Homemade HD antenna saves hundreds

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How far would you go to pay off your debts faster? This month’s Frugal $ense winner — Tiffany Rodi of Cumming, Ga. — and her family cut their cable service and built an HD antenna out of some things in the garage.

September’s Frugal $ense winner: Tiffany Rodi

Tiffany Rodi of Cumming, Ga., won $100 for submitting the following tip:
Turn odds and ends into TV gold
Want to save $100 per month? Disconnect your cable or satellite. We built an HD antenna for free using plans from the Internet. The television reception is now clearer as all channels are in HD and we can get at least a dozen channels. The other benefit is we spend more time reading, exercising, playing games and talking, and less time watching TV. It didn’t cost us anything and we save at least $1,200 a year — enough for a vacation! 
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Bankrate: Why did you decide to build your own HD antenna?

Tiffany Rodi: Well, my husband and I are on Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Steps” plan and have been since August 2008. We were looking for ways to cut as much (spending) as we could so we could use that money monthly to pay off our debts. So we kind of held off on the cable. That was kind of the last resort — you know, for most people it is. It got to the point where it was like, “Something’s got to give here.” So we cut the cable off. We still wanted to watch TV. We have two small children and they want to watch something. So we went online and Googled HD antennas and found a plan for one and built it out of stuff in the garage. So that was it. And now we can get better reception than we did with cable. It’s just as clear as a bell.

Bankrate: Which baby step are you on in the Dave Ramsey plan?

Tiffany Rodi: Baby step No. 2: Pay off all nonmortgage debt. We’ll be finished with that at the end of the month, so we’ll be debt-free except for our mortgage at the end of the month. So in order to achieve that, we cut just about every (expense) we possibly could.

Bankrate: So you already had all of the materials you needed to build the HD antenna?

Tiffany Rodi: Yes, I mean you just need, it’s like (wire) coat hangers, and a piece of wood, and some kind of little cable piece that my husband already had. It’s like a piece that you plug the wire into. My husband’s a tech-savvy guy. There might have been a little electrical tape to hold the cable piece on. I don’t know the name of it. I would think most people would have most of that in their garage. We used wood flooring. We replaced our wood flooring a couple years ago so we had some out in the garage. My husband just used a piece of that.

Bankrate: How much would you estimate those materials cost all together?

Tiffany Rodi: Our piece of wood is probably 2 feet long. So a couple bucks for that. Then some screws, so a couple of bucks for that. I would say less than $10 definitely. You can get it all at Home Depot.

Bankrate: How long did it take to build your antenna?

Tiffany Rodi: It probably took my husband maybe an hour from watching the video to going in the garage and finding supplies, and putting it all together. I would say about an hour.

Bankrate: Where is your antenna?

Tiffany Rodi: We have it inside. I know some people put theirs outside or in the attic. We actually have a plasma TV on the wall. (The antenna) sits a little off to the side of the plasma. It kind of looks like a sculpture. I have people ask me all the time and I tell them it’s an antenna.

Bankrate: How many channels do you get?

Tiffany Rodi: Now that they have the new over the air service, they can broadcast more than one channel. PBS, for example there are three PBS (channels). There’s one for kids, one for history and one for something else. With all of those we probably get 15 (to) 20 channels maybe. We get all of the regular channels, ABC, CBS, two NBCs. We have multiples of most channels, but each one shows different programs.

Bankrate: Do you have any other tips on being frugal?

Tiffany Rodi: One (of) our biggest ones, I coupon a lot. Most people nowadays do. I go online and look up at a lot of message boards and match up coupons with sales, so I get a lot of free food. One of the biggest things we save on is utilities. We only run the air conditioning no more than three months out of year, and the heat no more than three months out of the year. And the rest of the time it’s just windows. We only had the air on from June 15th through Aug. 28th. And living in Georgia … it’s still hot. We save over $100 a month on heating and cooling from that. We just do a lot of (little things). Keep the lights off as much as possible. We’ve cut every kind of lawn service. We don’t eat out at all. I can’t tell you the last time we ate out. We don’t go out at all. Redbox is my best friend. A lot of times you can find codes online for free movies. That’s what we’ve done most of the time. Blockbuster charges $4 or $5 to rent a movie. Why not rent a movie for a buck?