Life gets too busy, and sometimes even financial grownups drop the ball on making sure their bills don’t balloon out of control. Bobbi gets real about how this happened to her, and how she managed to downsize her family’s cable and phone bills.
We’re going to do a deep dive into why my cable and phone bills were so high, and what I did to stop the madness. And how you can hopefully make the changes that are right for you.
I do want to remind everyone that I am in New York City- and as I discovered there is a high amount of mandatory taxes added to the bill- that may or may not be true where you are. But you will also see some taxes CAN go away if you know what they are for, and make some choices.
First- why did it take so long for me to take a deep dive into these bills: a combination of inertia, and family pushback. My kids were insisting they needed very high unlimited data plans- and my family felt strongly they needed to have every single channel on the tv. We don’t go out a lot because of all the things so there was a lot of resistance when I spoke of cutting the cord. After all, as expensive as it is, the amount we would save, is still a lot less than even going out to dinner and a movie for a family of 5- even once.
What prompted it? My 12 year old getting a phone and my 22 year old stepdaughter is out of college with a great job, and should be transitioning to paying her own bills.
So- with fear and trepidation, I looked at the bills for my family of 5 and it was bad.
The monthly wireless bill for my family.. was $347.77
The monthly cable bill- which also includes, internet and a landline, was $309.77 for a total of more than $650. A month.
And for the record it is not an oversight- I’m not going to name the provider- because this applies really to any bills.. and I don’t want to point fingers.
So there were three main areas that I was able to cut- and we’ll get into each one.
The first place was the micro cuts- little- and sometimes not so little things that add up.
The second place was making choices about what we really needed
The third place was device management- looking at whether we really need to be on the latest and best phones- for which we pay hefty monthly payments.
So first let’s get into the micro cuts. There are things almost everyone can find and execute simply by looking at their bill and working through it with customer service.
First: The plans. Most wireless carriers have shifted their business model. It used to be the phones were free-ish as long as you committed- and locked into- an expensive plan. So we were paying about $60 a line for unlimited- those plans have now dropped to as little as $35 a line, because more people are paying for their phone separately, in some way. They may own it outright, or it may be a separate rental or payment plan,
As I mentioned, my stepdaughter now has a great job- that comes with a phone. But she still wants a phone for personal use. We dropped that phone to the lowest plan at $35 a month because she simply does’t need that much data. My stepson and son are now also on the lowest possible unlimited phone plans. I’m on the second to lowest at $45 a month because I do use a lot of data for business- but that comes with a subscription to Apple Music. That is key. I had been paying $10 a month for Apple music- so that brings my net cost in line with the $35 everyone else is paying.
And that is an important side note- many phone carriers have deals with Apple Music, Hulu, Spotify etc. Make sure you are taking advantage of them. I was paying $10 a month for something I could get for free through my phone carrier. So painful.
Let’s keep going.
There were a series of $5 and $10 bill reductions I was able to get- I asked if there was a loyalty discount for using both the company’s wireless service and their cable/internet service. Why yes- $10 for each for a $20 savings. Was there a discount for auto pay- because I was on auto pay but didn’t see it on my bill. I was informed that the auto pay discount does not work if you put it on your credit card- which I had done to get points. You must do it as a debit from our account. I switched- and got the discount- from both wireless and from cable/internet.
Customer service volunteered that there was a military discount of $20 a month. I said that neither my husband and I were military- but apparently we are eligible because both our fathers were military- we just have to add them to the account- they don’t have to have a phone line. So we saved that.
We were also still paying $5 a month to monitor my now adult stepchildren- so that went away.
Let’s move on to the second thing we did and that is to make some choices.
I have been pushing to just cut the cord, and I had been losing.
But given that the kids basically watch youtube, this was getting silly.
We not only had 100% every single premium channel, we had infinite other channels that never get watched. And we have Hulu. And Netflix. And Amazon Prime. Seriously. And we are too busy to watch that much TV.
I made a deal with my husband that if I cut anything he missed, we could bring it back.
Here’s where it got challenging. I asked the cable representative about the skinny bundles. Can she send me a list of the channels on them. They made this very hard. She just had lists of some channels that were ‘representative’. And when she sent me via email a link to the complete list, it did not work. Keep in mind, this project was moving past the 4 hour mark, complete with hang ups and call backs.
I also had to push back against some assumptions she was making. She told me of course I did not want to live MTV. Of course I did not want to lose local sports. Actually- I was ok with that. I also was- to her surprise, ok losing every premium channel, thought I did keep HBO for now. But it was a frustrating push. We finally did settle on a skinny package that I think will work- though I never was able to get a specific list of the channels on it. It can always be changed. And by the way, bonus- by losing the local sports channels, we also lost a $9 a month tax that we pay in New York for the privilege of paying for local sports. Not making this up.
I also asked about our internet speed- and guess what, we could get a better service, for the same price as the older plan we were on.. so we did that.
Here’s another tricky thing. We had been getting our landline through our internet/cable provider- for $5 a month. But we never use it and only get spam calls on it. I’ve wanted to get rid of it anyway. Once we moved to the cheaper cable plan, the landline cost went up. Also with a ton of taxes, it was now going to be close to $40 a month! So we cut that. No more land line.
Also - when we switched to the skinny cable bundle we were informed our cable boxes were out of date, so they charged us a one time $50 fee for that change. I was not happy.
Let’s get to the third thing- and this made me really mad. As I mentioned earlier- the business model has been shifting away from having the phone plans subsidize the devices. We were paying $40 for each fo 3 phones in a monthly payment plan. Total $120 a month. Renting phones. One phone has one month left and the other 2 devices have 4 months left. When that is over, I plan and hope to get out of the monthly renting game- we’ll be holding on to our devices and so saving $120 a month on that bill. And if the older kids want the latest and greatest phones and choose to rent them- that will become their bill.
So there you have it- the bills, once we get those phone device payments off will be about half what they were.. and my bet is that my family will not come back to me asking for all those cable channels back.
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