Like many of you, I’m always looking for ways to save money. I regularly review utility bills to see how they change month-to-month, something I’ve learned is unusual.
I’m told that most people just look at the total, the due date, and ignore the rest because of the detailed information overwhelming. The providers are probably counting on that so you won’t notice all of the nickel-and-diming going on.
Of all the household expenses, one of the costliest must be the cable or satellite television “bundle.” When providers bundle services into a so-called deal, it’s usually TV, Internet, and landline telephone service. The thing is, it’s never much of a deal and if you examine just how much you’re spending compared to what you actually use, it’s no value either.
As I looked over my most recent cable bill, I considered just how little I watch broadcast television or use the landline phone. Instead of scheduled TV programming, most of the video entertainment consumed in my house comes from streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and CBS All Access.
While the monthly fees for separate streaming services can certainly add up, the total for these three is only about $30, while what are considered to be basic cable can exceed $120, including equipment charges. And, it turns out, I never really use it, nor can I remember the last time I used the house phone for anything.
And I’m not alone. According to USA Today and Leichtman Research Group, cable television companies report the average monthly cost to each subscriber is about $85, while satellite providers say it’s around $100. Again, that’s for broadcast cable TV only, not the bundled service. You pay extra for each additional service.
I’m apparently not the only one finally looking at my bill. The Hollywood Reporter published a story in August 2017 stating, “An estimated 941,000 subscribers cut the cord during the third quarter of the year, up from 809,000 a year earlier.” And I’m about to join them, but it’s not going to be easy, it has good and bad sides.
First the good news. You don’t have to live on the broadcaster’s schedule. Remember when you had to be home by a certain time so you wouldn’t miss Gilligan’s Island after school? No more. Stream Gilligan right from Amazon whenever you like.
Adopting a streaming-only entertainment lifestyle may be tough for “always on” TV consumers and requires a few adjustments. You’ll need the fastest Internet delivery speed you can afford. Streaming video data through a slow connection is like trying to rapidly dump a gallon of water through a straw, you need more volume.
The higher the speed, the better the viewing experience. You’ll also want a Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, or other streaming devices – preferably separate from your TV, so if it goes bad, you can replace the less expensive component, not the entire television.
Plus, remember that you’ll have to get your local news and weather from some other source than TV. Many local stations live-stream their news broadcasts and some post hourly weather and news updates to their websites. Some have apps available for the smartphones and tablets while others are set up in a web browser-only format.
For breaking news, weather alerts, and so on, you’ll want to use your local station’s app, if available, and set push notifications to “on” in order to receive urgent updates such as storm warnings. Local news is mostly about staying informed about your area, so push notifications are a good idea here.
If you’re addicted to sports channels or need your brain numbed by the nonsense of the talking heads of Fox News or CNN, you’ll have to go to the computer or smartphone for some of that as well. While there are apps available for streaming devices for news outlets, some don’t allow for free live streaming, so there may be an additional cost involved.
I’ll be cutting the cord this week so watch my Facebook page, Official Gery L. Deer, and I’ll let you know how it’s going. Meanwhile, read your bills carefully and be sure you’re getting what you pay for, it’s all on you.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at www.gerydeer.com.