A growing number of telecommunications providers are offering cable and internet bundles, which provide both services for a fixed monthly price. Yet, despite the convenience and savings these plans claim to offer, a lot of people are unhappy with their service—and they’re even less happy about the price they pay for it. If you’re in that boat, there’s good news. Savvy consumers can use multiple strategies to save money without compromising the value they get from their current plans.
Examine Your Bill
Telecom companies are infamous for their tricky nickel-and-diming tactics. In a typical scenario, a customer will agree to a cable and internet bundle at an appealing monthly price, only to see their bill padded with additional charges like local channel fees that drive the actual price far beyond the initial quote. In other cases, you may also be charged for extra equipment you don’t need and didn’t realize you were ordering, like DVR services or extra cable boxes.
Thus, the first place to start is with your bill. Check it item by item and account for every charge you see. If you don’t understand something, call and get an explanation. Then, eliminate all the excess until you’re down to the original bundle you thought you were getting in the first place.
Buy Your Own Router or Modem
Most people rent their routers and modems from their cable companies or internet service providers. The monthly charge is usually only a few dollars, but if you add up these rental costs over a period of years, you’ll quickly find they total far more than the price you would pay to buy these items yourself. Chances are your telecom company’s sales rep will try to talk you out of making this choice, but the reality is that routers and modems are pretty easy to configure and you don’t require much technical knowledge to set them up properly.
The only thing to watch for is making sure the router or modem you buy meets the necessary technical requirements for the type of service you have. One easy way to cover this issue is to purchase the same model you’re currently renting. You can also visit a computer or electronics retailer in person and ask for advice from an employee.
Cut the Cord
A lot of people are hesitant to cut the so-called cord that connects them to traditional television, but the quality of streaming media is very high nowadays. If you get a high-speed internet connection with unlimited bandwidth, a streaming box, and an HDTV antenna, you can then pick and choose channels via paid or free streaming apps. You won’t have to deal with cable companies or contracts, and you can still get most major channels.
As an alternative, you order a low-cost live TV streaming service that delivers dozens of familiar channels for a fraction of the price cable companies charge. Some providers, like YouTube TV, Hulu Live, and DirecTV Now, offer channel bundles that deliver most major networks. The one downside is that live sports networks aren’t available through many of these providers. However, you can bridge this gap by purchasing on-demand streaming access directly from your favorite sports leagues: the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL all offer variations on this service.
Digital media and streaming have created a new competitive landscape, and cable companies are terrified of losing customers. Consumers have more options than ever, so shop around to see what other deals are out there. Chances are good that your current service provider will match a competitor’s better offer in order to keep you in the fold.
If you do decide to jump ship to another service provider, do some careful research first. Check customer reviews to make sure the company provides reliable service at a fair price. Some upstart companies and smaller providers have reliability and customer service issues, so make sure there aren’t any red flags before you take your business elsewhere.
Check Your Speed
People are often tempted to buy the fastest possible internet speeds, even if it means paying through the nose for it. Yet, in many cases, the performance improvements are negligible, largely because technicians rarely optimize modems and routers for peak efficiency. In reality, you probably don’t need blazing fast home internet unless you’re into media-rich applications like gaming. Scale back to something in the range of 25 Mbps for everyday browsing and save yourself some money. Chances are you won’t even notice the difference…except in your wallet.
Unbundle Your Services
Apart from switching to another telecom provider, unbundling your cable and internet is one of the more drastic measures you can take. In fact, a growing number of consumers are electing to cancel their cable TV service altogether. Internet-based on-demand media has made this option more viable than ever before, and it could save you hundreds of dollars per year. If you don’t watch much live TV and you’re not making full use of the hundreds of channels you subscribe to, look into internet-only service.
A Final Word to the Wise
One last thing to consider: does your cell phone data plan effectively double up on what your home internet already provides? With wireless internet coverage now available in pretty much every developed corner of the country, you can probably get by with a bare-bones data package if you have unlimited internet at home. Just connect your smartphone to your home WiFi when you’re in the house and save your mobile data for when you’re really on the go.