Cut the Cable Bill

2 07 2010

Savings – $57 / moth
Lifestyle Adjustment – Medium to High

If you’re like most Americans you pay around $71 per month for cable or satellite television (likely more).  Cable TV is a huge expense for something we are using less and less.  As I prepare to move from a home that has free cable to one without, I am exploring options for cutting the cable all together.

How to eliminate your Cable bill without lowering your viewing options:

1) Netflix – Starting at $8/month Netflix is a great alternative to cable withunlimited streaming from a massive and  growing catalog of television series and movies.  For about $80 $50 you can get a device that connects to any TV to stream Netflix content for free.  Have an XBOX 360*, Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, or a computer connected to your television? Then you already have a Netflix streaming device.  Netflix streaming has no ads and is available when you are ready to watch. I don’t even remember what it is like to watch television with ads.

2) Over the Air – Remember how your grandparents used to get TV?  Over the air for free.  That still exists and with the Digital Transition there are more free HD channels than ever before.  If you have a Windows Vista or 7 PC with a TV Tuner you can easily record shows right out of the air and stream them to your XBOX 360 with the free Windows Media Center software.

3) ESPN 3 – Are you a sports fan? ESPN3.com has thousands of live and on demand sports including the 2010 World Cup for free**.  If you have a way to connect a computer to your TV then you are all set!  ESPN and Microsoft recently launched ESPN3 for Xbox Live. Thousands of live and on demand events, highlights, and clips in full high definition are available for free. I can watch my local teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the University of Oklahoma Sooners, live or on demand without a cable subscription.

4) Hulu – This joint venture of NBC and Fox offers free online streaming of hundreds of past and current shows from  dozens of networks. Currently Hulu is free on computer screens, but the company offers the service to set top boxes, portable devices, and video game consoles as their $8/month HuluPlus service. In addition to increased device availability HuluPlus subscribers will also have access to full season runs of current shows and a massive back catalog.

The plan for my home’s TV entertainment:

XBOX 360 connected to my network and television
Windows 7 PC w/ TV Tuner connected to DTV antennae

With this setup I will be able to record over the air shows, watch live news/weather, stream Netflix, watch DVDs, and watch ESPN3 and HuluPlus.

Total month fee?

$7.99 – Netflix
$4.50 – XBOX Live Service
———-
$13.49 – Total

Add another $7.99 for HuluPlus when it becomes available and you’ve got a full package!

The long run…..
If you have the average cable bill of $71/month this plan will save you $57.50/month. With those savings the $150 XBOX 360 pays for itself in 3 months plus you have a fully capable gaming device.

For a Windows 7 PC with TV tuner you are looking at around $500.  This isn’t necessary to enjoy the benefits of Netflix and over the air TV, but it gives you the ability to DVR over the air broadcasts.  If you don’t have a Windows Media Center PC with a TV Tuner consider this optional.
* Netflix Streaming on XBOX 360 requires $50/year XBOX Live Subscription.  This is accounted for in the “long run” section.
**ESPN3 is only available to customers of partner ISPs. See if your ISP is included.





Buying in Bulk Doesn’t Always Equal Savings

23 02 2009


Savings – varies.  43% for me.
Lifestyle Adjustment – little to none

So, how many times have you walked into Sam’s Club or Costco and bought something in bulk for the savings?  These major warehouse retailers, once specializing in serving small businesses, now use the savings of buying in bulk to market themselves to everyday consumers.

So you pay your $40 per year for a Sam’s Club (we don’t have Costco in Oklahoma) membership card and you are granted a pass to huge savings, right?  Well not always…

I was a big fan of buying my laundry detergent at Sam’s Club.  They carry a 32.5lb bucket of Wind Fresh powdered detergent for $13.84 that is good for 200 loads.  Since I’m not too concerned with the fragrance of my detergent and had no skin concerns or problems with using powdered detergent then I thought it was a great buy.  I would find a friend or family member that had a Sam’s Club card and meet them at Sam’s and buy my detergent.

 

32.5lb Wind Fresh Powered Detergent

$13.84 at Sam's Club - 200 loads.

 

Due to the inability to meet with a friend to go to Sam’s Club and my immediate need for detergent I thought I would run to my local Dollar Tree and see what they had for detergent.

 

In Dollar Tree I found a bottle of L.A.’s Totally Awesome liquid detergent for $1.00 good for 21 loads.  At this point I started to do some math.

 

$1.00 at Dollar Tree Stores.

$1.00 at Dollar Tree Stores - 21 loads.

 

Wind Fresh powder 
$13.84 / 200 loads = ~$0.069 per load

L.A.’s Totally Awesome liquid
$1.00 / 21 loads = ~$0.048 per load

That is a difference of $0.021 per load!  Now that may not seem like much, but let’s carry that math out a bit further…

  • The cost per load of Wind Fresh is 43% higher than that of L.A.’s Totally Awesome.
  • For 200 loads the Wind Fresh costs $13.84 where L.A.’s Totally Awesome costs $9.52 –  a difference of $4.34!

In addition to saving money on the detergent there is the benefit of not having to buy a membership card (or mooch off your friends and family).  Also, some would argue, a liquid detergent is a better product.  One negative is not having the handy bucket to use after the detergent is gone, but buckets like that are available at Wal-Mart for much less than $4.34.

So next time you are considering buying in bulk for savings pull out your calculator and run the numbers.  You may be surprised at what you see.

 

Sometimes savings come in small packages.

Sometimes savings come in small packages.





Know what you have – Post #1

31 08 2008

If you are reading this blog then hopefully you are looking for ways to save money.  Of course, before you can save money it is important to know what exactly you have.  Do you know how much money you have in your checking account?  Do you know how much money you have in savings?  Credit card debit?  Student loans?  Do you know your interest rates on these accounts?

If you’re like most people, you don’t.  With the Internet and online banking it is pretty easy to log into these accounts and see exactly what you’ve got, but often times you have to log into several hard to nagivate sites.  This is where Mint.com comes in super handy.  For over a year now I’ve been using Mint.com for online money management.

Mint.com is a free web service that pulls all of your financial info into one super easy to read and easy to use web site.  Mint will pull the info from credit cards, student loans, mortgages, car loans, checking accounts, savings accounts, etc and build reports that show spending trends and your net worth.  This service is a great tool to help you get a handle on your spending habits and let you know exactly what you have (and what you owe).

Mint will send notifications to your email or cell phone to let you know when payments are due or when your accounts are low.

Mint will also let you know how you can save money; for example if you have a Citibank Credit Card with 24.99% interest, Mint may show you offers of credit cards with lower interest rates and an estimation of your yearly savings.  Another example would be if you have a Bank of America Savings account with a 2.00% APY, Mint may show an offer for a HSBC Direct Savings account with 3.5% APY and an estimation of how much more interest you could earn in a year.

Another great feature is Mint’s budgeting.  This feature allows you to budget your monthly expenditures for several different categories.  Once you’ve established these budget limits you can opt to have Mint send you an email or text message warning if you are in danger of going over budget.

The one complaint I have with the service is their lack of support for small local banks and credit unions, but they are compatible with all the big boys; Citi, Chase, Bank of America, HSBC, ING, PayPal, Capital One, WaMu, Wells Fargo, and many others.  They also have a fairly broad selection of regional banks.

Mint is really worth a look if you want to have a handy way to see all your finances and discover your spending trends and ways to save.

In order to save money you must first know how much you have and how you are spending it.