Kids, Advertising, & Your Money: Unplugging Cable

December 14, 2015
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We’ve been cable free for roughly 4 years.  That’s 4 years of easy decision making when it comes to buying gifts for our daughter’s birthday or Christmas gifts.  Furthermore, it’s been 4 years of putting money towards savings goals rather than a cable bill.

When we pulled the plug on cable, it wasn’t because we were trying to expose our child to less advertising.  We were simply sick of how many times BET could run one movie, or how we could have 300 or more channels and not have anything to watch.  Those problems alone pushed us to the edge and we handed the little silver DVR box back to our cable provider and went along to find better entertainment.

This is where Netflix and Hulu came in and I noticed that my daughter who happened to be crazy obsessed with Yo Gabba Gabba at the time, was developing an interest outside of her Nickelodeon world. She also was spending less time remembering everything she saw on television, which made it easier to go to the store without her babbling about something else she wanted.

Friends and family ask me all the time, “What does she want for her birthday/Christmas/Easter?” My answer is always, “Nothing really.”  

How did we get to that point?

Well, we got there because she spends less time being exposed to advertising.  

Ad folks are sneaky, ya’ll.

I majored in advertising during undergrad and there are more than one underhanded ways advertisers target our babies. Advertising companies know our children will remember products their favorite celebrities are talking about. They know they can use cereal cartoons in YouTube videos to entice our youngins as they are walking down the grocery aisle.

They are clever.  Very clever.  Unfortunately, advertising methods extend beyond just the television these days and it’s because of people like me. Advertisers are resorting to online tactics, smartphone strategies, and celebrity endorsements because plenty of moms and dads across the country are unplugging their cable box.

According to Adage, television is no longer the preferred screen for viewing videos.  Children are turning to smartphones, tablets, etc. This article indicates that Nickelodeon’s ratings have fallen around 30 percent amongst children aged 2 to 11 years-old. It makes me wonder how much of an impact unplugging cable is having on cable networks ratings.

Speaking of children ages 2 to 11, did you know this age group sees more than 25,000 a year on television? This doesn’t include school ads, cell phones, internet, billboards, and other advertising vehicles.  I’m positive this isn’t healthy, not only for their well-being but for our pocketbooks as well.

Advertising Makes Kid Want Junk They Don’t Need

Kids want what they see, period. All it takes is one exposure to a Coke drinking Barbie and suddenly your child prefers Coke over Pepsi. Not to mention a bunch of school friends standing on the playground talking about their latest addition to their Frozen collection.  Suddenly you’ll find yourself being schooled on all things Elsa and Ana (true story).  My daughter hadn’t thought about or even seen Frozen until she heard friends bragging about it at school.

That proves my point that what children don’t see, they never miss.  Our daughter wasn’t being exposed to excessive advertisements and she lived a whole year not knowing about a character named Olaf. Fortunately, by the time she did learn about her new faves, I could find many of the movie characters on the clearance rack. However, I understand some of you parents aren’t so lucky.

Online Streaming Devices Save The Day

So, how can you save money by pulling the cable cord and still having some form of entertainment?  Well, it’s easy...we bought a Roku.  Our Roku set us back around $45.00 and we purchased a subscription to Netflix and Hulu. Hulu just launched a new feature that allows you to upgrade your subscription for ad-free television experience, but we don’t need it. Most of the shows my daughter likes to watch is on Netflix and it’s totally ad free.

Our old cable bill used to cost us around $130 a month.  Now we only pay a total of $17 for both Netflix and Hulu subscriptions.  After a few years with just the Roku, we invested in an Amazon Fire Stick and we are one happy streaming family.  With an upfront investment of less than $100 for our devices and an amazing savings of $113 per month on the subscriptions, we’d say we are making a pretty good financial decision.

Protect Your Child (and wallet) From The Effects of Advertising

The biggest problems with ads is that kids take them at face value. They don’t understand the persuasion intended, they just see something and accept it as law.  If they see a beautiful woman on the beach, wearing a bikini, eating a hamburger — they believe this is how they are going to look on the beach while eating a hamburger.  

Of course, we know a bunch of hamburgers will make (and have) you feeling like a hamburger in a bikini, but this is a concept they are not old enough to grasp. Images are powerful at persuading youngsters they want and/or need something they really don’t.  

Try playing a game with your children when ads interrupt your entertainment. Depending upon their age, a game could teach them how advertising is intended to get people to spend money. In this game, ask questions about the company’s message. What are they trying to sell?  Who are they trying to sell it to?

Protect them by watching shows with little or no advertising. Wait a day or two so you can watch on your DVR and fast forward through advertisements.  Teach them about different advertising strategies (such as product placement) so they’ll be more aware of how advertisers are trying to influence their decisions.  

Right now some of these approaches wouldn’t be as effective with our daughter; therefore, eliminating and reducing the amount of advertising she’s seeing is helping us considerably. When she’s older, there will be plenty of opportunities to steer her away from becoming a passive ad viewer.

Kids are expensive but not more than we allow them to be.

Everyone has choices. Just because the majority of society agrees with the sentiment that kids are expensive doesn’t mean we have to make it our belief. Childhood should be simple.  Simple from all the technology and excessive consumerism this generation faces.

We can choose to stand by and allow companies and billion dollar industries influence our babies, or we can stand up and be active parents — encouraging them, teaching them, and interacting with them.  If we don’t, there is always someone else willing to do it for us.  We don’t want that, do we?


Have any of you cut cable in your home?  If so, what is the biggest benefit you’ve gotten from it?

Need another perspective?  I highly recommend checking out the Frugalwood’s take on it.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt and Friday Night Shenanigans*

Latoya Scott
CFEI/Social Entrepreneur
Latoya Scott is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and personal finance writer with a mission to help millennials learn how to stop living paycheck to paycheck so they can become financially carefree.

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  • Shirria December 14, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    We also cut our cable subscription once we got serious about our journey to financial freedom and haven’t really missed it yet. I was just telling my coworker how we’ve avoided all those toy ads which resulted my kids adding items to their Christmas every year and I’m not missing that additional cost at all.

  • Latoya S December 14, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    I hear you on that one. The difference is noticeable!

  • Emily @ JohnJaneDoe December 15, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    My daughter wants everything she sees on TV…but she also wants everything she sees on those darn unboxing videos on YouTube. She’s obsessed with them, and knows how to find them on her Kindle (or my phone). She also likes a lot of toy-related shows, like Monster High and Power Rangers, which are just 22 minute ads with plot (and are on Netflix).

    Getting rid of cable would probably help (and I’m pushing for it, but her dad says maybe after football season). Unfortunately, there’s a lot of other opportunities for kids to see and want stuff.

    • Latoya S. December 15, 2015 at 1:16 pm


      I’m so glad I haven’t reached the cell phone arena yet. More than likely, she won’t have one for a very long time and I have one of those “dumber” cell phones – a windows 8 Nokia phone. I don’t let her use my phone, so I haven’t had that issue either.

      Amazingly, my daughter watches some of those shows you mentioned on Netflix, but the good thing is she doesn’t know they are toys! I think it’s because we avoid the toy aisle as much as possible and she is just in kindergarten and no one is talking about these toys.

      I recently read a book that helps deal with many of the issues you mentioned, “Raising Financially Confident Kids,” by Mary Hunt. I will be doing a review on the book soon, so stay tuned. Maybe it will help.

  • Cat@BudgetBlonde December 15, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    We don’t have cable either so our kids have never really watched TV at all. We do watch a little Netflix now and then, but we keep that to a minimum too.

    • Latoya S December 15, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      Yeah, you can only watch Netflix for so long before getting burnt out…that is, of course unless it’s time to catch up on an entire season you’ve missed;)

  • Melissa @ Sunburnt Saver December 16, 2015 at 1:31 am

    This was really interesting. I don’t have kids yet, so this is something I didn’t even think about. In terms of cable, I only thought about saving money by sticking to Netflix and Hulu. But I hadn’t considered what all that advertising can do to a child – and eventually your budget!

    • Latoya S December 16, 2015 at 1:50 am

      Yes- it affects adults as well! Those food commercials, new furniture commercials…when we had cable, HGTV had me thinking I was an interior decorator/diy extraordinaire. Soo much money spent, lol!

  • rebecca elizabeth December 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    We are loving not having a TV in our flat, though we have a netflix subscription we don’t use it too much. I remember spending hours as a kit watching the telly shopping channels and its so bad how we are conditioned into buying things we don’t really need.

  • Mel @ brokeGIRLrich December 19, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    That’s awesome – I’m surprised Netflix isn’t capitalizing on that a little in their own advertisements.

  • Liz December 19, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    That great the many different impacts one action can have.

  • Rebecca Stapler @Stapler Confessions December 23, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    We cut cable, and our little guy watches Netflix exclusively. I remember going on vacation when he was 4 years old and turning on Nickelodeon. When the first commercial came on, he was so confused, “turn it back to my show!” he said; “will my show come back?” he asked. That was when I realized how very awesome it was that he had been watching Netflix instead of TV!

    • Latoya S December 23, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      That is too cute, lol!