Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Experiment #2: Cutting the Cord (via Men's Health)

The biggest thorn in my side over the last, two years of my financial life has been my (previous)  television provider, DirecTV. I blame them for at least 38% of the gray hairs currently on my head. Over the last 17 months as a DirecTV customer, my bill was 16 different amounts. I requested only a few of those changes (moving residences, changing internet packages), but most were due to random fee increases or simply having something added to my account out of the blue, which then required me to spend 1-2 hours on the phone with support trying to rectify almost every month. Here's my favorite example:

One time DirecTV left me a voicemail telling me they'd added a "free" month of a premium channel (Showtime) to my account, which I then cancelled two weeks later to avoid flirting with the monthly auto-renew date. I then - no lie - was charged for half a month of Showtime as well as a "premium channel cancellation fee" because I cancelled the channel TOO EARLY!

My monthly bills over the 12 months before I cut the cord (TV + internet w/ cell bundled as well in Feb)

The worst part of it was that I was more-or-less locked into a 2-year contract, which required me to pay an early cancellation fee to get out of to the tune of $20 per month remaining. If it tells you anything about how badly I wanted out, the first time I asked about the fee it was at $240.

I finally called it quits in February 2018 and made my move to streaming-only services. Let me break down the Men's Health article for you as well as what I chose to go with.


Unfortunately, the December 2015 article is slightly dated, but that only means that there are even more options for those looking to move to streaming services over cable today. As you read, feel free to click the products/services to get more information.

Step #1: Pick a New Tuner
With your DVR out the door, you'll most likely need something else to pipe your programming into your television. (I say 'most likely' because you could also just stream via your computer.) While the article lists things like Roku and the Amazon Fire Stick, I already had an Apple TV in my possession, so that was an easy decision. You could also get a Google Chromecast and push things from your mobile device/tablet to the TV.

Step #2: Choose a Streamer
In the article, we're given Netflix, iTunes and Amazon Prime as examples to use as primary streaming options. All of these are services that currently let you watch shows and movies on-demand, while being at the mercy of whatever is available on the respective platforms. And while these libraries are much more hearty now than back in 2015, they still don't offer live programming. Also, services like YouTube TV, DirecTV Now and Hulu Live didn't exist three years ago, but do now. 

My main streaming service is YouTubeTV - a service that allows you to stream 67 channels for the base price of $40 a month, and offers an additional five channels a la carte for monthly amounts ranging from $5 - $15 a month. It also allows you to split your account with up to five additional people / Google accounts, thus giving you the ability to lower your monthly price. Currently I am one of four on a an account, so I pay around only $10 a month. And I want to make sure I point out that it has UNLIMITED DVR capabilities. You can record any and everything you want.

Step #3: Add a Little Something
This step is reserved for those additional one-off channel subscriptions that may not be included in the other services - things like HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, or Starz Play. These subscriptions can usually be added to your current, main service (e.g. Amazon Prime,YouTube TV), or via an app on your Apple TV, tablet or smartphone.

The article gives Sling TV, HBO Go and Hulu as options for this step, but I think giving the options mentioned above would be more accurate. I personally consider Netflix to be my add-on. I also bummed HBO Go off of an unsuspecting someone for a while until they cancelled it - probably since it's going to be a while until Game of Thrones comes back in 2019. I'll try using it again then.


An additional thing to take into consideration when you make the switch pertains to your internet speed. The FCC considers 10 - 25Mbps a reasonable speed for households to effectively stream content - higher than Netflix's 5Mbps recommendation - because we all now have so many connected devices to account for. If you think you need to upgrade your service, it shouldn't be too much more per month to make that happen. Use the money you're saving by switching to streaming!

In retrospect, I'm kind of disappointed that I didn't make this switch earlier. I'm currently saving $50+ a month on my television services, a difference that would've easily covered the early cancellation fee if I were to have cut the cord when the opportunity arose the previous fall.

If you've already cut the cord, or have additional questions about doing so, reach out on Twitter @MagExperiment!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Experiment #1: Creating a Proper Bucket List (via The Art of Manliness)

For starters, raise your hand if you LOVE lists. And I'm talking about any sort of list: grocery list, to do list, best-of list, Christmas list, checklist or even a David Letterman Top 10 list.


Personally, I like making to do lists so much that I often completely rewrite my list even if I've only marked off a couple things or wrote it sloppily in haste. It has to look pristine - something that brings me comfort and pride as I mark off a completed item, whether at work or at home. I may even color code it with different pens or highlighters. (Stop judging!) But an everyday to do list carries only marginal weight. It really only encompasses your tasks for the day or the week. You don't usually put something months down the road on your measly, little to do list. Well, at least I don't. That's where a bucket list comes in.


The Art of Manliness
recently tweeted out a link to a 2009 article by an author with the name of Chris about how to create a solid bucket list. He stressed that even though you're getting older, it doesn't mean you should give up on your childhood aspirations. In fact, you now have more money to your name and are probably actually closest to being able to accomplish those goals than ever before! And writing those goals down is already one step closer to achieving them - no matter how lofty or crazy other people might think they are.

       "Sure, you have more responsibility now than when you were a kid, but you also 
     have far more capability. The things you could once only dream of are now within 
                        your reach; why not take hold of them?"

In the article, we are provided with some instructions/tips on how to construct a bucket list. Let's run through them one by one and see what we can make of it.

#1: Materials

A legitimate bucket list is a big deal that should have life-altering consequences, so we're instructed not to write it on something that can easily get lost, or something that sits on a shelf and never gets opened more again. The list should always be close by for two reasons: 1) so you can easily add to it, and 2) so you're always aware of it. I plan on having mine on my desk when I'm at home, and along with me whenever I go to work or out of town.

The article recommends a Moleskine notebook by name, so I picked one up at Target ($19.95 for a 5.25x8.25 notebook - which is apparently a dollar cheaper online). It's not quite pocket-sized, but it's also not a full-fledged 8.5x11 notebook you used to take notes in school.  It's that perfect in-between size.

To keep us from easily erasing goals down the road, we're instructed to use pen to write our list , so I grabbed a couple from the office supply cabinet at work. Let's be honest - I'd already spent too much on the notebook, so I had to find some cheaper options for my writing utensils. Can't beat free!!

#2: Writing the List

Now I'll admit, I already have a pretty extensive bucket-ish list typed up in Evernote (a program we'll hopefully work in a later post), so I had a little bit of a head start here. However, knowing that I'm officially writing these in pen in a notebook designated for my life's ambitions adds a little gravity to the situation. However, the article states that if a goal is important to you, no matter how big, it should make the list. (Full transparency, I wrote out a "practice list" in a different notebook first...Remember my "pristine" comment earlier?)

           "Life is short, but not short enough that you can't get a lot done before
          the final buzzer. Nothing is too don't leave anything
                           out that is important to you."

My bucket list items are all over the place. My brain officially goes AWOL when it comes to making lists like this. I created goals for many different areas of my life: career, health & fitness, relationships, faith, hobbies and travel. And I'm sure more will come to me after I finish up this post. Here are just a few examples:


In the end, I wrote down 22 different items on my official Bucket List. Here are the ones on this page as well as a few others:
  • Participate in a Spartan Race
  • Learn How to Play the Piano and/or Guitar
  • See the Northern Lights 
  • Go Skydiving
  • Change Jobs / Have a Career in Sports
  • Own a House
  • Get Back to My High School Weight
  • Digitize & Edit Old, Family Videos

#3: Maintaining the List

This is the part that is probably the hardest for all of us. It's easy to float away on a cloud of dreams and life goals, but once you have to face the music and stare down what you just wrote on that page, the reality hits you like a truck and you start questioning the items you were so eager to take on ten minutes ago. But think of the feeling you'll have once you can finally cross that life-long goal off that bucket list! And once one is completed, the next one will come that much easier!

In order to accomplish what we just wrote down, Chris instructs us to keep our list somewhere we can see it at least once a day and write down our progress. For this reason, I only put a few goals on each page - to leave room for notes and/or updates. Now we start making progress one day at a time, or one decision at a time! And don't erase any of your goals!


During the life of The Magazine Experiment, I really hope I will be able to cross off some of these goals along with you. And if I do, I promise to document them here. I encourage you to try this exercise as well - and let me know what goals you put down on YOUR bucket list! Tweet some of your favorite goals to me @MagExperiment on Twitter!

Also, make sure to check out The Art of Manliness. This site has a wealth of articles, tips and tricks for ANYTHING related to men or about men. You have a question about it? Chances are good that it's on the site.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Magazine Experiment: An Introduction

In today's world, people are looking everywhere for different ways to better themselves or learn new things. While some flock to read the newest self-help book by the trendiest guru, take online classes, or travel abroad, there are still some that turn to tried-and-true magazines (or at least their online form).

Now I'll be honest, my first thought when I think of magazines goes directly to a waiting room of any kind. In fact, I still remember seeing magazines like Highlights and National Geographic KIDS in the waiting room at the dentist back when I was in elementary school. Or that my grandma - still to this day - has old issues of Readers Digest in her bathroom.

But besides finding themselves in waiting room purgatory, magazines serve many different purposes. On one hand, you have your traditional magazines that write in-depth articles and conduct thoughtful interviews with the world's most influential people. These are magazines like LIFE, National Geographic or Newsweek. Your classical magazines that are appreciated for their journalism and professionalism.

On another hand, you have your lifestyle magazines that exist to help their readers improve their quality of life or the way they do life. These are magazines like Good Housekeeping, Better Homes & Gardens, Midwest Living or Family Circle, and people read them for articles on how to keep their laundry room organized, landscaping tips, recipes for any occasion, or the ever so popular "life hacks."

You then also have your health and fitness magazines that interview star athletes or celebrities, review the newest products or offer up exercise regimens not just for the average Joe, but for people who want to train like Gerard Butler did for the movie 300. These are magazines like Men's Health, Runner's World or SELF.

And this barely scratches the surface of the deep ocean that is magazines. I didn't even mention magazines on celebrity gossip, cooking, hobbies, travel, style or sports. So I hope this gives you an idea of the size of the pool we're dealing with - an endless wealth of magazine article gold!


So by this point you're probably asking, "Sooo....what's The Magazine Experiment?" Well this idea stemmed from two years of me neglecting Men's Health magazines after being gifted a subscription for Christmas. I was overweight then (and am even more so now), but rather than read them and learn from them, I let them all pile up on a shelf to collect dust. As someone who's been a weight loss yo-yo for the last eight years, they were frankly intimidating. The workouts seemed aimed at gym rats who were looking to make their already huge muscles even huger, and not so much at the 300 pound guy who was looking to get going in the right direction. It wasn't until recently that I opened them and started paging through them.

As I did, I was surprised by the number of different aspects to the magazine. Of course they suggested workouts and recipes to try, but they even gave random advice/tips on how to sing karaoke, spring clean your grill or buy a great suit! So I cut out every single article that I could actually try and experiment. And I decided that documenting my experiments either in written and/or video form was the best way to go. So here we are!

To start, I'll be documenting my tests here on the blog. Once I am able to make videos on a regular-ish basis, I'll be adding those to our YouTube channel. So let's get this ball rolling, shall we?

For starters, please let me know your favorite magazine! Or let me know of an article you'd like for me to put to the test!

See you online,