It isn’t easy to manage a budget for a one-income family of four. My wife and I have two daughters under the age of two, a dog, a home, two cars, the gamut. Sometimes sacrifices need to be made, especially if we want to be able to continue to do ‘fun things’. For us, we started considering sacrificing cable a few months ago.
I’m sure some of you have heard about people ‘cutting the cord’ or getting rid of television programming, be it cable, satellite, or FIOS. Most of the time, people indicate that it’s something they NEED to have, unwilling to give up that entertainment for whatever reason. We decided that we wanted to have a little breathing room in our budget and our Comcast bill became a prime target.
I pulled all of the bills that we paid to Comcast over the past 12 months, just to see how much we were paying to them out of our pocket. Over the past year, we paid Comcast a total of $1718.52 for high definition programming with an HD DVR on a SINGLE television and high speed internet service. So that you don’t have to do the math, it breaks down to $143.21 a month.
I know, I know. You are saying that doesn’t sound so bad. But that average doesn’t tell the whole story. From March of 2011 through September of 2011, we were still paying a promotional price of $120 a month. As soon as the promo time ran out, our bill skyrocketed as high as $190.26 and fluctuated from that point forward. Over the final six months of my last year, we paid Comcast an average of $166.31 a month. Tack on an additional $7.99 a month for Netflix streaming and we paid $1814.40 this past year in television entertainment costs at an average of $174.30 a month over the last six month.
In our eyes, it wasn’t worth it.
My wife stays at home with our kids, who would watch Disney. She would watch some Dr. Phil or the Dr.s, and maybe some TLC during lunch breaks but not much more than that. I would watch sports at night (mostly baseball and football), but often we were watching our television shows recorded on the DVR, not live, and fast forward through the commercials. I love math, but you can’t tell me that this formula makes any sense:
D + 3(BB+FB) + TLC + LDP = $174.30
We needed a better solution. Why were we paying $1800 a year for TV/Internet when we barely watch Live TV?
Below is a break down of how we made things better for ourselves. I recognize that there are other options, different hardware, more and less services that you can get, but for what we wanted, it is more than enough.
So, we knew we were going to be keeping the internet, regardless of whether we kept cable or not. And we were already using NetFlix Instant Streaming to deliver content/movies to our television. Why not go to a complete streaming solution? With a $80, one-time purchase (rather than a $16.95/month HD DVR rental), we bought a Roku XD Internet Streaming Player. It hooks up to your TV via HDMI, and runs apps to stream content wirelessly to your television, such as NetFlix, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, etc. Full disclosure, there are three models of the player and we went with the middle grade.
To supplement our NetFlix account, we added Hulu Plus to our subscriptions, which is another $7.99, but gives us a TON of TV programming choices, albeit not live. That’s okay for us. We never watched it live anyway.
You might say, “What about sports?! And Dr. Phil!?” So yes, if sports mean a ton to you, then this may not work for you. I told my wife that we needed to make this decision as to whether we were going to cut cable before spring training started, because otherwise, it wasn’t going to happen. If you live in blackout region of your favorite team, you can’t watch your team, even if you pay for things like MLB.TV. You have to have your local cable provider (at least in my area of Philadelphia). When I saw the savings, however, I was willing to give up my baseball and listen to it on the radio. As for Dr. Phil and other live, daytime programming, I purchased a $35 over-the-air HD antenna from Radio Shack, which pulls us all of our local channels, in uncompressed HD (something your cable provider can’t boast) so she can watch her middle of the day shows, I can still watch football on Sundays and my Phillies at least on weekends.
We have a piecemeal setup put together, delivering us the live content we “need”, the primetime programming we want, and all of the movies and other content we could ask for. For us, it works, and it works well. There are other solutions I’ve implemented at home that I might go into further down the road, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. :)
So, really how much of a financial gain is there for this? Does it really matter? As I stated earlier, we were paying almost $175 a month for our programming and internet. As soon as I cancelled the TV, internet pricing increased to $70 a month. There was an upfront cost of $115 for the Roku box and the HD antenna to deliver the content to us. We were already paying $7.99 for Netflix, but we also added Hulu Plus for an additional $7.99, putting us at $15.98 for content.
OLD TOTAL = 166.31(avg/cable & internet) + 7.99/month = 174.30 per month
NEW TOTAL = 70.27(internet) + 7.99/month Hulu + 7.99/month Netflix = 86.35
NEW TOTAL WITH $115 Upfront Rolled into first year = 80.92 per month + 15.98/month for content = 96.90 per month
Over the course of last year, we paid $1814.40 for Comcast services Plus Netflix. This year, we will be paying $1162.84 for Internet, Netflix and Hulu, and the price will be even cheaper the next year, because we will already own the hardware and there won’t be any recurring costs for them.
The costs for this past year don’t even necessarily translate as a direct comparision for the upcoming year, because we wouldn’t have been getting the discounted promotion like we did for 7 months of the past year. If you take the last six month average and spread that out over the next 12 months (if we were keeping Comcast) we’d be paying $2091.60 for our services over the next 12 months. Compared to our $1162.84 that we will actually be paying over the next 12 months (less if you don’t include the hardware purchase), we are saving almost $1000 a year.
As much as I love the Phillies, and my wife loves not moving rabbit ears to get Dr Phil, and my daughters love Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, they are not worth $1000 a year, even combined. We can use that money to put towards going to LIVE Phillies games, or visiting Mickey Mouse in Disney World. Much better ways to use the money.
Even if these numbers don’t translate directly to you, I urge you to sit down and do a value analysis over the services you are currently paying for. You may actually find that you can have a little extra cash in your pocket. :)
I realize I’m not a great writer and that this might not be spelled out enough (or fluently) for you. However, If you want to talk to me about this at all, feel free to comment below or shoot me an email. I’ll be glad to talk it out with you and help you find a way to make it work for you.
I promise. It’s easy enough to cut to cord. It just takes some work and some bravery.