The Cost of Perfection

crazy laundryLet me tell you one of my dirty little secrets.  Actually, its not dirty or little.  I have an issue with laundry.  (Yes, I help with laundry.  My wife and I both work outside the home so both of us tackle work within the home.)  I have this strange need for all the laundry to be clean before we can put it away.  Do you know how often that happens in our family of four?  Pretty much never.

Laundry perfection is about to happen this morning since we have been house bound for the last two days due to snow.  But typically the clothes get put away when we reach a tipping point, literally, the clothes tip over when you try to pile them any higher.  My desire for clothes cleaning perfection is plain foolish and inefficient.  My good wife humors me in my quest for laundry perfection even though she is often the one who get burdened with the task of putting the piles away.  My desire for perfection makes this chore more difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for perfection.  However, perfection can sometimes hold us back from things that are really good.  One of the best feelings in our house is when the laundry room is completely clean and empty.  There is actually an echo when all the clothes are gone!  In our lives, striving for perfection can also cause other things to pile up to the point of becoming nearly unmanageable.

In my years of ministry I have spoken with many a person who feels they have to be living a perfect life to begin their walk as a follower of Christ.  I can’t count the number of times I have heard phrases like ‘all my ducks in a row’ and ‘cross my T’s and dot my I’s.’  I have also heard many say, “I just don’t feel like I know everything about the Bible that I need to know.”  I can understand those thoughts because I once thought the exact same thing.

The perfect example of life changing action instead of perfection can be found in Acts 2.  Shortly after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, Peter and the other apostles spoke with a large gathering of people in Jerusalem.  Some historians believe there could have been tens of thousands of people gathered to hear Peter speak that day.  After he finished preaching the gospel of Christ, which you can read in Acts 2:1-36, the action of the crowd is recorded…

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

The folks gathered in Jerusalem that day heard one proclamation of the gospel of Christ that would have been a distinct departure from the Old Testament law they would have known so well.  There were at least 3,000 that day who were baptized because they knew what needed to be done.  Did they have a full understanding of God’s grace?  No.  Did they know how deeply their new relationship with Christ would change their lives?  Probably not.  There are a lot of things they were going to learn as they continued to grow.  Their knowledge wasn’t full or complete but they knew what they needed to do.

There are a lot of things about religion and faith that can seem overwhelming.  Sometimes this is due to the fact that we allow things to pile up until we find the perfect time and circumstance.  Let me encourage you to start where you’re at today in doing the things that you have been wanting to do.  Perhaps you have been wanting to study the Bible with your family.  I hope that Written On My Heart – Week 8 might help you with that.  Perhaps you have been wanting to explore more of what the Bible teaches about salvation.  I would love to open up the Bible and study with you, or put you in contact with someone in your area who could help with that.

Today our family is tackling our pile and I hope you take some time to tackle yours too.

Treasure Left Behind

flowers pressed in old bibleA few months back I purchased a family Bible that dates back to 1858.  The large Bible has a leather cover with a patina that testifies of its age.  Turning through the thick pages of the Bible reveals various artifacts of family history: a pressed flower, a funeral announcement and fabric remnant, a written note from husband to wife.  Between the Old Testament and the New Testament is a handwritten record of the births, deaths, and marriages in the family dating from the early 1800s into the early 1900s.  A century of history carefully kept throughout many decades and written with various fountain pens.

When this Bible was published James Buchanan was the President of the United States, a country that was quickly heading towards the Civil War.  It is fair to assume that this Bible was a treasured possession and would have cost a considerable amount of money in a time when “disposable income” was almost unheard of.  This Bible could have traveled across country with the family in a wagon as they looked for better opportunities.  The possibilities for various story lines about the history of this Bible are almost endless, but one thing is clear…at some point this family treasure was left behind.

1858 antique bible leather coverI purchased this Bible for $3 in an auction a few months ago.  When I took possession the Bible was wrapped in plastic wrap to keep it from falling apart.  Age had caught up with the book binding which had cracked in the middle leaving several sections loose.  The Bible is still complete but is in a state of disrepair.  What once was a treasured family item, a storehouse of family history, was sold to a stranger in an online auction for less than the cost of a happy meal.

This Bible was part of my presentation this weekend at a youth event where I was asked to speak about “How We Got the Bible.”  I had several Bible items from the 1800s that the kids could put their hands on so they could feel the age and history of these texts.  It was my hope that having a hands on experience with 150 years of history might give them more connection to the centuries of Bible history that precede us.

family record in 1858 family bibleAt the close of my presentation I gave the class a charge.  I picked up the 1858 Bible and spoke about the treasure that this was to a family at some point in history.  A plausible storyline for the history of that particular Bible was given.  Then I challenged the class with the idea that this treasure became of no value to some generation in the family and was cast aside.  I sent them on their way with the charge to make sure that the message of the Bible was an indispensable treasure for their families.  That closing statement lead to several conversations after the various class sessions that I facilitated.

Last week I wrote about the waste of a disposable society and I guess this post is a bit of a continuation.  My wife and I constantly struggle with making sure that the Bible receives the attention in our family that it deserves.  We don’t want this treasure to be cast aside in our family and we want to make sure that this treasure is honored not only in the lives of our children but in the lives of their children and future generations.  That is the driving force behind the Written On My Heart Bible challenge.  A physical copy of the Bible may come and go but the Word written in the heart is difficult to lose.  I encourage you to check out Week 7 of our challenge – Written On My Heart – Week 7

A Throw-away Society

Just so you know, this is a post with a spiritual application but I’m going to take a while to get there… :)

throw-away-societyOn the way to the office this morning I stopped my truck in front of a stranger’s house and grabbed a chair and a set of weights from their curb.  The chair is perfectly functional, not a stain, rip or tear.  In fact it is made by SteelCase, a company that makes high quality and VERY expensive chairs.  This chair probably cost $400-500 new and was sitting on the curb by the trash because something better had come along.  I’ll sell the chair for $50.

A week ago I picked up 5 pallets of “outdated” items from a local school district.  I won the items in an online auction for a whopping $120.  I will admit, the amount I paid was abnormally low for an auction lot of this sort.  The waste  in the items was fairly disturbing.  There were brand new, unopened camera accessories and lenses worth hundreds of dollars that were simply sold at auction because….well I’m not sure why actually.  There was thousands of dollars in current value in the items I picked up.

This morning I am watching another auction from another school.  Currently there is an auction lot of items that contains a brand new piece of technology I am interested in for our church.  I spoke with the school rep and she said they are selling it all because they are phasing out that unit at their school.  The auction lot is currently sitting at 5% of the retail cost that was paid for the items.

The idea of a throw-away society dates back to at least 1945 according to a recent article in Wired magazine.  The article details a man who earns a six figure income by day as a network security analyst and makes thousands in the evening dumpster diving behind major retail locations.

Randall Sullivan, the author of the article, cites J. Gordon Lippincott as the man who thought up designed obsolescence.  Lippincott was a marketing genius who also came up with the Coca-Cola logo and the label for Campbell soup.  Lippincott said, “Our willingness to part with something before it is completely worn out is a phenomenon noticeable in no other society in history, it is soundly based in our economy of abundance.  It must be further nurtured even though it is contrary to one of the oldest inbred laws of humanity – the law of thrift.”

The article goes on to detail the manufacturing and technological innovations that started in the 1950s.  Consumers were trained to throw stuff away, and we do it an amazing rate now.  According to a Columbia University and BioCycle study, “the US has become a country that every day produces an estimated 7.1 pounds of trash for each man, woman, and child.”  But of course much of this trash actually has great value.

Why do I bring all this up?  Stuff isn’t the only thing that is thrown away today because perceived value has diminished or because something better comes along.  How many relationships can you think of that have been trashed because one or both people have forgotten the ‘value’ that they once saw in each other?  How many children are left to their own devices because parents have forgotten the treasure that they have in offspring?  And how many people have cast the Bible aside because it is simply old and outdated, thinking that something better has come along?

In my adventures of picking and flipping I have learned a lot about the value of a chair, file cabinet, or other physical items.  I do pass along a lot of things on Craigslist ‘Free Stuff’ because I know it isn’t worth my time to sell it.  But I have also gained a greater appreciation for the people and relationships in life that cannot have a monetary value attached to them.

I encourage myself, as well as you, to think about the value you give to what matters most in life.  It is good to pause and reflect at various times in life to make sure our priorities are still in check.  Even when our societal values may be lacking, we can thrive as individuals, families, and believers.

Written On My Heart – Week 6

I hope you and your family are benefiting from placing great value in God’s Word by giving your time and effort to memorizing and learning more.  This week you will be challenged to memorize the 12 sons of Jacob and another scripture – Written On My Heart – Week 6

Do What You Can!

A quick message of encouragement from our 3 year old…

Last night we were up at the church building for Monday Night for the Master, an evening of work and service.  There were lots of good folks working on a variety of projects.  I am always very encouraged by the families, retired folks, and other individuals who take time out to come and help others.

daddys little helperMy project for the evening was fixing some theater seats that we have mounted in a classroom at our building.  My brother, a young man, and our 3 year old were helping with the project.  Yes you read that right, our 3 year old was “helping.”  If nothing else, she provided comic relief as she walked around with a full-size hammer coming perilously close to dropping it on me while I was bent over working on a chair.  Our daughter had a blast picking up wrenches, screws, and other hardware carrying them around, wanting to be a part of the action.

Several times during our work she would come over and get right up next to me and say, “I’m here to help you Daddy.”  The giving and helpful spirit of a child is something I wish we could all maintain throughout life.   They don’t let anything prohibit them from jumping in and trying their best to help in any situation.  There is something we can all learn from that.

I hope you will find someone to lend a bit of help to today.  Do what you can!

Written On My Heart – Week 5

Speaking of encouragement, one of the good helpers at our church just stopped by my office to tell me how much her granddaughter is enjoying the Written On My Heart challenge.  I think it is really cool that other families and individuals are joining with our family in memorizing scripture and facts about the Bible.  I hope you enjoy this week’s installment… Written On My Heart – Week 5

If you need a bit of help with the tune on the Creation Song here is a quick video of our family singing it…

Make Your Mark

This week I was at a ministry conference in East Texas and saw something pretty cool….

camp memoriesThat photo was taken at Camp Deer Run in Winnsboro, TX in the chapel at that camp facility.  They have the tradition of letting the campers make their mark on the rafters, beams, and ceiling of the outdoor chapel.  It was really cool to walk around and look at all the different messages, images, and memories from the last 30 years.

I couldn’t help but think about the campers who had left their name and where they are now.  Some would be my age or older.  Some had just been there last year.  The group would consist of teenagers, college students, young adults, married couples, and young parents.  All of those people and the thousands of lives that they have touched over the years since they made their mark on that old chapel…

Our girls with Miss Vera in the Fall of 2014.

Our girls with Miss Vera in the Fall of 2014.

Our family has been thinking about a sweet lady who made her mark on us.  Our sweet friend Vera died last week at the age of 101.   Think of all the events she saw in life and the changes that swept through the course of a century of living.  I will always remember Vera’s contagious enthusiasm.  I am glad that our entire family was able to spend time with this sweet lady and we are blessed that she left her mark on us.

We too will leave our mark on the people of this world, whether good or bad.  When we turn on the news we see a lot of the bad things folks are doing that leave behind hurt, sorrow, and confusion.  It is good to know that in the simplest of day to day interactions we can leave behind a hope and example that cannot be erased.  Grace, love, charity, patience, laughter, enthusiasm, dedication, and compassion are just a few of the ‘marks’ that we can make on those around us.

Written On My Heart – Week 4

There is no better mark to make in our own lives and on the hearts of our children than God’s Word.  I hope you have been enjoying challenging yourself, your kids, and your friends to learn more scripture.  This is your chance to “make your mark”!  Here is this week’s worksheet… Written On My Heart – Week 4

Under His Wing

Over the weekend we added a pair of chicks (see them live here) to our backyard flock.  These cute little birds are fragile and require a fair amount of care.  Watching them leads to some clear spiritual applications in our relationship with God…

It Is Cold Out There

safe under his wingEven though baby chicks look warm in their fuzzy jackets of down, they cannot regulate their body temperature for the first few weeks.  In our home we keep them under a heat lamp at 90-95 degrees until they are fully feathered.  In a natural setting they would stay very close to their mama and their brothers and sisters to keep warm.

The same is true of young Christians as well.  It doesn’t matter if you are 14 or 40 when you accept Christ, you need to stay close to the life giving source.  As time goes by and we study and grow, we will be able to better fend for ourselves in a world that can sometimes seem very cold and challenging.

Obviously this requires us to GROW as Christians.  If you never pick up a Bible, say a prayer, attend worship services, or talk about your faith…are you growing?  Our spiritual growth won’t happen naturally as physical growth does for a baby chick.  Our growth requires effort and some purpose.

Strength In Feathery Wing

Have you ever handled a full grown chicken before?  Their wings can be surprisingly tough even though they are made of incredibly light bones and feathers.  More than once I have been ‘wing whipped’ in the face by a startled hen.  Trust me, it hurts!  Mama hen can spread her wings out over her chicks providing a solid defense from wind, rain and other elements.  I have even seen some of our grown hens put a wing over another chicken during some of our colder nights here in Texas.  There is a lot strength and protection in those wings.

It is no wonder there are so many scriptures and hymns that speak of the safety of resting under the protective ‘wing’ of God.  You can imagine how comforting it is for a chick to be tucked under the wings of its mother.  How much greater is our comfort to know that we rest in the caring embrace of our Heavenly Father.

God’s creation speaks to His care and concern for us, His plan for us, and His incredible power and foresight.  Even these small and fragile chicks send a constant testimony of the Creator in the gentle cheeps that are filling our home these days.  As we become more and more detached from the outdoors, I encourage you to take a bit of time just to watch and look for God in the things that are all around us.  Make sure that you are safe under His wing.

Written On My Hearts – Week 3

The Written On My Heart series of memorizing scripture and Bible facts has been a fun adventure for our family so far this year.  I hope you are getting some good benefit as well.  It is fun to hear from friends at church and across the country as they put these pages to use.  Here it is… Written On My Heart – Week 3

Cleaning Out The Attic (and Written On My Heart Week 2)

We moved into our house 7 years ago.  The possessions from our tiny starter apartment left our new home feeling bare, the garage barely used, and the attic empty.  As you can imagine, the years and the children quickly led to a home that was filled with possessions and an attic that was overflowing with clutter and disorganization.  Last week, while putting Christmas decorations away in the attic, I decided something had to change…

(Stick with me, this post isn’t really about our attic but has spiritual lessons threaded throughout…ok?  Let’s go!)

Shedding Some Light On The Problem

One of the biggest problems in our attic, like most, was light.  How can you fix a problem when you can’t see what you’re doing?  The worst parts of the attic were the parts where it was dark and hard to see.  Our builder did an excellent job of having his crew go above and beyond by laying down a large amount of decking in the attic for storage but the electrician only put up one little light.  When I decided to tackle the problem, a quick trip to our local hardware store and $30 filled the storage area of our attic with light.

brain clutterJust as our attic became cluttered, dangerous, and non-functional, our minds can become dangerously cluttered as well.  We can begin to forget important things for work or for our family, or we might become so distracted that we forget what is really important in life.  It is good to pause, turn off all the distractions, and really think about what we are wanting to accomplish and what our main priorities in life are.  It is amazing how easily we can distract ourselves from thinking about what is really important.  Turn the smartphone off, click the TV off, stop the streaming music and just sit and think or discuss things with your spouse….shed some light on the situation.

If you really want a challenge, let the light of God’s word shine into the darkest corners of your mind.  When I was cleaning out attic I was a bit scared of what I might run across, and the same might be true when we let God shine in our lives.  Put your trust in Him and take the garbage out.  Filling your mind with more of His word, via the Written On My Heart series, might be just the solution you need!

Kick It To The Curb

I can guarantee you that our trash man will be VERY unhappy with me today and the recycling guy will also be thinking horrible, horrible things about me as well.  Even the folks at the local donation spot will probably be quite upset when I pull up.  Last night I tore into the freshly lit corners of the attic finding boxes of clothes that had been set aside for reasons unknown, broken small appliances, and about 20 large product boxes for items we don’t even own anymore.  I was tossing so many things out of our attic that I made my wife mad…not because she was upset about things going out but because every time there was a loud thud on the garage floor she was afraid I had fallen out of the attic.  These items were sorted into trash, recycle, donate, and then taken immediately to the appropriate spot.

(Having trouble getting rid of things?  Consider reading this interesting article about “status quo bias” and why our default is to keep things instead of getting rid of them.)

Our minds and our spiritual lives can be buried in so much rubbish that there is no way to effectively use or find the things we want.  We cut our cable just over a month ago and I have found that one pleasant side effect is more focus in my thinking.  No longer do I purposelessly plop down in front of the History Channel or stay up way too late watching one more episode of Good Eats.  The extra rest and fewer distractions have made for better quality in all aspects of my life…plus we have some extra cash!  Are there things in your life which in themselves are good but are keeping you from doing the things that you need to be doing?  Perhaps it is time to kick them to the curb…

Hold On To Some Treasures

While sorting through some of the boxes I came across a box of items from my boyhood that I had forgotten about.  There were some photos, awards, and documents that I was ready to let go of but there were some treasures that I brought down out of the attic to share.  One was a book I had written while in the third or fourth grade.  I brought it down to show to our oldest daughter.  The other was my original Gameboy that still worked.  So much for ridding my life of distractions :)

Clearing clutter from our lives allows the special things to really shine and get the attention they deserve.  Can you imagine what our families would be like if we put aside so much of the meaninglessness we fill our days with and invested that time and energy in our spouse and kids?  A clear mind with a clear purpose can make life much more enjoyable.

Written On My Heart Week 2

Putting useful things in our minds is always a good objective.  I have appreciated all the positive feedback from individuals and congregations about the Written On My Heart challenge.  This week and next week you will be challenged to memorize the books of the Old Testament, if you haven’t already, and we will have some associated verses.  Here’s your worksheet >>> Written On My Heart Week 2

 

Why Should You Memorize The Bible?

thinkingA longtime gospel preacher that I knew, Johnny Ramsey, was a walking, talking Bible.  He could deliver a sermon without any notes and could quote scripture after scripture from memory.  He didn’t have a photographic memory or some special gift.  He simply worked hard to memorize something that was important to him.  Every night his wife would flip through index cards with scriptures and quiz Johnny on the passages he was striving to memorize.  He was effective in his memorization because he used these verses often.  Remember, use it or lose it.

Memorization is one of those things that many of us have convinced ourselves that we cannot do.  It is true that some might be better than others with this skill, but all of us can do it.  In her book “The Secrets of Top Students,” Stefanie Weisman writes the following:

Memorization has gotten a bad rap recently. Lots of students, and even some educators, say that being able to reason is more important than knowing facts; and besides, why bother committing things to memory when you’ve got Google? My response to this – after I’ve finished inwardly groaning – is that of course reasoning is important, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know facts as well. It’s not like you have to choose between one or the other. Besides, facts give you a foundation on which to reason about things.

Ms. Weisman is correct.  The facts that we memorize give us a credible foundation from which to build a reasonable argument.

This year my family and I have committed to memorizing various passages from the Bible and other important information from this text.  My wife and I set this goal for ourselves and our family after my wife recently filled in for our daughter’s Bible class.  We grew up memorizing various information and verses from the Bible and that foundation of knowledge has served us well as we reason from God’s word with the issues we face in life.  When my wife asked even the most basic of questions to this young class they looked at her with big blank stares.

Our first text that we decided to memorize as a family (which is on the downloadable worksheet at the end of this post) was Deuteronomy 6:5-9.  Please note the kids are only memorizing verse 5.  Here is the entire passage:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Even though this passage is from the Old Testament, it gives a clear reasoning for why we are to commit God’s word to memory.  We (the parents) are supposed to diligently teach our children about God.  We are to talk about God when we are at home, when we are out and about, at the end of the day, and at the beginning of the day.  God is supposed to be a part of our lives and conversation at all times.  The Old Testament provides a clear picture of what happens to God’s people when His word is not a part of their lives.

On Sunday I challenged our church family to join us in working to memorize more of God’s word in 2015.  The worksheet in this post was included in our Sunday handout.  I have already heard from several who are excited to work on this with their family or as individuals.  The worksheet provides challenges for young children all the way through adults.  Even our 3 year-old is working with us to memorize the most basic concepts of the verses we are working on as a family.  Don’t believe me?  Here is a quick video of our youngest saying the books of the New Testament last night at dinner while we were working on this challenge…

So without any more delay, let me challenge you to join our family as we work to write more of God’s word on our hearts.  In the coming weeks we will have more worksheets with a verse, a fact, and some tips and tricks to keep your family motivated and having fun with this challenge.  Download Written On My Heart – Week 1.  I will be posting a new worksheet every Tuesday throughout 2015.

Beware of the Emergency Care Clinic

This post is a bit out of the norm for me but I thought a good number of my Texas readers would be interested in this information.  Have you noticed the large number of stand alone emergency care centers popping up?  They look a lot like a CareNow or a Minute Clinic but they are vastly different!

emergency room signMy mother-in-law recently popped into an emergency care clinic near her home when she became ill.  The facility was built in an old Eckerd Pharmacy store that had been remodeled.  About five years ago, legislation went through Austin allowing stand alone emergency clinics.  The major difference between these care centers and an urgent care facility is the price.

How many of us would knowingly go to the emergency room if we think we have strep throat?  Very few of us.  But when you step into an emergency care clinic, which might look just like a CareNow, you have indeed stepped into an emergency room.  It is a mistake that countless Texans have made since this legislation was passed.  The bill for the strep throat test at the emergency care clinic was $400 plus service fees.  For comparison, Minute Clinic lists the price for a strep test on their website at $30.

Emergency care clinics charge emergency room prices for services and pass the added expense along to the insurance companies and the consumer.  In many cases the insurance company will go ahead and pay the bill, which is one reason our premiums are so high.  But in some cases insurance companies reject charges from these facilities leaving the consumer on the hook for the inflated pricing.

Dave Lieber, an investigative reporter for the Dallas Morning News, wrote an in-depth article about these facilities and the legislation that allows them to operate.  (You can read the FEC Licensing Act here.)  Mr. Lieber does a great job of pointing out the key way to determine if you are at an urgent care facility or an emergency clinic.  By law, an emergency clinic must have the word “emergency” or “ER” in the title of the business or the numbers “24/7.”

There is nothing wrong with the stand alone emergency clinics.  They offer a vital service if a patient has a true emergency.  They have top-notch equipment and properly trained medical staff.  I felt it was worth writing this post to warn my fellow Texans about these facilities if you think they are just another urgent care facility.  No where in the legislation for these facilities are they required to tell patients the cost for services or if your health insurance will cover the procedures.  It is a buyer beware scenario.

Most of us are not capable of making clear and informed decisions when we are sick or dealing with a medical emergency.  As Mr. Lieber suggested, take a few moments to contact your insurance company to determine if your local emergency clinic is in-network.  When an emergency arises you can make an informed decision about where to seek treatment.  If you are sick, try to visit your primary physician or an urgent care facility like CareNow or Minute Clinic.

Don’t live in Texas?  Similar legislation is passing in states across the country as medical providers look for additional sources of revenue.  Consider doing a Google search for “emergency care clinic licensing” and the name of your state.  If you have noticed a boom of stand alone medical facilities your state has probably enacted similar legislation.

Cutting The Cord On Charter Cable…An Experiment

Last Monday I wrote about how much my financial laziness had cost our family over the last year.  I’m surely not the only one who loses focus from time to time.  I promised a post about cutting our cable which will save us approximately $1,500 in 2015.  Let’s take a look at our story and then consider a few tips…

Our Story

How much money could you save by cutting your cable?

How much money could you save by cutting your cable?

I have been a happy customer of Charter Cable since 2007.  I know a lot of people are dissatisfied with Charter’s service but I have been very pleased with Charter’s performance, free upgrades, and reliability at home and at work.  When we moved into our home in 2007 we did the Charter Triple Play that included cable, internet, and phone for $99 plus tax.  It came out to around $125 with tax and I was good with that.  That introductory price would expire every year or two so I would call Charter and negotiate back into that pricing package…until this year.

The plan expired over the summer and I didn’t notice it until November.  Our bill had jumped up to around $223 for our services!?!  We have two cable boxes (one being a DVR), internet, and home phone.  I called to negotiate prices and found that Charter had made pricing changes with the new Charter Spectrum offerings.  Over the course of a week I spoke with three different reps about pricing options and they all said that the lowest price for our services would be $190 to $200 with taxes and fees.  Out of curiosity I asked about the price of internet alone… approximately $60 with taxes and fees.  A bundle with internet and phone would be approximately $72 a month.

One of the more interesting things was the expiration of a customer loyalty credit.  Note to Charter, when good customer relations are already challenging, it can be offensive to remove a customer loyalty discount from a loyal customer :)

Our Decision

When my wife and I sat down with the math, we were simply unwilling to pay $120 a month for TV with the new pricing option.  We are not anti-TV.  We really enjoy our shows and are glad the children have shows that they enjoy, but they are simply not worth $120 a month when there are other options.  When the hard drive on our DVR went out, I took that as a clear sign that it was time to pull the trigger and cut our cable.  The retention department at Charter was very friendly and happy to remove the cable portion of our package, leaving internet and phone for $72.04 a month.

I had already put in place the components that would deliver our television content:

  • I ordered a Wineguard HD7694P antenna to install in our attic.  When we built our home, I installed a video distribution system.  This antenna allows any TV in our home to receive a strong broadcast signal.  The broadcast towers, which can be located with free services like AntennaPoint.com, are approximately 22 miles from our home which makes for a strong signal.  There are other great antennas like the Leaf products that can be installed behind a flat panel TV.
  • I bartered for a Mac Mini computer on Craigslist.  In cleaning out some extra CD and DVD duplicating equipment in my office, I struck up a deal to swap a duplicator for an older Mac Mini that would be perfect for streaming content and basic web browsing.  I purchased an Apple wireless keyboard, Magic Trackpad, and MeshWe Bluefin that “attaches” the keyboard and trackpad as one unit.  There are much cheaper options out there but I am a big fan of Apple and their ease of use and reliability.  More about this component and other options later in the post.
  • We already owned a Phillips DVD recorder with DVR as part of my CD and DVD duplicating equipment.  Losing our DVR was going to be painful.  The Phillips unit isn’t very user friendly but it fits the need for basic recording of broadcast content when there is something we really want to watch or we want the option to pause live TV.
  • Additionally we signed up for Netflix.  Combined with content from our existing Amazon Prime membership, many of our favorite shows are available through these two services.  Netflix costs $7.95 a month.

Some might wonder why we want to keep the phone.  We have young children in the house and have trained them to use 911 on our home phone if there is an emergency.  Cell phones move around and can be tucked away but the home phone is always in one spot if there is an emergency and they have to make the call.  We also use our phone for our security system.

Observations and Tips

We view our decision as an experiment.  We have committed as a family to 6 months without cable and then we will review our choice.  It has been about a month since we cut the cord and television viewing has already declined.  With cable, the TV was often on in the background as filler, especially in the evening after the children had gone to bed and we were doing housework.  It is also easier to monitor the time our children spend watching TV since most of their shows come from Netflix or Amazon and require a purposed ‘click’ to view.  I appreciate that Netflix has a ‘Kids’ screen that shows only kid friendly content.

Having a full fledged computer (Mac Mini) by the TV in our living room is a bit of overkill with all the great streaming devices available today.  We already have an Apple TV and an Amazon Fire Stick in our home and both are great streaming devices.  Most streaming devices allow only content from certain providers, for example Apple TV does not allow content from Amazon streaming.  A computer can easily view any content that is available on the internet without limitations.  If you’re thinking about cutting your cable or dish, consider getting a simple streaming device or using an old computer.  Many modern gaming systems like the Xbox and PlayStation also provide streaming media content.

I recognize that there are other services available, like Dish, that provide content for $30-50 a month.  That pricing is promotional pricing and we would soon find ourselves paying more than we would like for TV in our home, again.  If Charter had offered the $99 pricing again I wouldn’t be writing this post.

These are just a few of my personal observations about cutting cable for our household.  If I hadn’t made any changes, our existing cable bill would have cost over $2,600 in 2015.  After cutting cable, the internet and phone will cost $864 with an additional annual expense of $96 for Netflix.  We will save approximately $1,640 in 2015 by cutting the cord.

Do you pay for TV?  Have any tips or tricks for saving money on television content?  I’d be interested to read what you have to say in the comments section…