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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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.