In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall


Last week, both the federal government and the provincial government released their budgets for the next year. I’m not going to talk about those, however. I’m going to tell you about a far more important budget. Mine! Changes are happening and the trigger was my opening my Rogers bill. They provide me with cable and Internet services. For years now, the combined cost of those two services has hovered in the area between $90 and $100 each month. I was surprised to see the total listed as $109.76 for this month. The fee’s crossing the threshold to three digits led me to think about my monthly expenses.

Basic cable TV costs me $27.49 and provides about 40 channels. I’ve also had the Ultimate TV Pack as part of my service, almost doubling my selection. But for the extra $23.99, the only programs I watch regularly are Battlestar Galactica on Space, and Trailer Park Boys on Showcase. So I’ve cancelled the Ultimate TV Pack. Presto … I’ve saved $300 each year. I could buy the season of Galactica and Trailer Park Boys broadcast each year, have more than half of my savings left, and only suffer the disadvantage of having to wait until they release the DVDs.

The Internet is a must for a number of reasons, but I have a plan for it too. The National Capital Freenet offers 5Mb DSL service for $29.95 per month. This is $20 cheaper than the same service from Bell and $18 cheaper than the Rogers service I have now. The only fly in the ointment is NCF leases the bandwidth of Bell’s network so I’ll still be funding Bell. Still, it’s $20 cheaper than I’d pay them directly for exactly the same thing. NCF doesn’t offer modem rentals so I’ll have to shell out $100, but it’ll pay for itself in six months. My area’s DSL network is fully subscribed so I can’t sign up now, but they’re increasing network capacity in July so I can get in on the deal then.

Bell’s Internet service has advertised itself out of my consideration, even if it were priced to compare with NCF. On Bell’s web page describing their Internet service offerings, they list their 5Mb service as starting at $30/month. Impressive right? No, they’re weasels. In all other ad copy in the world, “starting at” indicates the lowest priced service, typically stripped of anything resembling a frill. We understand these “starting at” prices may be referring to a service that’s barely even usable. But Bell isn’t quoting the price of their bare-bones plan. No, when they say “starting at” they mean it in a completely different, though accurate way. Read the details and you’ll see you will pay $30 per month for the first three months, then the price returns to the normal $50 per month for the remainder of the two year contract you’ve signed up for. Great … so for the privilege of being locked in for two years (with a $100 cancellation charge if you break the contract), you’ve saved a grand total of $120. What a deal! Suck it, Bell.

Bell provides me with phone service and the bill typically is in the $50 to $60 range. Considering the bill lists basic service as costing just $18.48, I was eager to see what I could cut. First to go was the $4.95 monthly charge for the long distance plan I never use. I always use a dial-through service (either 10 – 10-925 or 10 – 10-710) so any long distance plan is a waste. An additional bonus of having no long distance plan is not being charged the $4.50 monthly network access fee. I also dropped the call answer service. I should have bought an answering machine a long time ago as the $7 monthly fee would pay for one in less than a year.

Seeing news stories year after year about how the banks are breaking their own profit records makes me wonder why I’ve been paying $12/month for the bank account I have. As a consequence, I’ve opened a new account with President’s Choice Financial. The promise of no-fee banking is an enticing one so I signed up with them as soon as they opened in 1998. I had a few significant problems with them at the time, so I went back to my regular bank. I now know many people with PCF accounts and they’re all pleased with the service so it’s time to give them another try. I’m in the midst of transferring my automatic salary deposit and the one automatic bill payment I have on the account. Once the switch over is complete, I’ll keep my old account for a month or two, just to make sure the transfers were completed properly, and in case PCF screws something enough to make the $144/year charge look reasonable for trouble-free service.

So these are the savings I’ve got so far:

  • $23.99 — extended cable
  • $15.00 — Internet
  • $4.95 — long distance calling plan
  • $4.50 — telephone network access fee
  • $7.00 — call answer
  • $12.00 — monthly bank fee

The total monthly saving is $67.44 plus tax. Sure it not exactly winning the lottery, but it makes a big difference in the long run. Over the course of one year, $809.28 is nothing to sneeze at, especially considering the small inconvenience I’ll suffer. Of course the Internet and call answer savings will require an initial outlay of about $150, but this sum will be covered in a little more than just two months.

Of course such a sum has me thinking of other areas I might save on. My auto/tenant insurance is automatically withdrawn from my account on a monthly basis, and for this convenience, they do charge more. I can’t be sure of the exact amount but $12 twice a year comes to mind. I decided to go the monthly route because it’s more convenient to pay a smaller amount more often, and I let it be when they started charging more because times were lean. Now things have improved enough that the inconvenience of paying a $500 lump sum twice a year is far more attractive than paying the insurance company more than I need to.

I may drop call display because given the frequency of telephone calls I receive, the $8 monthly fee probably represents a charge of about $0.75 per call, many of which arrive when I’m not even home. Looking at it this way, it’s easy to justify cancelling the service because I’ll save $96 each year.

Dropping cable television entirely is appealing. We get some five English stations over the air so it’s not like I’d be cut off from the world of in-home video entertainment, especially considering my subscription. It would mean a further savings of $27.49, but no cable might be a step too far. I do enjoy some television and can watch almost everything I want for the basic cable charge. I’ll keep the option in mind, but it is unlikely.


A bit of a mistake


‘Money’ is so hard to find


  1. Vix

    I use NCF dial-up and they ask for donation basis only, so I donate $10 a year. I don’t go online all that much. I wish I had something faster, but it serves my needs well!

    Nice to read about how you’ve saved money and how much! Inspiring!

    I also use answering machine and don’t have call display to save money.

    I switched to Primus phone service to save a few bucks, but, in the end, it costs almost exactly the same as Bell did. I do get AirMiles instead, though, so that’s worth it for me for the difference between them. (I’m saving AirMiles to use towards a free hotel stay sometime in the future!)

    Ideas to save more money you might like: cut Bounce sheets into 4, you can even reuse each sheet at least once more. I save a lot this way. And whatever amount of soap the instructions say for laundry soap, I cut it down to 1/4 of that and it still washes everything perfectly fine.

    Great entry!

  2. Vix

    I forgot to mention that I also use PC Financial banking and I noticed right away that I don’t get $40 or more service charges or interest a month that I used to get with Royal Bank, it’s gone way down. (By the way, I use their car and home insurance, too, seems to be good prices.) And you get points, which you can use towards free groceries or other things. Those add up nicely, too. I haven’t had any troubles with PC, so far, and they gave me back the $500 that was taken out of my account when my card information was stolen.

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