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At the beginning of the year, I made a decision to start getting serious about my financial habits. I’m working on a big ol’ post about the budgeting method that’s working for me. But today I want to talk about one huge thing I did that is saving me hundreds of dollars a year – cord cutting.
For years, I’ve been moaning about paying so much for DirecTV when most of what I watch is on Netflix and other streaming services. But I was hesitant about canceling it because some of the channels I needed weren’t available outside of typical cable or satellite packages.
When I started reviewing my monthly expenses I knew it was time to get serious about cord cutting. The money I was spending on DirecTV was just pointless because I already had most of my basic TV needs covered. I just hadn’t realized it yet.
If you’ve been thinking about whether it’s worth it to cut the cord on increasingly pricey cable or satellite TV, trust me. It’s worth it. Here’s how I did it.
Where I Started – Internet, Satellite, and Streaming
Here in Springfield Xfinity is just about the only game in town for high-speed internet. AT&T does have U-Verse but the higher speeds are only available in certain parts of the city. And I’m not really a fan of AT&T anyway based on past experience with them. Since I work from home part-time, reliable fast internet is a must so Xfinity it is. And honestly, I’ve been pretty happy with them. My bill hasn’t gone up significantly and there are very few outages.
I signed up for a bundled package which included the mid-range internet speed, HBO (for GoT, of course) but I also have the very basic cable package which includes my local channels for NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, etc. The basic cable piece solved one big gap in my cord-cutting plans but I’ll get to that in a bit.
I pay around 90 bucks a month for internet + TV + HBO. I could probably get that down if I’d just call and ask for a better package. That never sounds like a good time so I haven’t done it yet.
And then there was DirecTV. I was paying $80 a month for that. Over the years, I kept decreasing my package in a sort of passive-aggressive move to distance myself from that relationship. “It’s not me, it’s you.” It just irritated me greatly to flip through the channel guide and find SO. MANY. HOME SHOPPING CHANNELS. Some of which were on multiple channels. WTF DirecTV?
I also have Netflix, Hulu, and Starz which is around $28 a month for all 3 now that Netflix has raised their monthly fee. To me, Netflix is a quality of life expense so I never considered canceling when I got that email.
To do the math, I was paying $200 a month for internet and various TV/streaming options. Ouch. And over a third of that was completely unnecessary. To quote one of our family’s favorite movies, “We can do better than that, I think.” That’s from Hocus Pocus and if you didn’t know that, I’m not sure we can be friends. Kidding! Mostly.
I mentioned before that the basic cable package really saved my bacon for one big gap. I needed an alternative for watching the few network shows I still watch. Which are few, because it seems like every time I get into a new show, it’s promptly cancelled. Remember Timeless? Lucifer? Designated Survivor? That Blacklist spin-off that I can’t remember the name of? Thankfully, Netflix saved a few of them but the rest? Hasta la vista baby.
The beauty of paying for basic cable is that I can watch network shows on their app once I validate my service with Xfinity. Some of my shows are available within a day through Hulu but The Blacklist isn’t one of them, or at least not with the basic Hulu subscription I have (6 bucks a month). I have to watch that via the NBC app. It’s similar for the other networks with the exception of CBS, which isn’t free. I don’t watch CBS so this wasn’t an issue for me, but it’s something to keep in mind if you do.
My network needs were met but I still had a few other items on my list that I needed to find alternatives for. Number one being AMC because of The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul. Fear the Walking Dead used to be on that list but last season was so brutally bad I don’t know if I can endure another season of it. Also on my list was HGTV and the Hallmark Channel. I can’t make it through the holiday season without Hallmark Christmas movies. I just can’t.
Before when I’d looked into other streaming cable services like PlayStation Vue, DirecTV NOW, or Sling there was never that perfect match up of what I needed vs what was available. Meaning there wasn’t one package that had everything I was looking for. Cue the boos.
But streaming services are constantly evolving as new competitors enter the market and learn from others past mistakes. This time when I went looking for a suitable replacement for DirecTV I found Philo.
And They Lived Happily Ever After
Yep, Philo was the final piece I needed in order to break free from DirecTV once and for all. FYI – that’s a referral link. If you sign up using my link, you’ll get $5 off your first month.
Philo is relatively new to the streaming game. I was intrigued by their pricing structure because it seemed too good to be true. At the time, Philo offered 2 packages. One at $16 for 45 channels which included AMC, HGTV, and 3 Hallmark channels which checked all my boxes. But there’s also Food Network, The History Channel, Lifetime, OWN, Nickelodeon, and more! It was just about everything I’d be interested in. And there’s also the $20 package which includes everything in the first package and also 13 more channels including the Cooking Channel, Logo, and more.
Once I started looking into it I understood that it was even better than it seemed. For the low monthly price, Philo offers unlimited recording, streaming on up to 3 devices at once, and the option to watch live or save for later.
Unfortunately, Philo just recently announced they will no longer offer the $16 package to new subscribers starting May 6, 2019. Only the $20 package will be available for new subscribers. There’s no contract or commitment of any kind so you can cancel at any time if you’re not happy.
But I think you will be happy. It’s been a few months since I subscribed and I’m still loving it, especially the save for later feature.
The Last Details
You might be thinking this all seems like a lot to keep track of. It’s really not. There are a few things I purchased to combine all of my TV services into one easy-to-use interface.
The first is a Roku stick. I use this on my TV in the family room where I do the majority of my TV watching. Roku offers multiple products but the Xpress Stick works for me. It’s a simple set up using an HMDI cable and there’s a remote. That’s all I need. I have the ability to add whichever apps and services I use to my home screen for easy access. It can be a pain to set up accounts for all the different services since each one has a separate verification process. But in reality, it only takes a few minutes. Once it’s set up, all I have to do is choose Netflix or Prime Video or whatever I want to watch.
Unless it’s the premiere for Game of Thrones, in which case HBO GO can’t handle all the traffic and you have to keep trying to sign in for 20 minutes, all the while inventing new curses to exact upon the heads of those in charge of HBO GO’s servers. Other than that, it’s all good.
I also use a Fire Stick in the upstairs TV room. It works in much the same way as the Roku stick does. There’s a home page where I can add all my apps and services. I think the Fire Stick has a slight edge over Roku. It’s a lot easier to search for stuff and there seems to be more available.
And recently I purchased a Toshiba Smart HD TV – Fire TV Edition for my office. It works just like the Fire Stick but without the…stick. All the functionality is built into the TV itself. I have plans to get some exercise equipment in the office and I bought the TV to stream stuff while I work out. I also use the Spotify app to play music when I work because my laptop speakers SUCK and I can’t find my Bluetooth speaker.
It was quite a bit of work between figuring out the gaps and then finding a way to solve for everything with as few subscriptions as possible.
But hard work pays off. And in my case, that payoff included saving over $700 a year by cutting the cord. Let me say that again. I SAVED OVER $700 A YEAR just by getting rid of DirecTV and switching to Philo.
It freed up money every month for me to put towards the financial goals I set at the beginning of the year. And I feel better too because now I’m only paying for the channels I actually watch instead of overpaying and getting channels I would NEVER watch like home shopping channels and endless infomercials.
Cable and satellite are becoming more and more unnecessary. Sort of like how old-timey radio became obsolete when TV came along. As more people join the ranks of millions of cord-cutters, cable and satellite companies are going to penalize those who are still around by jacking up prices. I think that’s a line directly from AT&T’s playbook. “Thou shalt screw over thy customers in order to increase profits.”
My advice? Get out while the getting’s good.