Maximizing Your Budget: Internet, Cell Phone, and Cable

Maximizing Your Phone and TV

Well, it’s November, which means we’ve reached our second-to-last category for maximizing your budget in 2015. Next month we’ll discuss non-discretionary spending, and then this series will be complete and we’ll all be budgeting wizards! Today we’ll be discussing how to maximize your Internet, cell phone, and cable bills. These categories are more straightforward than others we’ve discussed, but no less important. Each can add up to be huge bills each month that can make or break your budget. So let’s focus on ways to make sure they don’t break it.

Choosing Internet

We all need the Internet in our homes. It’s almost as essential as electricity and running water, so canceling your Internet altogether isn’t an option. Well, unless your neighbor has unprotected WiFi you can steal. Kidding. And sometimes you have no control over your Internet bill whatsoever. For us, it’s caked into the monthly HOA fee. But that’s not always the case, and sometimes you can find ways to save on your Internet bill each month.

  • Shop around. If it’s possible in your area, shop around to different Internet carriers to compare prices. Even $10 saved per month adds up over the course of a year.
  • Check your speed. If you’re able to choose your Internet speed, you may be paying for more than you actually need. Unless you’re doing some heavy duty gaming, you don’t need more than 10 to 20 MB/second. With one phone call, you can downgrade your Internet and save an extra $10 to $20 per month.

Calling About Your Bill

Speaking of phone calls, Johnny and I have a favorite way of saving on cable, cell phone, and Internet bills. And it’s pretty simple. All you do is pick up your phone and give them a call. It usually goes a little something like this:

Hi, I recently got my bill in the mail, and it’s a little higher than my budget can currently afford for [insert service here]. I was wondering if there’s a way to lower my monthly payment before I decide to cancel the service or go with another provider?

Our cell phone carrier always has some way to save money, like combining or lowering our monthly data. And there’s always a way to downgrade your cable package so that you’re not paying for channels you never use. Before you know it, you’re saving $50/month like it ain’t no thang.

Switching Carriers

Cell phone bills can be a beast. But now there are options to tame that beast. And you can find them in the new, budget cell phone carriers that have popped up over the last few years. Our two favorites are Ting and Republic Wireless. With these new carriers, your bill doesn’t just get cut in half. It becomes a tiny fraction of what it used to be. Johnny and I really want to switch to one of these as soon as our contract is up with our current carrier. Cell phone bills under $50/month? Yes, please.

Cutting the Cord

If you’re really looking to save some dough on your cable or satellite bill, we have an idea — get rid of it altogether! Now I know that sounds insane, but hear me out. About a year ago, Johnny and I said bye-bye to cable for the first time ever in our marriage. And we’ve never looked back since. Now of course we think everyone else should do it, too ;). The streaming possibilities for movies and TV shows are endless, and we now pay barely anything. We purchased an older Apple TV and we have Netflix, so our monthly TV bill is now less than $10/month. Johnny did an extremely comprehensive post on cutting the cable cord earlier this year, if you want more info. And if you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to live TV, there are options like Sling TV that will stream your favorite channels for only $20/month. In short, if you’re looking to save money each month and you still have cable/satellite, there are definitely other options out there.

Those are our best tips and tricks for keeping those bills under control. Now we want to hear yours! Anyone else out there have some favorite ways for keeping your cell phone, Internet, and TV-watching needs under control?

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  • Reply TT November 17, 2015 at 8:02 am

    One extra thing is going without data on your phone (gasp!). It probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but here is our situation. I spend most of my week at work, home, Home Depot (almost kidding), or at church; and wouldn’t you know all of those places have Wi-Fi. We leave the data on my wife’s phone on as she is out and about much more than I am. Also, most weekends we are out and about as a family, and we grab her phone when we need a little Google Maps assistance or an online price check. You would also be amazed at how many retailers offer free Wi-Fi in their stores (thanks Home Depot). When I need it and I’m on my own, I’m almost always able to find some free Wi-Fi nearby. It keeps my phone bill at around $10/mo. Maybe not for all the single folk, but I think married couples have a real opportunity to save.

  • Reply Megyn November 17, 2015 at 9:04 am

    We just got smart phones about a month ago, and after looking at Ting and Republic, we stayed with our T-Mobile Family plan through Walmart. I like it because it’s $63/month (that includes all taxes, etc.), and we get unlimited everything. When we found out that Ting makes any picture message as data usage, we discovered that a bill with Ting would be far higher than with T-Mobile Family. We are one of the few families where we actually take advantage of unlimited minutes and texting. Plus I like not having to worry about how many minutes or texts we’ve used–I can communicate freely. It’s another cheap and easy option for those looking around 🙂

  • Reply Chelsea November 17, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Joanna – I read the first edition on negotiating bills and was skeptical. A few weeks ago I thought “why not” and gave Sprint a call….15 minutes later my husband and I are now saving $410 annually. My husband has a company phone so family plan options do not work – having the ability to negotiate my bill was empowering! Thank you for the tip!

    • Reply Johnny December 27, 2015 at 2:02 am

      This is so awesome! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Luke Fitzgerald @ FinanciallyFitz November 18, 2015 at 9:20 am

    What I find interesting is how people (like me) will bemoan and complain about gas prices increasing, but dont pay any attention to expenses like cell-phone, internet and cable when they are spending way more on those things. It’s hard to go to the gas pump every couple weeks and watch something tell you you just paid 40/50/60 dollars for gas. But we dont mind it when it comes straight out of our bank account.

    This past year we really tried to look at these things. So now we dont have cable, I have a really old phone and there are no plans to upgrade anything 🙂

  • Reply Cat@BudgetBlonde November 18, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    Good tips! We call on our bills to get them lower whenever the current promo (usually locked in for 12 months) is expiring.

  • Reply Jessica November 20, 2015 at 8:46 am

    We have been with Ting for almost 2 years and LOVE it! We spend $33/month typically. The nice thing is that if it is a high minute use month it ends up being about $6 more. We do use Google Voice at home so we don’t use minutes for outbound calls which is nice for long work meetings and such.

    We were going to wait until our contract with Sprint was up but when we crunched the numbers it was cheaper for us to pay to cancel and switch to Ting. We save over $70/month compared to what we had been paying. Keep an eye on their facebook feed or sign up for their emails because they have run a promo a couple of times that will pay for your cancellation fee if you switch.

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