At some point, most of you have paid for big brand cable, internet, and TV service. Want to know how to save money? I mean a lot of money? Dump your brand name cable provider and switch.
The two big players in this space are Xfinity (formerly Comcast) and Verizon. Which service you can get depends on what's available in your area. In some places, it's Xfinity. Other sites, it's Verizon. Over the years, we've used both. I'm not here to review or compare and contrast these two services. You will find customers of both that are thrilled with the service and those who hate it. Such is life. We all want different things and have different standards and expectations about what excellent service looks like.
Here is something that, in my experience, talking to a lot of people, is consistent. The vast majority of people don't like two things about these companies.
- They have a two-year contract offering “reduced: rates
- If you don't buy their “bundles” (internet, phone, TV), you will pay way more.
I believe in choice. The cable companies' version of choice does not match mine. Their options are several bundled packages. My version is letting me pick and choose whether I want a landline phone, what stations I want, and what kind of internet speed. It's the landline and TV choices that drive me crazy.
Does this bother any of you?
Let me share what we learned and how we broke free from cable chokehold.
NOTE: This is not a paid advertisement for any product mentioned. I am not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned, nor do I have a financial relationship with them. YouTube TV is a service I've been delighted with and one that has saved us a lot of money.
The Verizon package
Before moving to our current area twenty-one years ago, our cable choice was Comcast (pre-Xfinity). Where we currently live, Verizon was the best choice of the services available (or so we thought). The process to get set up was pretty simple. I know a lot of people feel otherwise, but I liked the customer service at Verizon. They were always responsive, courteous, and helpful. There were a few exceptions, of course. Overall, I had far more positive experiences than negative ones.
The package offers were numerous. The landline was the difference in the discounted offer. If you refused that, you paid a substantially higher price. So having a landline was a given. Then came the internet speed. Initially, the fastest option was 25/25 Mbs (megabits per second) upload and download speeds. Now you can go up to 100/100 Mbs. Of course, as you move into the higher rate, a higher price accompanies the move.
After those two choices, they offer TV packages (Have I mentioned how much I hate these bundled packages?). OK. The first choice is the number of basic cable channels you have. I don't remember the details, but they ranged from a low end of around 140 channels to up to 500 channels. Who in the world needs 500 channels. Is this an ego thing? Is it to brag you have the most? I don't get it. But apparently, it's a thing.
Here is another trick they use. If you like a particular sport, say college basketball, NBA, or the NFL, you can purchase packages to get the ones you want. It's the same for movie channels. You can pick up HBO, Showtime, and other paid movie channels for the extra monthly payment.
Car dealer tricks
You know when you go buy a car from a dealer, the salesperson always shows the vehicle with the most expensive option package first. In most cases, they know you're not going to buy that car. But if they start you at a higher price, the goal is to make you feel better about spending less than that. Even though you will likely pay more than what you budgeted for initially. How do they do that? Options packages.
Maybe you want a sunroof without power windows. Or perhaps you want power windows without a sunroof. Or maybe you're looking for a sports package with allow wheels, high-performance tires and suspension, and more horsepower under the hood. Here's the trick.
They know the most popular items buyers want. They package a bunch of other chotskies (urban dictionary spelling) in with those options that you have to buy to get the ones you want. Chotskies are those useless items we thought we wanted and needed that never get used. In-car language, to get the alloy wheels, you must have the leather seats, expensive Bose stereo system (which doesn't suck by the way), all of which add up to a few thousand extra dollars for the car.
Then at the dreaded closing booth (or is it the finance office), you get sold the custom wax, warranties, and $3,000 worth of chotskies you don't want or need.
That's the same trick the big cable companies use to bump your monthly bill higher. You may want HBO only. But to get the HBO, you have to get the 300 channel TV package with the high-speed internet you don't want or need. Did these guys go through the same training together? Seriously! Do they compare notes?
You also pay a monthly fee for the cable boxes. Your main box costs around $15/mo. Each additional box is $5/mo. If you have a four-bedroom home and want a box in each room, you're paying $35/mo for the privilege.
After many years of overpaying and being angry about it, I finally decided I'd had enough and looked for other options.
I looked at options like Hulu, Sling, Apple TV, Amazon TV, and several others before settling on YouTube TV. I'm not going to go into the comparison of each one of the options. I signed up for free trials from most of them and ended up with YouTube TV.
All of these options are streaming services. They come to your TV via the internet. If you don't have a good high-speed internet connection, it may not work well. Keep that in mind before you decide.
With YouTube TV, the channels you get depend on the geographic area where you live. You enter the zip code of your city, and your packages display on the screen. Here are the channels for my area:
That's a total of sixty-six channels. When I first looked at this, I thought, “man, I'm losing a lot of channels.” When I thought about how little TV I watch, that thought quickly faded.
When you sign up, you can use any of your Google logins to register. In other words, your Gmail account, YouTube, or any Google account. Set up is super simple. Once your account is set up, you have a 30-day trial. Unlike big cable, YouTube TV is a month to month cancel at any time contract.
My TVs are pretty out of date. Your setup will likely be different than mine. I have a thirteen-year-old (yup, almost like the Camry's many of you drive) plasma TV. The model weighs in at around 120 pounds. It took my neighbor and me to mount this bad boy on the wall. The picture today is as good as it was the day we bought it.
In our bedroom, we have a cheap 32 inch LCD (yes, not LED) TV. Smart TV technology did not exist when we bought either TV. I use a Roku to connect. If you have a Smart TV, you don't need it. I paid maybe $69 for each of the Roku connections.
When I connect to YouTube TV, there are three choices at the top of the page – Library > Home > Live.
The library is where any recorded shows live and scheduled recordings. I love the library. Unlike the cable boxes, which are DVRs with limited storage, the library has unlimited space. You can record anything you want and save it in the library forever.
With the DVR, the more storage you want, the more you pay. Everything is extra (did we compare them to car salespeople?).
To add a recording library is super simple. I have to admit, though, I had a bit of a learning curve. We Boomers often do with technology. When you're searching through a program, there is a plus button you move to with your remote. Click on it, and the show gets added to your library. If it's a series, it will record the entire series. If you have some favorite sports teams, it's even better.
I'm an Indianapolis Colts fan (that's fun again!). If I add the Colts in the library, it will record every televised Colts game. You can add as many teams as you want. As I write this, it's during March Madness. As a guy who grew up in Indiana in the area where basketball ruled, I love college basketball. My favorite time of the year is the NCAA tourney. I have the NCAA tournament in the library. It's set to record the final four. You can set it by the channel as well.
Many cable services have this option too. Storage is limited. Here it isn't.
We love Shark Tank. I record all episodes. YouTube TV uses an algorithm (doesn't everybody) that learns what you watch. When you click the home button, all of those shows are listed at the top. Of course, during March, I'm watching a lot of college basketball. Any live games show up first on the list. I don't have to search for them. Shark Tank episodes are there. Anything either of us regularly watches if on at the time we turn on the TV will show in the home area.
The lines below list other options by category, like sports, movies, TV shows, etc. It's a pretty cool feature that makes it easy to find things you're already watching. We watchTV overall. Most of it is Shark Tank or, for me, a game of some sort. We find everything we need on the home screen page.
There's no need to flip through the channels to find what you like.
As the title suggests, the live section is like a regular TV listing. It has the channel on the left menu, the time at the top, and the shows listed underneath. If you want to channel surf, you can go to the live TV and move through the channels to quickly see what's on and what's scheduled.
If you have a Smart TV, you can do all of this with your TV remote. Since I don't, I use the Roku remote. My only complaint when I first switched was the remote. The Roku remote leaves a lot to be desired. It's small, with limited choices. It's dark with no illumination. If you're watching a movie or your favorite show in a darkened room, it's hard to see the buttons. I've made my wife honking mad when watching shows when I hit the wrong button and disconnect from what we're watching.
But for most of you, it won't be an issue if you have a Smart TV.
Now for the most important thing – the savings from the switch. We have saved roughly $125/ month or $1,500 annually by switching to YouTube TV and away from Verizon. Here's the simple math of the savings.
Our Verizon bill was $230/month. I am honestly cringing, putting that number on paper. It pains me to think about how long we paid that money without looking for other options. Complacency was not our friend.
When I called Verizon to make a move, of course, they went all out to try and keep me on board. Isn't it amazing how the offers and discounts come rolling in when you're about to cancel a service? The salesperson was very respectful and friendly but also quite persistent. She gave it a reasonable effort. When she felt me moving to the point of annoyance, she stopped.
I love and kept Verizon's Fios internet service. I have the 75/75 Mbs speed that I pay $64.99/mo for it. Since I run this blog and another business from my home, I need a fast, reliable internet. I'm happy with Verizon in that regard.
I pay $40/ mo. for YouTube TV. Add the Verizon internet service to the YouTbe TV brings my monthly total to $104.99. We'll round it to $105.00 to keep it more straightforward. That's a savings of $125/mo over the $230 Verizon bill. (Price update: YouTube TV announced a price increase to $49.99/mo. Though higher, it's still much cheaper than cable)
With those savings, I can put up with the lousy remote and fewer choices in channels. I love having the extra $1,500 in our budget every year. We've saved a ton of money over the last couple of years by decluttering and focusing on cutting expenses.
For the record, I don't long for the old Verizon remote control anymore.
There are so many ways to save money these days. We got stuck in our comfort zone for many years, and never bothered to look at other options. In retrospect, we would have saved a lot of money in doing these things sooner. But that's the way hindsight works. Things are always much more transparent, looking back than in the present.
Whether it's the car you drive, the house you purchase, the job you choose, or the area where you live, it's always good to check yourself. Are there better options for any of these? Do we need some of these things to make us happy? Did we purchase these things and convince ourselves they were needs when, in fact, they were wants?
In our case, the answer is yes. When we look back over how much money we've saved during this process, it highlights how much we spent on them before making the changes. Neither of us feels like we've given anything meaningful up after making these changes. We both like having extra money at the end of the month.
Next on the list of things to cut is our cell phone bill. Once again, we locked ourselves into a two-year contract with Verizon. We love the service we get and the reliability of the Verizon network. We now know we can have that network at a much lower cost. As soon as our contract is over, we'll be able to knock a similar amount off our budget.
If you haven't reviewed TV, Cable, mobile phone, and other services lately, you may find you can save without sacrificing service. It's been great for us. It can be for you too.
Now it's your turn. How have you saved money in these areas? What's your next step in the process? What's holding you back?
Fred started the blog Money with a Purpose in October 2017. The blog focused on three primary areas: Personal Finance, Overcoming Adversity, and Lifestyle. During his time at Money with a Purpose, he was quoted in Forbes, USA Today and appeared in Money Magazine, MarketWatch, The Good Men Project, Thrive Global and many other publications.
In April 2019, Fred, along with two other partners, acquired The Money Mix website. To focus his time and energy where he could be the most productive, Fred recently merged Money with a Purpose with The Money Mix. You can now find all of his great content right here on The Money Mix, along with content from some of the brightest minds in personal finance.