Year after year, it never gets easier: Planning for the fall means acknowledging another summer has come to a close. Who really wants to say goodbye to pool-side lounging, sunny long weekends and beverages with those itty-bitty umbrellas in them? These days, the end of summer usually signals a heavier reliance on cable and internet. On cold, blustery nights, what’s better than cuddling up with a bowl of popcorn and a new episode of something fun?
However, you might be missing out on really good deals on your favorite modes of entertainment. Although shopping around for better rates, scoping out promotional sales or bundling services together can save you big bucks on cable and internet, plenty of people are content with their current internet, cable and phone services as is. For those folks, we’ve collected a list of tips for saving money on your bills by changing your habits or making small tweaks to your accounts.
Lower your bandwidth
For those who need a refresher, bandwidth is the measurement of how fast your internet connection transfers data. It is also by default a metric for the amount of data you can download or upload in a given time measured in bits per second. According to Fastmetrics, an enterprise internet service provider in San Francisco, the average American household with internet access has a bandwidth of 18.7 Megabits per second (Mbps).
As bandwidth allowances on standard internet contracts go up, so do their prices. But not everyone needs to pay so much for premier speeds. Shaving off a few bits per second can drop monthly cable and internet costs considerably. Unless they have several computers and devices accessing the internet or streaming content at the same time, many households won’t even notice the difference between 50 Mbps and 20 Mbps.
Based on bandwidth estimates compiled by OTT Communications, simultaneously streaming two high-definition movies, checking Facebook, reading an email, talking over Skype and gaming online only requires speeds of slightly more than 11 Mbps. Let’s say 15 Mbps to be comfortable. Are you ever doing all of those things at the same time? Then dial back the primo internet package and save month after month.
Buy your own modem and router
Internet service providers make a killing off of equipment rentals. According to analysis from Ken Kam, CEO of Marketocracy and Forbes contributor, Comcast earns more than $1 billion annually from subscribers who rent modems and routers.
But is the rental fee worth it? Sure, it’s nice to know that if something happens to your modem, your ISP will cover the cost of maintenance or replace it for you. Peace of mind has value, right?Apart from that, however, there aren’t that many other benefits. In fact, to save money in the long run, it might be a good idea to purchase your very own modem and router. However, you must select a model carefully. Otherwise it will do more harm than good.
- Is your modem compatible with your ISP? Don’t just go out and buy any old router; it might not play nice with your ISP. Consult your provider’s website for information on which modems work with its services. You can even buy previously rented equipment from your ISP at a fraction of the original cost.
- Does your equipment match your bandwidth? If you pay for 50 Mbps internet speeds but invest in a wireless router that can handle only 15 Mbps, that’s exactly the speed you’re going to get at best. Make sure the speed allowances on your devices match what you pay for.
- Are you prepared for the future? When shopping for modems and routers, don’t be afraid to spend a little extra on tech with Gigabit internet capabilities. That way, your equipment is ready for the fiber-optic speeds of tomorrow should you want to pay for them once fiber is more widely available
One last advantage of buying your own modem and router is that doing so sends a clear message to your ISP: If my internet service is not as advertised, there’s very little standing in the way of me switching to one of your competitors. So please, by all means, fight over me by offering me great prices and lightning-fast speeds.
Check your internet speed right now using the Allconnect Internet Speed Test.
Talk to a service rep about pricing
When you first signed up for a cable and internet package, you got a great deal. But a lot has probably changed since then – or will change if you aren’t careful.
Once the terms of your promotional contract end, providers can jack up your rates and ruin your budget. If your rates have already risen, try calling the provider and asking them to resume your promotional pricing. You can also wait until another promotion comes along, then ask a support representative if you can have comparable pricing.
However, the best thing to do is not have this problem in the first place. If you still have time before the terms of your promotional contract end, mark the end date on your calendar and call your provider the week ahead. Some companies have off-the-books deals to prevent clients from switching out of anger once their new prices take effect.
Sign up for skinny
Like bandwidth for internet, the best answer for high cable costs is cutting back. Research from TelecomTV showed that, on average, U.S. viewers spend between $92 and $125 on cable – depending on whether they rent set-top boxes through their providers – to watch less than 4 percent of the channels they pay for.
Thankfully, pay-TV providers have begun to notice this issue and in return now offer so-called skinny bundles, which include a few core channels at affordable prices. Subscribers can then supplement these basic packages with personalized add-ons. Are you a movie buff? Tack on some premium movie channels for an added fee. Can’t live without your home renovation shows? Pick up those channels too for a few extra dollars monthly.
Take a second, sit down with your family and list all the channels you do watch, then research skinny cable and internet bundles that fit your viewing profile and your budget.
Consider SVOD subscriptions
Services for streaming on demand like Netflix and Hulu are excellent complements to skinny cable bundles, especially for subscribers hungry for a mix of new content and live broadcasts. Currently, 63 percent of streamers also pay for traditional pay TV through their cable, telephone or satellite provider, according to a report from IBB Consulting.
If your pay TV provider doesn’t offer enough of an affordable selection with its skinny bundles, check out the ever-growing diversity of SVOD subscriptions on the market. Signing up for two or even three can give you the viewing options you want at a price lower than an overstuffed cable package.
Save in other ways this fall
Use wireless more often
Estimates from CTIA showed wireless data traffic in the U.S. exploded by more than 4 trillion megabytes in 2016 for a total of 13.72 trillion MB. With people using more wireless data than ever before, cell plan subscribers must remember to utilize home or office Wi-Fi whenever possible and save their 4G allowances for when they’re truly necessary. This prudence can prevent costly data overages. Better still, doing so stops people from thinking they need to move to expensive unlimited plans to enjoy their smartphones to the fullest.
Don’t pay extra for parental controls
Are you paying your mobile service provider to play babysitter? As important as teaching your children about safe and responsible mobile phone usage, there’s no need to pay and arm and a leg for peace of mind. Your family can receive the same sorts of protections and oversight from factory-installed phone settings and free apps available in your favorite app store. Additionally, check with your MSP to see if you can switch to a comparable family plan with such features built in.
Program thermostat around your fall schedule
With the kids back in school, there’s no need to run the heat all day. The Department of Energy recommends setting the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit for the times when you’re home and awake. For all other hours of the day, dial the heat back to between 58 and 61 degrees for an average annual savings of about 10 percent.
Tip: If your family always arrives home at 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, set the thermostat to activate a half hour before you walk in the door so the house is warm when you return. Just be sure to also program it drop down to its lower threshold about a half hour before bedtime.
Time your hot showers
Did you know that water heating makes up nearly one-fifth of a home’s total energy consumption? As the temperature outside drops and the days shorten, the temptation of a long hot shower only intensifies.
Fight the urge to waste water and money this fall by placing an egg timer in the bathroom. How fast can you scrub down?
Don’t forget about family night
We could tell you to invest in a few well-placed power strips to reduce ambient energy loss from plugged in devices. We could tell you to buy Energy Star products exclusively or avoid leaving smartphones and tablets plugged in for longer than they need to be. But the best tip for saving electricity is this: Do things as a family.
Spending a night at home? Watch TV or a medley of hilarious YouTube videos together on one device. Going out? Make sure all the lights and electronics are unplugged before you do. This might sound like a no-brainer, but in an age of instant connectivity and gratification – and during a season where weather might get iffy any minute – it’s easy to forget that the smartest way to save is to simply consume electricity efficiently as one big happy family.
Tried some or all of these tips and still looking for better bills? Allconnect brings together local prices for cable, internet, phone and utilities to make comparison shopping that much easier.