Category Archives: Money

Why We Switched From Cable To YouTubeTV – And Saved $450 Per Year!

Like many people, we’ve seen our cable bill creep up over the past few years. Between cable and internet, we were paying $85 just a few years ago, and all of the sudden it was over $100 per month! Every year I call, and typically that results in a long conversation about how we can get rid of our DVR box to save $10 per month, but we like being able to watch shows later (with kids, this seems like a must), so wasn’t a good option for us.

So we started looking at our options for non-cable tv. We do plenty of Netflix watching, but I kept cable because I watch sports, and Bravo was a must for Lauren.

It’s a good practice to regularly reevaluate your budget and spending to see if there’s places you are spending more than you should. In doing this, many people quickly realize they are spending a lot – maybe even too much – on their cable TV bill.

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, the average cable bill was just over $100 in 2017. This is a huge jump from what it was 10 years prior in 2007 – an increase of over 50%. A hundred bucks is a pretty serious chunk of change to pay monthly for what essentially boils down to entertainment, and comes out to $1,200 a year for catching your favorite TV shows.

As cable bills keep rising, consumers are on the lookout for more affordable options and ditching their cable contracts for good. As demand for alternative services has risen, so have the number of options available. Many of these options do require a Smart TV or a receiver like an Amazon Fire Stick, Google Chromecast, or Apple TV. Making a small investment in one of these devices can save you quite a bit of money on cable long term, so it’s definitely worth considering.

Thinking about cutting the cord and breaking up with your cable TV provider? Here are five alternative options to consider.

Netflix

Netflix is probably the most popular option for cord-cutters. With literally thousands of options, Netflix users pay a relatively small fee for access to TV shows and movies. Plans currently start as low as $7.99 per month, and they don’t show ads (!!!).

One downfall to Netflix is that you often have to wait awhile before your favorite show is available. This can be a good thing because you’re able to break out the popcorn and wine and binge watch the entire season in one weekend when it’s up, but if you’re worried about spoilers or are just impatient to find out what happens to your favorite character, waiting might not be worth it to you.

The other great thing about Netflix is that they have a lot of Netflix original shows that you can’t get anywhere else.

Hulu

For those of us who are too impatient to wait for our beloved shows to make it to Netflix, Hulu can be a great option. Hulu offers shows from several networks as soon as the day after they air on network television. There are also a variety of throwback shows and movies available for your viewing pleasure.

Hulu offers monthly plans for $7.99 as well, but they do often show commercials during their shows. If you can stay away from spoilers for 24 hours, this can be a better way to see your favorite shows sooner after they air.

Amazon Prime Video

Are you already paying for that sweet, sweet free 2-day Amazon delivery? Be sure to take advantage of the wide variety of TV shows and movies available to Amazon Prime members – for free via Amazon Prime Video!

There are additional shows and movies available to rent or purchase for a fee, but Amazon does offer quite a few free options. This benefit of Prime membership can easily be forgotten, but is worth remembering!

Sling TV

Want an option to watch live TV? Sling TV works similarly to cable as it allows you to stream live TV over the internet and includes some channels that are otherwise more difficult to watch without cable.

If you’re worried about getting the sports fans in your house on board with cutting the cord, Sling TV is a great option as you’re able to choose channels that stream games live (like ESPN). Plans start at just $25/month, and you can add DVR for $5/month. If you want to add more users (up to 3 streams at a time), you’re looking at $45/month including DVR.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV is fairly new, but for $40/month, you get unlimited DVR, and a whole host of channels. Far more than what I was getting with cable. I got in when it was just $35/month, and allows up to 3 simultaneous streams, and 6 users. We’ve been splitting with family, so effectively paying just $11.66 per month! Add in the $45/month for Internet and we’re still paying less than $60, savings of over $480 over the course of the year!

Most of these services have free trials, so if you’re thinking of getting rid of cable, I encourage you to test them out for a week to see if they might be for you before taking the plunge!

Saving Intentionally: Why (and How) to Have More than 1 Savings Account

A 2017 GOBankingRates survey broke some alarming news: over half of Americans have less than $1000 in a savings account, and almost half of the people who fall in this category don’t have anything in a savings account at all. With almost 7 out of every 10 Americans having somewhere between absolutely nothing and just $1,000 in savings, there’s reason to be concerned about the ability of many Americans to pay for emergencies.

If you’re one of these Americans who doesn’t have a savings account, it’s time to start one. I’m sure you’re fully aware that emergencies come up, and emergencies often come with a hefty price tag. I totally sympathize with the assumed reaction here, which is that you just don’t have extra money to save. However, if you don’t think you have money to stick in savings now, you certainly won’t have the (much larger sum of) money to cover an unexpected expense.

Getting Started with Savings

Starting to save doesn’t require hundreds of dollars, especially if committing to save is going to require some serious budgeting shifting for your family. Even starting with just $20 and adding $5 a week is a great way to start forming healthy saving habits.

Looking for small things to cut out of your budget and redirect those funds to savings is a favor to your future self. I promise that while cancelling Netflix or choosing to eat meatless meals 2 times a week to cut back on the grocery budget might feel like a huge sacrifice in the moment, the sacrifice will seem much smaller when you’re better prepared financially for an emergency.

Many people who save have one checking account and one savings account. The checking account is used for daily expenses, and the savings account is where they stick money back for anything that might come up – an emergency, a vacation, a medical bill, or a down payment on a new house to name a few uses.

Savings accounts can be opened at your local bank or credit union, or through an online bank. It’s worth looking into an online bank for savings as they often have much lower overhead and are able to offer significantly higher interest rates than traditional financial institutions.

If you don’t think you have much money to save, there are lots of savings challenges to help you find a little money to save here and there. Challenges range from saving $1 each week to match what number of the year that week is (first week of the year = save $1, last week of the year = save $52) to saving 1 cent for what day of the year it is (January 1st = save 1 cent, December 31st = save $3.65), among others. You can do this with actual currency, or set up auto transfers from your checking account to savings.

Multiple Savings Accounts

While saving money is always a great practice, saving all your money in one account can be problematic. Let’s say you spend your entire savings account taking a beach vacation. You get home and find that your car won’t start in the airport parking lot. You have to pay to get it towed, and you later get a $500 bill from the mechanic for a new starter. You just spent all your savings on margaritas on the beach, how are you going to pay for this?

Having multiple savings accounts, each designated for something different, can help you avoid situations like this. Different savings accounts might include an emergency account, a travel account, a Christmas account, a vehicle account, or a home improvement account.

When you have multiple savings accounts with specific designations, you won’t spend everything you’ve saved on one expense. Of course there will be times than an emergency or an opportunity costs more than what the most closely designated account can cover, so it’s nice to have other funds to pull from in these instances.

Splitting what you can save into multiple accounts may mean it takes longer to reach your savings goals. However, it’s worth it to be able to treat yourself or cover an expense without it affecting your other savings goals.

Traveling on a Budget: Why Limited Income Doesn’t Have to Mean Limited Experiences

The idea that travelling the world has to be expensive is a myth. When done carefully, it’s absolutely possible to see the world without spending a fortune, which is good news for those of us who stick carefully to a budget every month. Saving for an international trip can take some time, but knowing that it’s possible to have great experiences on a low-budget trip is helpful.

Budget travel requires forfeiting some luxuries and conveniences, but it’s made up for in authentic experiences. You won’t be flying first class (in fact, you might be flying in a smaller than average seat on one of those budget airlines that would charge you for a beverage), you won’t be staying in a luxury hotel and eating at the finest dining establishments, but you will get an authentic look at a beautiful culture and get the privilege of engaging with its people on a more intimate level. These experiences are priceless.

Cutting Back Can Mean Authenticity

When travelling, it can be argued that the more you spend, the less authentic your experience within the culture will be. Spending more money, especially in a foreign country, will mean you’re staying in nicer hotels in nicer parts of the city, away from where the local people live and work. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one of the best parts of travelling is the opportunity to engage in a new culture. Travelling on a budget means you are likely going to be able to engage with the people and culture on a much deeper level.

While there’s nothing wrong with hitting up major tourist attractions and landmarks when you visit somewhere new, don’t spend all your time where the tourists flock. Strike up a conversation with someone on public transportation or at a restaurant and ask them where they’d recommend you go for an authentic cultural experience. Talking to people and getting to know why where they live is special to them will often lead to far richer experiences than Googling “things to do in ___.”

Engage With Locals

The best advice for eating in a new culture is to look for where the locals are eating and order whatever they’re having. Getting away from popular tourist areas to eat is a great practice when travelling. Not only will you be able to find more authentic (and often more delicious) food, but it will likely come at a much lower price. If you aren’t sure what exactly you ordered for lunch, that’s okay. Sometimes it’s better not to know.

Save With Hostels

If you’re travelling alone or with friends, hostels are probably the most affordable lodging option. A hostel dorm bed can sometimes costs as little as under $10 a night. While you have less privacy, you have more money to spend on other things than a mattress, pillow, and shower. Airbnbs are often very affordable in other countries as well, which is a great option for couples who would like a little more privacy or travelers who want a comfortable place to spread out and call home during their stay. You can also rent a room in a local person’s house, which is another fantastic way to intimately engage with a new group of people and understand their culture on a much deeper level.

Travelling can really cost as much or as little as you’d like, to an extent. It’s important to remember that no matter where you go, there is a unique culture full of beautiful people who all have a story. Spending less money on your travel and intentionally spending your time truly engaged with the culture will provide an experience of a lifetime with limited expense.