We’ve all opened our cable and internet bills to see that our seemingly basic package has crept up past $100, sometimes even $200. The average American is spending more on cable packages than all of their other utilities combined, one study reports, totaling over $2600 annually. The sad part is for many, this expense can be greatly reduced, and sometimes eliminated entirely with some savviness and out of the box thinking. In a year that’s been tough on everyone financially, that $2600 could definitely come in handy for anything else. Check out these tips and tricks for slashing your bill, while still finding entertaining media. Don’t worry, we know this isn’t the year to try to stay home and socially distance without anything good to watch.
1. Split the cost with a neighbor or friend
How many times have you checked on your Wi-Fi connection, only to see a long list of other available Wi-Fi signals listed, some with even more connectivity bars than yours? Personal finance writer, market investor, and YouTube celebrity Ryan Scribner suggests this tactic for savings. “These days, there are long-range routers and even signal boosters that make this a feasible option. If you don’t need maximum speeds, you could slip an internet plan with your neighbor, assuming you live close by…why are we all paying for internet?” Sharing Wi-Fi might bridge the digital divide.
The same concept can be applied to streaming services, and sometimes cable. Customers have long dreaded engaging in what they feel to be necessary services while resenting purchasing them from monopolies, with few other options. Luckily with more streaming services available, the main competitors are not the only choice anymore. Jake Hill, CEO of Debt Hammer, says “I personally believe cable and internet companies have held near-monopolies for too long, and anything to undermine their tactics is a positive thing in my book. That’s why I always recommend collective action or groups of people looking to save money on services that should be regarded as essential, like internet.” He recommends sharing account information for streaming platforms and other services, which he says the companies can’t really police. “While they can tell if you’re “stealing” cable (in theory), this is something that would take too much digging to find, and it’s such a huge thing that they’d be going after someone in every household at this point.”
Participating in the Open Wireless Movement can be beneficial to others as well at no cost to you.
2. Call to cancel your account, with the goal of getting a lower rate
Nothing says you’re serious about saving money like a call to cancel your services, and often these calls can result in companies making you their lowest and best offer to keep you as a customer. Be prepared for these calls by bringing:
- The rates you have paid in the past (to show they’ve raised prices while adding no additional benefits)
- Other additional services you’d be willing to accept if they don’t lower the cost (for example, maybe they can’t go any lower, but would be willing to add a home phone or DVR box for the same price)
- Information from your current bill, including how much your bill has been raised, account numbers, and current services you are receiving
- Competitors’ current rates to show that your company is too high
- Your bottom line number, above which you really will walk away and switch companies
Don’t take their first offer, but rather persist in your logic that you need to quit because they have moved beyond your current budget. You may find they can offer a second rate even lower than the first.
3. Cut the cord entirely
We’ve all heard of someone who has made the switch, cutting the cord completely and ending their relationship with cable companies forever. Lauren Keys and her husband Steven started a blog to talk all things finances, and they get specific on how to quit cable forever while still enjoying shows you love. Keys’ recommendations include:
- Getting a digital antenna: “We’ve been able to reliably get all major programming and sports for just one upfront cost of the antenna itself,” she says. Digital antennas are a one time purchase of under $50 in most cases.
- Share a streaming platform by going halfsies with a friend for Netflix, Hulu, YouTubeTV, Disney Plus, and more. Just be prepared to remember where you left off in your favorite series in case your friend is watching the same show!
- Remember the trusty old library? Check for DVDs of shows and movies.
- Utilize free trials from streaming services: “You can also bounce around the streaming services’ free trials to catch up on any new [shows],” Keys says. “You can also always wait until a show completes its season (or run its course entirely) then sign up for a free trial to binge it all before the bill comes due. Hulu usually gives you a one-month free trial, and that’s what we did to watch Dave.”
In addition, it can help to be more flexible about when you are watching a show. You may not catch Grey’s Anatomy at it’s usual Thursday evening time, but wait one more day and it will be on Hulu, for example.
4. Check to see if you qualify for government program discounts
If you qualify as a low-income consumer, you may be able to catch a break on your cable and internet costs through a program called Lifeline. According to the FCC, you may be eligible if:
- Your income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
- You participate in certain federal assistance programs such as: “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, or certain Tribal Programs.”
The program offers savings of up to a $9.25 discount on service. The FCC’s website states “Subscribers may receive a Lifeline discount on either a wireline or a wireless service, but they may not receive a discount on both services at the same time. Lifeline also supports broadband Internet service and broadband-voice bundles. FCC rules prohibit more than one Lifeline service per household.” The program’s goal is to increase access to essential internet connectivity which can be a lifeline to jobs, educational resources, and healthcare during the pandemic.
5. If you don’t have to have Wifi at home, identify free Wifi sources in your community
If you prefer not to or cannot afford Wi-Fi at home, there are easy ways to locate available Wi-Fi in your area. Now, there’s even an app for that. WifiMap allows you to enter your location and see a map quickly identifying Free Wifi hotspots near you, including restaurants, businesses, and public spaces. If buying a cup of coffee at McDonald’s and using their Wi-Fi for a few hours is appealing, it may make sense to use this strategy rather than paying for a service at home you aren’t using. Wifi Map CEO Denis Sklyarov says, “Businesses wanting to attract tech-savvy customers can proactively add their venues to Wi-Fi Map’s database and get additional exposure to local customers and travelers. And, while the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced the options for travel destinations, the need for Wi-Fi is still valuable for the public and commerce.”
Regardless of which option you choose, if you feel trapped by your monthly cable and Wi-Fi bill, test out each strategy until you find one that will work for you, and enjoy that extra $2,000+ savings next year!