Often when our budgets begin getting bloated, cable, internet and phone bills are chief culprits. These have a tendency to slowly grow over time, and because they are recurring monthly bills, little changes make big differences.
If your budget allows for what you’re currently spending in these categories, great! But if you aren’t putting enough into emergency funds, retirement funds or other priorities, these categories may be what’s holding you back. If you’ve been eating ramen noodles for the last two months so that you can keep your premium cable package, perhaps you should re-examine your priorities.
Because of the near monopoly that cable companies have created, cable is likely the largest of your three categories. If you really think about the amount of cable you use, I’d venture to say that it is also the category that is providing you the least value (bang-for-buck). I’d also venture to say that it is the least necessary of the three.
There are a number of ways to lower your cable bill. You might decide that you really aren’t using cable much at all and completely eliminate it. Or you might opt for a smaller package of channels. Also consider calling your cable company and simply negotiating for a discounted rate.
A growing alternative to cable is streaming. With good internet service, you can access several streaming options for a fraction of the price as a cable subscription. If you primarily watch TV shows and movies, Netflix and Amazon Prime (free trial here) are both great options with similar prices. If you mainly want live TV, Sling TV or Hulu are your best bets. Although one of the more expensive streaming services, Sling is probably the best single replacement for regular paid TV. It offers a wide assortment of popular channels, starting at $20/month. Hulu tries to have a foot in both live TV and past content and is more in line with the price of other streaming services in the $10/month range.
More and more, internet is becoming less of a want and more of a need. Especially if you telecommute, internet may rank fairly high on your priorities list. However, if you find that all or most of your internet use is for entertainment, you could probably cut your internet in a budget pinch. Almost all public libraries offer free internet access for the times that you would need internet access. You be the judge of how much of a necessity internet is to you, but watching crazy cat videos all day probably shouldn’t outweigh saving for a rainy day or a car savings fund.
Even if you decide that internet is important enough to keep, most internet providers offer multiple tiers of service. Most people don’t need the highest tier of service. In fact, with many providers, the lowest tier of service is ample for most people. Often providers entice people to sign up for higher tiers with introductory promo pricing. And sometimes people opt for higher tiers simply because they aren’t sure what they need. LA times suggests that 5 Mbps is fast enough for a good web browsing experience. Netflix’s suggestions are similar, with as low as 3 Mbps for Standard Definition video.
Having a phone is probably the most important of the three categories. However, it is probably also the category with the most wiggle room. Remember that having the latest iPhone and unlimited data plan are not necessities. But you don’t have to revert to an old school flip phone to save money.
First off, if you still have both a cell phone and a landline, one can probably be eliminated. I’ve never had a landline, and haven’t suffered for it (that I know of). I’m also not alone- the majority of US households have ditched the landline.
Secondly, if you haven’t shopped around for phone plans for a while, do so. Even if you’re currently on a contract, you may find that switching plans right away is worth the termination fee. Some companies will refund the termination fee from your old cell phone company for switching to them.
Don’t just shop around at the 4 or 5 big carriers. Several smaller prepaid phone companies offer significantly lower plan prices. These companies piggyback off the big carrier’s networks, giving you the same coverage. I’ve personally used Net10 and Total Wireless and have been happy with both.
Connectivity in Perspective
I realize that cable, phone or internet may be harder to give up or cut back on. However, remember what these bills may be holding you back from. You might be surprised how quickly you learn to live without some of these services. You’ll also appreciate the extra breathing room in your budget.
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- While I do strive to only write accurate information and dispense valuable advice, I am not a licensed financial adviser. All information is based solely on my personal experience and personal research and should be treated as such. Find out more.