Cutting the Cord

alternate title: Eliminating Some Un-Needed Expenses

I remember years ago (ok, perhaps 10 years), closing my eyes tight and leaping off a cliff. Well, not literally, but I cancelled my house’s fixed phone line, which felt pretty much like the same thing. Except that wasn’t either, because I was using an internet phone service called Ooma, which gave me a phone number, just not from the phone company. Still, savings! It was about $30 / year as opposed to $40 / month for something I didn’t really use, since we used our mobile phones pretty exclusively.

About a year or two later, the Ooma device died. Strangely, I didn’t feel the need to replace it. It was a little odd, though. Growing up, I had a home phone number I had memorized, and my friends used it to call be and such. Now, my kids would need to give out my phone number… but since the oldest was just 5, that was not really a big deal.

Fast forward to three years ago. We had cable tv and internet through comcast, which was over $100 a month. And we also had this neat service Netflix that offered streaming tv shows and movies – it just wasn’t always current shows. Hulu came along and solved that problem (though I don’t watch it much, others do). Each for about $10. With that, cable TV was nixed. I missed a few channels like the Food Network and Discovery Channel, and the kids didn’t have a couple of kids channels… but Netflix made up for it. And Amazon Prime Video streaming added more variety. And for watching the Super Bowl and other rare events on local channels, I got a Mohu Leaf Antenna.

Earlier this year, I felt that our mobile plan on Verizon at $156 / month for two phones was a bit steep, and began shopping around. There are a lot of options, but I settled on Ting, which has a pay-for-use plan after a basic $6 per phone rate. Now I’m running off the T-mobile network, which admittedly is not as great for coverage as Verizon, but I’m paying $50-$60 a month for two phones instead of three times that.

Feeling pretty good about this frugality for relative lack of sacrifice, I looked for other things. I noticed that our Comcast bill had morphed… A couple of years ago, they had called and offered us HBO for free, we just needed to get their basic cable… and the total ($64/mo) was less than the current rate we were paying for just internet ($69/mo). So it was a no brainer… plus I wanted to watch Game of Thrones. But as I mentioned, this morphed into a $115/mo after a year, as their free HBO and other services had fine print rate increases. (I had made the deal and my then-spouse was paying the bills – not a great idea mixing things up like that.) Game of Thrones was on hiatus, so I dropped HBO and also dropped our Internet speed from 105 megabit per second down to 24 megabit per second, which reduced the rate to about half before the cable modem device rental. No perceptible difference in speed! HD streaming only needs about 6 megabits, anyway. As an added bonus, a couple of weeks in, I received a notice from Comcast that they were increasing my bandwidth to 55 megabit/sec. Nice! Again, no perceptible difference, but I verified it on speedtest.net.

You probably caught that mention of cable modem device rental… it’s $10 / month! I read on the internet about my options here, especially since I seemed to need to reset the wi/fi radio on it every couple of days. It turns out that most any Docsis 3.0 router I buy can replace that! I found an “ARRIS SURFboard SBG6580-RB DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem / N300+N300 Dual Band Wi-Fi Router” – refurbished – for $45 on Amazon, and put it in to service. Flawless! A few days later (today), I returned the rented unit to Comcast/Xfinity. After four and a half months, the new unit will have paid for itself.

And what to do with that extra $10 / month? HBO is now on Amazon Channels – I don’t need cable tv to get it anymore. I’ll have HBO again partly from the savings from buying my own cable modem, at least as long as I need to watch Game of Thrones.