When a new baby arrives and you suddenly realize just how many diapers you need, budgeting becomes a very real priority. Obviously your coffee allowance can’t be touched. And mama needs her gym membership—if only for a quiet place to shower. But, it seems many Millennial parents have found a new budgeting hack: Invest in a simple rabbit ear TV antenna and ditch the monthly cable bill.
An August story from the Wall Street Journal all about the revitalization of the TV antenna market among young people basically found that what’s old is new again. This seems to be especially true among young people who are looking to save a few bucks: According to the Consumer Technology Association, antenna sales in the United States are expected to rise by 7 percent this year, which they suggest is driven by younger viewers who are discovering rabbit ears for the first time.
“I was just kind of surprised that this is technology that exists,” Millennial antenna-convert Dan Sisco told the WSJ. “It’s been awesome. It doesn’t log out and it doesn’t skip.”
To be honest, I thought this was just a slightly shameful secret in my household—only obvious to people who came over and saw the same style of rabbit ears that my grandparents used to rock now perched on my windowsill.
Then we started discussing television antennas among Team Motherly and it turns out the majority of us traded cable for exclusively local networks with the use of an unobtrusive antenna like this. (Plus Netflix, of course.)
Is this revolutionary? No. Television antennas have been around for a solid seven decades. They were just steadily replaced by higher tech options that streamed 400 channels into living rooms around the country. Paired with the hubbub about switching from analog to digital a few years ago—which meant people just had to upgrade their TVs, not ditch antennas—the National Association of Broadcasters found in a survey this year that 29 percent of Americans didn’t know that television is still available for free.
I was one of them. But it often seemed we were just paying $80+ dollars per month for the privilege of complaining there was still nothing to watch.
Enter my first child. Exit the time to watch much television and the disposible income we had become accustomed to. Suddenly cutting the cable cord seemed like a brilliant idea (especially when I learned it is totally legal).
After a $20 investment in rabbit ears, we’ve been able to wach all of the local broadcast stations and still keep up with the latest shows through cheap Netflix and Hulu subscriptions. Even HBO, which was previously only available through cable packages, launched HBO NOW in 2015 for would-be customers who don’t use cable.
This allows us to cover 99 percent of the shows we’d want to watch—for a fraction of the cost we had been paying for cable. And for that remaining 1 percent of must-watch television, we once sprung for a season subscription on iTunes and just watched new episodes with a one-day delay. ?
As for the kicker that may help parents decide they really can live without cable: PBS is one of those free stations that can be broadcast with an antenna. That means Daniel Tiger gets to stay.