Solving The Television Dilemma: Dropping The Cable Bill Without Losing My Favorite Shows

Each month for years, my wife and I have dutifully paid a cable television bill that amounted to about $50 (on average). We used to watch quite a bit of television in the evenings, interspersed with reading and writing. When our son was born, however, our television viewing dropped considerably, to the point where we only watch a very small number of shows consistently. For me, the television shows I’m interested in are mostly science fiction dramas (Lost and Doctor Who, though I’m interested in giving Battlestar Galactica a good shake) and a few network sitcoms. There are a few other programs we might be willing to watch, but honestly, we have other things to do with our time than schedule them around television programs.

We discussed purchasing a TiVo to record our programs, but we didn’t want to add another monthly expense to our budget for the opportunity to record programs that we barely have time to watch in the first place. I think TiVo is a wonderful tool, but it simply doesn’t fit well into our lifestyle.

Thus, we are finally coming around to what seems like the best solution for our situation: television programs on DVD. At first glance, this seems like it would be a major expense: a season of a television series on DVD costs about as much as a month of cable, right? Well… not entirely.

Here’s our plan for keeping up with our favorite programs without commercial interruption without spending much money at all – and also enabling us to cancel that pricey monthly television bill.

First, we make a big list of the television programs we would like to watch starting from the first season. We limited this list to series we both enjoy or enjoyed in the past. Here’s a sampling of my list, for giggles: Picket Fences, Northern Exposure, The Sopranos, Arrested Development, Battlestar Galactica, and the reintroduced Doctor Who. Most of these happen to overlap with my wife’s list, too.

We choose about five programs that we want to watch sooner rather than later, and then cross-check them for DVD availability. Unfortunately for us, our mutually “most wanted” series (Picket Fences) isn’t out on DVD yet, so we’re looking at a collection of other series.

We start watching eBay for auctions of the first seasons of these shows – and buy when we see a good deal. We also keep an eye out in stores for new seasons that seem to be heavily discounted as well; I recently found each season of Arrested Development new in the store for about $15 each, for example.

We add some of the other series to our Amazon wishlists and see if we get them as birthday gifts. Television series on DVD make for a great gift for people: they’re easily acquirable and provide a lot of entertainment to the recipient. We add these to our wishlists on Amazon so that people can easily give us these as gifts if they so choose.

When we finish a season of a series, we put it up on eBay and use the proceeds to buy more seasons. This is the key part: we can usually sell the seasons on eBay and make back roughly the price of what we paid for them (and sometimes beat it, if we found a good deal earlier). Thus, our cost for a “new” season is roughly the cost of listing an auction, a padded envelope, and postage. This is an incredible deal for us; even if we watch an episode a day on average, we can usually stretch a season of a series out over most of a month.

We are strongly considering using this process for all of our “television” watching and abandoning cable programming altogether. This scheme is inexpensive and lets us watch our favorite shows without commercial interruption. We lose the option of having the latest episodes, of course, but we gain freedom from a monthly bill for $50.

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