I’m always looking for ways to simplify my life and cut expenses. Reduce, Recycle and Reuse has long been a personal mantra.
If you grew up in a house where your mother dated the toilet paper rolls, painstakingly squeezed, flattened out and re-squeezed the toothpaste tube, and watered down the shampoo to make it last, you grow up thrifty or extremely and defiantly wasteful.
Try as I might, I’ve never been able to throw a bottle away until it’s completely empty. In fact, at times its hard to toss items like glass jars, empty boxes and scraps of paper into the recycle bin because I can always imagine using them again.
Luckily, I’m not a hoarder, and I’m more afraid of becoming one than I am of needing something I recently tossed. That said, I’m sure I still keep too much stuff.
Once a month, I try to go through at least one room in the house and clean out drawers and storage spaces. I also try to clear out any mental clutter I’ve been carrying around.
I keep a list of goals and chores on my phone. They may be personal, professional or simply related to being a homeowner. Completed tasks are checked off, and I re-evaluate what’s left. Why have I not done this? Is it a matter of time or money? Do I still need/want to do this?
After I’m done, I go over my finances to see how to afford what I want/need to get done.
This brings me back to the title of this article. Last year, I replaced some appliances with newer more energy efficient ones which helped reduce my gas, electric and water bills. Win, win for me. Looking at my cable bill, I noticed the two year service contract for my internet, telephone (landline) and cable television would end in October. We’d been “binge-watching” several TV shows on Hulu and streaming movies last year, so we hadn’t actually been watching that much cable. Once I started thinking about it, I couldn’t justify spending that much money every month if there was an alternative. So, I did some research. I’m not going to bore you with every detail or tell you which companies I actually chose, but I cut the cord at the end of October and I’ve been cable free long enough to walk you through some choices and the pros and cons of cord cutting.
I have a cell phone, which I use for business and personal calls. Usually the calls to my landline were sales calls or wrong numbers. I had a landline because when I moved to this house, utility companies still required you to have one to transfer service or open a new account. Did I really want to make my cell phone my default number and risk it falling onto a telemarketer’s list?
Traditional phone services like AT&T, MCI or Verizon were available plus other options at lesser cost – Vonage, Ooma, VoIP magic jack offer low rates, but rates can and do eventually go up and some of the reviews I read were critical of call clarity. Google Voice is still being offered for free.
Google Voice offers a single Google forwarding number to all user phones with free unlimited calling and SMS within the US and Canada plus low international rates as opposed to my phone service that was bundled with internet and cable, so unless I call all over the world it’s free. One disadvantage – I learned my number was one of the phone numbers that could not be transferred to Google Voice.
I love my high speed internet and knew I would be keeping it, but learned it would cost more unbundled, so be prepared to pay a higher internet bill when and if you unbundle.
I’ve had my share of problems with cable boxes that required time on my computer with a service tech or a home visit to replace equipment. Over the years I’ve tried two major cable companies with similar results. The starting package is always awesome, but when the special rates expire things get pricey. While it’s super cool to have so many channels, we didn’t watch most of them. Many of the channels we did watch were in different packages. There’s no a la carte, so you can’t design a package that works best for you.
According to eMarketer, 22.2 million US adults cut the cord by the end of 2017. Dish and DirecTV lost 475,000 customers while Sling TV and DirecTV Now (pcmag.com source) gained 536,000 new subscribers.
Before you make your decision to “cut the cord,” do your research. There are many helpful articles online about “cord cutting” - Read several. Sit down with family members and talk about what you want to watch and what you are willing to give up.
If you are a big hockey fan, be aware that in Pittsburgh, you will not be able to watch live Penguins games unless the Pens are playing on NBCSN because AT&T Sports is only available on Comcast or Verizon Fios Cable TV or DirecTV or Dish Network satellite TV. We watch highlights on the NHL Network and we can watch the Pens games 48 hours after they air live. It was a tough sell, but saving almost $100 each month can buy a few tickets to attend the occasional Pens game.
FYI, we were able to watch live coverage of the Olympics.
Sling TV, Hulu, Amazon Video, Netflix or PlayStation Vue offer different programs, so be sure to go on-line and read about them to find out which service will work best for you and what accessories you will need. You will still need high speed internet, so don’t try to skimp on a lesser speed. The great news with these services is that you pay monthly and can discontinue service without paying a penalty.
If you don’t watch a lot of television you can buy a Modern HD antenna which sits next to your TV (no need to go on the roof ) to watch live TV. It’s small and unobtrusive. You will still need a DVR to record programs for later viewing. Top rated HDTV antennas run from $17 to about $60 and can pick up stations 60-70 miles away. The closer to a window you are the better. I paid $25 for our HDTV antenna and we get about 30 local channels for free – always a good back up if you lose your Internet connection. Beyond the “Big three” networks, the channels we pick up have limited appeal. You can supplement your viewing experience with Hulu, Amazon Video (free with Amazon Prime membership) or Netflix.
You can try Sling TV and you have some flexibility choosing the channels you want and the price you pay.
For internet-based streaming TV you can also purchase deals from Hulu, Netflix and Amazon. You can stream to your TV from a decent laptop, using an Amazon Fire Stick, Roku, Google Chromecast, or Apple TV if you don’t have a Smart TV which lets you access many streaming apps. If you play video games, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 support many streaming apps. The Nintendo Switch only has the Hulu streaming app for now. You can also find media hubs on many newer model Blu-ray players.
If you were born before cable TV, chances are you have kids, nieces or nephews or your friends have kids in or past their teens who can be a valuable resource for any questions you have.
If you decide to do it, when you call your cable provider to unbundle, remember, you need to keep your high speed internet. The service representative will offer some awesome deals to keep your business, but these deals all expire and eventually you will be back paying full rates. Cord cutting isn’t for everyone. You may or may not cut down on TV time or enjoyment of that time, but you can save some serious cash.