The New Year is only a few weeks old, but already many people have started giving up on their resolutions for 2013. To keep you on track with your financial resolutions, let's take a crack at accomplishing one we suggested earlier this month: saving money on cable, phone and Internet bills.
The companies that sell landline and mobile phone contracts as well as cable TV and broadband Internet know the appeal of the package deal. By luring you in with promotional pricing on high-end premium services, these companies count on your continuing to pay up long after regular pricing takes effect.
Yet all too often, consumers don't take full advantage of these packages. Whether it's unlimited long distance, mobile-phone minutes, text messages, or data plans, millions of people are signed up for contracts that provide much more service than they actually need. And with cable TV, consumers often accept huge swaths of unwanted and unwatched channels in order to get the ones they do plan to watch.
If you've been caught in the web of the triple-play "deal," don't despair. Most companies offer less extensive service packages that fit better with what you actually use. Of course, those companies don't always make it easy to find out about these cheaper packages, but with a little digging, you can save some serious money.
Here are three ways to save money on your phone, cable and internet services:
1. Get a bare-bones landline. The rise of mobile phones has led many people to drop their landlines entirely. But even those who've come to rely on their cellphones often don't feel comfortable disconnecting all together. Rather than paying for packages that include unlimited long distance that you never use, look into what's usually called "measured service." This low-tier offering offers a much lower monthly rate in exchange for paying a modest amount for each call you make. Even if you use your landline as your primary calling method, measured service can be cheaper. And if you use your cell for most of your calls, the savings is even more pronounced.
2. Go back to basics on cable. With more content available online through Netflix and other services, cable has become much less a necessity than it was in past years. But even with standard packages costing $60 or more per month, you may feel like there's little savings to be had. Little-known "broadcast basic" packages, however, can give you better reception on network channels as well as a small group of other offerings at ridiculously low prices of $10 per month or less.
3. Don't pay for more Internet speed than you need. Broadband Internet companies want you to subscribe for high-end Internet service with lightning-fast connection speeds, but they won't hesitate to charge up for the privilege. If you use your connection for business or other high-volume purposes like frequent video streaming, then premium packages make sense. But for email, light Internet browsing, and other low-impact use, you really don't need to pay an extra $20 to $50 per month for whatever name your provider puts on the fastest tiers of Internet service available. Check out standard or "lite" Internet offerings. You may find that the performance loss is much less significant than you'd imagine.
With all three of these ideas, you may get an unexpected benefit when you call your customer service rep to downgrade. Companies don't want to lose customers, and in the current ultra-competitive environment, they may give you added enticements to stay on board. As a result, you may get an offer to keep your current service at a lower price, leaving you with two winning alternatives to choose from.
Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger cut back years ago and never looked back. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix.