Better TV entertainment for less money

I know it’s not very Mustachian, PC, or fashionable, but Mrs. FF and I like TV entertainment. We do lots of other stuff – read books from the library, exercise, socialize – but we also enjoy watching some great shows and movies.

I recently figured out how to save a nice chunk of change on our TV entertainment. What I learned might help you save too. Unless, of course, you don’t watch any TV entertainment in which case I bow down to your greatness and discipline.

What we had

We had Verizon Fios TV with the Extreme HD TV package and Internet with 100 Mbps up and down. The Extreme HD TV package is one level below the top Ultimate HD TV package, but even so it had over 320 channels including 90 HD channels. I think we watched about 10 out of the 320 channels. Crazy right?

If you think that’s crazy, check out our monthly bill for over $186:

That’s works out to over $2,230 per year. Not very Freaky Frugal! Actually, I’m kind of embarrassed at how much we were spending. I had tried reducing the number of Set Top Boxes and our HD TV package before, but it never went over very well with Mrs. FF, so I backed off.

I even tried adding Netflix in hopes that Mrs. FF would prefer that, but no luck. Instead, I got hooked on Netflix! 😳

What we have now

I spent a lot of time investigating various live TV replacement options including Sling TV, Youtube TV, DirecTV Now, and Hulu. I decided on Hulu Live TV because it had the best mix of channels, different DVR options, and a small catalog of original content.

I needed do a trial to see if it would work, so I got a Roku Streaming Stick+ for Mrs. FF’s small bedroom TV and used a built-in app for our monster 55-inch Vizio TV. I got the Roku Streaming Stick+ because it’s vendor neutral and, most importantly, comes with a remote that can control the volume and power on the TV. Therefore, you only need the one remote to do everything which is convenient.

I also added a trial of Acorn TV which streams British TV shows including lots of suspense and mystery shows. Mrs. FF absolutely loves these types of British shows and I like them also. This was a big selling point for Mrs. FF. A deal maker so to speak.

I kept Netflix the same as I had before which means I generally suspend the account for the summer and turn it back on in the fall.

We both liked the trials and decided we should switch away from Verizion Fios TV. I bought another Roku Streaming Stick+ for our 55-inch Vizio so that both TVs would work exactly the same with identical remotes.

Fun with Verizon

When it was time to switch away from Verizon Fios TV, things got a little interesting. I only wanted internet from Verizon and I wanted the best deal possible. I know from reading online that the best approach was to find a good competitive offer and then call Verizon and threaten to switch. We were out of contract so there was no issue there.

The best offer I could find was from Comcast which offered 400 Mbps up and down. Comcast wanted $69.99 per month plus installation, router and fees. Installation was going to be something like $100 and it needed to be done by them because Comcast was brand new to our apartment. This wasn’t such a great deal since I was only paying about $76 per month for Verizon Fios Internet as part of our total package.

Verizon had a great deal for new customers – $39.99 for 1 year at 100 Mbps up and down. I thought I would try and get this deal. I called and threatened to switch to Comcast and the best offer I got was $80.79 for 2 years with Verizon’s rented router. So I took that deal.

I turned in all the set top boxes and bought my own used router on e-bay so that I could save $10 per month in router rental:

eBay Router Listing

I waited a few days and my router arrived:

My used eBay router arrives

I swapped out my own router for the rented router and Mrs. FF returned the rented router.

And then Verizon CANCELLED OUR ACCOUNT! WTF? It turns out Verizon has a “glitch” in their system so that if you turn in the last piece of equipment, your account is automatically terminated. I started receiving emails from Verizon with subjects like “Verizon Account Cancelled” and panicked.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because when I called again and complained that my account was now cancelled, I got a much better offer for a brand new account. The new offer was for $49.99 per month for the first year and $64.99 per month for the second year. Here is my latest bill:

Maybe I could have held out for the $39.99 new customer offer? I don’t know, but I was happy to get the reduced rate.

Summary of savings

Here’s a summary of the expected savings over the next two years:

Old Way

DescriptionMonthly Expense2 Year Total
Verizon Fios TV and Internet$186.13$4,467
Netflix - 8 months each year$11.87$285
Total$4,752

New Way

DescriptionMonthly Expense2 Year Total
Verizon internet$49.99 1st year
$64.99 2nd year
$1,380
Netflix - 8 months each year$11.87$285
Hulu - Live TV$43.17$1,036
Acorn TV - $49.95 per yearN/A$100
Equipment - Used RouterN/A$68
Equipment - 2 Roku Streaming Stick+N/A$140
Total$3,009

Total Savings = $1,743

Wow, I’m saving more than $1,700 over the next two years. Cha-ching! And who knows, maybe I’ll be able to eventually replace Hulu with something cheaper and just as good or better!

Tips

I learned many useful things from this whole experience:

  1. Get rid of all services from your Cable provider except Internet. You may have to be willing to cancel your service to get the best offer. In fact, if I was to do this again, I might wait until we were going away and actually cancel the service.
  2. Buy a used Router to eliminate all equipment rental fees.
  3. If you don’t have a Smart TV, buy some kind of streaming device – Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, whatever.
  4. Buy a Live Streaming TV service like DirectTV Now, Hulu, Youtube TV, or Sling.
  5. Supplement with other streaming services like Netflix, Acorn TV, HBO Now, PBS Passport, and many others. You can easily switch these services on and off to maximize your viewing options.

The ironic thing about all this is that we actually like what we have now way more than what we had before. And it costs less to boot!

Thanks for reading! What do you have and pay for TV entertainment?

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10 comments

  1. Last December of 2017 we switched from Comcast bundled service to Direct TV. We were with Comcast for almost 3 years although as far as ISP is concerned, I’ve been a Comcast user for longer than 15 years. Finally dropped Comcast and we ended up saving almost $100/month. We also finally decided not to keep our landline service anymore. We had both Netflix and Amazon Prime and decided to get rid of Netflix. Unfortunately, just recently, Amazon raised their price to $12.99. All in all, it’s about a total savings of $1431.00/year.

    1. Benrnz JP – Wow, saving $1431/year is awesome!

      We didn’t do that well, but I feel that just cutting the TV cord with Verizon makes it so much easier to switch services in the future and potentially save even more.

  2. We do something similar and save tons of money! I do hate that things get stale with one streaming service. We rotate memberships with Hulu, Slack, and Netflix. We also have a Roku and enjoy the free channels (hey PBS!).

    1. Mrs. Picky Pincher – I really like your rotating membership idea!

      Maybe we could drop Hulu/Netflix for awhile, temporarily sign up for HBO Now and binge watch Game of Thrones. 🙂

  3. We dumped our Comcast TV service years ago – we just weren’t using it enough to justify the cost – and kept internet only. We use Netflix and Amazon Prime as our entertainment sources ($144 and $101 per year respectively), and now we’re kinda retired we’ve found masses of old series (Veronica Mars, The Goodwife, House of Cards, Man in the High Castle) to catch up on. (Did I mention that we never watched much TV?) I also use an AppleTV to watch ESPN replays for soccer and rugby, which is included with our Comcast internet service. We also recently tried the Sony Vue service, which at $40/month was fairly reasonably priced for the channels included (mostly sports and HGTV), but we still didn’t watch it enough to keep it, so it was dropped.

    With our new home we were able to get Comcast internet at $20/month for 10Mbps for the first year, but have recently upgraded to 70Mbps for $70/month as we wanted the faster speed for 4k delivery. I’ll probably see if I can trim that price/service as it’s really more than I want to spend, and faster than we need.

    1. Kilt – It sounds like you really have your TV entertainment costs minimized!

      Right now, we’re only paying $49.99 per month for 100Mbps up and down which is a pretty good deal. I hear that when mobile carriers like Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile introduce 5G that we may be able to get the necessary internet speeds without a cable to the apartment. We’ll see.

  4. Just a thought…If I told you 20 years ago that you’d be paying $186 A MONTH for TV…Would you have believed it? I recently was at our local Comcast office paying a bill and overheard people complaining, quite loudly, about bills of $250 and up. I was dumbfounded…..I feel like we are over paying(being ripped off) at $86 for internet and economy cable….If it was up to me I would drop it all in a heart beat…but DW enjoys it. Think of it though $86 a month for 2 years …is over $2K….

    1. JestJack – No way I would have expected to pay $186 per month 20 years ago. I grew up in a house with OTA only, so paying as much as I was paying was painful. I’m still looking for ways to save more.

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