Trimming The Cable Bill
Is your landline only used to dial your temporarily misplaced cell phone? Do you spend more time flipping channels on your remote than actually watching a program? Is your TV screen used primarily to stream programs from the Internet? If yes, it might be time to consider downgrading your cable service to “single play.”
Once you get your new cable bill, you’ll wonder what you were thinking when you thought “triple play” was such a great deal.
After a visit to my local electronics store to purchase a cable modem, a Roku, and an indoor HDTV antenna, I’m here to tell you, cutting the chord with Comcast is painless. Really.
We subscribed for decades to the premium packages from Comcast, primarily because Sunday night meant a steady date with Larry David, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Dexter, True Blood, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, and the like.
When my kids were small, bringing up babies meant chanting, “Nick-Nick-Nick, Nick-Nick-Nick-Nick, Nickelodeon” several times a day (with me doing most of the chanting).
Years later, the kids grew and the chants got louder, and changed to “Let’s Go Rangers.” Sports channel packages, which included the MSG station, ruled.
But like the last playoff season, all that is history now. My children are grown and live on their own, and my husband has retired. Translation: we’re empty nesters living on a fixed income.
With apologies to the Blueshirts (and the kids), premium programming hardly seemed worth keeping for the occasional visits made by my son and daughter during hockey season. And all at once, or so it seemed, all our favorite shows which were shown only on the premium channels, were wrapping, for good.
We decided one TV was plenty for a two-person household, especially considering we spend more time staring into our computer screens than a TV. Our cell phones work perfectly fine inside our home, and besides, the landline won’t work anyway in a power outage, so giving that up was a no brainer for us. Only the telemarketers are annoyed.
We wondered, could there still be a way to watch only what we felt worthy on television (including any new series on the horizon) and not pay a premium (or much less of one)? Could we still catch the evening news? Late night TV? An old movie, in a foreign language perhaps? In a word, “yes.”
Turns out, because of our proximity to New York City, we get plenty of channels — some of which we never even got when he had a PAID subscription. Stations may vary among reception areas, but besides the regular network channels, here are some of my faves:
Antenna TV (think Bewitched, Leave it to Beaver, All in the Family, basically,”old school TV for baby boomers”);
Grit TV (their tagline is “Television with Backbone” — think westerns and war movies);
Decades TV (retro series for the binge watcher); and
NYC Media (because sometimes, I’m just in the mood to watch a New York City Council meeting or an interview at the 92nd Street Y).
As I flip through the 50+channels my antenna receives, I actually forget I don’t have the cable TV option — until I open my bill, with the numbers “$56.95” staring right back at me.
Here’s how I did it, and how you can too:
First: CALL COMCAST TO REMOVE SERVICES. The number is 855 370-3295. Grin and bear with the seemingly endless teleprompts, it’ll be over soon. Once you connect to a live human being, let them know you want the “Performance Internet Only” option and resist all offers to bundle. Remember, more still means more $. Tell them you are buying your own cable modem so they don’t charge you, and remember to return your current modem to a local branch.
Second: INVEST IN A CABLE MODEM. I went to Best Buy and bought the ARRIS/Motorola Surfboard SB6183. They list for about $129. If you do nothing else, purchase a cable modem and return the rented one to Comcast. It will pay for itself (the rental for the modem is $10 a month).
Third: GET A ROKU. Since we don’t have a “smart” TV, I also needed to purchase a Roku– a little device that allows you to stream Netflix, Amazon, etc. (about $50). Roku turns your flat screen TV into a smart TV. If you have already have a smart TV with the Netflix/Amazon, etc. Apps, you won’t need a Roku.
Fourth: PURCHASE AN INDOOR HDTV ANTENNA. Mine is white, cost $20 and looks nothing like the “bunny ear” types you’re probably thinking of. (Some Rokus are sold in packages which include an HDTV antenna). It plugs right into the back of your flat screen TV.
Fifth: BUY A SUBSCRIPTION TO NETFLIX $7.99 monthly (that’s less than $100 per year). If you need help, ask a teenager. There are lots of free series on Netflix (House of Cards, Orange is the New Black) and searching for original programming is kinda fun. May I recommend Peaky Blinders.
Sixth: SIGN UP FOR AMAZON (it’s free) You can buy most series like The Waking Dead, Mad Men, etc., even in their current season, (and after several weeks go by, binge watch if you want). A great way to see if you even LIKE the new season of True Detective or check out Better Call Saul. If you’re a diehard fan, Amazon offers entire season package pricing too. Lots of movies — some you rent for a couple of days, some you own. Prices vary. Be choosy.
After the initial investment of about $180 for the modem, the Roku and the antenna, add in the annual cost of Netflix ($95.88), you’ve expended about $275.
Factor in $56.95 (as of this writing) per month for the new and improved annual Comcast bill ($683.40), the first year’s cost is less than $1,000. The second year, even less, now that the devices will be paid for.
And that leaves a whole lot in the kitty for pay for view TV — or to take a real vacation, instead of tuning into The Travel Channel. Although I must confess, binge watching Anthony Bourdain is almost as good as being there.