My wife and I were reviewing our finances the other day. We’re not extravagant spenders. We have nice things and still like to find ways to save money. One thing that we’ve been a little frustrated over as of late is the now large expense of cable, internet, and telephone. Of course, we’re Comcast customers. I wrote “the now large expense” because about 2 months ago the expense wasn’t as great as it now is.
Like many of you, we got roped into the “promotional” bundle package deal that offered high speed internet, phone, and HD television with free HBO for under $99 a month. When my wife and I first got this deal we didn’t really think of it as a “promotional” price. We thought it was fair and reasonable. I personally couldn’t see why this package deal would cost more than $99 a month. I wouldn’t call myself a technology moron, but I’m also not an expert; I could see that the internet, phone, and cable were all piped in through the same coax. I’m sure the use of that line for all three services can be pricey, especially if you use all three often, but at $99 a month I thought Comcast must still be making a hefty profit. I mean, does data exchange really cost that much? I just can’t see how it does.
When you look at our bill from May 2010, you can see that all three services cost $86.53 that month. That was even cheaper than $99! That was the golden days of the “promotional” bundle price.
When you look at our bill from August 2010, 3 months later, you can suddenly see some overwhelming differences. The “promotional” price of $99 was now inflated to $160.77!
Suddenly cable more than doubled. It went from $40.94 to $88.92, which was an increase of $47.98. The internet has remained the same, which has been explained to me by a Comcast customer service rep as the “savings” I get by having all three services. However, our telephone (aka digital voice) went from $26.41 to $49.04, which was an increase of $22.68. Our total bill increased $70.66 because the “promotional” period had ended (excluding taxes). That didn’t make sense to me. It nearly doubled. My wife and I were not pleased. I did spend some time on the phone with Comcast trying to get back on the “promotional” bundle pricing, which I was told back in February would be possible by the local salesman right after the current promotion ended. Apparently the bets were now off the table and we were stuck with an inflated bill that felt egregious. That is, until we discovered Hulu.com and a little program called Play On.
As I began to research alternatives to cable television I thought that there had to be some other way to see the TV shows we watch legally, but at a lesser cost. I was aware of Hulu.com, but I never really looked at it until now. Hulu.com is a partnership between major television networks to offer core programming in an effort to curb illegal downloads. The only drawback is that it’s on the internet and most of the shows come a day later than their normal air time. For busy people like my wife and I this is not a big deal. We never watch a show at the time it airs. We usually record it with a DVR and watch it later. Essentially, this method follows our current lifestyle. No issue there at all.
The only drawback is that some shows we casually watch are not on Hulu.com. If they are they come in 1-3 minutes clips, like Food Network’s show Chopped. When we broke it down between the two of us there are only 3 shows we must watch: The Office, Grey’s Anatomy, and Ghost Hunters. And guess what? All three are on full episodes on Hulu.com.
Now I needed to find a way to pipe it through my television. When I got my first big bonus 3 years ago I paid off my student loans, saved some money, put more money into my 401k, and bought a 46″ Samsung LCD 1080p HD TV. I couldn’t let that go to waste!
We could have hooked our desk top PC to the television and ran the shows through there, but that would mean completely rearranging the living room to get the PC close enough to the TV without running a 20 foot cord. Not our ideal option. We could also hook up the laptop to the television, but I wondered if there was a way to show Hulu.com through my Xbox 360. I found out there is.
There’s a program called Play On. You can download it to your computer. Once you do, you have to be sure your Xbox 360 is on the same network as you computer. In my case, it is. You can then log into your Xbox and go to Videos. Under that menu there’s a link call “Play On”. Just go through that link and you can enjoy all the Hulu.com programming. Granted, it’s not in HD, but it is widescreen which is what I prefer. Additionally, Microsoft says they will be offering a Hulu.com membership through Xbox 360 at the beginning of 2011. Apparently for $9.99 a month you can get your favorite shows in HD via Xbox 360. That sounds very reasonable.
Suddenly, I’m ready to cancel my cable and save some money. Since my wife and I both have cell phones, we’re going to cancel our home phone as well. We rarely use it anyway. Our internet will go from the current $14.95 to $42.95 since we’re no longer on the bundle pricing. That means we’ll start saving $117.82 a month, which is $1413.84 a year. That isn’t chump change. Here are all the things we could do with an extra $1413.84 a year:
- We could fill up our gas tanks about 50 times at the current gas prices.
- We could pay our electric bill for 15 months.
- We could fly to Hawaii round trip for two…Twice! (Under the current Hawaiian Airline pricing)
- We could buy 94 books through Amazon, or download about 157 books through a Kindle.
- We could buy groceries for 6 months.
- We could go on 23 dates.
The list goes on. When we thought of it like that, we realized what having cable television, telephone, and internet all in one was really doing: It was keeping us from doing other things we wanted to do, like reading or going out on dates. Like many people, it’s become normal to come home and turn on the television and watch TV for the sake of watching TV. Now, we’re going to listen to Last.fm for free through the Xbox 360 while we play with the kids, clean house, and sit around the table eating dinner together. We’ll read, play cards, or write more (both of us have a passion for writing). We should have been doing this all along. Now we have no excuses beginning this week when I call and cancel our cable television and telephone.
So, goodbye Comcast TV and Phone. We’ll keep your internet around. Maybe we can do business together again someday on the TV and phone when you begin charging a low-every-day-price instead of a fake “promotional” bundle price that runs out and never gets renewed. Until then, good luck. You’re one of the few remaining companies not really being consistently competitive in a downed economy that isn’t going to recover any time soon.
Just don’t cry when I call and say goodbye. I hate long goodbyes.