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Cutting The Cord – Saving on Telecommunications

How We Cut Our Telecommunications Bills by Over 40%

cuttingthecordRecently Sarah and I sat down and had one of our standard saving check-ins.  Our financial situation was stable but there was a potential hiccup coming down the pipes and we felt it was better to be proactive and make some changes.  We went line item by line item with precision until we hit our telecommunications line item.  This one was going to be tricky.  Sarah and I see eye to eye on the big picture stuff, we both knew we needed to cut this bill down for some extra savings.  Where we needed to talk it out was on each area of our service and how we were going reduce costs I’m not going to discuss our particular carrier, but if you have their services you’ll probably be able to figure it out.

Home Phone

Believe it or not, we still have a home phone.  95% of the calls we get are telemarketers and the other 5% are our parents.  Friends will call our cell phones fairly consistently.  If this was a few dollars a month it would be worth it.  The issue was that our home phone was running us over $50 a month, a monstrous amount of money to ignore telemarketers and provide more than one number for our parents to call.

So we made that dreaded call and it went a little something like this:

Press one, press four, press two…oh no I made the wrong selection, how do I go back?  Let me try pressing zero, nothing.  I’ll just hang up and try again, one, four, three!

A customer service rep came on – “Thank you for calling _____, how can I help you today?”  I explained that we were hoping to start saving some money and cut some costs and were hoping they’d look at our package and see what they could do.  Their answer was essentially nothing besides a reduction to exclude call display and long distance which would be saving us $10.  Wonderful except as I said, 95% of the calls we get are telemarketers and without call display we won’t know when to ignore the call!  So that wasn’t going to work.

Sarah researched and found a wonderful new offering that was going to save us some big bucks without losing any functionality.  Our provider had an option to have a wireless home phone, it is a small modem with a SIM card that connects to our regular phone system.  Same number, same function, same reliability.  We aren’t even restricted to having our phone near a phone jack since it is wireless.  The cost? $13 a month!  This is one of the many reasons why I married her…mad resourceful.

Internet

Internet was one area that we both felt was worth the cost of the service we were getting.  Our internet package was running us $65 a month, but considering we rely on internet for so much moving to a cheaper package wasn’t really the best option.  With our package we were getting a pretty good speed, and unlimited bandwidth/usage.  We rely on the internet to run Couple of Sense, we stream movies and TV shows on Netflix, and Sarah works from home on occasion and needs something stable in our home office.  We made that dreaded call again, but we had full discounts already from my last round of negotiations so there was really no more room.  You win some, you lose some.  Wasn’t a complete loss, they did offer to increase our speed at no cost.

Cell Phones

Our cell phones have been in a constant state of flux for several years.  We both had our individual accounts, mine was linked with my internet account from the old basement apartment.  When we got married, rather than link the accounts we kept Sarah’s separate.  It was one of the first accounts Sarah had under her own name and there was an emotional attachment I was certainly going to respect.  Years later, that attachment gave way to a desire to simplify and we moved her phone onto my account.  Our cells were about $75 each, so $150 a month.  Again, Sarah’s resourcefulness came to the rescue and she found a corporate plan through her employer that would save us a few bucks.  We had to move both our phones into her name so they had a new home again.  The new plan ran us $130 for both lines saving us $20 a month.  A small victory, but every dollar counts.

Cable Television

A single tear strides down my cheek as I write this paragraph.  Okay, I’m being dramatic – was not the end of the world.  I love the convenience of TV, even as background noise while working on something or cooking dinner.  I tend to react (or overreact) when the topic of cutting cable costs comes up.  This was covered a bit on this in the article Netflix and Bills a while back.  For our cable television we had a mid-tier package – no premium content like HBO.  Our first strike was to lower the cable package to really focus in on the shows we actually watch.

On the weekend mornings we would watch 80’s music videos.  This is a nice start to the day, and a great background while we make breakfast and start to tackle our to do list.  We are also big fans of The Walking Dead, so AMC was as close to a necessity as a TV channel can be.  The other shows we’d throw on would normally be PVR’d and we’d binge watch when we were feeling lazy.

The Plan of Attack

The first strike was to lower our cable package by one level.  Our previous package was running us $85 with an HDPVR and a second HD terminal.  By cutting out the channels we just didn’t care about all that much, we lowered our cost to $65.00 a month.  We were still able to watch all the shows we wanted to.  We just needed to work a bit to find streams or wait until they made it to Netflix.

More recently, in preparation for the potential hiccup we decided to give cable the death blow.  We were going to cut the cord and cancel our TV package completely.  This was a choice made in the world of logic, my emotional being wanted to go down with the ship.  The fact was that there are so many options for listening to music or even watching music videos without cable.  The Walking Dead and its companion show The Talking Dead were ones that we did enjoy watching live, but logically we couldn’t justify spending what equates to $24/hour on TV watching.  So we picked up an Android TV box to stream content, maintained our Netflix account and picked up a small indoor satellite.  Netflix runs us $10 a month, but that comes out of our entertainment budget so I’m not counting that in this blog.  The Android Box and the satellite are upfront costs only and ran us $170.  We’ll have a return on those costs in a few months and then really start to realize the savings.

Total Savings

Home Phone – $50.00 down to $13.00 for a savings of $37.00 or 74%

Internet – $65.00 with no change – no savings

Cell Phones – $150.00 down to $130.00 for a savings of $20.00 or 13.33%

Cable – $85.00 down to $0.00 for a savings of $85.00 or 100%

Total – $350.00 down to $208.00 for a savings of $142.00 or 40.57%

I’m not sure if we will be returning to our cable subscription sometime down the line or not. Depends on where our priorities lie in the future and what type of income we have.  As long as the wireless home phone continues to work I can’t see us changing that back.  For the time being we are saving some major bucks we can reallocate to more important areas of our budget.  This was a challenging experience.  I am an advocate of practicing what I preach though, and when Sarah and I tell you that a budget is about priorities, we live that way ourselves.

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it.  Establish your priorities and go to work” – H.L. Hunt

Have you taken the step to cut the cord to lower your costs? I’d love to hear your story and how it worked for you so please comment below.

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4 comments

  1. Eric Bowlin says:

    I sold phones for a franchise of Verizon for a while. It’s a huge misconception that there is a discount “bundle.” Bundles in sales mean you get stuff you don’t need and pay more. Most of the time the bundles cost exactly the same as buying them separate, they just are packaged to look cheaper. Or, they bundle in discounts you would have got anyhow, but they don’t tell you about it up front.

    I’d always buy cellphones online and never walk into store. Customer service over the phone receives no commissions and they don’t have quotas to meet.

    • Couple of Sense says:

      Hi Eric – thanks for sharing your insights as someone who was in the industry. I agree with you that often the bundles are just a way of bulking up revenue. Some of the telecommunications companies in Canada do have bundles (I used to work for one of them) – with say 5% for 2 services, 10% for 3, 15% for 4, etc. Even with those all they were doing was providing the consumer with an easy way to get a discount. They are essentially selling you a better discount that you could get with a bit of negotiation.

  2. Ms. Steward says:

    Have you considered switching to a discount phone plan? I just switched to Cricket and it’s going great. We pay about half that for two phones. There’s a ton of different carriers out now, too.

    • Couple of Sense says:

      We did consider that as an option, there are a number of companies that offer much lower pricing than the large carriers. I’d love to get some insight into any problems you’ve had with coverage – our conversations with people who have gone that route generally involve phrases like “Most of the time it is pretty good…but…” – cost savings is of huge importance to us but we are willing to pay for something if the quality of service is better and it is as important as our communication. As coverage continues to improve, we’ll be revisiting the possibility of switching. Hopefully the 3 big carriers in Canada will be forced to be more competitive as well.

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