Thursday, March 19

When is an upgrade worth it?

Temptation comes in many forms. For Tim and I, it takes the guise of the TV channel G4.

This channel, which used to be known as Tech TV, is offering a free preview during March. Whenever there's a preview, we eat it up. Initially, Tim was the enthusiastic one. But he quickly turned me on to some of G4's offerings, and I was hooked too.

I took an immediate liking to "Attack of the Show" which makes me laugh. It also nicely sums up all of the hot YouTube clips so I don't feel quite so left out.

Tim loves X-Play which gives him even more information/reviews on games. (He has a subscription to a gaming magazine, but the show gives real time clips from the game and also often features cheat codes etc.)

Then there are shows like "Ninja Warrior" which I am now completely addicted to, and I couldn't tell you why. It's a ridiculous show, essentially showing various Japanese people attempting insanely difficult obstacle courses.

How difficult? Each competition starts with 100 people. The most I've ever seen advance is 11. Usually it's 2-4. Some people fall off on the first part of the course. Others almost make it to the end. But pretty much everyone who fails ends up falling about 4 feet into the muddy water below.

That's pretty much the entire show. The announcers (it's subtitled) are quite funny with their color commentary. Otherwise, it's just people trying (and mainly failing) to make it through the course. So why does it suck me in? I suppose the real allure is that, like many popular reality-based shows, it shows people failing -- and failing spectacularly. I mean, if it's just a little slip it's barely worth watching. But if you get to see someone tumbling end over end into the water, well that's entertainment!

I really never thought this kind of thing would get to me. But it's a morbid fascination. And I'm not the only one who's so enthralled. My mom, who doesn't even own a TV, watched a bit of it at my insistence. (Mainly because of the weird look she gave me when I was trying explain the show's appeal.) I thought she'd call time after a couple of people tried their best. She sat through the whole show, and even made the sympathetic noises -- "Aaaah, no!" as someone splashes down, "Oooo, almost!" as someone is 2 seconds shy of finishing the course.

So clearly, this show is a powerful substance.

So why do I rave about G4? Well because it's one package up from our current one on Dish. That's a $12 difference.

Logically, $12 a month doesn't sound like that much more. But it's $144 a year for the extra entertainment. I'm sorely tempted. But I'm just not sure.

Tim, of course, would be all for it. He doesn't just love G4. The package would also include his other-favorite channel: Animal Planet. In addition, some of the other channels in this preview are giving him access to some animated, comic-book-based shows that he loves: The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, etc.

And so my debate begins:

Pro: The extra $12 a month, would bring us hours upon hours of extra entertainment.

Con: We already watch a ton of TV. I'm not sure more is a good thing.

Pro: Tim gets antsy/bored easily, and more shows would mean less desire to go out.

Con: His Magic game on the computer provides many hours of entertainment and we already paid for that. (One-time $20 fee, paid 2.5 years ago.)

Pro: With Animal Planet on, I'd at least be watching vaguely edifying TV.

Con: I'd also be watching a lot of G4 silliness, and a whole lot more animated shows with Tim.

Pro: It's $12. You spend that when you and Tim each get a value meal!

Con: At least then we get out of the house.

Pro: You can't beat the cost per hour for entertainment. Even if we only watched the G4 shows we like, every day, the cost would be 30 cents an hour. More likely, we'd be looking at 10 cents or less an hour.

Con: However you break the cost down, it's still an extra $12 a month. And you're in debt. And may be losing half your income soon, unless Tim's unemployment benefits get extended.

It's that last one that I can't get around. I think, at least until we find out more about Tim's benefits, we probably shouldn't go adding to the budget. Even just $12 a month.

So we can't add to the budget. At least, that's what I'm guessing most people's answer will be. That it would be irresponsible, short-sighted, etc. (In other words, I'd be American consumer 1999-2007.)

As a result, I'll try to find it in the budget. I have to call the phone company and get some information on specific fees -- what they are and why I'm being charged them. And whether I can just NOT have a long distance plan. Last month, we used 6 long distance minutes for 55 cents. With fees, it was $9. So in other words, we paid $1.50 a minute.

If this were you, and you found out the benefits did get extended, would you upgrade?

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Blogger Shevy said...

If the benefits get extended, yeah. We'd probably go without food before we'd drop down even a tier, let alone all the way to basic cable like so many PF bloggers seem to suggest when things are tight. My hubby would just go bonkers without 24/7 (well, 6 in our case) access to sports and reality tv. And I'd really, really miss HGTV. Not to mention Dear Child's addiction to Treehouse, Teletoon, Kids CBC, PBS Kids, etc. Not edifying, but true.

March 19, 2009 at 9:37 PM

Blogger Abby said...


As a couch potato, I totally get your reasoning. Although I'm betting Shabbat does help even out the electricity bills!

We're on the second-to-lowest plan. THere were a couple channels that were deal-breakers for me. I think one of them as TNT -- but how will I get my Law & Order fix without that??? -- and Comedy Central or USA. Something along those lines.

March 19, 2009 at 9:49 PM

Blogger Shtinkykat said...

Ha ha. I LOVE the G4 channel, Attack of the Show and Ninja Warrior, and the Incredible Banzuke. But with respect to your quandary, you mentioned that due to you and your husband's disability, you're often housebound. In that situation, entertainment becomes more of a necessity than a luxury. I would upgrade, esp. if Tim's benefits are extended. If push comes to shove, you can always cancel it.

March 20, 2009 at 6:38 AM

Blogger Alane said...

I don't know what type of internet access you have but it may be worth the investment to get Vonage or Majicjack. I have Vonage it has some quircks but is really affordable.
Upgrading a tier may be worth it. I know your budget doesnt have much wiggle room but maybe try a test run on your budget. $12. is something like $.40 a day. For one month see if you can " find or save" that much a day and put it in a jar You know maybe making a crockpot meal a week with leftovers helps you save on your ordering out then you can put that in the jar. If after a month you find you can do it comfortably then get. As long as there is no cancellation penalty I say give it a try. I know on my tier with G4 we not only get Animal Planet but Discovery health and a few other cool channels. Worth it for my family.

March 20, 2009 at 10:12 AM

Blogger TXsunlover said...

Nope, we wouldn't do it. We've already dropped to Basic Cable and still have more channels than we can watch because we've made a real effort to get up off our butts and do more free/REALLY CHEAP things around town (which we can do with the money we saved from ditching a bunch of channels that we never watched anyway).
We just got our "stimulus" on today's paycheck and we won't even use that to upgrade any part of our lives except our savings accounts. Until we have at least 12 months of expenses in our savings we will continue to put every penny in there.
We've gotten used to spending WAY LESS on entertainment this past year and we really don't miss any of it. We get out and go to the hiking trails, have a picnic in the park, take advantage of Free Days at our local museums and zoos, etc. Our relationship has been better and our bank account thanks us!

March 20, 2009 at 7:54 PM

Blogger Abby said...


I think you definitely have a good plan. You clearly have your priorities in order. And Tim and I have officially set a time each day to walk. We'll see how often we can follow through, of course.

That said, Tim and I are slightly more constrained about activities. When his skin is flaring, he can't really wear shirts comfortably. More often, I'm simply too pooped out from getting basic chores done. Perhaps as I get a routine down for walks I can work up to more frequent (short) outings. But I would be shocked if hiking were ever a pastime I could do habitually.

This is why, as Shtinkykat pointed out, entertainment (in-home) becomes something of a necessity. Which isn't to say we couldn't live without it. We could. But it would hurt significantly.

March 20, 2009 at 8:15 PM

Blogger Alane said...

TXsunlover's mention of the extra $13 a paycheck everyone is supposed to see also includes a one time $250. check for those getting SS. I am not sure if those getting disability are included but if they are then maybe there is the money for you to at least get the upgrade for a year.

March 21, 2009 at 11:01 AM

Blogger Lilli said...

personally, I don't think an upgrade is worth it particularly if your budget is already tight. Last year when I moved I couldn't find a good place for my tv in my little apartment, so it was about a month before I actually tried plugging it in (I hadn't even signed up for cable service yet) and when I finally did it was broken! Then I realized I had lived without it for a month and hadn't really missed it! I love the amount of free time that has miraculously appeared with the death of my television and I've actually turned down several offers from friends and coworkers to give me one of their spare sets. but if that is your main source of entertainment then maybe it is a good deal for you - to me $100 a month to sit on the couch seems like a waste, but the $100 a month I spend on fees to join various sports teams is completely worth it - I get lots of social opportunities AND I save by canceling the gym membership :) to each his own I guess

March 21, 2009 at 10:40 PM

Blogger Abby said...


I think you're right about "to each his own." Though of course I'd far rather be able to go out and join sports teams. (If Tim's skin calms down, it's something he's considering doing this spring/summer.) Unfortunately, my health is just not that good. Still, I'm determined to shed some pounds which will help my energy levels to a small degree.

I'm not ruling anything out yet. But I am definitely not willing to add to the budget! Not when it's this tight.

March 22, 2009 at 3:06 PM

Blogger Fabulously Broke said...

If you can fit it in the budget, go for it. Just don't go into debt FOR it :)

I'd def. consider upgrading if it was a better deal overall

March 23, 2009 at 8:09 AM


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