Cut the Cable Plain Money ideas

DTVPal DVR helps you “cut the cable”

It can boost your personal finances a lot to “cut the cable” — that is, to eliminate your cable or satellite plan’s monthly fees. Remember, they’re a fixed cost and they occur every month whether you watch much TV or not. My book explains why cutting fixed costs is a great way to improve your budget.

But is there anything to watch if you don’t have cable? In most of the U.S. there’s quite a bit. In fact, you’ll find that cable subscribers often spend much of their time watching content that’s available over the air. It takes some work, but you may get excellent results with a rooftop antenna.

The final piece of the puzzle is a DVR, or digital video recorder, to record things for later viewing. I can now recommend the DTVPal DVR for this purpose. It has been out for a year now and most of the bugs are worked out.

Here’s how it works: Just hook up the DTVPal DVR to your antenna lead-in, and then to your TV. A simple setup routine finds channels and then you’re in business. Here’s my more detailed review of the DTVPal DVR.

You can save hundreds of dollars every year by “cutting the cable” and switching to antenna TV. And with Redbox or Netflix, you can easily get all the movies you’d like to replace cable movie channels.

Finally, what if you end up watching less TV because there’s less available? For most people that would be a good thing. Go outside and play, spend more time with others, or volunteer to do something good. It all starts with “cutting the cable.”

Cut the Cable Plain Money ideas

DTVPal DVR: lots of jollies per dollar

Although recording TV for later viewing has been around a long time now, digital technology has made it truly outstanding:

  • Unlike old VCR or DVD-based recordings, newer digital recorders play back in quality equal to the original broadcast.
  • You don’t have to worry about changing tapes or disks.
  • The digital TV transition has resulted in some good movie content being available on subchannels.

For some time, to get these benefits you had to come up with the dollars for a TiVo — an excellent solution, but somewhat expensive. There is now a much less expensive solution I can recommend: the DTVPal DVR (catchy name, huh?)

When you connect a DTVPal DVR to an external antenna and your TV, after a short setup routine you’re in business. You can browse content and choose what to record. Your recordings are stored in a list (by folders if you’d like).

Here are some of the things I’ve been doing with my DVR:

  • Recording and viewing classic movies, such as “The Magnificent Seven” from MyNetwork TV
  • Recording and viewing newer fare, such as “The Polar Express” from ABC
  • Catching football games at my convenience

A little more on this last point: On Sunday afternoon I like to ride bikes with my son — but NFL games start at 1 p.m. I start them recording on the DVR, go ride the bike, and then catch the game in the second half. But by starting at the beginning of the recording and fast-forwarding through commercials in the first half, I can catch up with the fourth quarter live. It works great with that DVR’s 30-second skip feature, going from play to play.

Finally, the warnings:

  • This DVR is not as smooth as a TiVo, even though it’s way better than your old VCR. If you have the money or lack patience, TiVo is a better bet.
  • This DVR records over-the-air content only, and not cable.
  • This DVR was released buggy, but gets automatic updates over the Internet. The currently updated version is fairly smooth, in my experience.

For the current $299 price, though, this DVR delivers a lot of jollies per dollar. And there’s a great discussion group over at AVSForum to help you work through the bugs. (The first post in that thread is super.)