Welcome to my home: Pandora radio is echoing classic jazz music off the walls. My son, 2 1/2 years old, is watching "The Jungle Book" on the big screen in the living room while my daughter, 1 1/2, enjoys "Barbie in the Nutcracker" on the family room's television. In the nursery my youngest daughter -- she's an infant -- has finally fallen asleep to the soothing sounds of Pandora. Where am I?
I'm in our home office working on my laptop and recording the ballgame on my DVR so I can watch it later. My laptop is hooked up to yet another TV that is doubling as a second monitor. I have about 80 tabs open in my Web browser so I can continuously alternate from working to socializing to entertaining myself.
What cable means to my family
Life has been difficult for my family. With three children under the age of 3 and having recently separated from my wife, it has been important for me to find healthy ways of spending time with my kids and tools that will help them through this trying time. We have learned to make do -- and our cable package has helped tremendously. While too much TV may be frowned upon by some parents, it is something my family enjoys that we can consistently do together.
One of our favorite things to do is sit on the floor huddle together and watch TV. In fact, we enjoy it so much, we have actually incorporated it into our weekly pizza night. Every Thursday, we make homemade pizza and order a movie on demand. I generally try to make sure that we watch something both entertaining and educational. Sometimes, I even learn something myself.
My son is a huge dinosaur fan and my daughters really just go along with whatever he chooses to watch (for now anyways) so one Thursday we decided to watch "Walking With Dinosaurs." In the opening scene, a young marsupial is swallowed up by a giant Tyrannosaurus rex. I was unaware (and still am) what the exact species of the marsupial was, so when my son started asking questions, I just told him it was a mouse. He stared at me with a puzzled look on his face before saying, "Big mouse dad!" I responded with, "Yes, sir -- that's a Jurassic mouse."
A couple of weeks later I had a friend over and my son was watching the same show again. When the marsupial appeared on screen, guess what my son said? You bet! My friend just looked at me and said, "Did he just call that thing a Jurassic mouse?" We all started laughing hysterically…
The cost of our cable
With great power comes a hefty price tag. How much does this lifestyle run me each month? My Xfinity bill from Comcast averages around $440. For my family, the price is well worth it. The package includes:
Cable television ($215 + approx. $50 in On Demand purchases) -- With more than 200 channels to choose from, including all of the premium channels like HBO and Showtime, we can always find something to watch. Add to that my sports package (a few extra bucks but well worth the price) and the dozens of movies we order on demand every month for the kids, we've got ourselves one powerful package.
Internet ($80 + about $25 in online On Demand buys) -- I couldn't live without the 100-megabits-per-second Internet. I spend at least 80 hours a week online. Nearly every piece of technology I own connects to the Internet in some way, either wirelessly or LAN. With the blazing-fast Internet, multiple devices can be running different things at the same time, with no lagging whatsoever! So my kids can be watching movies in the living room and family room while I'm working in the office and streaming my own favorite shows.
Home phone service ($35) -- The phone ranks last on the list because it's only used for personal calls. Since I despise long phone conversations I avoid personal calls as much as possible. And I use Google Voice for my business line. Note: I expect an increase with this proportion once my kids start wanting to talk on the telephone.
Equipment ($35) -- I lease cable and Internet equipment from Comcast, including a modem, router, DVR, and cable boxes.
I've been a Comcast customer since 2005, but I've only had an extreme cable package for about two years. When I first upgraded to my current package, I felt the financial impact and sacrifices had to be made. I started getting my hair cut every six weeks (instead of every three); I prepared and ate meals at home more often than eating out; and I switched to some generic rather than brand products. Since then, however, work has picked up and now that I use this technology on a daily basis to actually make money for my family because I work from home, it is easy to afford and justify within the budget. It's worth every penny to us.
Everyone may not prioritize a cable package in their budget the way my family does, but I remember life before our premium cable package...
Limitations with basic cable
When we had basic cable with Comcast, we could only watch the good channels on one TV, and the kids would pretty much dominate what we watched. Additional TVs could get a couple of shopping channels, news channels (all of which covered the same news stories), weather channels, and some Spanish-speaking channels.
This caused two problems: 1) The kids were usually watching some animated movie -- I couldn't tell you which movie because I have watched so many of them, they're all jumbled together -- and I had no escape. 2) I tried to hold up in my office with my laptop. I'd open a few tabs to catch up on all the latest news, funny YouTube videos, games, and favorite blogs; then I'd open a few more tabs for my social networking sites, Internet radio, and email; then I'd open some more tabs to start working and I'd wait and wait and wait. While waiting for everything to load, I would go join the kids to watch the animated movie and be lucky if all my pages had loaded by the time I returned to my laptop.
So while some might go on and on about basic cable -- and that package did only cost me $22.99 monthly, I'm happy to pay $440 a month for my premium package.
- Arts & Entertainment