How Being a Nielsen Family Saved Us Hundreds of Dollars

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Several months ago, my family was invited by the Nielsen Ratings to be a “Nielsen Family,” in other words, we were given a few dollars to spend a week filling out a booklet detailing every television program that we watched in a given week and who watched it.

Given that we generally only watch a small number of programs (and we diligently watch them… Lost, anyone?), we were quite happy to give a small ratings boost to our favorite programs (sadly, a bit too late to help the recently cancelled Arrested Development, but I digress). We diligently filled out the booklet and at the end of the week, we were about to send the booklet out when I spent a bit of time leafing through it.

I noticed that almost every program we watched during the week aired on a broadcast network, with only two exceptions (if you must know, they were Battlestar Galactica and The Wire). That meant that we were paying about $50 a month to watch two television programs that, if we waited a bit, we could watch on DVD rentals (or perhaps receive a season as a gift).

We sent the guide in, but my wife and I (just to be sure) kept a viewing log for the next two weeks and, sure enough, excepting a few minor news events, we only watched Battlestar Galactica and The Wire on cable. Given that this was costing us $50 a month, we elected to cancel our cable and replace it with a small antenna that enables us to receive the broadcast networks quite well (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, and a faint CW).

This plan can save you money, too. Spend a couple weeks logging what you watch. Then, evaluate that data: are there any packages you’re paying for that you’re not watching? If there are, cancel them and put the cash towards more important things instead.

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