Especially when it comes to overpaying for cable TV.
Marc Hedlund (from the Wesabe Blog) posted a small, yet highly informative graphic that gave me one of those Aha! moments that bloggers love, while simultaneously giving public relations departments one more fire to extinguish.
Wesabe’s money management software identified that Marc’s annual cable bill had increased ~ 150% from 2006 to 2008. He states that no changes to his service during this time period.
To put it another way, he went from paying $28/month in 2006 to $71/month in 2008.
While reading his article, I swear I could hear the voice Brian Williams’ shouting “The Fleecing of America“.
Alas, nothing we can really do but shut off our cable. Right? Who would do such a thing?
Being one who likes to dig up old blog articles, my RSS Reader tells me I’m not the only blogger out there who is fed up with this nonsense.
The best example I came up with was The Frugal Bachelor, who says he has paid $8950 for cable TV since he began tracking his expenses in MS Money since way back in 2000. To be fair, he says he bundled his broadband internet service with his cable TV in the last few years so the data could be somewhat skewed towards the end, but he also says he has gone without cable for an entire year.
Nevertheless, it’s still overwhelming to think how much cash that most of us spend on cable TV once you go back, do some historical accounting and chart work, and tally up just how much our “viewing entertainment” really costs us over the long term.
The scary fact is that most working class people really don’t watch that much TV once you begin to do the math. I catch myself flipping on the TV just out of habit or so that I have background noise. I also noticed that I rarely watch an entire football game anymore, but tend to listen for changes in the commentator’s voice so I know when to look up from whatever I’m doing.
Which brings me to J.D.’s post at Get Rich Slowly from 2007 where he estimated that he and his wife pay $3.16 per hour of television they watch. It might not seem like much at the time, but tack on two more years of cable price hikes similar to the graphic above, and you’ll quickly begin to think that you’ve been hoodwinked into paying more and more each year without really noticing any significant chance in pricing or value.
You bet your ass you can! Thanks to the miracle of high speed internet, you can watch almost all of your favorite TV shows online. The best part, at least in my eyes, is that most online TV programs have far fewer commercials so you waste less time watching them.
Even Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, admitted that he goes the frugal (or efficient) route by watching “Lost” over the internet during a Washington Post interview:
My favorite TV program, “Lost,” I watch on the Internet now. I don’t DVR it, I just watch it on the Internet. Why? Because it’s free. . . . I have to admit that I’m annoyed by the four 20 seconds [of ads], but not annoyed enough to pay a buck . . . I think at the end of the day most people say, “Heck, if I can get something that’s pretty good that’s ad-funded and the ads don’t kill me, I’ll take that over the thing I gotta pay for.”
Call me crazy, but something tells me Ballmer can afford to pay for cable on his salary. Maybe he just wanted to take a jab at Apple with the “pay a buck” iTunes comment, but it’s fairly impressive to see the major power players using the technology, not just telling us kids that it’s the new and cool thing to do.
Some suggestions for those who want to watch movies or TV online:
I’m sure technology and file sharing will continue to change as time progresses, but this list should be a way to get you started in your hunt for online video entertainment.
With the recession in full swing, everyone is being hit hard — including the cable companies.
There are numerous reports (WSJ and ABC News) where customers are successfully calling to disconnect their cable, and finding they can get a discounted rate. Some are getting as much as 50% off their monthly cable bill for an entire year.
Not too shabby.
As you can imagine, it’s better to have a customer paying half the normal bill than losing the customer entirely. Then again, you must take some action and actually make the phone call because they’re not going to lower your cable bill out of the goodness of their heart.
Perhaps it would be in our best interests to call customer service, say we’re interested in disconnecting our service (by switching to Direct TV, Dish Network or pulling out the rabbit ears with the transition to digital TV), just to see what type of deal you can renegotiate on your monthly rates.