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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Golfyball's Austerity measures start here....

After my VAT ramblings and ravings yesterday, I very carelessly forgot to put my orange box back in the pile of oddments in the garage. So this morning finds me tripping over the damn thing, climbing on board and spouting on again.

Here I am carrying on where I left off.

....and another thing.... If austerity measures are good enough for the government, then they're good enough for me!! I mean they should be concentrating on the tax evaders rather than penalising the tax payers, but two can play at that game. It's now become my mission to re-examine every single expenditure I have and to reduce it where possible to see what can be saved without reducing my quality of living. This might be fun, and who knows we might both learn something.

My largest outgoing is a mortgage. Right now I can't do much about this. It's fixed rate and the redemption fee makes remortgaging prohibitive. It is actually my one biggest bug bear with the entire financial crisis. Interest rates are at an all time low and I'm saddled with almost 6%. On the plus side, I've only got another 6 months until the fixed period ends so you can expect interest rates to climb significantly by then. It's just my luck.

Next item I'm going to tackle is the TV package. I'm a Sky World HD subscriber. Not so many moons ago this used to cost about 40 quid a month. Now with HD and our new friend "Mr 20% VA feckin T" thats climbed to in excess of £60 per month. It's got to go. Obviously freeview is an option and is in fact what we have in the rest of the house (only having sky in the living room) but after much deliberation and research the answer for me is Freesat+ HD.

The outlay in cost is going to be around £300, for a Humax Foxsat HD PVR but the saving is my Sky subscription fee every month. So 5 months will see it pay for itself, which means the real question is what's the impact on the service itself? Over the last couple of months I've been paying close attention to what we watch which has helped me gauge what we need and it turns out that the impact to our viewing habits is almost nil, and in one case is actually improved.

Sky have over 30 HD channels and god knows how many other SD channels, but we regularly still only watch the major 5. Occasionally we dip into the sport, or movies, but generally speaking the Sky offerings themselves are pretty much neglected.

The beauty of the Freesat solution is what is can do that Sky can't or simply will not. Sky are very possessive about content, even when it's not theirs. With the Freesat box you can plug in external USB storage and copy recordings off the box for manipulation via a whole host of video editing applications. Furthermore, freesat now supports the BBC iPlayer, a beautiful piece of software that allows you to go back and watch any of the last 7 days BBC TV content on-demand, as well as a few other choice bits off BBC output. In the near future it will also have the ITV Player and 4OD which are essentially the same service but for both ITV and Channel 4.

These services use the same front end interface for integration, but their content is delivered via your local broadband connection via a LAN connection on the back of the box. Yet more goodness awaits just around the corner with the launch of yet more HD channels beyond BBC One HD and ITV1 HD. The only downside I can see is the loss of 4HD which often has very watchable content and Sky News HD for when I want a more "News of the World" take on whatever is going on out there.

Of course, there is a little known (because Sky don't really want you to know about it) offering from BskyB which enables you to watch all the "free-to-air" channels available on the platform. You need to have a free sky viewing card, which costs a mere £25. Sounds ideal doesn't it? But there's a catch. If you want to be able to record anything, you need a Sky+ subscription and that's a tenner a month. Equally, you can't move any of these recordings anywhere else. Seems stupid.

Put simply switching to FreeSat HD+ is a bit of a no-brainer and why I haven't done it sooner is beyond me.

So that's going to save me £720 per year and I've been making active noises about Amazon vouchers for birthday presents to help me fund the initial outlay for the box. Looking for a win-win situation here.

So what's next to get the chop ??.... ah... my Tax Burden.... Tune in tomorrow. :-)

This post originally appeared here: Posterous
 

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