How I made $540/hr very briefly

Paying for Cable

Early Retirement Sin Confession: Forgive me Mustache, for I have sinned (and continue to sin).

I’m one of the seemingly few youngish people who pays for cable TV. What’s worse — I pay for extra services, including an upgraded channel lineup, cloud DVR, HD service, and two additional TV’s. This monthly black hole exists on top of Amazon Prime (which includes someĀ  streaming options) and an on-again, off-again relationship with Netflix. For a prospective early retiree, this expenditure is absurd. The cable portion of my monthly bill represents nearly $33,000 that I need in the portfolio to support this expense post-retirement. Whaaaaat?!

How I Justify the Cable Expense to Myself

  1. Hours of entertainment. Between football, basketball, MMA, and a few select shows, I watch approximately 300 hours cable of TV per year. That comes out to about $4 / hour. If I was simply watching TV on my own, I’d consider this to be a high price to pay, but that brings me to point #2.
  2. Time with friends. Of my local cohort, I’m in the best position to be hosting game nights. Parts of my house are designed around having anywhere from just one friend to 20-30 people gathered around for good times and hopefully good games.
  3. Time with family. A few years ago, my wife capitulated on sports: if you can’t beat them, join them. She’s now a huge fan of basketball and will occasionally scout out other sports. Some of our best recent memories are centered around the mutual enjoyment of rooting for our favorite athletes.
  4. Alternative costs. If I didn’t have access to sports at home, I’d certainly spend a decent chunk of money catching big events at a bar. Paying for cable at home is an alternative to spending upwards of 3 hours gorging on expensive appetizers and drinks.

I’m going to continue to pay for TV service; why not get the best price?

My last bill went up by $20 on the cable side alone. I called up my provider and asked for a better deal, and the customer service rep said there was nothing she could do. I told her that I’d be leaving for another provider if there was no alternative plan available. And truthfully, I mean it. I have no problem switching around service companies in order to leverage competition and save a few bucks.

Eventually I spoke to a retention team member, and that rep was able to shave $15/mo off my bill for a year. A 20 minute phone call saved me $180 over the next 12 months, meaning I made $540 per hour for a brief 20 minute window. Not too bad.

Can I still write FI/RE articles?

By paying for premium cable services, I might be a counterculture iconoclast among the FI cohort. Feel free to use the comments to roast me, just don’t forward this to Mr. Money Mustache please. I don’t want no face punches!

6 Replies to “How I made $540/hr very briefly”

  1. Dear Duke,

    Based on your numbers, you’re spending less on items that you’ve budgeted for and aren’t negatively impacting your savings and debt load so you won’t get any crap from me. You only have one chance at this life so I say enjoy your “fun/extra” money as you see fit.

    We don’t watch tv and haven’t for 17 years, however, that decision was due to the fact that my husband watched a bit too much of it (if 8-9 hours could be considered that and yes, he managed to work and sleep!?) and we each found ourselves (before we met) without a tv. It’s been an added benefit since seeking out FI/RE.

    Besos Sarah.

    1. Hi Sarah – Wow that’s a lot of TV per day! I’m guilty of an occasional binge of that magnitude, but I can’t imagine doing it daily. Glad to hear you’re TV-free — there’s definitely benefits to cutting the cord. I was thinking after I posted the article that my tongue-in-cheek $/hour calculation would be measured in the many thousands if I just made the phone call to cancel service. It’s all about what’s important to each person, and I find sports to be an enjoyable part of life, especially because it’s a social activity. Thanks for chiming in!

  2. Yes cable is usually one of the first expenses to go in the FIRE community. But everyone lives differently and no way is best. If you need/ want something then go get it. Seems like you were smart about it at least and it fits in the allowable budget.

    1. I do see it as a buffer in retirement. If we’re suffering from a downturn in the stock market, I’d likely consider suspending cable service to reduce expenses. It’s 100% part of the discretionary spending, right up there with vacations, restaurants, and video games.

  3. One time when I was 17 years old I made $2,000 an hour for 4.5 hours!

    Making $540 an hour isn’t bad either!
    There is an opportunity cost for everything right?

    My prediction is that in 5 years there will be no standard cable. Services like ROKU, HULO, and Amazon Prime are going to take over.
    I cut cable over 2 years ago and love it! I also love sports, I can get most of them via “bunny ears” aka, over the air with an antaenna, and then I have a ROKU which gives me most other sporting events.

    This is my first trip to your blog, I am going to check out some more posts and I’m sure I’ll be back in the future!

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