It’s 2016; Just Cut Cable Already

disconnectA few years ago, I was a staunch supporter in cable TV.

I viewed it as cheap entertainment. For $60 per month, I had access to all the sports, news, and educational programs my heart desired. My problem flipping through the channels wasn’t finding something to watch; it was narrowing down my choices from the ten things that looked interesting.

Back then, I would even go as far as telling people they could pry my TV remote out of my cold, dead hands. I had no intention of ever giving up my shows.

Fast forward a few years, and it’s amazing how my attitude has changed. I haven’t had cable for nearly two years now, and I don’t miss it for a second. I can still watch all the shows I like (even on my TV), and I get the added bonus of doing it on my own schedule. I don’t even know what nights shows air anymore.

Here’s how anyone can cut TV from their lives without missing any of their favorite shows, putting at least $50 per month in their pocket.

The miracle of streaming

Getting a Netflix account is just the beginning.

Netflix has a couple of Canadian competitors, Crave and Shomi. Crave is owned by Bell, which means it offers the ability to stream many CTV-exclusive shows, as well as some of the classics from HBO. If you’re a fan of Corner Gas, South Park, or the Sopranos, Crave is worth your time.

Shomi is a co-venture between Shaw and Rogers. It has plenty of TV series Netflix doesn’t, like Modern Family, Fargo, and American Horror Story. Shomi also has the rights to exclusively show Amazon streaming content in North America.

Each of these services cost $9 per month. If you combine the two with Netflix, you’ll get access to hundreds of different TV shows and thousands of movies, all for the combined cost of about half of the average cable subscription.

There’s one problem with this though, and that is you won’t get new episodes. Each of these streaming sites only offers old episodes, with the exception of Netflix’s unique programming.

The easy way to get around that is to just go to each network’s website and watch stuff on there. Nine times out of ten, it’s sitting there the next morning, waiting for you. Or you can just be patient and wait for the show to end up on one of the streaming services.

How to watch live TV without paying for it

Cable companies are happy to provide streaming services for just about every channel, providing you’re a customer. How can us cable-cutters get around it?

It’s as easy as using somebody else’s streaming service. Just find somebody with cable (giving them something for their trouble, of course), and use their login credentials to use your cable provider’s app. Your parents are the obvious choice, since they barely know what streaming is, never mind how to really use it well. All of Canada’s major cable providers have their own apps, each with the ability to watch up to 80 channels live.

These apps have access to thousands of hours of TV shows you can stream as well. You could easily replace your Netflix subscription with the streaming options offered by your local cable company.

The only catch is you won’t get access to channels unless the account you “borrowed” subscribes to them too. So unless the parents are HBO lovers as well, you’ll have to watch the naughty shows somewhere else.

Sports

I think many people would cut cable if it wasn’t for one thing — live sports.

There are a couple easy ways to watch sports. Some are hard, but don’t cost anything. Others are easy, but cost more.

The easy way is to shell out the $100 to $150 for a league’s all-access pass. This works great if you’re a fan of one particular sport. I’m a baseball nut, so I happily pay $109 per year for MLB.TV. You can easily split the cost of these with a buddy if you want to get the cost down.

If you don’t want to shell out the cash because you’re a more casual sports fan, there are other solutions. These days, a quick search online before a major sporting event will give you a multitude of, uh, somewhat illegal streaming options. I watched a football game via one of these options last month, and it was annoying. The stream kept cutting out, but hey, it was free.

And finally, if you use the apps provided by the TV providers, you can easily watch any live sporting event you want. They’re all on there.

Getting rid of cable doesn’t have to be hard. With a little bit of ingenuity and a blurred line of ethics, watching anything you want for nearly free is easy. Or you could just read a book instead.

 

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Simple Celebrations for Christmas Savings

Like the fictional Cratchit family in Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”, most of us realize that Christmas isn’t about the things that money can buy, yet even that family was excited to be able to have a big fat goose for Christmas dinner, courtesy of a reformed Scrooge.

Many children in North America experience a vastly different Christmas than the Cratchit family had, with brightly wrapped boxes filled with presents extending many yards out from under the tree into the living room; special Christmas outfits; and large store bought stockings filled with candy and toys. It seems that parents feel pressure to make Christmas present unwrapping last, even though the children rip and tear the paper off one present after another, not stopping to play with or thank the giver for the gift.

However, those probably won’t be the memories that come to mind when they are grown and parents themselves. Instead, they are more likely to think back fondly on the simple family celebrations and traditions your family has. Celebrations and traditions that don’t require massive outlays of money or stacks of presents under the tree.

What are some of these simple celebrations?

Decorate the house as a family.

Why decorate? Decorating sets the season apart for you and your family, letting you know with every glance that it is a special time of year.

Most of us put up at least some changes in decor (in addition to our Christmas tree), but you don’t need boxes of shiny ornaments or lighted moving yard scenes to make your home memorable at Christmas.

Whatever you do to decorate, whether it is to clip evergreen boughs and arrange them or have the kids draw Christmas trees on paper then cut them out and hang them around, whatever you do, make it a special event, a family event. Put on some Christmas music. Carry forward an old family tradition, telling the family story as your new family replicates it, or create a new tradition together as a family.

Celebrate your gratitude through giving.

It has been scientifically proven that folks who give get an endorphin spike, making them fell happy. Help your kids pick out toys they no longer want, to give to a local charity. Do a special giving project together and let the kids play a big part – whether it be trying to get on a list to serve together at the local soup kitchen or making and delivering cookies for an elder in a nursing home.

Establish a tradition to get the tree.

What you do each year to get and decorate that tree will be remembered! My family used to wait until late Christmas Eve, then hop in the car and find a tree lot still open. We would select the best tree, drag it home in the trunk and begin decorating together right away.

Perhaps you have an artificial tree, you can still make a tradition and a memory by getting it out together and decorating it. Or maybe, you have a family outing to go to a Christmas tree farm to cut your own.

Sing!

When the family gathers, sing Christmas songs together. When I was young, neighbors still went around in groups caroling in the neighborhood. Afterwards we would gather at one of the homes for cookies and hot chocolate. At family gatherings, we were each expected to prepare a performance of some sort to share with the family – whether it be to tell a story, read a bible verse, play an instrument or sing a song.

Attend a seasonal event together.

Almost all areas on the continent have special recurring Christmas events. Pick one and make it parr of your family holiday celebration.

For example, when I was little, our city still had huge downtown department stores – like Macy’s and Famous-Barr. These department stores decorated their windows to draw in the shoppers. The decorations included movable figures, model trains which passer bys could start and stop by pressing a special section of the glass and of course, music. Each year my aunts gave Mom and Dad a break and took us downtown to view the window magic. This was over 50 years ago and I still have those warm memories.

Tell readers what you remember most fondly from your Christmas past.