How to become a cord cutter

We became a family of cord cutters five years ago this month. Bottom line: We still have plenty to watch, and we’ve saved roughly $3,000.

tvsetSince then, cord cutting has gotten a lot easier, and it’s becoming more common. According to a survey by a company called Magid Advisors, 3.7 percent of cable or satellite TV subscribers age 18 to 64 say they’re “extremely likely” to cancel service in the next 12 months. That’s up 95 percent from 2011.

Over the past few months, more and more friends, fed up with rising costs and/or poor service have asked how we did it. So, I decided to post everything I’ve learned about living without cable or satellite here, for anyone who’s thinking of cutting the cord but doesn’t know where to start.

I don’t work in IT, and I assume you don’t, either, so I’m going to keep it simple, and I’m going to avoid jargon. When I do use jargon, I’ll explain what it means in plain English.

I’m going to start with the basics, then (eventually) I’ll try to answer some of the common questions I hear about the complications (don’t worry; they’re not that complicated).

Illustration: Wikipedia Commons

Something my 5-year-old won’t remember: Video stores

My 5-year-old knows Redbox and Netflix, and he gets movies sometimes at the library, but he’s probably not going to remember video stores.

Image via Wikipedia

Over the past couple of years, our video stores have closed, one by one. Last night, I noticed that the Blockbuster by Kroger has closed, too. I don’t know when it closed, but it’s gone, and I’m pretty sure there aren’t any more video stores in town.

And that’s OK. Really.

When I was a kid, my dad would get these catalogs in the mail where you could buy excerpts of feature films on Super 8. I can’t remember how much a 20-minute version of “Jaws” cost, but I remember you paid extra if you wanted color and sound.

So, when video stores came along, that was really something. You could rent the entire movie, in color and with sound, for a couple bucks.

But I can’t remember the last time I went to Blockbuster or any other video store. Once the novelty wore off (which was sometime during the Reagan administration) video stores just weren’t a lot of fun.

You’d go for a new movie, but it would be checked out, all 20 copies. So, you’d wander the aisles for 20, 30 minutes, looking for something else. If you went on a Friday or Saturday night, forget it. Everything good was gone, so you’d end up with something old or something awful — you couldn’t go home empty handed, because you’d already spent a big chunk of the evening at the video store, and leaving would have meant you’d wasted your time — and if you didn’t bring the movie back by noon, they charged you a late fee.

Video stores, by and large, treated their customers badly. Once, we got to the store 2 minutes past deadline. Didn’t matter. We had to pay. And when DVDs came along, Blockbuster initially refused to stock widescreen movies, which most people probably didn’t mind, but which really bugged people who actually like movies. (Check out this abandoned website from the early-2000’s, if you don’t believe me.)

So, when Netflix came along, and then Redbox, people dropped video stores in a heartbeat.

My 5-year-old loves Netflix. Somehow, we’ve ended up with more gadgets that stream Netflix than we have TV’s, and the 5-year-old has no trouble using any of them to watch Scoobie-Doo or “Phineas and Ferb” or, for some reason, “The Sandlot 2.”

If there’s a movie that’s not available for streaming, we’ll order the disc or, if we’re in a hurry, we’ll pay a buck to rent it for a night from Redbox or, if we’re really lazy, we’ll pay $4 and stream it from Amazon.

I guess it was inevitable that video stores would fade to black. Just as video stores made Super 8 excerpts of feature films obsolete, technology has made video stores a hassle we don’t really need.

I think video stores will be around a little while longer. I know there are lots of people who can’t or don’t know how to stream — for example, my parents. I think it varies by market, but I think there’s still a demand for video stores.

But there aren’t any around here, and as far as the 5-year-old is concerned, video stores will be like full-service gas stations and TV stations signing off at night, just something Dad talks about when he talks about what things were like when he was a kid.