We hear it all the time: our customers want to know how to “cut the cord” for their cable, or significantly reduce it to save money. In this day and age with Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV and Amazon Fire, it’s easy to do, a great way to save some money, and something most of us should consider reducing if not eliminating. However, in most suburban areas, many customers have their internet and cable TV coming from the same provider on one combined bill as a package deal. At our house for example, our cable & internet runs about $90/month, and when we called to reduce or eliminate the TV portion, it was only a nominal savings, and would still run us $50/$60 a month to keep the internet on. Without the package deal of cable and internet service together, the prices went up if you’re only purchasing one service, meaning a nominal savings for the hassle. That doesn’t mean you can’t save money…here’s a few things to consider:
- Call Them! Every few months, I have a reminder pop up on my calendar to call our internet/cable provider and see what new deals and promotions they have. The customer service reps are usually able to find promotions and discounts that do not extend my contract, and will lower my bill, even if only by a little- it all ads up! Ask if they can waive some fees! Not getting a good enough deal? Threaten that you will need to cancel the service, and you’ll be amazed with the results. Just make sure you’re aware of any changes that extend your contract or sign you up for a contract- and make a note in your calendar when those changes will roll off so you can call again.
- Bring Your Own Modem / Router! Most of the home customers I visit have the big “Comcast box” that provides the internet connection and WiFi signal to their home. What most of my customers don’t know is that they’re paying $12/month (or more!) to rent that box from the provider…which ads up to $144/year on your bill. Additionally, many of our customers who have this rented box are complaining of poor WiFi strength in their home, which is because there are no external antennas on the box, and it’s an old device that probably hasn’t been updated in several years. However, one of the biggest problems I see with this Comcast box is that they use your box to automatically enable a free Public-WiFi network for other Comcast users in your area (which could easily be hacked if the right people try, AND could lower your internet speed & performance). You can easily bypass this “Big Brother” type of service by buying your own cable modem for around $60, and get an external wireless router for around $40 that is MUCH higher powered than the junk in the rented box- and way more secure. Not only would you save money over time, but you would get better service. We’ve had our cable modem for years- they have a long life span and would work if we switched internet providers….without the $12/month bill and security nightmare! It’s a great project for Canyonero Consulting to help with!
- Get Rid Of The Box! In this day and age, most of us have multiple TV’s in our home. One in the family room, one in the basement, and one in the bedrooms…and if they’re all HDTV’s, you’ve likely got them hooked to a cable box from your provider. In many cases, you don’t need a cable box to get most of the cable channels to work on your TV, and it’s another rental fee you’re paying per month, per TV that you might not use. There are advantages to having a cable box hooked up to your TV (you get additional HD channels, DVR, etc), but for your second and third TV’s in the house, you might not need to pay for additional cable boxes. It’s worth calling and asking if you can eliminate the cable box, and what affect it will have on your channels, services, and features. Ours were $5/box/month, so it too added up to a significant savings.
We love hearing our customer’s suggestions and tips for cutting the cord and eliminating costs- please post below with your ideas and suggestions!
We hear it all the time: fewer people are reading traditional magazines and newspapers, and are getting their news updates online. It’s no secret that tech savvy people have looked to the internet as their news source for years, but recently we’ve seen a significant uptick in those beginner and less-frequent computer users wanting to get online to follow news too. Regardless of where you are in the spectrum, chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve gone online to find your news in the past, and we want to talk about some of the different ways to make reading various news sources online as easy as possible.
- Visit The Direct Site. Most of us have gone to www.cnn.com, or www.foxnews.com at some point or another, and it’s probably the simplest way to go get the news you’re looking for. While it’s not so hard if you just have a few sources that you want to check, but it will quickly get overwhelming if you have multiple sites that you want to regularly visit. Sure, you can bookmark all of the different pages, but it can quickly become a time consuming task to find exactly what you’re looking for if you have to manually remember- and luckily there are ways to make this process easier.
- Subscribe to RSS feeds. Following RSS feeds is one of my favorite ways to quickly stay connected with the various news sources I frequently read. Many news sites or blogs have an RSS feed you can subscribe to that will automatically format and deliver the content you’re looking for to one universal place. Essentially, an RSS feed is a a website link that formats content into one standard format for reading, removing annoying ads and videos. For example, if you follow politics, you can subscribe to the politics RSS feeds from various news sources (cnn.com, foxnews.com, abcnews.com, etc.) and have them all delivered to one spot on your computer that you regularly check for news. Your web browser probably has an RSS reader built in to it (Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer)- meaning you can click on a link or shortcut in your internet browser and simply view all the news right in there, ad free.
- Use A RSS Program or Website. If you have multiple computers you use regularly, or have many different feeds you follow, it might be worthwhile to look into news management programs and websites. Popular websites like feedly.com, feedreader.com, and innoreader.com, all offer a single website that can manage multiple RSS feeds, giving you one location to go to to view all of your news. The advantage here (and the difference from the option above) is that with one login, you can simply and easily view your news stories on multiple computers- including your phone or tablet- making it a nice universal choice that will work anywhere.
- Have Your News Delivered To Your Email. Hands down, one of the best free services I use on a daily basis is blogtrottr.com. I have some RSS feeds that I have subscribed to, and it will send a customized email to you when you choose (daily digest, each time a new article/post is added, etc). I talked about this a few years back on my blog, but I still use the service daily, and for multiple different feeds. It simply works great!
- Save Your News To Read Later. We’ve all had that time where we come across an article online, but we don’t have the time to read it right now but we want to remember to get back to read it later. Free services like Pocket allow you to quickly save an article to come back to later, and make it simple to share that “list of articles you want to read someday” with your smartphone, tablet, or other computers you use. Sure, you could save that link with a bookmark in your browser, but this allows you to sync the list across multiple devices, and removes advertisements and distractions from the page as well.
- Use A Service That Learns Your Likes. Using something like Google News to find the news your looking for gives you some additional options. Visiting google.com/news, you’ll see it’s simply a website that lists all of the popular or trending stories that other pages are reporting; it simply reports news that other sites are reporting. However, what makes it unique is that over time, it learns the types of articles you like to click on, and populates the news you see first on their page with what thinks is the news you’re most interested in reading. Read a lot of articles about technology and it will keep putting technology articles at the top of your list. It’s an interesting approach (and it’s customize through their settings). Apple News on the iPhone has a similar approach…you tell it you like technology articles, and it will show you the top technology articles when you want to read them.
With summer approaching, most of us will plan to take a weekend away in the next few months, or head on vacation to a beach, pool, or waterpark. Sadly, since most of us can never disconnect (myself included!), we probably won’t be leaving the technology at home, and will bring it with us. But, before you pack your bags and plan for that trip, make sure you have the proper protection for the gear you plan to take with. I’ve seen it all too often….phone gets buried in sand or dunked in the water and needs to be replaced, or laptop was not protected in a good bag and was banged on a corner or took a drop it couldn’t recover from. These small misfortunes could cost you a significant chunk of change to recover from, not to mention the headache of being without your device for a while.
So, there are two things I would like everyone to check that they have now BEFORE their vacation or trip so they don’t have to scramble at the last minute to make sure they have what they need:
- A Waterproof Cell Phone Pouch. I always recommended that my customers get durable cases on their cell phones like an Otterbox or Lifeproof case for everyday use that makes the devices able to withstand the daily drops and splashes that life can bring. However, when you go on vacation, you need something a little more if you plan to be outside in the elements. If you’re planning to take that iPhone to the beach, your daily case might be water resistant, but I wouldn’t recommend taking that case in the water- especially when a replacement is $500+?. Amazon sells these awesome waterproof cell phone pouches for less than $10 (http://amzn.to/2qDf8Wq) and they’re a great “insurance policy”. The theory is that you put the whole cell phone- existing case and all- in this bag, lock the top, and it adds another level of protection to the device, keeping sand and water out. Best part is that you can use the phone through the plastic case and take calls and pictures, and hang it from a lanyard around your neck should you decide to kayak or paddleboard. Look for ones that have an external audio jack (so you can listen to your headphones), a case that is float-able if you plan to be on a boat, and one that is IPX8 certified to withstand water up to 100 feet. Best of all…they’re universal and can fit most any cell phone brand or size.
- A Padded Laptop/Tablet Case. If you have a laptop, chances are that you already have a case or bag for it. The problem is that very few of the laptop bags I have seen actually offer adequate padding to protect in drops or bangs. Check your current bag to make sure there is not just coverage, but ample padding around ALL edges and sides of the laptop or tablet. If you love your current case, but notice it isn’t as protective as you would like, consider getting a thick padded case to fit inside your current bag. I’ve been a fan of STM bags for a while because of their thick padding, and love this minimal yet cost effective model (http://amzn.to/2q2X4bd), but if cost is a factor, consider something like this (http://amzn.to/2p1x2VM). How do you know if your case is good enough? Remove the laptop from the case and make sure the case is hardy enough that it doesn’t “flop” over, meaning the foam padding is substantial. If you don’t like a big bag, these are great slim compact cases on their own, but if you like to take more things with you, they can easily be put into another backpack or briefcase and still be well protected. Next time you bang the laptop on the granite counter or shove it under the seat on an airplane, you’ll be thankful you had a more protective case.