Friday, October 30, 2009

Canceled Cable... Again

After a few fairly successful months of having limited cable service, I reinstated most of what I had canceled. Now that the summer is done, I've gone back to the previous system. Why did I reinstate and subsequently cancel? Read on...

Why I Reinstated Cable

I had to do it for my mother. My wife was to take some summer classes that would involve her presence on campus four days a week for a couple hours each day. In order to accommodate this we would either have to put my son in day care four days a week or have a babysitter. We decided that my mother could watch him for a few hours at a time, so we asked her to come out from Ohio. My mother watches a lot of TV, and many of "her" shows are on cable-only networks.

My mother is also tracking the latest release cycle for many of these shows. That means that DVDs can't fill the void. I still don't have my computer hooked up to the TV, nor do I have the remote working with it, so she couldn't use that. Besides, we're lucky if she can use a DVD player, I'm sure most Internet TV interfaces would be beyond frightening to her.

I wanted my mother to be able to spend time with her grandchild. I wanted her to be at least reasonably comfortable here as well. Lastly, I wanted an unlimited calling plan again since she would want to call friends and family who are out of state. It was clear that I would have to pay more to the cable company to achieve this.

On the plus side, since I spent those months at the lower service plan I was eligible for their big discount offer that allows you to get most of their available services for about $100 per month. That's roughly $40 more than I was paying them.

One last, selfish reason: Sports. I was able to reinstate ahead of my mother's arrival during the height of the NBA and NHL playoffs. Many of these games are only carried on cable. I have to admit that I also had a hard time with canceling because of the football that is only on cable.

Then I Canceled

In the end my mother only stayed for three weeks. I had cable for roughly five months. It was enticing to stay because of the discount offer. In the back of my mind I knew it was a trap, yet I was falling into it.

My son was able to watch Nick Jr (formerly Noggin) again, which is more a benefit for us than for him. Even if the Nick Jr channel mostly shows a limited set of reruns its still more diversity than our DVD collection has. After a while of watching the same four episodes on a DVD you start reciting lines in your sleep. We let him watch shows only at certain times, so it's not life altering for him to lose the channel, he's fine with the DVDs.

The sports were compelling for me, but it's not worth almost $500 per year. I'm not that crazy about college football, and that's the biggest loss here. I will miss Monday Night Football games, but if I really want to see them then I can go to a sports bar. Beyond that, there are very few times when I want to watch a sporting event that is only on a cable station. Generally, these are the earlier rounds of the playoffs. Even if I limited myself to half of the money saved by canceling this service I'd still have $8 for every sporting event I care to watch that's only on cable. I can use that money to get out of the house instead.

There's nothing more that's compelling to me. That's it. Those were the two things that I will legitimately miss about having that cable service. I did watch a bit more TV since I had it, but I can do other things instead. Most of the shows I would watch were out of boredom, not a strong desire to watch them. There's a ton of content online now. I have no reason to pay the extra money to the cable company.

Lastly, it really is a trap. They offer the first year of this deal at a discounted price. It's about $50 more per month after the discount expires. It may be possible to negotiate to keep the discount, but I hardly see why that's a worthwhile endeavor year after year. Ultimately, I'm back to saving $85 per month over what I was paying at the beginning of the year.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moving? Get a PO Box

I recently moved. We were having problems with our neighbors, so we knew several months in advance that we were going to move. About 3 months before the move we decided to get a PO Box and forward our mail there. It was a great decision.

The last few times we’d moved we had mail go missing because the forwarding simply failed. The USPS is pretty good, I’m not knocking them, but sometimes things slip through the cracks. Previously, we had good relationships with our neighbors and so we’d end up getting the mail that wasn’t forwarded. We knew that wouldn’t be the case this time, so we setup as big of a buffer as possible.

What’s great about this approach is that you can redirect your mail before you move. This gives you a few months to see what doesn’t get redirected and to change the address on your accounts when you see they’re still set to the old address. I kept track of these accounts in a spreadsheet so that I’d know to change them again later. Then once you’re settled into the new place you can start changing the address on your accounts to mail you at your new home.

At the end you have a choice: You can keep the PO Box if you want. You can cancel the PO Box and file a change of address to your home. Or you can cancel with no change of address. If you do the latter then you’ll effectively cancel some of the junk mail you receive, but the danger of that is that you may miss some random piece of mail that you didn’t anticipate.