Cord Cutter Spotlight: Lisa Gerstner of Kiplinger

Lisa Gerstner, Associate Editor Kiplinger's Personal Finance Photo credit: Lise Metzger

Lisa Gerstner, Associate Editor Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
Photo credit: Lise Metzger

A few weeks ago, I came across a great article on Kiplinger.com called Cut Your Cable Cord. The article was penned by Lisa Gerstner, the Associate Editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and while it was published back in October 2013 (an eternity in internet years), it still contained a lot of relevant information for those considering cutting the cord.

After reading her article, I felt compelled to reach out to Lisa to see if she was still living cable-free and to ask her to share her cord cutting experiences with us here on the blog. Check out my interview with Lisa below.

How long ago did you cut the cord and what was the final straw?

I stopped subscribing to cable TV in 2012, when I lived in Washington, DC. My roommate and I had moved out of an apartment that included cable in the rental fee, and paying extra for cable at our new place seemed painful. Neither of us watched it much when we had it. DC is an expensive place to live, and removing the cable bill from our budget seemed like a great way to cut costs. Since then, I’ve gotten married and moved to Las Vegas to live with my husband, and we’re cable-free here.

How much money are you saving since you decided to get rid of cable?

We’re saving at least $38 a month, or $456 a year. If we were to add cable service with 220 channels (but no premium channels) to the Internet and phone service bundle we have now, our monthly rate for cable would be $74 (plus taxes and fees). In addition, we’d probably have to pay fees for installation, activation and service calls if we had cable, and we may be tempted to sign up for such extras as DVR service or HBO. That could easily push our monthly cable TV expenses to the neighborhood of $100. The streaming services we use instead run about $36 a month, in total.

What do you do with the money you save by cutting the cord?

My husband and I love to travel and eat good food. With several hundred extra dollars in our pockets every year, we can afford a fun weekend getaway, a visit to our family in Ohio or a few great restaurant meals. Those kinds of experiences make us happier than cable TV ever did.

What’s your cord cutter setup?

We pick up several local broadcast channels with the Terk Amplified Indoor HDTV antenna (it’s not a pretty sight in our living room, but it works like a charm) [Ed. note: You can see which over-the-air channels are available at your address by using the free tool at AntennaWeb.org]. We paid $40 for it, but it has provided many hours of free entertainment since then. We have a subscription to the Netflix streaming service ($8 monthly) to watch TV shows and movies. Although we have our subscription to Amazon Prime ($99 a year) primarily for free two-day shipping, now and then we use the free streaming of selected TV and movies that comes with the membership. And Hulu’s free service is great for catching up with recent episodes of network TV shows. When we can’t stand to miss a new episode of a TV show that’s unavailable on Hulu, or if we want to rent a recently released movie, we can get them on Amazon Instant Video. TV episodes usually run $2 or so per episode, and renting a movie is $4 to $5.

We just signed up to try Sling TV, the new service ($20 monthly) that provides live broadcasts online of more than 20 channels, including two that I’ve missed the most since dropping cable: AMC and HGTV. ESPN, TNT, Food Network and the Travel Channel are also on the lineup [Ed. note: Sling TV is currently offering a free 7-day trial]. So far, it works great. Through a promotional deal, we’re getting a Roku 3 streaming device for 50% off in return for agreeing to pay for three months of Sling TV service. (Our trial run lines up perfectly with the final episodes of AMC’s Mad Men!) If we don’t feel that we’re getting a good value out of the service after three months, we can cancel it. And we’ll get to keep the Roku 3 box, which supports more streaming services than our Google Chromecast.

What advice would you offer to someone who’s thinking about getting rid of cable?

It can’t hurt to try. If you miss having cable enough to go back to having a subscription, that’s okay. But perhaps you’ll no longer feel the need to have premium channels, such as HBO, or maybe you’ll find that having only one TV with a cable box and DVR service is enough, instead of hooking up two or three sets. And if you sign up as a new customer for cable service, you may get a promotional discount for six or 12 months.
 
If you’re like me, you’ll love saving money and avoiding the hassle that comes with having cable TV—who wants to spend hours on the phone arguing with a cable company over mystery charges on the bill? Sure, cutting the cord comes with its own challenges. Sometimes you’ll have to go to a friend’s house or the bar to watch a big event on TV (not so bad at all). And if your Internet connection or wireless router blips out, trying to use Web-based streaming services can be frustrating. But I haven’t been tempted to resubscribe to cable in the three years I’ve gone without it.

 

My thanks to Lisa for doing this interview. Make sure you check out all of Lisa’s excellent work over at Kiplinger, and you can follower her on Twitter @LGers.

 

Ready to get rid of cable like Lisa? Check out my simple step-by-step guide for cutting cable.

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Mr. Cable Cutter has been featured on Yahoo, MSN, USA Today, TechCrunch, Engadget, Fortune and more. Check out his step-by-step guide for free advice on how to get rid of cable.
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