HDYDI: Become a ‘Zero TV’ Home

If I told you could save about $600 a year, you’d be all ears, right? Good, glad you’re listening.

Life was beginning to revolve around when we could watch all the shows on our DVR. Then my husband and I did something crazy.

We turned off the TV.

Detox was hard. After our 40-day trial run during Lent, we slowly eased back into television watching, but not nearly the level we were at before. Last June, I asked my husband how he felt about cancelling cable (two months before the start of college football, I might add). To my surprise he said, “Do it. There will never be an ideal time.” Yahoo recently published this article about ‘zero TV’ homes and broadcasters fear about their growing popularity.

A growing number of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV service, and don’t even use an antenna to get free signals over the air. These people are watching shows and movies on the Internet, sometimes via cellphone connections. Last month, the Nielsen Co. started labeling people in this group “Zero TV” households, because they fall outside the traditional definition of a TV home. There are 5 million of these residences in the U.S., up from 2 million in 2007.

So, how do you do it? How do you cut the cable and survive? Let me tell ya.

Become a Zero TV Home

1. Call your cable company. I guarantee, when you tell them you want to cancel cable there will magically be about 100 other “less expensive” plans they will try to pitch to you. Don’t buy it. We negotiated a low rate for internet/home phone and ditched everything else. I know, you’re already chastising me for the home phone expense. Here’s the thing. Our kids don’t have cell phones and won’t until high school. If Scott and I are away, the babysitter or our oldest, who is sometimes left in charge, needs a way to call for help. At some point we’ll lose the home phone, but for now, it stays.

2. Take the TV out of the bedroom. There are way more fun things to do in there than watch TV! Our children don’t (and won’t) have televisions in their rooms either. We only have two TVs and both are in public areas of our home. We want to see what our children are watching, and when.

3. Realize that it isn’t about the channels or the money, it’s about a change in lifestyle. Even though we could negotiate a ridiculously low cable bill, it wasn’t really about the money. Just like those who want to live a healthy lifestyle ditch the sugar-laden foods for healthy options and couch-potato antics for activity, we were focused on changing our viewing habits. We were interested in changing our lives. We wanted to have complete control over the programming that comes into our home and cancelling cable was the first step. And, we had to adjust to the “get it now” fix. We’re totally okay with not knowing all the “in” shows. We’ll watch them when they’re out on Netflix.

4. What do you do about shows? Cartoons for the kids? We’re not complete hermits. We bought Apple TV, a $100 investment that we plug into our television and it gives us access to Netflix, Hulu, music, the internet, etc. We can livestream anything we watch or listen to on our iPhone or iPad, on our home television. It’s been great. The only downside is the Apple TV remote is teeny tiny. Download the remote app on your phone if you go this route, just in case the kids “hide” the remote. It happens.

5. We installed a $25 digital antenna that gives us access to the “big 3” channels in HD, along with four local PBS stations and Fox. Technically, a ‘zero tv’ home doesn’t have “big 3” access, but this is a feature we rarely use. Scott watches the weather about twice a month. But, let’s be honest, the WeatherBug app on our phones allows us to check Mother Nature multiple times a day. Or, you know, we walk outside. Of course, we are addicted to PBS’ Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. Fortunately, if we miss a show, PBS has them online for several weeks. We stream them on the iPad via Apple TV and voila, problem solved.

6. Get creative for collegiate athletics. Aggie Football. I knew this one would come up eventually. When we cancelled cable last year, we did have a big motivating factor. We wanted to purchase two season tickets to A&M football games. Instead of watching them on TV, we now watch about half in person. WAY BETTER. But, for those road games, we’ve gotten creative. We listen to them on the internet (not my favorite, but it works), follow along on Twitter, go to a bar or crash a friends’ house. I have to say, that last one is my favorite. We’ve reconnected with some great friends! The Twitter option isn’t too bad either. I’ve participated in some lively tweeting sessions that were a whole lotta fun.

We love this new life without cable. The initial adjustment was an adjustment but now, I can’t really imagine going back and paying that kind of money and trading in that precious time ever again. Happy cutting!

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  1. Bea on April 15, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Right there with you. Kinda.

    We still have the ridiculously low cable bill (after threatening to quit) because we kept Internet through our provider (no home phone). We don’t have Netflix, etc.

    Right now, we watch tv 1 hour a week- Duck Dynasty- while they have the new episodes airing. In the fall- football is king- mostly Aggie football but other good college match ups & NFL games so our tv viewing ramps up for the adults. The last time the kids watched tv was early March when Caleb was sick and he watched a half hour Spider-Man episode.

    Almost zero tv completely if it wasn’t for football. Wouldn’t go back to our old viewing habits- who has time for that?

  2. Jason Elizondo on April 15, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Great post Kathryn! We’ve toyed with the idea a few times but have yet to pull the trigger.

    We’ll defiantly have to have y’all over for a game this season. Gig’em!

    • Kathryn on April 15, 2013 at 8:27 am

      It wasn’t easy, Jason. It took us nearly three years of talking about it before we actually did it. And, we’ll definitely look forward to a game at the Elizondo house this fall!

  3. Marie Bernadette on April 15, 2013 at 8:37 am

    We never had cable television growing up – ever. We had one tv, a 27″ tube tv in the basement that got something like 3 channels depending on the day (NBC, CBS, maybe PBS). It was used for Jeopardy and sometimes watching sports events on the weekends… that’s about it.

    I’m the youngest of 5 and right now, not a SINGLE one of us kids (who all live in different places) has cable. Two of my brothers don’t even own a physical tv. So, I think the choice you’re making will have a pay off in the future too.

  4. Micaela @ California to Korea on April 15, 2013 at 8:52 am

    A few years back, my hubby and I were convinced we’d never live without DVR. Hubby said, “We’ll be living in a cardboard box but we’ll still have DVR!”

    A couple years and an international move later, we are cable-free and there is no way I’ll ever go back. I’ve cut back on my TV viewing 90%. Our only monthly fee is Netflix at $7.99. (Internet is paid by our landlords so we lucked out with that.) My kids don’t watch TV during the week (too much temptation for homeschoolers) and I watch maybe 2 shows/week.

    When we first went TV-less during the week with the kids, it took about 2 weeks for them to stop asking all the time. But now it’s habit and they occupy themselves so much better than they used to!

    Sorry to blather on, but I too feel it’s the best technology-based decision we’ve made. /)

  5. Dianne Field on April 15, 2013 at 9:27 am

    We cancelled cable last summer and haven’t looked back. That bill had grown to $90/mo. and the Disney Disrespect shows were just too much for this family. Just before the elections, we cut our landline ($60/mo). As for an emergency phone for the sitter or kids, Greg pulled out an old Blackberry, loaded a minimum amount of minutes, and wahlah! – a portable “home phone”. We’ve had the most peaceful family dinners without the telemarketers interrupting us!

  6. verdinalouisa on April 15, 2013 at 9:30 am

    All I can say is “WOW”! Wish I had the nerve to it! God bless you!

  7. Lisa Schmidt on April 15, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Excellent HDYDI! Nice outline and suggestions, too. Zero-TV is the way to be! 🙂

  8. Holly on April 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Oh! Another way to catch a football game is the gym! (if you belong, that is) We are cable-free and I am so flipping glad that I never have to hear the “yeeeeeeh!” of that guy on the show “Storage Wars” anymore. My husband was so addicted to that. Finally, one day, I said, “We’re paying $65 a month for you to watch that stupid show!”. We’re now a netflix family- we don’t even do antenna. Whenever I do see real TV, I am appalled by the junk- in the commercials and the shows. I don’t need my kids seeing it. I don’t need to see it. But, yes, football season is rough. I love the sound of a football game in the home.

  9. Alice Rosa on April 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    We cancelled our cable & home phone over three (3) years ago. Our three (3) children 19, 18 & 16 don’t miss them. At first they were more concerned about what their fellow students & the world around them would think of them. Not too long afterward they didn’t even miss them. Our children as well did not have cell phones until they began driving. Their cell phone use & texting were only available to them after homework & only until 10:00 p.m. Our children enjoy the peace & serenity of being unplugged from the world. We read & listen to soothing music & talk to eachother.

  10. Dianna on April 15, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    Another Zero TV momma chiming in with two thumbs up. We ditched our cable about 6 yrs ago.

    For a landline, have you considered Vonage or Magic Jack! They are VOIP (voice over Internet) providers …. Waaaaay less than the phone thru our Internet provider.

    • Kathryn on April 15, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      I really need to look into other home phone options. Our version costs us $25 a month for about 5 phone calls. Thanks, Dianna and Dianne!

  11. Beth Anne on April 15, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Great post! Several years ago we cut cable when we were trying to cut costs since most of what we were watching was netflix and online anyway! When we moved to our current place cable was included so we have it but we wouldn’t have it if we had to pay. We had the DVR when we first moved here but got rid of it when we saw how much we could save. I do find I don’t really miss it and I def. don’t watch as much tv without it.

  12. TracyE on April 16, 2013 at 4:48 am

    We quit the cable race last year and much to my surprise, there wasn’t even a whimper. We bought the ROKU box for shows and Hubs installed the antennae for local channels. LOVE IT!!! In fact, one night we were watching “Once Upon a Time” with the girls on regular cable and the commercials were so bad, the girls said, “Let’s just watch this on HULU from now on.”

    • Kathryn on April 16, 2013 at 8:44 am

      That’s awesome Tracy!

  13. Nicole on April 16, 2013 at 8:26 am

    We are also a zero TV home. We were for years after our oldest was born and I stopped working outside the home. Then we signed up for a brief time again… I was sick at the cost we paid per month (I’m thinking it was closer to $100 – saving us $1200 a year to quit!) especially when I realized the cost per minute of actual viewing. It was crazy! We never watched a lot – but now watch even less… It’s amazing how many more books we’ve all read. At night we now gather round the table to play a board game or two – or to read aloud to the children – or to have bible time/devotions… Such a better way to spend our time in our opinion. So glad we’re not the only ‘crazies’ out there. FYI – Nielsen just contacted us to be a part of their tv viewing research. I told her we don’t watch much – have no cable – no DVR – etc. She said our opinion still counts – so I guess we’ll give them another zero tv home to know about!

  14. Karen on April 24, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I would like to become a cable-free home. I can’t get my husband onboard for two reasons. First, sports are his big love in life and after having kids, the only thing he really has time for is a little bit of SportCenter and some games in the evening (while folding clothes, of course). The premium programming like Sportscenter isn’t available on ESPN’s website, only through our Time Warner app. Second, he says that since our cable is bundled with our internet that it’s actually not a major cost on the margin. Maybe $60 a month. Tha’s a lot to pay over a year and a lot if you look at per minute watching, but as an outlet for fun and leisure, it’s much cheaper and easier than, say, actually attending an event. And if he really enjoys relaxing and watching baseball half the year, then maybe it’s worth it?

    I wish we could just pay for ESPN. Like$20 a month. I would be all over that.

    So since your family loves sports, how do you get around not having access to ESPN and secondly, how did you negotiate the internet down to make losing cable really a cost savings? (We have a home phone through Vonage which works well for us, has allowed us to cut way back on cell phone plans.)

    • Kathryn on April 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      Karen, all great questions!

      1. My husband loves sports, but he doesn’t watch them every night. He watches what he can via the streaming ESPN website on his iPad, goes to friends’ houses or the local bar for the big games (which isn’t many) and we have a digital cable antenna which allows for him to watch any sports on the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox). And, he does go to some local A&M games live.

      2. For the cost savings, we pay for Internet and phone. Although, I’m seriously considering getting a pay-by-use phone or a magic jack so we can cut the landline with the cable company completely. We only need it for our older children when they’re home alone or with a sitter.

      3. I sprung for the best Internet connection since I work from home and it’s all done via the computer but if you don’t need the super-fast connection, that would be an additional savings, as well.

      Does that help?

      • Karen on April 24, 2013 at 5:29 pm

        Hey thanks! I think losing SportsCenter is going to be a tough sell for him. If only I could convince him that Call the Midwife is just as fun. Maybe if they talked about delivering babies while holding footballs in their hands? 🙂

        • Kathryn on April 24, 2013 at 5:32 pm

          No. Doubt. But, I sure do love that show!

  15. Teresa on April 26, 2013 at 5:25 am


    I blogged about something similar recently. I can’t imagine having to pay for television. My husband and I use hulu and youtube for anything we watch. It may not always have the greatest quality definition, but it’s certainly affordable!

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    […] Cord Not only will you save some serious cash, but we’ve found you also get your life back. Cutting out TV in the house has been one of the best things we ever did. Snip, […]

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