Saturday, November 29, 2014

Downsizing: Cutting the Cable Cord

How to cut the cable cord? It's very easy. You just have to snip and bam! it's gone.

I received a message today from a friend asking me how we cut the cable cord. This is the third time I've been asked this in the last couple of weeks. So, I thought I would do a blog post with how we did it and how we get by without constant TV.

First of all, I've never been much of a TV watcher. If I'm home alone, the TV is almost never on. When we had the transport business, if Bossman went out on a run and I stayed home, the TV wouldn't get turned on for sometimes days at a time. I don't need the background noise. I love peace and quiet. I'm a great multi-tasker, so even if it's on, I'm very rarely actively watching it. It has to be a really super good movie or TV show for me to do nothing but sit and watch it. Now, I can kind of sort of watch it while playing a game on my iPad or something. I'm really good at that!

We had DirecTV up until about 6 months ago. We had it in four rooms in our house - so that's four boxes (living room, master bedroom, small bedroom and downstairs). Now, 90% of the time, it's just me and Bossman here, so that was a tad overdone. When we first signed up with DirecTV, we had a two year contract, so watch your contracts before you cut it off! We had it about four years, so we were good to go. P.S. when I called them to have it disconnected, they tried every way in the world to get us to keep it - so, if you're just wanting to lower your bill, they probably have a good deal for you. 

Our DirecTV bill was roughly 125.00 - 150.00 per month depending on if we rented any movies or not. And, you know how easy it is to click "buy" when it's only 5.99. Bossman is a tattoo artist, so we weren't even home Wednesday - Sunday evenings. So, we were paying that much money to watch it, basically, an hour or two at night and on Monday and Tuesday. How silly is that?! Just going with the lower amount of 125.00 per month, that's 1,500.00 per year. Fifteen Hundred Dollars Per Year. 

I did some research and this is our set up: we have an Xbox 360 and we run everything through there. With Xbox, you have to subscribe to Xbox Gold Live to get the television and video content ($60.00 per year). With the Gold Live membership, you can also play games online with your buddy in another state and a couple other "cool" things. 

We mainly use Netflix (7.99 per month) through the Xbox. However, once subscribed to Netflix, you can watch it on your tablet, phone, computer, etc. It will even let you stop watching on one device and pick up again on another device. Word of warning though, Netflix brings about binge watching. Don't say I didn't warn you! We also have the ability to rent or purchase movies through Xbox TV/Video. Rentals run about 5.99 per movie for HD and has basically the same things that are currently on pay-per-view.

We had Hulu Plus (7.99 per month) for a while. I've always watched Grey's Anatomy and didn't mind keeping up with it. The current season that is showing in prime time isn't available on Netflix, so I went to Hulu Plus. You can watch Hulu Plus through an app on the Xbox, too. However, I realized I was mostly watching it on my iPad. Then, I realized ABC has "an app for that" and it's totally FREE. With both Hulu Plus and the ABC app, you have to wait until the day after it airs on prime time to watch it. So, I was paying 7.99 per month to watch a show I could watch for free. There weren't really any other shows I watched on Hulu Plus, so I let my subscription go. (by the way, most television "stations" - ABC, NBC, CBS, etc., have an app to watch most of their current shows - just watch it the day after it airs on prime time)

There are also a couple of other apps, like Crackle, that allow for free television. We haven't messed with those much though. Do some research and you'll be surprised what you'll find.

Sons of Anarchy. Okay, well, this one, we had to figure out. We've watched SOA since day one and were entirely too caught up in it to not put a little extra effort into watching it and finishing this last season. Thankfully, Xbox already had it figured out. We bought the current season through the Xbox TV/Video. It was 34.99 for the current season - again, we have to wait until Wednesday morning, after it has aired on prime time, to watch it. But, it's so worth the NO COMMERCIALS! I thought it would drive me crazy not knowing what happened on SOA until the next morning, but as luck would have it, this is the last season and it hasn't been nearly as "sit on the edge of your seat and hold on for the ride" as the previous seasons. You can purchase almost any current television series this way - we consider it DVR without the commercials. Another way to do this is through Amazon Prime - I believe current (2014) price is 99.00 per year and you get a few other specials with it, like free two day shipping. You will have to purchase your television series - Sons of Anarchy is about the same as Xbox. You can purchase per episode or the entire season in either standard definition or high definition. 

Another thing.....sports. I will be honest, I haven't put too much time and effort into figuring this one out.  There are several sports apps on the Xbox ESPN, NFL, etc, but I haven't messed with them too much. Bossman loves (LOVES) his Nascar. However, since most races air on Sunday and he is at the tattoo shop on Sunday, he can just watch it/listen to it while there. And, he's got some stuff figured out on his iPad to keep up with it. 

So, we've got our Xbox Gold Live membership at 60.00 per year. Netflix at 7.99 per month and Sons of Anarchy (this year only) at 34.99. That's a grand total of 190.87. That saves us 1309.13 per year! 

As a side note, we also have a Google TV "box" that we kind of stumbled across. We have it set up with a smaller television just in case a grandkid or two wants to watch cartoons. We have the Netflix app on there - and you can set up five different "profiles" per individual account (2014). Each profile has access to their own shows and content and can be watched simultaneously. 

There you have it! How to cut the cord on your cable bill and still have television!

Friday, November 28, 2014

I'm getting ready to do an overhaul of this blog. In the meantime, to view my photography, head on over to my website or my Facebook page!

Why We Moved Into the Basement...Small Spaces...Tiny House

We've been asked several times why we moved into the basement of our house. There are actually two reasons for this. First, I can't physically do "cold" anymore. Second, it's a test to see if we can downsize and live in a smaller space. We've been down here approximately three weeks.....and we love it!

First, I have Raynaud's Syndrome (or disease if you prefer). I was diagnosed about 14 years ago and it gets worse with every passing winter.  I "almost" totally forget I have it in the summer, but when winter hits, I am miserable! Raynaud's is an autoimmune disorder where in cold temperatures or extreme emotion (stress), my sympathetic nervous system hyper-activates. My blood vessels constrict too much (called vasoconstriction) and blood flow & oxygen are depleted to my extremities. Mainly my fingers, toes and nose. My right hand is worse than my left hand for some reason. This causes my fingers, toes and nose (for me, it's mostly my fingers and toes) to get extremely cold, turn white and if cold too long, turn blue...and hurt! Once cold and blue, it can take hours to get warmed back up to a reasonable degree. During the "warming up" process, they turn bright red and get swollen. I will have severe pain and "pins and needles" (like when your hand falls asleep), only it's in "hyper-drive" and excruciatingly painful. Too many attacks and I can suffer atrophy of my extremities and/or amputation. So, it's not just a "oh, go warm yourself up", thing. It's a disease with serious complications if I don't take care of myself. 

Due to reduced blood flow, my extremities, especially my hands, get extremely dry and they will crack and bleed. Sometimes I'll get a sore or ulcer if I've been cold too many times. In the past, I used to allow myself to get cold because people wanted to see how this works. Google it if you want to see - it's too painful to show people anymore. 

My magic temperature is about 50 degrees. If it's less than 50 degrees outside and it's a cloudy day, I'm in trouble. In the 40s with some good sunshine and I am okay for a little bit. Anything below 40, I'm inside with sweats, houseshoes, blanket and gloves. I change my socks 3-4 times a day. If I've had shoes on and my socks have gotten the slightest bit damp, I have to change them or my toes will go through the above process. 

It's kind of ridiculous! 

We have a huge house. Especially for me and the Bossman and Meg, the 5 lb pomeranian. In order to keep the entire house warm enough for me, we spend an enormous amount of money on propane. Plus, we run electric heaters even with the propane. The basement is small, partially underground and much MUCH easier to heat. We've been keeping our main heat (the propane) on about 55 degrees and then running an Eden Pure heater and one other electric "radiator" type heater in the basement. Still, this blanket and these gloves are on me most of the time. (these gloves are called AGloves and they have silver woven in them. This is how I operate my iPad when I'm having an attack). I also have battery operated gloves, hot hands, regular gloves, etc. for when I have to be outside for more than a minute. 

***If you are interested in AGloves (good for use of a touchscreen phone or tablet while outdoors), I bought mine at Amazon. Here's a link: Agloves M/L touch screen gloves, iPhone gloves, texting gloves, Agloves!

The other reason for moving into the basement is a test to see if we can downsize. We have dreams of living in an RV (preferably in a warm least half the year!). This is a test to see how we do in a small space. We love it! (and, it takes like 30 minutes to clean it...seriously!). 

Our whole living space right now is 16' x 35' that's 560 sq ft. Our master bedroom upstairs is 24' x 24' - that's 576 sq ft. Who needs a bedroom that size?! **even downstairs, our bathroom and closet that we are using are at the top of the stairs, so add a little bit for that. 

Whatever we are living without while down here, is outta here!

This is heading down the stairs....I admit, though, going to the bathroom in the middle of the night isn't my favorite thing to do. LOL

This is looking from the garage/TV area into our living space. We hang out on that reclining couch, just like we did when we had it upstairs. (that couch is one of the few things we insisted on moving downstairs) **notice my blanket, gloves and lotion?

This is if we were sitting on the couch watching TV. That door opens into a double garage (one of two double garages in our house - seriously, who needs TWO garages?!)

This is our "bedroom". Notice the Eden Pure heater in the fireplace. That is an actual working fireplace, but we don't use it.

There's my office area between the "living room" and the "bedroom". I've been working on VA paperwork this week. Ugh. I have a huge wrap around desk in my office upstairs - who knew I only needed this one little desk for most things?

The kitchen. I can cook 6' away from my couch! I will also admit that I do occasionally use my upstairs "big" kitchen. Like for Thanksgiving dishes, I totally went up there and used my Kitchen Aid and gas 5 burner cooktop! I'm having a tiny issue getting the hang of this electric stove, but I'll get it!

Full size refrigerator, microwave and Bunn coffeemaker. I'm pretty much all set!

Another shot of our bedroom area with my heat source. 

That's pretty much it!

And....we love it! We haven't "decorated" much, but we love how cozy it is. The bed is a queen size and is our "guest" bed. We are used to a king size sleep number, but this pillow top mattress is surprisingly very comfortable! (by the way, this bed actually goes with our bedroom suit, the rest of which is upstairs). 

We have 14 acres m/l, a house that's way too big for us....with "rooms with no purpose". Seriously, we have rooms with no purpose under the sun. None. 

Needless to say, as soon as we get the upstairs squared away, this place is for sale!