, adding that minuscule amount of inconvenience broke my automatic turn on the TV habit.

I was liberated from the constant barrage of television advertising. During football games, I reinstituted my policy of getting up and walking around or doing quick chores during commercial breaks.

iStock/GoodLifeStudio

No more ads telling me what I should look like, what I should eat and drink, or what products I need to buy. I am elated that I am no longer assailed by messages trying to convince me that I need to buy whatever is being advertised to be happy, beautiful, or a good mother. I do not miss the contrived commercial settings that try to make us believe that these are regular people living their everyday lives. I am relieved that I do not know what model of iPhone is currently for sale. I have no idea what products I am missing and I like it that way.

Now that I have the perspective of over a year without cable TV, I have a deeper appreciation of how commercials infiltrate every aspect of our lives and our relationships with other people. The force field of advertising is hard to overcome, especially after decades of indoctrination. However, it is worth the effort.

In addition to the feeling of freedom to be myself, getting rid of cable has given me a boost on my journey to be a minimalist living happily with less stuff. Everything you and I buy, own, and use in our daily lives has an environmental impact so curtailing our possessions helps us each live more lightly on Earth. I think this is a good thing.

It is Your Turn to Go Cable-Free

I do realize that my current streaming services could add commercials in the future. That is what happened with cable TV. If and when advertising starts showing up then I will look for other alternatives. I am also cognizant that things could get out of hand if I decided to add a lot of other streaming services, which would add complexity and cost.

I hope you will at least consider how you might benefit from a life without cable TV and the commercials that come with it.

Who knows, maybe someday I will completely give up television in all its forms.

Featured Image at Top: Birdlike links flying away to freedom through a hole in a chain link fence – photo credit iStock/Eoneren.

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Minimalism – Procrastination

Action begets action.

Once you reach the almost inevitable procrastination phase of becoming a minimalist, accept it and then try taking a small action to overcome your inertia. It worked for me.

Footprint on Earth Globe - Carbon Footprint

People decide to become minimalists living happily with less stuff for a variety of reasons. Mine is the desire to live more lightly on Earth. Take a moment to remind yourself of why you are on your own minimalist quest.

If you are like many if not most aspiring minimalists, you will likely begin by divesting yourself of things you own that you no longer need, want, or use.

Simultaneously, you will probably have to change your shopping and buying habits and perhaps revamp your gift exchanging philosophy. If you don’t, you may find yourself in an infinite loop of acquisition and divestment.

The divestment stage could take you a few weeks or several years. My spouse and I are taking the multi-year approach for a variety of reasons some of which I explained in a previous post entitled Minimalism for Couples – Getting Rid of Stuff. We made a lot of progress in years one and two and then procrastination set in.

Some stuff that we had decided to part ways with somehow began settling into our garage refusing to leave. Worse, I was allowing it to reside there.

Why Do People Procrastinate?

Procrastinators Meeting Postponed Sign

Of course, I am no expert on why people procrastinate, but my impression from reading about the topic over the years is that like many things involving humans, it is complicated.

There are many reasons you might put off doing things that you could or should be doing now. Ramifications for procrastinating vary in severity from significant to none.

For instance, say you are facing a looming deadline for a project at work. You need help but you are embarrassed to ask for it. Stressed out you decide to scroll through your social media feed looking for cat videos and other distracting content. If you miss the deadline, the repercussions could be minor or major. It probably depends on things like the importance of the project, your track record, and your boss’ management style.

Sometimes, dilly-dallying might be considered a good thing.

In this scenario, it is Sunday. Your laundry has piled up to the extent that no one in the family has enough clean socks to make it through next week. Instead of doing the laundry you choose to spend the day with your kids at a nearby park eating a picnic lunch and tossing a Frisbee around. Everyone has a great time. The repercussions are minor. You either do the laundry that night or everyone selects their least dirty pair of socks to wear the next day. (Minimalists do not go out to buy new socks).

For me, having stuff hanging out in my garage was low on the scale of the bad consequences, but once I overcame my inertia, I was able to enjoy the benefits of taking action.

Minimalists Procrastinate, Too

Our garage houses my spouse’s prototype shop, my car, gardening equipment, kayaking gear, and stuff from when our kids were children (another future divestment project). Our garage does not have room to spare.

At least six months ago, we had placed several items for donation in our garage intending to move them out quickly. These consisted of two teak steamer chairs with cushions in excellent condition, a somewhat faded market umbrella with a heavy metal stand, and parts for three multi-tiered wire storage baskets on wheels.

The only space to temporarily stage these items was a 4’ x 4’ space at the front of the garage near the cupboard where I store my gardening tools. With little clearance between the pile and the cupboard, it was not easy to get things out or put them away. (I forgot to photograph the pile.)

Somehow I had gotten it into my head that I wanted these items to go to the nonprofit Habit for Humanity ReStore in the “big” city located about 35 miles from our small town. It was my understanding that a ReStore takes in donated home improvement items and then resells them to the public but I had no idea whether they would accept our items or not.

I said I would find out. I even put it on my “to do” list.

Months later the stuff was still sitting in the garage annoying me every time I wanted to get out a shovel, hoe, or loppers. I kept saying to myself and sometimes to my spouse, “I need to call the ReStore to find out if they will take this stuff.” But, I did not do it.

More time passed until not long ago on a warm day in April, I wrestled my shovel out of the gardening cupboard so I could go dig up some invasive thistles. When I turned around, I looked at the donation pile and sighed for the umpteenth time.

Then it struck me. Someone could be relaxing in one of the steamer chairs right now sipping a cold glass of iced tea under the umbrella—if we had actually donated them.

That was not motivation enough for me to pick up the phone and call the ReStore, however, I did make a note on my calendar for the next Thursday when we would be going into the city to run errands and participate in an SLO Climate Coalition meeting. I thought we could easily swing by the ReStore to ask them if they would take our items.

Habitat Restore in San Luis Obispo, CA

We did stop by the San Luis Obispo South ReStore on the way to the meeting. The friendly gal manning the checkout counter said they would take our things and asked if we could drop them off.

The next Thursday we were scheduled to attend a monthly meeting of the San Luis Obispo chapter of the California Native Plant Society, so I wrote ReStore on my calendar. The afternoon of the meeting we wiped the dust and cobwebs off the items, loaded everything in the back of our 1999 Chevy Tahoe, and headed for the ReStore.

The guy running the store that day was not too happy that we arrived after the volunteers had gone home, but he did seem pleased with our donation items. When he saw the steamer chairs he said, “We can sell these in a heartbeat.”

He asked if we had photos of what the baskets looked like put together. Thanks to my spouse we did. I said I would email the photos the next day (I did).

As we were driving away, I felt relieved and happy. We had cleared out space in our garage but more importantly, it seemed likely that our chairs would soon find a new home with people who would appreciate and use them.

That accomplishment reinvigorated me. Now, I am ready to tackle more divestment tasks.

Overcoming Procrastination

Red Reset Button

Committing to one small action and not trying to tackle the whole project at once made it possible for me to clear up my inaction logjam.

Stopping by the ReStore on the way to somewhere else was easy and it did not necessarily mean I had to do anything further. Fortunately, that step encouraged me to take the next one.

If your minimalism divestment process is stalled, perhaps one or more of the ideas below will help you get moving again.

  • Accept that you have procrastinated.
  • Give yourself a break and do not beat yourself up for not taking action sooner.
  • Imagine your items being used and enjoyed by someone else.
  • Break down the project into smaller parts.
  • Pick an easy thing to do first.

Okay, now it is your turn.

Decide on one small and easy action you can take that would put a dent in your divestment roadblock even just a tiny bit. Then do it. Repeat this process as necessary until your minimalist journey is back on track.

Featured Image at Top: Coffee cup, pen, and a piece of paper with the words “The best way to get something done is to begin” on a wood table top – photo credit iStock/marekuliasz.

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