How much is your cable bill?

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Sometimes, I really feel like I am out of touch with the rest of the world. Living in my frugal corner of the world, I am sometimes shocked by how much people are willing to pay for things. Cable bills appear to be one of those things for which I am COMPLETELY out of touch!

Before Christmas, I was talking to a small group of people about internet speeds. I said we have 105 mps because of the businesses that we run out of the house. Someone asked how much I pay for that. It costs $76.50 per month. Apparently, people were impressed with that. I got a lot of “Wow! That’s pretty good” reactions from people in the group. So I asked what other people were spending. The answers varied from $240 to $310 per month! Seriously???

My jaw clearly hit the floor because a number of them reassured me that the amount they were spending was for TV, internet, and phone service. My gaping mouth was left unchanged by those reassurances, so I was asked how much I pay for all these services.

Well, $76.50 covers the internet and we get free basic cable (probably because we cancelled our cable TV for over a year). We have Ooma for our phone. That costs another $3.82 per month. So that’s about $81 per month. Now, their jaws were ajar.

Oh, and we have Amazon Prime to stream TV shows and movies. They all had Prime as well, in addition to their $240 to $310 per month cable bill.

I thought, this can’t be normal. This is just a few people. As we moved to a larger group of about a dozen people and the discussion continued, apparently this is very normal. Everyone in the group, except for me had TV, internet, and phone bills that were well over $200 per month.

I got upset when my bill went to $92 per month! I cancelled the cable TV portion and got an antenna to watch football and PBS. Previously, we had Netflix or Hulu in addition to Prime, but I didn’t want to spend the additional $8 per month. Plus I have more things in my Amazon queue than I will be able to watch in a lifetime, so I’m good with one service. I’m not sure how I would react if I got a $240 cable bill. Actually, I’m pretty damn sure I know how I would react.

Maybe I’m just completely out of touch but $240 per month is a lot of money. That’s over half my grocery budget. Over the course of a year, that’s a pretty decent vacation. An extra $160 placed in a retirement account at 8% for 30 years would be $234,904.14. Yup. That is a lot of money to give up to watch Swamp Stars or  The Real Housewives of King’s Landing.

Help me out here guys! How much are you spending each month for these services? Do you still have cable TV or have you cut the cord? I promise you that as soon as Comcast tries to charge me for cable, we will cut that cord again! Am I just completely out of touch?

A quiet evening with Netflix

It’s been a busy day. Spent most of the day grading papers and helping clients. After spending four straight days at school, it was a nice change of pace. Jeff and I were also able to have dinner with some great friends of ours.

After a long day, one of my favorite activities is to get into bed and enjoy some Netflix. We are currently watching the most recent season of Doctor Who. The thing I love about Netflix is being able to watch a ton of great content for such a low price. We have a streaming only plan which costs about $10 a month. Because of this, we are going to cut our cable to basic and save about $30 bucks a month.

Now, if I could only find a cheaper alternative to my cable internet.

Funny how life works

I was just opening my laptop to compose a post about how terrible cable TV is. I was going to talk about the fact that there is absolutely nothing worth watching that I can’t get online or through Netflix. Just as I was forming this into a post topic, I got an error in my browser. My cable internet is down again.

Tomorrow, I will be calling to cancel my cable TV. I wish we had another viable alternative for high speed internet. The phone company is actually worse than the cable company.

I’d rather have a tooth pulled than negotiate a cable deal

If you’ve been reading the blog since the beginning, you know about the awesome deal I had with Comcast. Well that deal expired this month. When my bill arrived, the total had gone from about $60 a month to $128 a month. I just about choked on the inflation. So I look at myself in the mirror and say Self, it’s time to call the cable company! Since I felt like crap and since Jeff has been so on board with the budget, I decided to let him call. It didn’t go well for him. The woman on the phone actually tried to upsell him. She told him that the only thing available in a package deal would cost him about $114 a month but he could get a super HD package for $135 a month. Um, nope. Now I understand that I got the deal of the century last year and I was not getting that deal again. But we were not doing $114 a month. Nope, no way.

It was my turn. I called again. I got a lovely gentleman on the phone who also said there were no deals and offered me cable, internet and phone for $114 a month. I’m quite happy with the phone service we have for $24.99 a month so nope. I told him I’d have to talk to my husband.

Called a bit later after exploring the internet.  Got someone on the phone who offered me all three services for $99 a month. Still too much for the phone. I really just want cable and internet. Plus, once you add in all the fees and boxes and things, you are still looking at $114 a month. I was looking to spend  about $75 for internet and cable.

The thing that really bugs me about the cable company is there are very few inexpensive options. If you are willing to remortgage the house, the cable company will sell you 4,000 channels you will never watch, plus all the movie channels in HD all for the bargain price of $159 a month. Do people actually pay that much for TV each month? I only watch about 5 channels and they want to charge me $62 a month? Even at that price I still can’t get the 5 channels I really want. If I want those, I’d have to get the super deluxe line up. Grrrrrr. Even for internet, there are two options: 1MB for 24.99 and 12MB for $42.00. Can’t we split the difference and have a 6MB plan? Maybe. Who the hell comes up with this stuff? Monopolies make me made.

So I’m pretty annoyed at this point. I’ve called three times and I’ve done my research online…wait…online. I go check the deals online to see if there is anything there. I can get the cable, phone and internet online for $99 with no equipment fee and a free netbook. Really? That sounds good. Oh and the internet is 6MB. I can’t buy it separately but I can get it in the package….Shut up, Kristin and order the package. Yes dear. I log into my account so everything is on the up and up and add the package to my shopping cart. It goes in. I’m then asked to confirm all my info, which I do. I am then connected to a live chat thing and am very quickly told that I do not qualify because I have internet. Had I not had internet, it would have been ok. We get into a bit of an online scuffle over shopping carts and stupid websites that don’t recognize what a customer already has for service. I tell him that I will call tomorrow to cancel my service. He tells me that he respects my decision and is there anything else he can do for me. Sigh.

The next morning, quite fed up with Comcast but willing to give them one more try, I call again. This time I get a lovely woman on the phone who can tell I’m looking to deal. She gives me the two options for internet and then introduces a new cable deal that no one has mentioned yet. How can this be? I drop my internet speed and she knocks almost $20 bucks a month off the cable bill for 12 months and even gives me some more channels.  Still don’t have the five I want but I’ll give me something to negotiate with next year. New monthly price: $77 a month for 12 months. I take the deal before she changes her mind. I call hubby to let him know we will have TV for another year.

The moral of the story here is don’t give up. The better deal is out there. You can achieve it. You just need a bit of patience; some Novocain might help, too.

Coupons, coupons everywhere!

I want to welcome new readers from The Non-Consumer Advocate. If you haven’t checked out Katy’s blog, take a few minutes to go over there (after you finish reading my post, of course).

Last time, I discussed grocery stores. Now, we move on to coupons. There are a lot of mixed feelings on coupons. Some people don’t think they are worth the time. Others spend lots of time cutting, trading and using coupons. I am a huge fan of coupons. I generally save $10 to $20 each week with my coupons, and I’m just getting back on the bandwagon after lapsing for a while. Every once in a while I do that. I get so caught up in other things that I don’t have time to cut coupons. My savings start to suffer and I get my butt back in gear. I am currently in the butt in gear phase.

I have a wide variety of sources for grocery coupons. The best source is the Sunday newspaper. I get the paper delivered everyday, which costs me $2 per week. Most newspapers will allow you to get just the Sunday paper or the Thursday/Sunday subscription for less than buying the paper at a store. The Thursday paper in Connecticut has most of the grocery store flyers for the week. If you consider subscribing to the paper, get the largest paper in your area. At one time we got the smaller daily paper, but it had a lot fewer coupons than the large paper. My mother-in-law gives me her coupons,  so I get double flyers. Yay Mom! I have to say I got really lucky in the in-law department.

You can talk to your delivery person to see if they have extra flyers you could have. Bribing your newspaper person with brownies helps.  You can also talk to your neighbors and co-workers if you are really outgoing. Get coupons from whoever you can! A lot of people just throw those coupons away. Perish the thought.

In addition to your paper, there are tons of sites on the internet where you can print coupons: coupons.com, couponmom.com, couponsuzy.com. You can print coupons through mypoints.com as well. If you Google “grocery coupons”, you’ll get tons of results. Just make sure you check with your grocery store, since not all stores take printed coupons. You should also check on your grocery store’s website. Many now have printable coupons.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me they can never find coupons for the brands they use. I’m generally not very brand loyal but there are a few things I love. In those cases, I call the customer service number on the package and ask for coupons. Every company has a customer service number. If you can’t find one on their packaging, check their website. If they don’t offer coupons in the Sunday papers or online, encourage them to do so when you call. Most companies have coupons they can mail to you. If you enjoy the product, call every few months to tell the company how much you enjoy their product. They will offer you coupons 90% of the time. I once called Sara Lee, which owns Jimmy Dean sausage, to see if the sausage was gluten free (I won’t tell you why). I was assured that it was gluten free and was offered tons of coupons. They arrived a few days later and the savings were AWESOME! For a two minute phone call, I got about $10 worth of coupons. Not a bad deal.

If you get really adventurous, you can start trading coupons. There are groups on the internet where you can trade coupons with others. I did this for a while. My savings were great, but it was really time consuming. If you have the time and really need the savings, these coupon trading groups are really worth it. Try yahoo groups for coupon trading groups.

Clip, clip, clip away. Next time, we’ll talk about organization and maximization!

Are you a coupon user? Tell me about your successes and failures with coupons.

Organizing your expenses

Keeping a budget can be a pain in the… yeah, it’s not easy. But I’ve found a way to make it a lot easier. While reading Kiplingers a while back, I came across an article on organizing your expenses. The author suggested a website called Mint. Before posting about it, I wanted to check it out myself. I’m really impressed with it.