About a year ago, I did a post regarding my family’s progress in cutting the costs of digital services. Now, 12 months later, I thought I’d let you know how things have gone.
Text messages: First up was texting. I was looking into an app called textPlus that we could use instead of paying for a texting package via my cell provider. The way it works is that those you text have to be using textPlus as well.
Since I couldn’t guarantee that those I text could/would also use textPlus (other than my accommodating wife), I decided not to pursue this app any further. So, no money saved.
Cable: I also mentioned that I had a billing error from the cable company and that it was finally resolved. So that saved a little bit of money. But I also decided that we could do MUCH better — i.e. pay nothing at all — by canceling cable altogether (again, with the support of my accommodating wife). Do What? That’s right: go TV-less — no cable, no satellite, no digital antenna, no nothin.’ (Remember how home-schooling used to sound weird, now people are doing it everywhere? That’s what is happening with the growing ranks of those cutting the cable — who knows, someday, the weird ones could be those who have cable/satellite).
So how’s the past year been with no signal? Mostly good, I’m glad to report. Now to be fair, we do have Netflix which can stream to our TV, so when we need a video-entertainment fix we can get one. But dropping cable has drastically reduced our watching. Our girls didn’t watch that much before anyway, but even less now (though that may be partially due to the only TV being in the basement of our new house).
But dropping cable hasn’t been without its downside — namely, the lack of live sports! We’re big college basketball/football fans and we were able to watch only a handful of games on the computer. So the lack of access has generally meant missing games or going to a friends’ house to watch (mostly the latter).
Fortunately, for March Madness, there was an iPhone/iPad app that played every game. But for much of the year, not having cable or satellite was a definite inconvenience on the sports front. (This also harmed the hospitality angle, since we couldn’t invite friends over to our house to “watch the game.” This was certainly an unintended consequence.)
Given the good (less time watching TV, spending less money), the bad (limited sports), and the ugly (departing from my wife and family for a couple hours to go watch games elsewhere), will we re-subscribe to cable? Not sure.
Probably the best thing would be to get a digital antenna and be able to catch most of the games via broadcast signals. This would be the most cost-efficient, and because there’d be so few channels available, it wouldn’t dramatically increase the temptation to start watching a bunch of TV again — at least I don’t think so. (You may have to wait a year for another Updated Update to find out what we decide.)
Phone: Now for the home phone. As you may recall we started using Ooma last spring (with the support of my accommodating wife, of course). For the uninitiated, Ooma is a device that connects to your high-speed Internet and your home phone and allows you to make calls with no monthly charges, although there is a ~$11 yearly FCC “pass-through” charge.
So how’s it been? Pretty good.
At first, we had some stability issues. After talking with customer service a number of times, they overnighted us a new unit. The new unit hasn’t had any stability issues — but that’s not to say it’s perfect. Depending on your data upload speeds from your ISP, you could experience a delay when talking on the phone.
For instance, our Ooma is connected to a router and when you combine the router with a meager 1.5mps upload speed, there’s a delay in the time the person you’re talking to hears what you’ve said. So this can be a little bit of an annoyance, but not to the point that it would make us want to go back to a full-fledged land line. Plus I have the ability to check messages at home from any computer with an Internet connection, as well as see call logs and a few other nifty features. And with both spouses having cellphones as backups, we see no reason to go back.
(Not unlike cable, someday people may think it’s weird that people ever had landlines. We’re just ahead of the weird curve — or behind it, not sure which).
One other thing, we haven’t yet paired my wife’s cellphone with Google Voice because we have plenty’o cellphone minutes and we can’t get a smaller minute package. However, if the minutes start running low, we may pair her phone with the Ooma using Google Voice.
All in all, I’d say it’s been a successful venture. How successful?
1) We’ve saved close to $1,000
2) We’ve spent far less time watching TV
3) Perhaps most importantly, it’s helped me realize what an accommodating wife I have!
What about you? Saved any money over the past year on digital services? If so, how? If not, why not?
Matthew Pryor is in his 8th year with Sound Mind Investing, now serving as Director of Operations. He previously held the Development Director position for a crisis pregnancy center. He has also served on staff with Young Life in Virginia. He currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky with his wife and three children.