Of Cell Phones, Cable TV, and High Speed Internet

Part of being frugal is constantly re-evaluating your bills to make sure the services you pay for are serving your needs. Up next for re-evaluation in our house is our Phone/TV/Internet service. When we moved here two years ago, we signed a contract with Qwest/DirecTV for phone and satellite television. That contract will be up in September, and we’re looking to make some changes.

Where We Stand Now

As I mentioned before, we currently have a Qwest/DirecTV bundle for our phone and TV service. Charter cable is our only option for high speed internet, which I need for blogging, and we have cell phone service through AT&T. Our AT&T contract won’t be up until next March, though we’ll probably stay with them, because we get good reception out here in the boondocks.

Here’s the breakdown on what we pay:

  • Qwest/DirecTV: $115 a month for phone (no long distance), the cheapest satellite package, and DVR.
  • Charter: $55 a month for the lowest level of high speed internet, part of which I can write off on my taxes.
  • AT&T: $105 a month, part of which I can write off on my taxes.*

The total comes to $275 a month. That’s a lot in my book.

What We Need/Want

Our family needs:

  • Some type of phone service, so we can call 911 in an emergency.

In all honestly, everything else is a want, as far as family needs go.

My business needs:

  • A cell phone with a data plan.
  • High speed internet.

My husband’s business needs, if he is to continue as a NASCAR blogger:

  • High speed internet.
  • ESPN/Speed/TNT
  • A DVR (many times the NASCAR races start while we’re at church).

Possible Scenarios:

1) We could keep things the way they are, but we’re currently paying full price on just about everything. Plus, I’m not a fan of DirecTV, so I’d rather end that relationship. Monthly cost: $275.

2) We could bundle our phone, internet, and cable with Charter for around $130 a month, depending on the package they’re offering in September. Adding in our cell phone plan, that would bring the cost to $235, saving us $40 from what we’re paying now.

3) We could bundle the internet and cable with Charter, and switch to cell phones only, picking up an extra line for my 12 year old daughter. Our AT&T bill would increase by $10-$20, depending on whether we’d have to bump up our minutes, though we’re not big phone people. Our Charter package would run about $104, but the price would only be good for 6 months. Total: $230, saving us $45 from what we’re paying now.

4) We could get Dish Network for $37 a month, but it would require a 24 month commitment, and the price would go up $15 after 12 months. We’d drop the landline and use cell phones. The total for Dish TV, Charter internet, and AT&T Wireless would be around $211, saving us $64 a month for the first 12 months and $49 a month for the second 12 months.

5) The final option would be for my husband to end his NASCAR blogging career. We’d go cell phone only, adding $10-$20 to our AT&T bill, and drop both the landline and TV package. The bills would then total $180, saving us $95 a month.

What I’m Leaning Toward:

Though it’s tempting to drop TV all together, my husband loves writing Bump-Drafts, and he’s getting a lot of traffic lately. Though the site isn’t making him a much money yet, I’ve found blogging can lead to great opportunities in the future. I’d like to see him continue. That pretty much rules out option number 5.

On the other hand, if we keep paid TV mainly for the basis of my husband’s career, I’ll start writing off the portion of the bill that we use for his blogging, which is actually a pretty good portion. Other than sports, we’re not big TV watchers.

Option #1 is out, because it’s the most expensive, and I want to get away from DirecTV.

That leaves me with options 2, 3, and 4. I’m tempted to drop the landline and go with a cell phone only, as we’re probably looking at getting a cell phone for my daughter in the next couple of years anyway.

Ironically, bundling everything with Charter won’t save us the most money, mostly because their DVR service is so expensive. It would seem that the most cost effective option would be to use AT&T for phone service, Charter for internet, and Dish Network for TV. The only thing that makes me nervous about going to cell phones is that a lot of times 911 operators can’t trace cell phones as well as landlines. My husband is going to check with his contact at the fire department to see how big an issue that is.

I won’t make any firm decisions until September, as I don’t know what other options might present themselves before then. What would you do if you were in my shoes?

*I realize that my cell phone bill is quite high. If I didn’t use a data plan for blogging and related work, I would never dream of paying that much for cell phone service. I’d probably have a go-phone.


By , on Jul 28, 2010
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Ally:

    We had no tv for quite a while because I went through many options. I was very dissatisfied with DirectTV because they told us one thing then told us another when they came to install.
    FYI, don’t forget to check with the BBB before going with a company.
    We now have DishNetwork and I am VERY happy with their rates and customer service.
    We also have AT&T DSL – the $30 and although it is not T1 or cable, it’s fast enough to watch TV on the computer or stream movies though the Wii.
    We also have AT&T for mobile service and that is a story for another time but the bottom line is that we have 4 lines, two of them iPhones and we went from paying $400/month to ~$250/month. If you are interested in how I accomplished that, please eMail me and I’ll dish out the details, lol.

  2. Lee Nonme:

    I figured out the best way to save money on my phone was to ditch the landline and just get a cell phone. Then I decided to get rid of the contract too so I got a prepaid phone. No bills!

    I got a nice phone from net10. This one here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaTD_5Xzo_Y

    It’s good!

  3. Chris:

    This cost always kills me. I review ours almost yearly to try and cut it back.

    The biggest change we made was using the VoIP. We use Vonage, and they packages start at 9.99 per month. We have loved it (though after reading these comments I am going to look into Ooma). We have talked about getting rid of our house phone as well, but we need to make calls to Haiti, and thats expensive on the cell. Skype us also an option.


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