Six months ago I had the unfortunate pleasure of losing my job (for reasons I will not get into at this juncture). As the sole provider for my wife and I, this was an abrupt change to our financial situation. We immediately had to reassess everything we were throwing money at on a monthly basis and were forced into the position of trying to put a stop to as much of it as possible.
It didn’t take long to realize just how irresponsible we had been with our finances. I’m almost embarrassed to share it but if this helps others decide to take a second look at how they throw money away, then I suppose it is worth the embarrassment.
My wife had recently acquired the new iPhone 10 as my Christmas gift to her, which was under contract for monthly payments with AT&T. My phone was paid for but I had a “free” tablet that, upon later inspection, was costing me each month and the unlimited plan for the two of us with all the bells and whistles and the monthly installments on her new phone added up to at least $150 a month or more after it was all said and done.
On top of the phone bill, we had Direct TV as a bundled deal with our AT&T service. This was another over $100 dollar expenditure that in hindsight wasn’t worth the up-sell from the folks at AT&T. The reason this was so foolish, I’m embarrassed to say, is because we actually already had cable TV service through Comcast. You see, we have only one choice were I live for an internet service provider and that was Comcast, like it or not. As ridiculous as it sounds, Comcast did not allow us to only have internet service through them. Instead, they force you to at least bundle the service with a television package, with “free” HBO and so forth for a year.
To make matters worse, I was unable to get the programming package I wanted for my wife through either Comcast or Direct TV so we sought service through another television provider to meet these needs. My wife is Indian and neither Comcast nor Direct TV were able to supply us with a package that had Hindi programming, though later I learned that the representative I spoke to at Comcast was mistaken and there is something apparently called the “Desi Pack” that provides Indian programming, but I digress. So, in an effort to make my wife feel less homesick, having only recently arrived in the States, we got service through Sling TV and upgraded to the Hindi package available through them.
Unfortunately, streaming Sling was choppy and programs would constantly get out of sync with the audio and video via the Chromecast devices we had on our televisions, so I did some research and bought Roku devices for all of our televisions to remedy this poor viewing experience. This solved the issue with the streaming but it opened up more temptation in the process.
I had already been receiving Netflix service but with the Roku device came so many prepackaged apps that soon I found myself wondering why Hulu was gaining popularity and, after some conversations with coworkers who had Hulu subscriptions, I soon found myself sold on another entertainment source to complete our home entertainment system. Of course, our Netflix, Hulu and Sling were all upgraded to be able to stream on multiple devices at once. What’s another 10 to 20 bucks a month anyway?
To quote the Talking Heads, “How did I get here? My God! What have I done?”
We were spending over $600 dollars a month on useless services that neither of us even used! I am a TV and movie junkie but my wife could care less about them and I worked too much between my job and home maintenance (raking leaves, mowing grass, cleaning the gutters, shoveling snow, fixing the thingamajig on the whatchamacallit etc.) to even make use of the plethora of services we were paying for!
The first thing I did was cancel the cable and internet. I called Direct TV. I called Comcast. I called Sling, Hulu and Netflix. I settled my bills with them and I was out free and clear. AT&T was a massive headache to deal with and after it was said and done it cost me close to $2000 dollars to get out from under them. This was after paying off the new iPhone and what remained on the so called “free” tablet I got when I bought my phone a year earlier. I returned all the devices to their respective providers, settled all remaining balances and I was stripped down to a simple prepaid plan on my phone that only charges $2 a day (only on the days it is used) and we switched her iPhone over to Cricket, cutting her bill down to just $55 a month.
I then went to Walmart and bought a reasonably priced digital antenna. I had never used an antenna to watch TV but I had recalled that regulations some years ago had forced all over the air signals to be converted to digital and that meant that, in theory, the channels one could receive through the air should be in High Definition.
I’ll admit it was a serious pain walking around my living room trying to find a sweet spot that also didn’t create an eyesore on the decor but it has truly been worth the effort.
We get around 14 HD channels that cover your need for news, weather, sitcoms, game shows and late night talk shows plus the several PBS channels are full of entertaining shows that fill the need for food and travel programming as well as documentaries like you would get from Discovery, TLC, Food Network and so forth on cable packages. I find myself completely satisfied with the programming available free through the air and in many ways more so than when I had every possible entertainment package imaginable.
There was something daunting about all of the entertainment options we previously had. It would take me forever to search through all of the available options and, somehow, I was hardly ever that enthusiastic with what I would finally settle on in the end. Often, I found myself watching YouTube more than anything else, which is another free source of endless entertainment if you have internet access.
So, what can you do about internet? Simply put, you can ask a friend for their login information with Xfinity. Anyone who has Comcast internet service likely also broadcasts a WiFi access point that allows Xfinity customers to login as a WiFi hotspot. Chances are you can pick one of these signals up where you live. You can also ask a generous friend for their Netflix login and even set up a profile on their account. I’ve heard of many people sharing these logins and, if free isn’t an option, sharing in the cost will likely sweeten the deal and still save you some significant money.
That said, I have found that a quick trip to your local library can easily fill the void left by Netflix for feature film entertainment. I’m not sure many are aware but your local library most likely carries DVD and Blu-Ray discs and they get the latest releases as well! Our library lets you checkout up to 12 discs at a time for a week, with the exception of new releases being overnight rentals, and all of this is completely free! They have an enormous selection in all genres and most of your favorite TV series box sets as well. So, Binge watching your favorite TV show is still an option, streaming services or not!
All in all we are completely satisfied with our Digital TV antenna and the local library as a resource for films and this costs us nothing at all! When compared to the thousands of dollars a year we were spending on all the shiny things we were fooled into subscribing to in the past, it’s easy to see what option we’ll be sticking with even when our financial situation improves.
I encourage anyone to take a look at how much you use the things you pay for and see if there is a cheaper or free resource to replace those unnecessarily high monthly bills. Saving 7 to 8 grand a year is no joke!