How to Save on Your Cell Phone and Broadband Bill
Death, taxes, and bill shock. The first two are unavoidable, but luckily, there are a number of ways to avoid unnecessarily high mobile phone and broadband bills. Starting with the former, it’s important to figure out how and when you use your phone. Unlimited talk and texting plans are great for chatterbugs, but if you only whip out your phone for emergencies, don’t overpay for headroom you’ll never use. Along those same lines, you can reduce your reliance on cell phone minutes by using your landline to make calls, or by using VoIP services like Skype.
Another way to sidestep cell phone charges is by integrating Google Voice into your daily usage habits. Google Voice supports free SMS text messaging to the U.S. and Canada, and you can also make and receive calls without tapping into your cell phone minutes.
Don’t let your wireless carrier nickel‑and‑dime you to death with supplementary add-ons, like premium voice mail, roadside assistance, and other optional features. If you absolutely need the peace of mind that comes from an extended warranty (or were born clumsy), shop around for the best rates and service.
SquareTrade is one of the most popular third-party providers of warranties, and you can typically find online coupon codes good for 20 to 30 percent off.
Finally, decide if it’s really in your best interest to commit to a long-term contract, especially if you plan on getting a feature phone. Prepaid and pay-as-you go plans can be obtained for as little as $10/month. On the flip side, if a long-term contract is in the cards, utilize strength in numbers by splitting a family plan not just with immediate kin, but with a close friend, co-worker, roommate, or a family member who doesn’t live with you. Wireless carriers typically charge $10 to $15 to add a line to a family plan, and if you and a friend split the entire bill, you both can come out ahead.
Saving money on your broadband bill starts the same way: by analyzing your usage habits. The most obvious way to save some coin is to make sure you’re not paying for an ultra-fast service tier if all you’re doing is roaming the web in search of lolcats and updating your Facebook status. Don’t be afraid to downgrade your service to see if a lower speed suits your surfing style.
Bundling your TV, phone, and Internet service can reduce your bill, and it also gives you increased bargaining power. Times are tough all around, and if you call your ISP to cancel your service, they’ll usually try to sweeten the deal in some way so that you’ll stick around. If not, ask to speak with a supervisor to let them know you’re leaving for a cheaper competitor. Of course, you don’t have to bluff.
Services like Sonic.net offer relatively low-cost broadband-plus-phone service, albeit it’s limited to California residents.
Need more help? BillShrink.com is a great resource to find out if you’re overpaying on everyday expenses, including wireless service.
How to get HDTV for Free
Ever notice how cable and satellite companies only call some channels “pay per view”? Well, the truth is, they’re all pay-per-view, aren’t they? Not once you cut that satellite or cable in favor of a hybrid streaming/ATSC strategy. ATSC is the fancy way to say free broadcast TV. This usually gets you your local network affiliates with national and local news, as well big event sports such as the World Series or Super Bowl.
To see if you can go this route, first visit AntennaWeb.org and click on the “maximize your television reception” button under the home tab. Punch in your zip code and the web app will present a list of stations, how far away they are, their direction, and more importantly, what level of antenna you need. Since the most difficult part of picking an antenna is knowing what your needs are, many antenna makers now follow the CEA’s color-coding. So if the stations you need to hit are nearby, an indoor antenna may suffice. If you’re trying to pinch a signal from a station 50 miles away, you may need a directional antenna that can be moved.
The color coding is confusing, but yellow and green are for areas with strong signals, while red and blue are the weakest signals, requiring directional antennas with amplifiers. Decoding the signal is easy if you intend to plug it into any modern HDTV, as each includes ATSC decoders. If you’re looking for a PVR-like experience, TiVo boxes will function with ATSC signals, but you will have to pay a monthly service fee or pay up front for the lifetime service. An HTPC with an ATSC tuner will also replicate much of the PVR’s ability to record playback.