So… it’s official. I’m not only the least fascinating financial blogger in the industry, but also the worst. I tried to cut the cord and failed! You can’t ever accomplish your financial goals and pay for cable at the same time, right? I’m doomed.
My cable/internet/phone contract was a couple months away from expiring. I started looking into all the new streaming options to figure out the best way to replace my expensive cable package and save some money.
Before we get there, let me point out one thing: there are plenty of “life optimization” reasons to cancel all television programming. Clearly, there are many things you can do with your time that are better than watching TV. But guess what? We don’t have to eliminate all the non-productive items in our life. This blog is about personal finance. I’m here to identify effective financial decisions. Not to convince you to sacrifice something that has value to you. If you want to watch TV via cable or a streaming service to relax, I’m not going to talk you out of it. As for my family, while we may try to minimize our screen time, we’re not going to drop the habit today.
And with that decision, the next question became: how do we get what we want for the most effective price possible?
Winning Move # 5
Saving Money on Cable and Internet
At the beginning of the year, our cable bill cost $140.17 after tax. (While I’m calling it a cable bill, the cost also included internet and home phone). This service included two cable boxes and a multi-room DVR. We don’t use the home phone, but every price I’ve received has been cheaper with the home phone included.
To set a baseline, I can buy an internet-only plan for $40 a month plus tax. I figured pairing it with an inexpensive streaming service would save big money.
Replace Rarely Used Cable Boxes
Earlier in the year, we did a little experiment. We replaced our bedroom cable box with a Roku Streaming Stick. The device cost $50. Trading in the cable box saves us $9.80 per month.
This experiment worked well. We rarely use the bedroom TV anyway. When we wanted to use it, the free programming that came on the Roku served our needs. As a bonus, we were able to watch live TV on many channels by signing in to the channel on the Roku via our cable account. With a cable subscription, we can watch live TV on our second TV without paying a monthly fee for a box! The savings on the cable box would replace the cost of the Roku in a little more than five months. After that, the savings are all gravy!
Make a List of Desired Programming
To evaluate replacing our cable plan, we needed to decide what we wanted to watch. I sat down with Mrs. WPF and made a list of the networks and programs we wanted to access. I’m not going to expand on the list here. Quite frankly, I don’t want this post to be a discussion about bad reality TV. Let’s just say that having TLC was a “need,” which actually became a challenge later on.
Try a Streaming Service
It looked like a subscription to Hulu along with a second Roku would meet all of our television needs. We signed up for a free trial. The “commercial free” version of Hulu was only $11.99 a month. If it worked for us, it would have been awesome!
We were extremely satisfied with the streaming quality of Hulu through our Roku. Unfortunately, there were shows we wanted to watch that weren’t available on Hulu. Remember, this experiment was to save money without sacrificing the programming we wanted. Subscribing to Hulu alone would not be a winning option.
Evaluate Other Streaming Services
I looked into the other, somewhat more comprehensive streaming services. Sling TV was priced right, starting at $20 a month but did not include all the channels we wanted.
DirecTV Now and Playstation Vue seemed to have all the channels we wanted. Unfortunately, they are expensive starting at $35 a month. To the best of my knowledge these prices also do not come with a DVR or local sports networks. They made the shortlist but also were not ideal.
Look Into Cable
Luckily, my neighborhood has access to both Comcast and Fios. The competition works to the advantage of the consumer. When this project started, we had Fios. I decided to price out a package for new subscribers with Comcast to see if that could be our magic ticket. That cost was $99.94 per month before taxes and fees with one DVR.
With fallback options identified, I called Fios and asked to cancel my subscription. I told them their cost was too high. They immediately transferred me to the retention department. I shared that my bill of $130.37 was about to go up because my contract was ending. I explained to the agent that my cable and internet needs could be met by another company for a lower cost.
They made me an offer to stay with my current plan at a cost of $97.09 after tax per month for the first year. That’s right, one 15-minute phone call reduced my bill by $33.28 per month. If I had done nothing, the price actually would have increased. My time is valuable but that’s a pretty good return on it in my book!
Still, I was hesitant to commit. The problem was that after the first year, the price would go up by $30 a month and I was entering into a two-year contract. If I needed to cancel early, it was going to cost $10 a month for each unused month. I was factoring $120 to cancel my contract after the first year when the price increased to my total cost. Their offer was a good deal but I asked them to save it to my account and said I’d think about it.
Always Ask for A Better Deal
I called the Verizon back a few days later. I explained that I was interested in a new contract and hesitant to sign up because of the two-year contract. I asked for the same deal they offered with only a one-year contract.
They came back saying they could not shorten the contract. They offered an another $5 off the monthly bill getting me to $91.67 per month after taxes and fees. Although not as much savings as last time, it’s still not a bad return for another 15-minute phone call.
At this price, I was comfortable keeping Fios. We are happy with the service and get all the channels we want. They even threw HBO in for free for one year. I would not pay extra for it, but it’s nice to have for no additional cost.
We signed up! The new contract represents a savings of $38.70 per month for an annual savings $464.40.
Set a Reminder For Next Time
This one is important! I set another reminder in my calendar for next year to do this again. I’m confident that I won’t let my cable costs increase by $30 a month next year. I will either negotiate another discount with Verizon or cancel my contract. Hopefully, the streaming service options will be better by then. That way, I can be a good personal finance blogger like my peers and cut the cord.
- Replacing a cable box with a Roku Stream Stick saved: $9.80 per month (after paying for the device)
- The first call to the cable company took 15 minutes and cut $33.28 off my monthly bill
- The second phone call took an extra $5.42 per month off my bill.
- My new cable bill cost is $91.67, representing an annual savings of $582.00
Winning Move Series
This article is part of a series of posts about the actions I have taken to save or earn more money. After adding in these moves, the annual wins total $2,444. Not bad considering I did not make any sacrifices for these savings.
Previous Winning Moves:
Winning Move #1 $356 more interest earned
Winning Move #2 $787 saved on auto and home insurance
Winning Moves #3 & #4 $719 in expected investment returns
If you save on your TV or Internet after reading this article, please let me know in the comments below. Knowing that I’m helping others earn or save a few extra bucks keeps me motivated to find more savings for you.