Living on less: Cutting the cord

Roku - Living on less: Cutting the cord.
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It’s time to get serious about spending less, and saving more. Take a look at your monthly expenses. Hopefully, you have less money going out than coming in, but for now it’s okay if you’re not quite there yet. There is one item in particular that can drain your bank account, $100 at a time, and the funny thing is: you don’t need it.

I’m referring to cable, of course. If you live in America, odds are you have some form of network television being broadcast into your house. 90% of all U.S. households subscribe to either cable or a dish equivalent. This is because of two reasons: 1. We’ve been conditioned to believe that we need it and 2. Bundling cable/internet services makes each individual service cost less.

We currently have Verizon FioS as our Internet Service Provider. Until recently, we were also receiving cable television service through them as well. When we moved into our house in November of 2011, the first thing we did was call Verizon to have these services installed.

$100 a month! Hey, that’s not bad at all, we thought. That included a free DVR, 200+ channels and 25up/25down internet speeds. With all of this great news, and shiny new services, we tuned out the part of the conversation with the Verizon rep when they said “2 year contract” and “introductory price”.

Our bill was steadily around $100 for the first entire year of our cable/internet subscription, so it never really occurred to us that we were wasting money, since internet alone through Verizon would run us about $80/month without the bundle.

But then, our November 2012 bill came in the mail: $134.88. This price increase was attributed to one simple fact, which was that we were no longer “new customers”. The DVR went from free to $14.99/month, and our new customer discount ($15/month) expired.

I called Verizon immediately and pleaded with them to lower our bill, because it was out of the range that I was willing to pay. They told me to call back in January, as this is the month they receive incentives to pass out to customers in need.

Long story short, I called back in January and they still couldn’t do anything to reduce my bill. After a heated conversation I told them I wanted to drop my cable service altogether, all I wanted was internet. They tried to keep us from dropping cable by saying, “Internet alone is $74.99/month, if you keep your cable service it’s only $84.99*/month”.

Why then was I paying almost $135 for an $85 service? I told the guy to screw, and shortly thereafter we returned our $15/month set top box to the Verizon store. The shitty part is that we had to pay an early termination fee of $120, but it was worth it and we would make that money back within 2 months.

I realize that $75/month for internet isn’t stellar, but this area is duopolized by Comcast and Verizon, and a lower price can’t be obtained without a new contract. Either way, without our cable service, we’re currently saving $60.00 every month. Or $720.00 a year. Or $9,153.82 compounded over a 10-year period.

While cable added $60 to our utility bill every month, alternative media sources that provide nearly the same exact content are available at significantly lower costs (and without contracts!) Three simple and cost effective additions to your TV can make it a media powerhouse: HD antenna, DVD or Blu-Ray player, and a streaming-media box.

Roku 2 SX - Living on less: Cutting the cord

Roku: Magic steaming-media box!

We already had an Xbox 360 to play DVDs, so all we had to do was purchase a Roku streaming-media player and an antenna (starting at $10). Installing the Roku was extremely simple. Plug it into the wired network or connect to the wireless network. Open an account at roku.com. Authorize the device.

Then pick the channels you want (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Pandora, Spotify, etc) and add them to your device. Some of these require paid subscriptions, others like Pandora only require you to have a free account.

There are a ton of options if you choose not to use Roku: Boxee, AppleTV, and Slingbox are some of the other big names. You might also choose to set up a Home Theater PC instead, which is an all-in-one solution.

We have a subscription to Neflix ($8/month), Hulu Plus ($8/month), and free access to Amazon Instant Video with our Amazon Prime subscription. If you’re a sports fan, you aren’t going to have very much luck with these subscription-based services. That’s where the HD antenna comes into play. These aren’t the same crappy antennas from years past. New HD antennas produce crystal clear images and are extremely reliable. They give you free access to NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and PBS among others (list of channels for your area).

You don’t have to be embarrassed about having a Super Bowl party at your house, because no one will know that they aren’t watching cable (unless you tell them).

With our optional services we pay $75 (for internet) + $16 (Netflix/Hulu) for a total of $91/month. This is at least satisfactory, and the service so far has been terrific. I would highly recommend switching away from cable, even if you have to pay a termination fee you will make your money back tenfold in the long run.

18 Comments

  1. Wow. Where do you live? I don’t have Verizon but I only pay $45 for broadband cable after cancelling my cable TV 5 years ago. I used to pay $160/month. No thanks.

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  2. I’ve been cable free for about a decade now. I don’t really miss it. Every so often, when I travel and stay in a hotel, I check out what’s on TV. Over the years I’ve become consistently more disappointing by my viewing options. Occasionally, when there is something that I want to watch, I find some non cable related way to obtain it.

    I don’t think that being without cable has adversely affected my life. Although I do admit to frequently looking ignorant when people start discussing TV.

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  3. I typically stress to people that canceling cable is not a decision of getting the exact same content for less money. It’s a lifestyle change. You do get different content and have a different experience. Having said that, I’ve been a cord cutter for quite awhile now, and wouldn’t think of going back.

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    • It’s true that cord cutting can be a big lifestyle change, but I think one of the reasons it worked so well for us at this time is our family has been gradually increasing in size, eliminating a lot of the time we used to spend in front of the tube. Everyone’s experience will be quite different, but we have found that it has increasingly met our specific entertainment needs compared to just aimlessly flipping through countless cable channels. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. I hope this isn’t a stupid question but can you please explanation how $720/year is $9153.82 over 10 yrs? What calculation did you use? Thanks!

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  5. $70 a month for internet is ridiculous…I pay 30 a month and recently got Time Warner to lower it to $22/month. I don’t have the “fastest”, but I stream my netflix through my Roku and it works perfectly. I live with a roommate and she and I can both be surfing the internet and watching the Roku at the same time and it works perfectly. Just my two cents!

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    • Renee — I would love to pay $30/month for internet. Our only two options in my area are Comcast and Verizon for high speed (5 Mbps +). I’ve looked for other companies in the area that can provide at least 5 Mbps (which is what would be required for a decent Netflix connection) and they don’t exist here. We could switch to Comcast for their $40 promotional rate, but after it’s up we’d be S.O.L because the prices would just go right back up and Verizon keeps track of customers who leave for the competition and don’t treat you too well when you come crawling back.

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  6. I have cut every variable expense that I know of, except sadly the cable bill. My reasoning is selfish, brutal, and in some cases (pleasingly) gruesome…I’m a diehard boxing fan, and always have been.

    The only way to see the best boxing in the world in the states is to have HBO and Showtime (and ESPN and Fox1 offers a little, lower level fix).

    If not for this, I’d have cut the cord long ago — I know I’m pitiful, and I know I’m unrelatable (as America has all but cut its ties with the sweet science), but for me, it’s my favorite damned content to consume. I hate myself too.

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  7. your blog is awesome. ive been drinking the kool-aid for dave ramsey for awhile now, “about to finish up babystep 2″ but your advice hits home all the time. thanks for posting what you post…

    im about to pull the plug on verizon cable in jan 2014. they tried to go w/that scare of ETF of $150 but thats a done deal for me. they also raised up the bill on us too!

    i would like your input on our verizon cell phones. i work for a healthcare system that gets us a 24% discount w/verizon wireless. i have two lines on the family plan & we have been grandfathered in w/the unlimited plan. that bill comes out to $142, the ETF is $500, the cost of two republic wireless plans w/4g would be 80 plus fees. +$600 for two motox. $1100 to make the switch.

    one of phones finishes up the contract in 5 months, the other in 2015. ive been hemming & hawing over what im going to do on jan 3rd. (that’s the next payperiod)
    what would recommend?
    waiting 5 months or just pulling the plug on verizon wireless now?
    thanks

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  8. Cut the cable today for the first time in 7 years after much psychological hand-wringing. It will save us $70/mo. It was actually hard to do but what clinched it for us was when you called it an instant pay rise. Couldn’t say no to that!

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  9. I’m trying to convince my husband we should pull the plug in the next month. It will be easier when the crappy summer TV shows come on. But it’s a hard sell to make because, we too, are in Maryland, and internet alone just isn’t that much cheaper. I think it would be a no-brainer if there was a $30/month internet option…

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    • The Xbox requires the Xbox Live service to use apps like Netflix and Hulu. That adds about $80 every year. It made more sense to pay $80 once.

      Reply
      • Xbox Live Gold (the paid subscription to Xbox Live) is no longer required for accessing streaming video based entertainment services on Xbox. I am using my Xbox too for netflix.

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