I had quite a learning experience this summer.  Perhaps more than I really want to admit in such a public forum. But hey, humility is part of this journey to debt-freedom, right?

In an effort to engage my oldest daughter (she’ll be 12 next month) to use math in real-life ways this summer, I asked her to calculate the costs of our television viewing.  We’ve kept cable all this time for the educational programming and on-demand programming features, especially the pre-school programming since our pre-schooler is home all day with us, she enjoys the “Sprout” channel. (Note to those about to ignite a flame-war—we do limit our kids’ TV viewing, they don’t get plunked in front of it all day).

The cable cost was about $75 a month, plus taxes and the mandated lease on the cable box (no, we weren’t allowed to purchase one outright, which I’d far prefer to do) it all added up to $90 a month, plus pay-per view movies.

Movies

With two little kids and adults working two different shifts, we never go to the movies, instead, we make a note of movies that we’d like to see, and just watch for them on the pay-per-view menu.  I asked my daughter to add up the past two years of pay-per-view charges and see what our average spending is. (Practical math at home) On average, our movie viewing was costing an additional $28 a month, with a grand total TV cost of $118.

With the kids involved in the decision (good family budget conversation here) we came to the unanimous conclusion to cut the cable and get Netflix instead. Now we’ve fixed our expenses under $20 a month for unlimited programming.  The network programming that isn’t available on Netflix is on Hulu or other online programming.

Another thing that we love about this new system is that with our Internet filtering software (SafeEyes from IneternetSafety.com), we can limit the rating of programming the kids can select, and also, they’re not getting flooded with advertising messages like they were before.

So what did we give up?

Ice  hockey. I loved having cable so I could watch the ice hockey games.  That said, with the money we’re saving (about $98 a month), if we were debt free and saved that difference, I could go back to playing league hockey in about six months.  (I’m about to miss a second season in a row due to budgetary constraints).

Net result:

We’re getting back on schedule to be debt free, and I may be able to play hockey by next season (if the budget and my back hold up). Playing hockey is much better than watching on TV anyhow. Also, my daughter learned some valuable math and money lessons.

How did it happen?

We had a “bundle.” Cable, phone and internet. Between all of the regional taxes, surcharges, etc, the bill is 3 pages long and doesn’t make any sense. I’d never sat down with a fine-toothed comb to determine what all of the charges mean, and exactly how much each of our features were costing us.  I’m beginning to wonder if that is the idea of the triple-play packaging—put enough items on one invoice, and the user will pay without question because it’s too stressful to figure out what all the charges are.  My lesson: read every line and know what it means. Also, those little taxes and fees add up!