Cutting the Cable Cord

I cut the cable cord today.  Well, not actually, but it will happen in one week.  I made the move after trying to get a better deal from AT&T Uverse and then Comcast.  I have said it before, I am not a super frugal finance blogger, so some may say its about time, not congrats.  Yes, I make my own laundry soap, but I also have a brand new car (well its 1 year old now).  I am much more increase your income and spend on things that mean more to you (we eat out, go on vacations, and don’t budget to the penny many times).

So that puts me in the middle of the cable debate.  I am more of a homebody, so I like having a DVR and having access to watch college football and basketball.  Some bloggers say cable is evil and it is costing you millions (not in so many words, but you get my drift).  Regardless, I finally reached my boiling point on this topic over the last week or so.literally cutting the cable cord

The Current Situation

AT&T Uverse is charging me $140 a month for U350, DVR, 18 Mbps internet, and a home phone.  We added the home phone when my wife started staying home with the kids, but have barely used it.  The internet never gets past about 12 Mbps, despite my multiple requests for them to address it.  I have enjoyed the reliability though.  In 5+ years, I have probably had about 4 -5 days total where the cable or internet was not working (about a month ago was almost 2 days and it was the longest outage).

I called about a week ago and asked to downgrade to U200 and to turn off the home phone (that is still a ton of channels).  I have a 2 year price guarantee that lasts until early December, but no contract (remnants of what I thought was a good deal at the time).  The retention agent kept telling me “wow you have a great deal” and that she couldn’t do anything. She told me if I made changes I would end up paying more.  

I am not sure why she didn’t suggest new discounts.  Maybe AT&T doesn’t want to bargain with me anymore.  Anyway, I told her no thanks and scheduled to turn off my service in two weeks.  It was a gamble since I did not yet have a plan, but I can always call back and say I changed my mind.  Over time my cable channels increased and I started getting charged with HBO, so my bill last year was not nearly what it is today.  I have also received several large credits, so the $140 per month is lower when you average it out over the last 2 years.  Either way, I don’t want to pay that much anymore.

Comcast the Savior?

That brings me to today; with one week left I called Comcast (the lesser of two evils?) to try and get a great deal.  After answering the basic question (to which I replied I wanted some kids channels and Fox Sports and that we did NOT do more than browse the web), she offered me a great premium package!  It took quite a while for my relative simple request, guess why…

What was that package you ask?  140 channels, 150 Mbps internet, home phone, AND an alarm system that comes with a free tablet!  All for the low, low price of $149.89.  But wait, there’s more… charges at least.  $10 a month a DVR system, $10 a month for my second tv, $10 for the router/modem lease and up to $4.25 in fees for regional tv and sports.  That does not even include tax.  I think that puts the deal at about $184 a month, and with taxes at close to $200! 

Basically, I asked for a mid-sized car and got offered a luxury hybrid.  I let her know I had an alarm system (I have a great story about that I am delinquent in sharing) and that we did not use the home phone.  I didn’t even mention how ludicrous it was to offer such a high internet speed when I originally mentioned we only surfed the net and did not stream content.

The next offer was for 140 channels and 25 Mbps internet plus HBO for 1 year for $79.99.  This also needed the $10 each tacked on for DVR, a second tv, and the modem lease.  This would result in a little over $100 a month in year 1 and $135 a month in year 2.  Oh, and I still needed to pay $49.99 for installation because this address has never had Comcast service before.  At least the early termination was only $10 per month left in the term (24 months, so max would be $230 as the first month you can cancel without penalty).

cable modem

$64 for a refurbished one is better than $10 a month to “lease” it

This was after she had trouble figuring that out if my house could even get Comcast.  At one point she told me it would be a week before I could even get a price due to needing to send a tech out to make sure I could get the service.  I told her I could see about 5 wifi networks called xfinity from the wireless manager on my computer.

I asked if they could do any better as with the costs of me buying my own modem to avoid the $10 monthly lease fee and the $50 installation, I would not be saving much over AT&T.  Much faster internet, but way less channels and no phone is not exactly an incredible deal.

The Comcast rep told me that they could not alter new customer pricing offers and that was the best she could do.  I politely said not thanks and hung up.  I was disappointed and not sure what my next move needed to be.

What is My Next Move?

I started to think I would have to call AT&T back and cancel my cancellation.  I talked to my wife about my frustration and she helped me reach a radical decision for a television buff such as myself.  She is fine with not having cable.  We could rent movies or find free content for the kids.  She is not addicted to tv like me, but does enjoy some of my favorite shows (she really likes Game of Thrones).  She just wants to have good internet.

It was at that point that I decided I was done with cable.  It was a big move that in the past I was not sure if I could ever make.  It was not as much of a straight money saving thing, but more of not liking the absence of any intermediate options.  Cable just keeps adding on cost every year and I dislike that very much.  You didn’t used to pay for the equipment monthly and random other charges.

AT&T Uverse internet speeds are not that fast, so I decided to just go back to the Comcast website to find an internet only deal.  I quickly decided it was worth the risk to pay the $50 installation fee to get 3-4x the speed that I get now.  Especially if we will be streaming almost all of our tv over our internet connection.  At that point I did some quick math to figure out if it was worth it or not.  Obviously, it was a considerable difference every month.

Time for the Cable Cord Cutting Numbers!

To move to internet only, I need a way to connect my tvs to the internet. I decided to get the new Amazon Fire TV and an Amazon Fire TV Stick for our second tv that is not used as much.  This will connect us to most of the apps that I expect we will use the most.  The cost was $99.99 for the new Amazon Fire TV and $39.99 for the Fire TV stick (see all the options here).  I can always send it back if I decide 2 sticks would work or we want to go a different route.  I added taxes in to the set-up cost total below, hence the cost difference.

I also needed to confirm that I could get a cable modem in time for next Saturday.  I found a refurbished Motorola Surfboard for $63.95 (free shipping) on eBay.  The seller has a high rating and this particular model seems to be a very popular one.  It should arrive between Wednesday and Friday.  Since it is a wireless router as well, I won’t need to get a wifi router to replace the AT&T Uverse one I will have to send back.

Back to the actual service selection topic: I selected a 75 Mbps plan with a $44.99 price tag for the first 12 months.  I didn’t see a commitment anywhere in the fine print, but the monthly cost would go up to $60 in year 2.  I could wither downgrade the speed or try to get another deal at that point.  I did the numbers assuming I would keep it at the higher price just for giggles.  Since I am investing in the modem, keeping it longer is probably the highest probability move (but the savings in 1 year still justify buying it versus renting).  I don’t think there are any other hidden costs besides adding a few bucks for taxes, so I estimated the monthly cost to be $50.

cable setup costs

The numbers pencil out to pay back my initial investment in modem and equipment in 3 months. I end up saving about $800 in the first year even after spending that $270!  If I can’t get another promotional deal and the price goes up in year 2, I still save about $900 that year versus what I pay now.  I realize I now get zero cable channels (directly at least), no DVR, and drop my home phone service to achieve those savings.  I don’t mind that trade-off to save about 50% versus what I would pay over the next year form no changes (that includes spending the $271 now to save each month going forward).

The good news is that we can get our show over the internet.  Except for live sports, the internet works like a DVR (I can watch last week’s episode  of whatever show without worrying about taping it).  And we didn’t use our home phone anyway, 95% of the calls were telemarketing or spam.  Note to California Solar: quit calling me!  I bought solar over a year ago and love it (I have told you to stop calling multiple times, too).cord cutting analysis

Oh did, I mention that I used my Chase Freedom Visa card for the purchase and will receive 5% back in Chase Ultimate Reward points?  Those are great points to use for travel hacking due to their flexibility!  I won’t spend much more on Amazon this quarter, but it will still help reduce my costs.  I didn’t factor in that 5% rebate as it will sit in our points account for quite some time and be used on travel, not to reduce any regular costs.

The Final Outcome

Come next Saturday, I will have Comcast internet at 75 Mbps for $44.99 a month (probably $50 after tax).  At that point, I can send back my AT&T equipment (at a UPS store for no charge- if I can find one).  It will cost me a little over $270 for installation and the new equipment.  I expect to save over $1,700 in two years from this move (less if we add Hulu or some other streaming service, but even then it would be close to $1,500 in savings over that time).

I hope that we enjoy the new set-up and don’t miss cable.  I don’t mind watching the Blacklist or Big Bang Theory online and we can use my parents HBO Go log in to continue to have access to HBO for Game of Thrones (and movies).  We will evaluate a Hulu subscription and maybe a HDTV local antenna from Amazon to get some of the local channels over the air. I am just not sure how much live television we will actually watch after the change.  Part of me envisions more family time, which would be an even better reason than money to make the move!

This whole post sort of feels like a long rant, but I am excited to see if cutting the cable cord will work for my family.  The new Amazon Fire TV looks like a pretty neat product that will help us find the content we enjoy without a lot of work (I expect no lag and lots of options).  I will probably post a review of the products along with an update of the cord cutting adventure in a month or so.  Since Amazon Prime was also on sale last week, we can stream all of that content over the next year, too (which is weird since I wrote about why I was letting Amazon Prime go a few months ago).

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Has anyone else made the move to cut cable for other than pure savings reasons?  Just for the record, the Amazon links are affiliate links.  If you need to make a purchase click through one of my Amazon ads or links first and I can get a commission (you will not pay a higher price, so don’t worry).  I would really appreciate your support.  

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27 Responses

  1. Jason L. says:

    That seems like a great solution for you that will save you a lot of money! We have definitely considered it, because we don’t watch much TV. But the problem is that almost exclusively, the TV I watch is live sports. That’s what I enjoy watching more than anything. I have very little free time, but the time I spend watching TV is nearly all live sports. Because of that, we haven’t made the move yet to cut the cord.

  2. Dan says:

    We returned to the USA last year, never signed up for cable, just internet. What with Amazon prime, we don’t miss cable at all, the sole exception is a few NFL football games & we can find places to watch them. Bye Bye cable…..
    You will be happy with the move you are making & the savings!

    • vawt says:

      Thanks Dan! My Sundays are usually my yard work day, so I don’t watch much NFL anymore. I prefer to relax on Saturday and watch college football instead.

  3. We cut out cable TV years ago when we were working our way out of debt. At first my family had a melt down but over time we all learned to fill out time with other more productive things to do. I began reading more books, my kids played outside more and overall we have been better people for the experience. Of course we still have our TV but now we watch over the air free digital TV and have a Netflix account for streaming movies and shows. We now spend $9 per month on TV verses $100. I will never go back to cable TV again. Best move I ever made.

    • vawt says:

      I was never working out of a big debt hole, so I could always afford to keep it. I think now I want my kids to do what you mentioned- go and play. The cost savings are nice, too. Thanks!

  4. I have yet to cut cable. I live with two roommates so splitting the bill makes it quite reasonable (I pay less than $60 for cable and internet). I am moving in the spring (no more roommates for this guy) and I will cut the cable then. I mainly watch Seinfeld re-runs and sports, and I can get a lot of those over the air with the local channels. I also already have an apple TV I bought a while back to stream Netflix and whatnot. Great work cutting cable, I bet you won’t regret it.

  5. Frank S says:

    Hey Vawt,
    We cut cable a little over a year ago. We were spending over $200 per month on U-verse and spent 90% of TV time streaming $9 Netflix or included Amazon prime. We now have 3 roku’s, cable internet for $25, and a mohu sky 60 antenna split to several tv’s in the house using existing coax wiring and a splitter. We get close to 40 channels and great picture quality. I do agree streaming encourages more intentional viewing (less scan and settle), and more non-tv family time. Don’t miss cable, and save over $2k per year.
    Frank

    • vawt says:

      Frank- how many channels did you get without the antenna? I think I need to just spend money to get one, but do I need a powerful one (like 60 mile) or less is the question…

      • Frank S says:

        It depends on your location and how close you are to towers. I made the mistake of buying a cheaper 30 mile version and didn’t get much ( a few channels that got scrambled up often). I ended up buying a better version in the end that I’m happy with. I would generally say it’s worth paying up for the better equipment options as you cut the cord. A one-time price tag of a few hundred to get the right stuff and make the transition easier is well worth it if you’re savings $100-200 per month.
        Frank

  6. TheMoneyMine says:

    Hi Vawt – welcome to the club 🙂
    I cut cable about 2 years ago because the bill was getting ridiculous. TV channels weren’t great because every show had something like 4-5 commercial breaks, it was just not worth it.

    To be sure, we still bought a digital antenna. We get something like 50 free channels where we live and we could always watch TV if we wanted to.
    We just never used the antenna. Netflix, Apple TV or an Amazon FireTV are just great alternatives.

    Not only do we save money but we also spend (waste?) less time in front of the TV since everything now is on-demand and commercial free!

    • vawt says:

      I am curious to see how many channels I can get with the antenna. I might need to take baby steps and go watch tv at a friends house!

  7. TheMoneyMine says:

    You can check this online at antennaweb.org, based on your ZIP or your street address and it will check your line of sight & distance with the transmitter to tell you what you can get. My 80$ antenna discovered ~50 channels, all of them listed on that site, plus a few more. It’s worth checking.

  8. Lisa says:

    Our family just cut the cord, too! It’s so much easier than I thought it would be. Interestingly, my daughter has stopped asking for every toy that comes on the market because now she doesn’t know they exist. It’s wonderful. I highly suggest it to everyone!

  9. Tawcan says:

    Seems that more and more people are cutting cable to save money. I think that’s a great move. We’ve been TV and cable free for close to 5 years and have never looked back.

  10. vivianne says:

    I have roommate who wants cable TV, so I can’t cut the cord yet. I don’t turn the TV on unless Mr. is there with me. Verizon is offering free HBO for 3 months, and I don’t have to call in to cancel, which is great.

    I dealt with Comcast and AT&T before, I don’t like how my bill would change after a certain period. Having to call in to renegotiate is tiring.

  11. Hey Vawt, I had a similar call to an AT&T’s retention agent recently. I was also gambling a bit, but was certainly prepared to cut the cord. However, they did end up throwing me a bone, so I’m locked back in for another year at my initial discounted rate. In some ways though, I kind of wish they hadn’t kept my rate and I just cut the cord. Looks like you’re new setup is working out well. Thanks for sharing! I’m going to have to reference it again next year when I have my annual U-Verse call. 🙂

  12. Steve says:

    We cut cable three years ago. We went to a HD antenna and get the local channels that we were watching on cable anyway. We moved our internet from Comcast to Wifi hood and saved even more money. I HATE paying money to watch tv. We do have a Hulu account to watch some other shows or those we missed on live tv but seems to work great for us. The final thing that made us move from Comcast Internet was a small issue. Garbage truck pulled the line from the attachment to the garage so I called to have it reattached. After calling I was asked to run through issues that may be causing problems, was told the router was to old and finally offered other better plans to upgrade to. All when all I needed was the line reattached to the garage connection. I AM NOT a fan of Comcast and without at the time knowing where we would go told the agent that she wasn’t listening to a thing I was saying and therefore could disconnect as I was done! Anyway, really enjoy keeping up with your blog.

    • vawt says:

      so far the internet speed is about 90 Mbps, but the refurb modem/router I bought is dropping the wifi signal too often. I think I am goign to to return it and spend a bit more for a better one. Also, we bought an HD antenna and are only getting 5 channels. I think I need a more powerful one!

  13. Heather M says:

    We cut the cord about 4 years ago. Watch most of our TV live still though attenna. We find we watch a ton of pbs shows like nature and nova and historical programs. Also like channels like metv, antenna TV, mytv for old programs like giligans island, Mr ed,etc. Have 3 roku because we love them enough to have for all TVs. As baseball fans we pay for yearly mlbtv package to watch all live out of market games. I know NBA has something similar. If you really want ESPN you might look into sling TV service. Supposedly only 20 a month though internet.

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