family expense audit: cable/internet/phone service.

Total Annual Savings for Cable/Internet/Phone Services resulting from my Family Expense Audit: $839.28
Vendor Choice: Brighthouse
Service Changes:
1. Switched from voice mail to an answering machine on our main line.
2. Dropped our second phone number and got a free Google Voice phone number with free voice mail instead.
3. Eliminated the Showtime premium movie channel.
4. Added benefit? I NEVER have to deal with At&T customer service again.

(Regardless of vendor, I found it impossible to separate the cable, internet and phone services and get any kind of affordable rate quote. Everybody wanted to pitch a “bundle.”)

Background: I’ve been calling all our vendors. I start something like this:

“I’m doing an expense audit, going through every bill we have and making sure we’re spending our money wisely. I’ll be getting quotes from some of your competitors and before I do, I just wanted to make sure we’ve got your best price. I also need to know what sets [insert company name here] apart with regard to services so that when I get quotes from your competitors I take into account any special or unique services you provide.”

The Process: Evaluating and changing our cable/internet/TV services took the most time and it got confusing, so bear with me, I’ll try to make sense of it for you.

During the course of my family expense audit, nearly all of the vendors I called lowered their rates to keep us as customers. The two who didn’t were AT&T and AT&T Wireless.

Let’s focus on AT&T – our residential phone service. I ditched them. As of yesterday. We now have a Brighthouse/Road Runner Bundle.

AT&T: By FAR, AT&T had the LONGEST wait time on the phone during the entire expense audit process. Multiple phone calls, multiple representatives. All terrible listeners. Even after starting with my standard opening about looking to lower our monthly expenses, every quote they gave me was HIGHER and the way they presented the quote sounded like they were making the changes as we spoke. Very pushy.

Brighthouse: Truth be told, I was already leaning toward Brighthouse. We are long time customers, customer service is excellent, my cable modem serves me well and we have a level of familiarity with the TV remotes and guides that is difficult to ignore. And the price quotes were excellent. My biggest obstacle was that the bundle required me to switch from to Road Runner. I originally said “no thanks.”

All I could think was: (imagine a whining voice) “I’ll have to update all those email addresses. All those logins. All those websites. I don’t wanna.”

Seriously, the number of places I would have to update email addresses. The number of email addresses this family uses. The task seemed overwhelming. And if I actually DID go through the exercise of changing all those email addresses, I never wanted to do it again. But then I realized. My website hosting with GoDaddy includes 100 email addresses across all domains I own. hmmm. So I bought a domain just for email, for a total price of less than $70 for 10 years. I spent about a week going through my SplashID listing of web logins, nicking away at the changes. Then I watched my inbox and every time an “earthlink” email came in, I decided whether I wanted to update it. Some I changed, some I’ll let die.

So that took care of the one obstacle. If I was ready to move from Earthlink to Road Runner, I was in a position to save money with a cable/internet bundle. But if I added phone, I could save even more. There were two issues:

1. I wanted to ditch our second phone number, which I used exclusively for work. I replaced it with Google Voice and Voicemail. It routes calls to my cell phone without requiring me to give out my cell number. In a nutshell, it’s a free phone number with voice mail that gets transcribed to text AND email messages. It’s got a LOT more features, but that’s another post.

2. Would our home alarm system work with a digital phone? Again with the nutshell, Brighthouse thought it would and our alarm company thought it would, but there was no way to tell until it was switched and tested. If not, we had the option of installing a cell phone transmitter for the alarm system for an extra $10 per month (and a $200+ installation fee) The alarm worked with the digital phone perfectly, although I’m still thinking about the cell phone transmitter. And even though the cable modem has it’s own backup battery, we put it on a kick-butt uninterrupted power source for added measure in case of a power failure.

So yesterday we made the switch. Everything works perfectly and as an added bonus, I got a phone jack installed in my office at no charge! We had been running a L O N G phone line from another room for years.

Briefly onto AT&T Wireless: I’m keeping them. No change in price, but some modifications to our plan which better suit us. And I still refuse to get a data plan on my phone. I’m not paying for internet on my phone until and/or unless I have absolutely no choice. But I digress. Here’s some reasons why we’re staying with AT&T Wireless:

1. FirstHusband’s work provided cell phone is AT&T so all mobile to mobile calls with him are free and his company has an agreement with AT&T Wireless that provides some nice benefits to family members on a plan with them – the latter of which I found out during this expense audit process.

2. AT&T’s coverage map works for us. We rarely have dropped calls and no matter where FirstHusband travels, we have been able to reach him. This is a big deal.

3. Customer Service is OUTSTANDING and wait time is very short. (and I have a lot to compare to after making all these vendor calls.)

4. I’ve been a customer since 1994 because I’m so happy with them. They take ownership of a problem and help me solve it, whether it’s finding a free replacement for the $1.99 (each) directory assistance calls my dad made by innocently dialing “411” or back dating a plan change to help me avoid overages or making an appointment to call me two days before a cruise to activate an international calling plan or meticulously scouring a bill to help me understand every single charge…they’ve built customer loyalty with me.

Check out my other posts in my “Family Expense Audit” series in my “debt free living” category. I’ll be adding more over the next few weeks, so be sure to check back!

Find more ideas over at Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by Kristen at We Are THAT Family. MY previous Works for Me Wednesday posts are HERE.

Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer.

3 thoughts on “family expense audit: cable/internet/phone service.

  1. Great job!

    I have been debating whittling down the cable and canceling our home phone to save about $50/month. We just have digital HD cable and digital phone, but I think we would do fine with basic cable, upping our cell minutes, and using Netflix for entertainment. I need to sit down and push the number though. You have inspired me!

    1. Amy – GO for it!! We had to keep the home line. PinkGirl doesn’t have a cell phone and I’m just beginning to allow her to stay home by herself for short periods of time.

      The only issue we have is with switching from voice mail back to an answering machine – the phone won’t roll over to voice mail if we are on a call and don’t accept the call waiting. But PinkGirl LOVES the caller ID on the TV! FavoriteSon hates it. This should be interesting. (by JSM)

  2. We just changed to a bundle with Verizon for all our home services. Years ago we did the cable thing, but had days when we had no dial-tone. Not acceptable. Our cell is also AT&T. I’m the only one on it b/c Jim has his cell thru work too. I’m on the cheapest plan but still have too many minutes. I’m just not on that much. I just use mine for a phone as well–no texting, no internet, nada. And my kids are WAYYY too young for cellphones, so phew with that for a few more years!

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