I Tried to Cut the Cord and Failed!

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.

TV
Not my actual TV

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?

Cut The Cord

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.

Commit

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.

Summary

  • 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.

29 thoughts on “I Tried to Cut the Cord and Failed!”

  1. This reminds me a lot of my trials with Sirius radio. It must be their corporate strategy. If you call they will offer you half price. It took me years to stop that addiction! I personally went cold turkey on the TV. I have access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, family member’s online cable streaming, and the library. But I rarely use them. I find that it gets easier with time. I’m now at the point where I’m thinking of cancelling services like Prime that glue you to one particular company but give you supposed perks like Video that make you feel stuck.

    1. From a corporate perspective, the game works. It let’s them charge more to the customers that are not willing to make a 15 minute phone call. Some people are going to see this post, know they are paying too much and still not make a phone call (Don’t be that person).

      Yes, I’m sure we would be fine going without cable or any other service. We do not want to go that route today. The best part, we will still get to FI. It may just take an extra couple of weeks.

    1. I feel you. With blogging filling up my free time these days, I don’t watch much TV either. The point I’m trying to get across here is that if cable or anything else is a priority for you, go for it. Just don’t pay more than you have to in order to avoid making a 15 minute phone call. Our cable bill pays for something we want. Any amount we pay over the lowest available price is throwing money away.

  2. Thanks for sharing the tips and lessons learned, Jason.

    The point about setting a reminder is key. I feel like we forget to do this every year with our cable, internet, or other utilities / reoccurring items. We call and lock-in a better deal but then forget and get hit for a month or two until we’re able to (usually) continue the same or a similar offer at the lower rate.

  3. Hang in there my friend. I can see you as the next successful financial blogger on HuffPo, CNBC, and maybe even Forbes magazine online. Just keep blogging away and believe in yourself. And don’t forget your humble beginnings in your side hustle to entrepreneurial greatness when you strike it rich. 🙂

  4. My kids and I are going on 2 years without cable now. I thought it was going to be a really big deal when I cut it off but my kids only missed it for about a month. We discovered there are so many shows and movies available on YouTube as well as other streaming sites. It was a big decision for me at first, but we don’t even miss cable anymore.

    1. I hear you Alanna. I’m sure we would be fine if we replaced cable or eliminated it entirely. Maybe even better off. For now, we don’t want to eliminate programming. If we streamed all the shows we wanted it would not save us anything compared to our current cable price.

    1. It’s crazy how much extra they try to charge you. A few years ago, I probably would have been too lazy to call and would have just paid the increased price.

  5. With very few exceptions, you cannot “replace” cable at a lower cost with streaming services. Yes, you can do the annual cost-reduction phone call and push cable costs to the lowest they will give you–something I did for years. But the truth with “cord-cutting” is that cutting cable is a decision to live with fewer services and entertainment options. I did not need TLC, Fox News, ESPN, or many of the other cable services, and by using an antenna and DVR, plus Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, we were able to cut our monthly video entertainment costs by over $100. Except for a few sports things that it would have been nice to see, we have not missed cable at all.

    1. Rick, If your willing to pass on certain programming, you can certainly save money by cutting the cord. I’m curious how much you pay now per month for internet, DVR, Netflix, Hulu, Prime & monthly videos. When I added up the cost of these things there was not much savings left compared to my discounted price. Plus I’d still be missing out on some of the programming I wanted.

  6. Nicely done, Jason. I took this path with Comcast for a while. I kept calling and threatening to cancel and they kept lowering my bill to get me to stay. After a few years of this they finally just said “fine” and let me leave. We replaced it with Hulu (with commercials) and Netflix and saved $100/month. It was a tough transition at first. A few of the shows I watch didn’t run on any of the streaming services and I had to abandon them. At this point, though, I don’t miss cable because I just don’t get involved with shows that I don’t have access to.

    We’re moving this weekend and I’m debating whether or not to try to get a deal on cable. At this point I might prefer to skip it even if they give me a deal just so that I don’t get hooked again.

    1. Nice job Matt! I see how it’s one of those things you can live without once you start.

      Wow, they actually dropped you? That’s bad business. I was ready to make the move but realized that internet+Hulu+Netflix would save only about $25 a month and we’d miss some programming we wanted. I valued the cable service enough to pay that small difference. If they did not offer me a solid discount, I’d have walked.

  7. Congrats on the savings! I also have Verizon FIOS and called to renegotiate our contract. I didn’t do quite as well as you did, but it was a price I could live with. We don’t need TLC, but we “need” enough other programming that I suspect cord cutting would be difficult for us as well (especially for my wife). Next time our contract is up, I plan on doing some serious looking to see if we can finally get rid of cable.

    1. Thanks Gary. If you think you can get a better deal elsewhere, don’t wait. Shop around today! You may be able to find enough savings that it offsets the cost of cancelling your contract. Or you may get a better deal on cable (again) when you threaten to cancel.

  8. Good stuff! I had a similar experience when I called up Fios to cancel a few months ago. The gave me their “best” offer, I refused, and then of course they came back with their “let me see what I can do for you” offer.

    I still ended up cutting cable entirely because I stream 99% of what I watch. So far I haven’t missed cable one bit!

  9. Cutting the cord can definitely save money but it’s something we have never considered. Why? Because we enjoy watching and recording shows and we feel we get the value out of the costs associated with our cable TV. I think that’s what it’s all about, right?

    1. Ding ding ding. I knew there was somebody else out there with cable! I agree that it’s about value. Thanks for your comment. I thought I was alone.

  10. I use this strategy too for my internet with AT&T. When I first got it, we paid $20 a month for a year and after that year they would automatically increase it to $40 per month. But to keep it at $20 I called them around the time the 1 year is up and let them know that I would cancel my service and look for another provider. So they went ahead and left it at $20/month for another year after I told them that. This worked for about four year until they didn’t budge and was going to increase my monthly rate. I canceled my service and jumped to Comcast.

    1. Nice job Kris! In the past, I’ve moved often enough that I just signed up for a new promotional rate at a new residence. I never really had to play this game much.

    1. Nice job Brad. Did you replace cable with other streaming services or just skip it all?

      I’m only paying $1,100 a year for cable and internet combined. Therefore, saving $1K by dropping cable would not be possible. I’d certainly drop it for that savings.

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