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I Saved more than 33% on my Cable Bill! More Savings on the Way?

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Sorry if I sound a little too excited in that title. I'm choosing to looking at the glass as half-full. However, it is quite possible that one could look at the glass as half empty... I was overpaying for my cable for some time. Finally, after writing about trying to cut the cable twice, I am making progress (see: Cutting the Cable TV and Cutting the Cable TV (Part 2))

My cable and Internet bill for May of this year was a whopping $221.91. I use the Internet connection quite a bit. So $48 of that ($43 for the service and $5 for the modem lease), each month is pretty reasonable. That leaves me paying $173.91 for television. That's a pretty shocking amount since I don't watch that much television. And the only cable shows that I typically watch are Men of a Certain Age (TNT), Rescue Me (FX), and True Blood (HBO). That seems a lot of money for that, doesn't it?

It turns out that $44.75 of that bill was for MLB Extra Innings. That allows me to watch Red Sox games from San Francisco. There are only four of those payments a year, but that still comes out to about $180 for the season. We watch a lot of Red Sox games, so we are talking about $158.91 a month for everything else (taking the $180 and pro-rating it over the 12 months = $15 a month). That's still a lot of money for a few shows.

So I took a trip to the Comcast office to see what I could do about reducing my bill.

Current cost saving measures:

  • Remove HBO - Savings: $19.99/mo. - Sorry True Blood. You are great, but not that great. We the first 4 Sookie Stackhouse books on Paperback Swap, for the cost of postage. I may go over a friend's house to watch it. I only had HBO because it was free with a previous promotion and I never canceled it. I didn't realize that True Blood was costing me $4.50 an episode... more if you consider that there are months when I was paying for HBO and True Blood wasn't airing new episodes.
  • Remove Sports Entertainment Package - $6.95 - The only channel that we watched here is the NFL Network. I woke up early this Sunday and went to turn it on only to remember that I gave it up. I decided to read some articles about the Patriots on the Internet instead... not a big loss there.
  • Remove Digital Preferred Package - Savings: $16.95/mo. - We watched none of the channels here, but it seems like it was a prerequisite for the NFL Network. (For some reason, the Sports Entertainment Package channels are listed in the Preferred Package
  • Unsolicited $30 savings a month - The person at the office said that she could give me $15 off on both my cable and and my Internet service each month for 6 months. I didn't even have to ask if there was anything they could do.

That's a total savings of around $59... not bad from a $158.91 start. However, the amazing thing is that there's more fat to trim from my bill.

Proposed future cost saving measures:

  • Watch MLB.TV through our Media Center - Savings: $5/mo - This is a rare no-brainer. The cost for the Internet version is $119.95, about a savings of $60 from the cable version. It's a better product as the video feed is better quality (a friend has it and we watched it one time) and you have the freedom to watch it anywhere there is Internet - not just at your home with your cable box. The computer that we set up near our television has an HDMI out which is perfect for steaming HDTV-quality to our television.
  • Switch to Limited Basic - Savings $52/mo - This is the big switch. This is getting rid of most of the cable channels you know and love... ESPN, CNN, MTV, FX, TNT, CNBC, USA, etc. I can catch Men of a Certain Age on TNT's website (or I could last season). So the other thing that we'd be missing here is the occasional Saturday morning wake up to the Food and Travel channels. I don't think this is worth $52 a month, but I haven't been able to fully convince my wife of this. Baby steps for now.
  • Remove DVR service - Savings $8/mo - In order to go to the Limited Basic (see above) we would have to give up the Comcast HD/DVR box and go with a straight HD box. I love DVR, but it's possible we could use the hard drive space on our media center to serve the same purpose. If any readers have suggestions for products to make this easy to use (especially important for the wife) such as this Hauppauge product or any of these ones, let me know in the comments. I don't mind a one-time cost that I can recoup over the course of a couple of years.
  • By the HD box and Cable Modem hardware instead of renting them: Savings $13/mo ($8/mo for set-top box, $5 for cable modem) - I've been paying $5 for about a bazillion years for this cable modem. I should look to just buy one and own it outright. It looks like the cable modem may be $60 on Ebay, so it would pay for itself for a year. As for the HD box, I see a couple of those on Ebay as well. Perhaps there is a Hauppauge product for that as well. It's another thing to research.

If I can do all the above, my cable and Internet bill will be $58 a month ($45 for Internet, $13 for basic cable) after a few one-time costs (and of course various fees and taxes). However, at that point, a strong case could be made to give up even basic cable and get HDTV channels that I watch over the air with an antenna for a one-time cost. That would make us completely free of cable television, without changing our viewing habits or the shows we typically watch that much.

Final note: I found that Comcast changed the prices of services without notifying us. For example in May we paid $4.99 for the Sports Entertainment Package, $18.99 for HBO, and $47.95 for cable modem service. In September we paid, $6.95, $19.99, and $49.95 for the three respectively. The just encourages me to cut table television more.

Posted on October 12, 2010.

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28 Responses to “I Saved more than 33% on my Cable Bill! More Savings on the Way?”

  1. Daniel says:

    If you have TW, make sure to call them often for specials, they run them at the beginning of every month, at least here in CA. I only have internet and watch TV over the air. But they wanted to charge me $45/m for internet after my 12 month promo ended. They told me they had no specials for internet, so I was going to “cancel”. Once I got to the 3rd level of support, they dropped my bill to $30/m, $5 cheaper than the previous special I had.

  2. Daniel says:

    It is probably easier to give up cable service than you think. My wife and I hardly watch TV, mostly streaming media, we don’t miss much. Sporting programs are literally the only thing I can think of that I would like to see live. Sports packages can be streamed online most of the time too, so you still pay the service fee for it, but without cable costs.

  3. chew on it says:

    For a long time, I was using comcast TV and internet. I don’t watch that much TV either but never found a real good reason to give it up. When I moved to my new house recently, comcast was going to charge me about $180 just to move the service. I don’t remember ever having to pay for any fee when I moved before, so I called them up to inquire. They insisted that I’ll have to pay so I told them buh-bye.
    Switched to AT&T internet but no TV… I wouldn’t say AT&T is the best, but I definitely don’t feel like I’m missing anything tv wise.

  4. jim says:

    I doubt buying a used cable box on ebay will work. The boxes may use encryption and boxes in one market may not be compatible with equipment in another. I wouldn’t be surprised if they use serial numbers to make sure each customer is identified as legitimate. The cable companies don’t sell the boxes so they have no incentive to make sure used ones work. Used boxes may be stolen.

    • Lazy Man says:

      That’s a good point. I think there’s a law that requires cable companies to make them available for purchase at a reasonable price. If not, there must be some kind of cable card thing that will get me what I need without having to pay a monthly hardware rental fee.

  5. Paul says:

    If you’re going to basic cable no box should be needed. I say ditch cable. Throw up an antenna, purchase a hdhomerun and let your media center record OTA shows.

  6. One word man, YOUTUBE. I hardly watch TV anymore since I can see lots of shows on Youtube.

  7. Victor says:

    Or… Don’t own a TV. Savings: $173.91 per month (+ electricity and space in your house).

    Added benefits:
    – More time to do other things you enjoy
    – Better conversations with family and friends
    – The living room is not organized to focus on a TV

    I have yet to hear an old person say “shucks, I’ve done so much in my day, but I really wish I’d had a chance to watch more TV.”

    • Lazy Man says:

      Victor,

      That’s not a bad argument and while this isn’t really the topic of this point, I’ll counter with three of mine own:

      – Watching television and following sports are things that I enjoy. Having a television gives me the option to do that or other things I enjoy. Options are good.
      – Actually, this would have the reverse effect. Many of my friends are sports fans and we are interested in similar television shows. Thus our conversations would be worse without being able to participate in these common interests.
      – We already have a room that isn’t focused around a television: http://www.lazymanandmoney.com/the-room-that-craiglist-and-yard-sales-built/. It’s perfect for having guests over or just reading and sipping a glass of wine. However, we don’t entertain that often and I prefer reading on the web for article ideas. I can do that just as effectively with a Red Sox game in the background (especially because baseball is a passive sport).

      I have yet to hear an old person say “shucks, I’ve done so much in my day, but I really wish I’d had read more books.” Does that mean we should just not read books at all? More absurdly, I have yet to hear an old person say “shucks, I’ve done so much in my day, but I really wish I’d slept more.” Does that mean we should just abolish sleeping as well? ;-)

      I just don’t buy that old person argument so much. In general, I think the two things they would say, is be a better parent or travel more. I don’t think television detracts from either of those things. At least it doesn’t in my stage of life.

  8. We went with the basic package, which for us is about $25 a month.

    We don’t watch much TV (although the kids do like the kid stuff)… So we didn’t even missing it really.

    We do get plenty of DVDs from the library though… And occasionally we use to watch Hulu (not so much anymore though… not enough time).

  9. This is a great area to do some trimming. You did the right thing by going in and talking to them. When we lived in Seattle, Comcast was the only game in town (aside from satelite). In Texas, we have a choice between TW and AT&T, so now we can play one against the other. We’ve also stripped back to basic w/ internet, no DVR, etc… or any bells and whistles for that matter.

  10. Phil says:

    I suggest you seriously look into over-the-air HDTV. When paired with a Tivo you can stock up a surprising amount of quality TV. I live in a part of LA with three public stations and there is always something interesting to watch.

    • Lazy Man says:

      That’s what I’m thinking. I just don’t want to pay monthly Tivo fees, so I’m thinking a media center. It looks like I could get Tivo lifetime service for $399, but that’s probably lifetime of the box, not the lifetime of me (odd because lifetime suggests something that is “alive”). Add in a Tivo box and it gets pricey… especially where I already I have a perfectly computer and hard drive space just there and waiting to be used.

  11. “More absurdly, I have yet to hear an old person say ‘shucks, I’ve done so much in my day, but I really wish I’d slept more.’ Does that mean we should just abolish sleeping as well? ;-)”

    Perhaps.

    http://www.thesoapboxers.com/sleep-less-live-more-years/

  12. Matt says:

    Lazy Man,

    Very timely topic. TW just upped our cable by $17. The bill is now approx. $160 a month. My wife went ahead and called customer service. The lady basically told her you have no options this is your bill now.

    She got fired up. As a result, I had to get off my lazy duff and work on a solution.

    I’ll be building a HTPC that we can use to watch Hulu and possibly use as a DVR.

    I also signed up for Hulu+. I’m testing to see how well it works. If I’m happy with Hulu+, we will probably buy some new internet capable TV’s. Samsung currently supports Hulu+. Sony and Vizio should have Hulu+ support this fall. We have a couple of old TV’s that need a refresh.

    I’ll also be installing an antenna on the house for OTA stations. We will get all the network channels for free which has most of the shows that my wife watches. As an added bonus,the HDTV will be a much better quality.

    I’ll be the biggest loser in this deal because I will no longer get cable news.

    I agree throw a tuner card in your HTPC and skip the Tivo.

    I would love to hear what others out there are doing.

    Matt

  13. Tim says:

    wait, isn’t looking at the glass half-full mean that you are paying less for cable, not that you saved on your cable bill? i’m not sure how you can save on something that you are paying. you are simply paying less for something.

    • Lazy Man says:

      In my mind, paying less for something is saving. It is meant in the same vein of Geico’s, “Fifteen minutes could save you 20% on your car insurance” (or whatever the percentage is). If you can’t save money on something that you are paying for… I need to rewrite about two dozen posts on saving money.

  14. Bob Robson says:

    I saved 100% on my cable bill when I cancelled the service.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Maybe I’ll get there. That’s kind of the goal. I’m not heading there cold turkey as canceling a service the family uses has to be a family decision.

  15. tom says:

    Watching baseball on tv is like watching paint dry, what a waste of money.

    • Lazy Man says:

      One could argue that listening to music on an iPod is even more boring (since it is very predictable where baseball results are completely unpredictable.)

  16. NBA offers a 7 team plan and an all team plan. there is a $70 discount for using just 7 team plan.

    I signed up for 7 team plan… Orlando, Miami, Lakers, Celtics, and OKC are the ones I have chosen so far.

    • Lazy Man says:

      I might consider the NBA package. Watching the first Celtics-Heat game was fun.

      The prices were $100 (7 team) and $150 (all teams) last year. I see it is up to $110 and $180 this year. Hope it isn’t planned to jump that much every year.

  17. Moneycone says:

    Did something similar! First got out of my contract without having to pay an ETF! Had this idea ant thought I’ll give it a try – still can’t believe it worked!

    Next bought an el-cheapo antenna and boom got more channels than my local basic channels (that comcast forced on me to get a deal on their internet service). And best of all, these were in HD!

    Initially I thought I would miss TV, but actually this has proved to be a boon and I have more time in my hands than ever before! Not to mention the savings!

    I don’t regret cutting the chord one bit!

  18. Rod Potter says:

    Good Article! Personally, I got sick of paying over $200 a month on my cable bill. I decided to create some solutions that would help myself save money on Tv, Internet, home phone and Dvr services using the latest technology on the market. I was pretty surprised on great it turned out. So, as an a owner of a small video production company, I took those solutions and put them in “easy to follow” dvd. I wanted to show everyone how I did it and that they can also save money using products/technologies/tricks that actually work.

    Thanks, Rod

  19. K says:

    Comcast dig cable and internet $85. Called and they no longer charge for modem rental and dropped prices. Now pay $55 a month. Just call and ask, worst thing they can say is no.

  20. Hari says:

    Hi, I live in the Building which has subscribed to
    Comcast service for all residents to avoid individual antenna, service for which we have to pay $33/Mo to the Management.
    Comcast raised HD Service by $1 par box per month.
    I had ‘Standard’ cable box in one of my room for $8/month. They said they no longer support the ‘Standard’ box and raised it to $16.95/mo. for HD Service. Hence It became $16.95 instead of $8/mo. for that one box.
    I am not tech savvey.

  21. Jay Askren says:

    If you give up cable, you may not need an antenna. If your TV has a QAM tuner, you may be able to get the basic channels free. The channels are labelled strangely, but it works. We have been getting the basic channels free for a couple of years now this way. The few shows we really want that we can’t get, we just buy from ITunes, Amazon, or Google Play. Here is more information:

    http://gdgt.com/discuss/i-m-happy-to-report-that-i-finally-pulled-the-plug-and-cancelled-my-cable-tv-service-c10/
    http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-18438_7-20002069-82.html

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