Secrets to Downsizing Your Cable TV Bill

Here it is, our First Annual Year’s End Financial Tip, AKA a Quick Guide to Saving Bucks without Resorting to Cable Cutting. If that isn’t a great gift to give aspiring writers on a budget, then we dunno what is. Yay, TVWriter™!

(Yeah, that’s us following the First Rule of Showbiz: “If you don’t toot your own horn, nobody else will.”) Read and enjoy…and learn!


How One Couple Beat the Cable Company
by Steve Maas

The breaking point came in July 2012. Our Comcast bill for Internet, television, and phone hit $184 a month. And that was without premium channels like HBO. Add cell phones, and our total telecommunications bill was $244.

By last month, we had chopped that to $97 a month – a savings of $1,764 a year.

But before explaining how we did it, a caution: If you are a diehard Red Sox fan, this may not work for you. That said, our telecommunications diet plan is based on four precepts:

1. Pay only for what you use.

2. Buy your own equipment.

3. Mine the Internet for all its riches.

4. Comparison shop (yes, that takes time, but if you’re a cheap geek like me, it’s part of the fun.)

For us, cutting the cell phone bill was easiest, but more on that later. The big challenge was Comcast, a complicated beast made more so by constantly changing plans and promotions. Up until then, we had kept our costs reasonably low by calling the cancellation line every time the bill went up. Customer reps seemed to pull discounts out of a hat. If I resisted, they’d toss in perks like a free year of HBO. It reminded me of those late-night Veg-O-Matic commercials: “But wait, there’s more.”

But it came to the point where Comcast would no longer budge. We couldn’t switch providers because our condo building was wired by Comcast, and Verizon FIOS didn’t reach into Brookline. Satellite TV was out because we’re not allowed to mount an outside dish.

So we scrutinized our bill and looked for places to cut. We paid extra for equipment rental, HDTV, and a cable package that included NESN (for the Sox) and AMC (“Mad Men” and “The Killing”).

We started by buying our own modem. Comcast lists compatible devices, and we shopped around before purchasing an Arris cable modem through eBay for $36. Comcast rents modems for $8 month, so we recouped our investment in five months.

Since we opted for an Internet-only modem, rather than pay nearly twice as much for one that could handle Comcast phone, we had to find a new phone service. That led to even bigger savings. After comparing many VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services, we selected VOIPo. For $185 (including taxes), we purchased a two-year contract. That translates to under $8 a month, a third of the Comcast rate.

We cut our cellphone bill by even more — 75 percent. We paid AT&T $60 a month for two lines with a combined rolloverable 450 minutes. We’re not big talkers or texters (call us thumb challenged), so we switched to Pure TalkUSA, which offered two lines and 200 rolloverable minutes for $15 a month.

And we’re not technological dinosaurs. After making the switch, our annual cellphone savings — $540 — was enough to buy a pair of tablets….

Read it all at Boston Globe