Cutting The Cord On Charter Cable…An Experiment

Last Monday I wrote about how much my financial laziness had cost our family over the last year.  I’m surely not the only one who loses focus from time to time.  I promised a post about cutting our cable which will save us approximately $1,500 in 2015.  Let’s take a look at our story and then consider a few tips…

Our Story

How much money could you save by cutting your cable?

How much money could you save by cutting your cable?

I have been a happy customer of Charter Cable since 2007.  I know a lot of people are dissatisfied with Charter’s service but I have been very pleased with Charter’s performance, free upgrades, and reliability at home and at work.  When we moved into our home in 2007 we did the Charter Triple Play that included cable, internet, and phone for $99 plus tax.  It came out to around $125 with tax and I was good with that.  That introductory price would expire every year or two so I would call Charter and negotiate back into that pricing package…until this year.

The plan expired over the summer and I didn’t notice it until November.  Our bill had jumped up to around $223 for our services!?!  We have two cable boxes (one being a DVR), internet, and home phone.  I called to negotiate prices and found that Charter had made pricing changes with the new Charter Spectrum offerings.  Over the course of a week I spoke with three different reps about pricing options and they all said that the lowest price for our services would be $190 to $200 with taxes and fees.  Out of curiosity I asked about the price of internet alone… approximately $60 with taxes and fees.  A bundle with internet and phone would be approximately $72 a month.

One of the more interesting things was the expiration of a customer loyalty credit.  Note to Charter, when good customer relations are already challenging, it can be offensive to remove a customer loyalty discount from a loyal customer 🙂

Our Decision

When my wife and I sat down with the math, we were simply unwilling to pay $120 a month for TV with the new pricing option.  We are not anti-TV.  We really enjoy our shows and are glad the children have shows that they enjoy, but they are simply not worth $120 a month when there are other options.  When the hard drive on our DVR went out, I took that as a clear sign that it was time to pull the trigger and cut our cable.  The retention department at Charter was very friendly and happy to remove the cable portion of our package, leaving internet and phone for $72.04 a month.

I had already put in place the components that would deliver our television content:

  • I ordered a Wineguard HD7694P antenna to install in our attic.  When we built our home, I installed a video distribution system.  This antenna allows any TV in our home to receive a strong broadcast signal.  The broadcast towers, which can be located with free services like AntennaPoint.com, are approximately 22 miles from our home which makes for a strong signal.  There are other great antennas like the Leaf products that can be installed behind a flat panel TV.
  • I bartered for a Mac Mini computer on Craigslist.  In cleaning out some extra CD and DVD duplicating equipment in my office, I struck up a deal to swap a duplicator for an older Mac Mini that would be perfect for streaming content and basic web browsing.  I purchased an Apple wireless keyboard, Magic Trackpad, and MeshWe Bluefin that “attaches” the keyboard and trackpad as one unit.  There are much cheaper options out there but I am a big fan of Apple and their ease of use and reliability.  More about this component and other options later in the post.
  • We already owned a Phillips DVD recorder with DVR as part of my CD and DVD duplicating equipment.  Losing our DVR was going to be painful.  The Phillips unit isn’t very user friendly but it fits the need for basic recording of broadcast content when there is something we really want to watch or we want the option to pause live TV.
  • Additionally we signed up for Netflix.  Combined with content from our existing Amazon Prime membership, many of our favorite shows are available through these two services.  Netflix costs $7.95 a month.

Some might wonder why we want to keep the phone.  We have young children in the house and have trained them to use 911 on our home phone if there is an emergency.  Cell phones move around and can be tucked away but the home phone is always in one spot if there is an emergency and they have to make the call.  We also use our phone for our security system.

Observations and Tips

We view our decision as an experiment.  We have committed as a family to 6 months without cable and then we will review our choice.  It has been about a month since we cut the cord and television viewing has already declined.  With cable, the TV was often on in the background as filler, especially in the evening after the children had gone to bed and we were doing housework.  It is also easier to monitor the time our children spend watching TV since most of their shows come from Netflix or Amazon and require a purposed ‘click’ to view.  I appreciate that Netflix has a ‘Kids’ screen that shows only kid friendly content.

Having a full fledged computer (Mac Mini) by the TV in our living room is a bit of overkill with all the great streaming devices available today.  We already have an Apple TV and an Amazon Fire Stick in our home and both are great streaming devices.  Most streaming devices allow only content from certain providers, for example Apple TV does not allow content from Amazon streaming.  A computer can easily view any content that is available on the internet without limitations.  If you’re thinking about cutting your cable or dish, consider getting a simple streaming device or using an old computer.  Many modern gaming systems like the Xbox and PlayStation also provide streaming media content.

I recognize that there are other services available, like Dish, that provide content for $30-50 a month.  That pricing is promotional pricing and we would soon find ourselves paying more than we would like for TV in our home, again.  If Charter had offered the $99 pricing again I wouldn’t be writing this post.

These are just a few of my personal observations about cutting cable for our household.  If I hadn’t made any changes, our existing cable bill would have cost over $2,600 in 2015.  After cutting cable, the internet and phone will cost $864 with an additional annual expense of $96 for Netflix.  We will save approximately $1,640 in 2015 by cutting the cord.

Do you pay for TV?  Have any tips or tricks for saving money on television content?  I’d be interested to read what you have to say in the comments section…

Comments

Cutting The Cord On Charter Cable…An Experiment — 7 Comments

  1. We are three and half years into our negotiations with DirecTV and every year I negotiate a package that changes very slightly for $50 a month plus tax which usually only ends up at about $60.

    • Sounds good Ben! It’s amazing what you can get when you just ask. A comment was left on Facebook when I shared this post about having cable/satellite 6 months of the year. Those 6 months just happen to be during football season 🙂

  2. We pay for internet service for our regular internet “needs”($50 per month) and have it hooked up to wifi. Then we have a computer with wifi receiver attached via HDMI cable to the television along with an antenna to pick up local stations. There are many shows available online free through network sites or YouTube plus other free sites to pick up sports. Annual cost of $600 for internet and more TV than we need. Pretty low tech by today’s standards but works well for us.

    • Sounds quite similar to what we have David! It will be interesting to see what the cable providers do as more folks cut the cord and as companies like HBO go out on their own and offer a low cost streaming option for their content. I see some big changes ahead. Thanks for sharing your setup.

  3. I think this is AWESOME! I love how you are putting what the family needs (in this case a lower expense) over what it wants (especially after having cable for so long?!). This is excellent!

    • Thanks James! We have just wrapped up our first month of being cable free and it is pretty good. Our 7 year old asks me to turn on certain cable channels but will get frustrated when I reminder her we don’t have them anymore. The frustration goes away when I ask her what show she wanted to watch and I pull it up on Amazon or Netflix. The computer on the TV is one she is allowed to use so she is enjoying that.

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