when i worked at the housing authority, people facing eviction came to my office every day to apply for assistance with overdue rent. the application required listing income and expenses, and i'd venture that nine out of ten of my indebted clients paid small fortunes in cable tv (and cell phone) bills. i'd try to convince them to get rid of all unnecessary expenses, but none were amenable to cancelling cable, no matter how limited their budget. (the american sense of entitlement and our inability to distinguish needs from wants is a whole other post in itself!) my next suggestion involved down-grading to "below basic" cable, an option many companies don't advertise.
my husband and i have never paid anywhere close to fifty dollars for "basic" cable, the advertised rate for most companies which includes one hundred or more channels. that never sounded very basic to us (or our budget), so we asked our cable company what their unadvertised "below basic" package was, and that's what we've subscribed to for the past six years.
our package is basic, that's for sure--we get ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, FOX, CW, and a few others thrown in for good measure. it is no-frills--no MTV, ESPN, or HGTV--but we also pay less than twenty bucks. do i sometimes wish we had more channels? absolutely, but what's good for us about this package is that sometimes there is literally nothing on tv, and then we turn it off! the times when we had free trials of more channels, we watched a lot more junk, and we're honestly thankful to have fewer options.
it has occurred to me that the downside of this scenario is that we are paying twenty bucks a month for channels that, in theory at least, we ought to get for free, but we've never lived in a place where we knew anyone who successfully got much reception with rabbit ears. i'm wondering if that might change with this whole digital switch; my sister-in-law in nashville gets close to twenty channels for free right now with rabbit ears and a converter box. we will probably be trying that out soon, but if we can't get decent, reliable reception, we'll come back to "below basic." it has served us well:)