Cutting Cable

Last month we bit the bullet. We got rid of cable. WE GOT RID OF CABLE! Ahhhh! That’s a sigh of relief, not a sigh of panic.

When we moved into our house five years ago, we didn’t get cable. In the beginning it was because we couldn’t get anyone to come out and give it to us. They claimed we didn’t have enough houses in our development. About a year later they came door-to-door and tried to give us a good deal. We declined. It was the only way we had a leg up. If they didn’t want our money, well then we weren’t going to give it to them a year later. So we lived almost three full years without cable. We had an antenna that got the basic channels so I was happy enough watching prime time television. Bryan on the other hand, was missing the History Channel and Discovery Channel. Like, bad. Around the time we got our dish, DVR was becoming popular. Remember, we had zero television payment before getting a dish. So, we got one DVR for the living room and a couple of receivers for other rooms in the house (our bedroom being one of them). We couldn’t justify doing any more DVRs in the house, even though it sounded awesome to have one in the bedroom.

And then we fell in love with the DVR. Like, bad. It was amazing. It was everything we didn’t know a tv could be! In the beginning we had all.the. movie channels so we took full advantage of lazy weekends. Also, we had nothing else to do after going out the night before. (Heh, pre-kids life was so rough.) We recorded series and watched them together when we had time. After we had kids, it became our dates. After the house was quiet, we turned off all the lights and watched an episode or two. It was relaxing. (Or, is.)

Over the past year we struggled a lot with how expensive it was. It was painful to look at that line item each month. On the one hand, Maximus could have access to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse whenever he wanted. (Of course we run the remote.) And, we had our precious DVR. I can’t forget Bryan’s “special” channels either. But, were any of those things worth one hundred dollars a month? (Full disclosure: I can’t actually remember how much it cost. I feel like at the end we had cut back plans enough that we were hovering under one hundred when you added in tax.) Finally one night I said, “cancel the cable.” I’m like that. Out of the blue I commit and want it done. Now. Bryan would prefer to think things through and make sure we make the right decision. I’d rather see results. Either way, we decided to buy Apple TV. So, we budgeted for the box that month and put in our regular cable amount, too. (Because we assumed we wouldn’t get that good of a prorate when we cancelled. And we didn’t.) A bonus when we bought Apple TV, we bought a returned unit so we saved $10!

You know when your university alumni association calls and asks for donations? You have to say no to them 8-10 times before they can accept the answer. No, seriously that’s how our university works. Well, Bryan had to go through numerous employees, supervisors, and managers before he could cancel the darn thing. And! He had to wait 24 hours before he could really cancel. Because he’d have cancel remorse or something?! What the heck! So eventually he was able to cancel and they sent us a box to put the receivers in. We sent them off and thought we were done with them. We got a check for $3 because canceling at the beginning of the month only saves you $3, obviously. Bryan has received a phone call from them almost every week day since we cancelled. They want us back. For a cheap price. They also want to know if we’ve returned the receivers, which we did as soon as the box arrived. It doesn’t feel like our relationship is over quite yet, but we’d really like it to be!

Sorry, DirectTV. We started a new relationship with HuluPlus and networks online and we’re doing just fine now. And it’s ok that we don’t have the Disney channel, we pull up old school Mickey Mouse on YouTube. This also means we don’t want to poke our eyes out, instead we remember the good ol’ days when cartoons were a little “rougher.” We pay $8 a month for a HuluPlus subscription and we do a happy dance about the rest of that money going into savings!

We have a pretty fluid budgeting process and we’re in the repetition phase of it, but that doesn’t mean we stop looking for ways to save money. I’d love to hear from my readers! What have you done lately to cut out a monthly cost?

Note: We haven’t been reimbursed by any of the above companies. We’re just looking for the best way to still get tv without paying cable prices. 🙂

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Financial Peace, Week 3

Our third week of Financial Peace University was about a cash flow plan. It’s about doing a zero budget. That means that you budget all of your money. All. Of. Your. Money. You plan where everything goes, down to the last penny.

The general budget was easy. Like I’ve said, we’ve done that before. We spend X on the mortgage, Y on utilities, and Z on groceries. When we had that homework, we just had to fill in the sheet from our information on the computer. Easy as that.

A cash flow plan. A zero budget. What? You want me to decide where EVERYTHING is going, at the beginning of the month? Ok, I guess I can do that. Except that meant we didn’t so much budget, but entered in how much we’d spent this month. You see, the general budget was done at the beginning of the month. But the zero budget was done after a few weeks, when we realized our budget might not hold out. So, we tweaked until we had zero money left at the end of the month.

The zero budget wasn’t hard to do. We had tweaked the general budget some to include all of our recurring monthly costs. But, we had never thought to plan out ALL of the money.

What we learned:

  • You really can figure out where your money is going if you do a zero budget.
  • You can budget for double payments on things instead of just talking about doing it.
  • You can decide each month how much money you want to save.
  • You get to change your budget each month. We had wondered about that before. We had talked about if we didn’t have any gifts to buy one month. What would we do with that money at the end of the month? The answer, you plan each month!
  • You get to change your budget every month!

I’m excited to see how this month pans out. We’ve already realized that we don’t always know about impending costs. Or, maybe we need to think a little harder. For instance, there’s a bachelor party at the end of the month. It’s not in our budget, but we do have blow money* that is there for that specific thing. We’ll know when we sit down to discuss April, that we really need to look at our schedule for the month to see if anything is going on.

What we’ve done to change our financial lives:

  • Double our car payments! After months of talking about it, we’ve been motivated to DO it! Looking at our zero budget showed us that we have the money to do it. We just needed to find motivation.

*Blow money – money that has been set aside to blow. Whether it covers an area that goes over, or is used for fun.

Financial Peace, Week 2: A Budget

I’ve decided to take you along on our journey to financial peace. Tune in every (hopefully!) Sunday night as I reflect on the week’s lesson. 

I’m reminded again why a budget is important. It’s not there to track where the money went, it’s there to plan where the money goes. It’s a chance to sit down at the beginning of every month and decide where the money will go. It’s a chance to talk about money, at least once a month. It’s a chance to decide, as a couple, where to give and take from. A budget is a lot more than “saving money.” It’s actually knowing what you’re saving and where the rest is going.

We’ve been on a budget plenty of times. There was a wedding (that could have been a really nice car), a house, living in a new house, buying a car, and having a baby. So, we know a lot about being on a budget. Except, all of those times involved seeing where the money was going and vowing not to spend it on extra things. When we want to save money, the first thing to go is eating out. We don’t go to restaurants much so I mean fast food. Life gets pretty hectic and fast food is a lot easier than cooking a meal after a long day. When we’ve been on a budget, we haven’t actually planned where all of our pennies would go. Instead we practiced thoughtful spending. Meaning, out of chance we happened to have saved money! 

We’ve been lucky (I used this word wisely) that our savings plans have been successful. We’ve been lucky that we have been able to buy what we want. We have been lucky that our way of budgeting reaped great benefits. I take pride in saying that we paid for our wedding with real money. We didn’t put things on credit cards to not be paid off for months. (We did use credit cards for some things. We used the Internet on a lot of things!) Yes, our parent’s contributed, but we saved our money and bought ourselves a wedding!

Now here’s where the confusion begins with a budget. We knew where our money was going and we saved for a wedding. {Awesome!} We thought we were operating under a budget. No one had ever told us to budget where ALL the money was going. No one had ever told us to budget exactly money into savings! {Light bulb!} Before Maximus was born, we mimicked Dave Ramsey’s cash flow worksheet and included the line about savings. {Go us!} But…we were just starting out so we were guessing on what our budget would look like. But that’s ok, he tells you it will take a few months to get it figured out. So, we gave ourselves that wiggle room. And we never looked back. We didn’t sit down the next month and review it. We looked at what we had spent and continued to “save.” Life was looking good because we were saving money. Our budget appeared to be working! You get the drift, right? We didn’t really understand the concept of a BUDGET. We knew the general meaning of it, but we were giving ourselves too much wiggle room. That wiggle room is what has kept us in this tetter-totter motion for so long.

I’m excited to get the real budget up and going. That means tweaking what was created long ago. Here’s to using the budget the right way!