I revealed last week in “The Fear of Spending Once the Debt Is Gone” that my wife and I haven’t begun to wildly spend now that we have paid off all of our debt. It was a relief to know the discipline that drove us to pay off our mortgage early has continued to define our post-debt lives. We have no inclination to spend, spend, spend now that more money is available in our monthly budget
In all honestly though, we have loosened the reins on our spending a little bit.
We’ve brought back cable TV!
What? That’s blasphemy in the frugally-minded personal finance world. Cutting cable TV is always the first expenditure to go in those “10 Ways to Save Money and Pay Off Debt” posts. I’ve surely even said that before myself.
If cable TV is the first thing to cut, why can’t it be the first thing to bring back? Seems logical to me.
Needless to say everyone in the house is thrilled with this decision.
Short Term Cable TV Sacrifice For Long Term Gain
We have been without cable TV for about three years. The decision to drop it was rooted in our goals. At the time, our monthly budget was pretty tight and we had decided to really push to pay off our mortgage early. We simply couldn’t justify spending almost $1,000/yr. for that service when we had more important financial goals to tackle.
Plus, many cheaper alternatives to receive entertainment had sprung up. We continued our Netflix subscription mostly for kid shows. I kept my subscription to the MLB package so I could stream baseball games on our PS3 and computer. We watched other shows archived on websites and listened to podcasts. We read more books.
It’s not like we were without television either. I purchased an antenna so we could receive over the air broadcast signals. This allowed us to get the big four networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) with an HD quality picture. We mainly watched sports, although that was limited as so many major sporting events have moved to cable.
Integrating Cable TV Back Into the Schedule
Have you ever gone back home after years of being absent and attended the church you grew up in? Or maybe dropped by a high school basketball game at your alma matter? It’s a weird feeling isn’t it? Some of the names and faces are familiar but so many are new.
That’s what we have been dealing with these first three weeks with cable.
What are these shows? Who are these broadcasters? On what channel can I find my old favorites?
I’ve found it very interesting how we’ve had to develop a cable TV watching routine all over again. It does take some effort to integrate TV viewing back into a daily schedule and get connected again with new shows and new personalities. We’ve been without it for so long we actually forget some days we have cable or that we have a DVR again to record shows.
I know…first world problem as so many are now fond of saying.
Why We Chose to Spend on Cable TV Again
Ditching cable TV three years ago was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. It saved us a lot of money and created time to pursue other projects and goals. It helped our family spend more time together and freed our minds from the stress of the daily news cycle.
So why go back?
Well, it’s partly a timing issue in that we do now have the money in our monthly budget to afford the subscription. We also did get a great deal as we bundled AT&T U-Verse with our already existing cell phone and Internet plans and received a discounted subscription rate.
However, there is one big reason unrelated to money…
For sports enthusiasts, a lack of cable TV is a real issue. There simply aren’t enough streaming options available yet that are convenient or cost effective to satisfy a person’s fix for all the major professional and collegiate sports. We get games on weekends on the major networks and stream baseball but that’s about it.
For me, this is more than just the inability to watch our favorite sports teams. It’s about creating memories, having dreams, setting goals and learning how to handle victories and failures. I know those of you who could care less about sports might not get that so let me explain.
Some of my greatest memories as a child revolve around watching professional sports. I’ll never forget the excitement of the 1990 baseball season as I cheered my Cincinnati Reds on to a sweep of the Oakland A’s in the World Series. On the flip side, I agonized over my Cleveland Browns losing back-to-back AFC Championship games to the Denver Broncos. I know that was 25+ years ago, but I can still see John Elway driving down the field in 1987 and Earnest Byner fumbling that football as he ran to score the winning touchdown in 1988.
Sports help mark the seasons of our lives. Just like people remember where they were and who they were with when JFK was shot, when Challenger exploded, or when 9/11 hit, so it is with sports. I was screaming with my dad in our living room when Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hits record…at basketball camp when Magic Johnson crushed the Celtics with a baby sky hook in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals…in a college dorm lounge when Christian Laettner hit the shot against Kentucky.
Time after time I watched my athletic heroes succeed and fail. Each time it taught me lessons about winning and losing. About sacrifice. About effort. About sportsmanship and teamwork. About striving for something so great it almost seems impossible.
I’ve come to the conclusion that my kids can’t miss that.
Sure, they could learn those values in other ways. However, as I pointed out here recently, modeling of adult behavior by children is the most powerful way they learn. I clearly tried to emulate the moves of the star basketball players, as I worked out for hours in my driveway over the summers. They had reached the pinnacle of their sport and I wanted to do the same at whatever level my talents would take me. Their example was a catalyst for me becoming a really good high school basketball player.
So my oldest two are beginning to enjoy playing basketball as they are in middle school. Having been a coach for many years I can teach them what they need to know about the game. However, I can’t provide the visual learning experience as conveniently for them as TV allows. For me, it’s the #1 reason we brought cable back.
Funny thing is, I’ve already seen it working in only three weeks. My 11 year old son was on the edge of his seat this past Saturday night as the Spurs beat the Thunder in overtime of the NBA Western Conference Finals. He doesn’t know anything about these teams but it excited him nonetheless.
That’s the power of sports.
Paying for cable again just for sports may seem like a shallow reason to you. I’ll agree there are so many other cultural and money related issues that deserve attention. But I cannot deny the value sports provides in creating memories and dreams in the hearts of boys and girls. It’s to that end that I’m willing to sacrifice the money for this service.
Questions: Do you have cable TV? Why or why not? Am I overemphasizing the value watching sports can have on children? What’s the greatest sports memory of your childhood?
Prior Post: God Wants the First Bite of Pie