Saving money on stuff really isn’t that hard.  Honestly, it’s not.  It’s a matter of looking at what you’re spending money on, deciding what matters and what doesn’t, and cutting out the stuff that doesn’t.  It’s not a magic formula, but it takes a little introspection and some discipline.

Some things aren’t really optional.  Life and disability insurance, rent or a mortgage, food and utilities; these are things that you really can’t live without.  There are certainly ranges of costs that you can choose from in those categories, but the bottom line is you’re going to spend some money on those things because you have to.

It’s the other things in life – the vacations, the dinners out, the entertainment – that are harder to reduce or eliminate, because we just aren’t wired to give up things we like.  Still, grown ups have to make tough decisions sometimes, and we did that when we decide to cut the cord (and yes, I realize that giving up cable is not a life or death decision, but still… it was tough for us!).

Our DirecTV Experience

We had been with DirecTV for over three years when we finally made the decision that we needed to save some money on our recurring entertainment purchases.  I should make a point here to say that I think DirecTV is an awesome company and service, and if we weren’t in debt paydown mode and looking over all of our expenses with a magnifying glass we’d still be with them.  Unfortunately, it became cost-prohibitive for us to maintain our service.

When we first started with DirecTV, the promotion we received got us the service for the first year at $60.00/month (or right around there), which included HBO free for 3 months.  Of course, we got hooked on HBO (Game of Thrones, obviously) so we had to buy it after our free 3 month trial period was over.  Over the next year (our 2nd with DirecTV) our monthly bill was between the $60-$80 range.  I got good about calling and asking for discounts and promotions on a fairly regular basis, so whenever I saw our bill go up, DirecTV got a call from me and they were usually good about finding me a deal that would lower the bill by $5.00 or $10.00 a month for a certain period of time.

Year 3 was when our bill really started to shoot up.  We were out of our initial two year contract, and when you start losing all of your promotions at once the costs really add up.  Suddenly our bill of $80.00 or so a month was going to be around $130.00.  That wasn’t going to work for us at all so I called DirecTV with every intention of cancelling… and got sucked right back in.

Whatever they pay their customer retention reps, they should give them a raise.  Not only was the lady nice and polite, but she hooked me up!  If I signed another year long contract, she could give me a $30.00 credit on my bill for 12 months PLUS free Showtime for 4 months PLUS a discount on HBO and some other random credits that lowered my bill to between $85 and $100, depending on the month.  Of course I couldn’t pass that up!

Suddenly, we were paying an extra $300.00 a year on our satellite TV bill, and I was happy about it because I thought I had just gotten such a great deal (I mean, FREE SHOWTIME?!).  Obviously, I wasn’t getting a great deal.  Rather, I had gotten a great pitch, from a company I enjoyed giving money to.

As the year went on, and the credits and promotions started dropping off month-by-month, I realized we had to make a change.  I had started researching streaming services and boxes, in anticipation for our move to cut the cord.  At year’s end, when the bill was back up to $130.00 and my year long contract was over, I called DirecTV again.  This time, I wasn’t going to be deterred.  We were cancelling our service, and moving to something else.

Cutting the Cord

There is no shortage of great streaming services available right now.  After doing what I considered quite a bit of research, we settled on Playstation Vue.  It’s $30/month (EDIT:  Just read they are raising their prices.  We’ll keep our eyes on that.) for about 45 channels.  ESPN 1 & 2, Fox Sports 1 &2, Food Network, HGTV, AMC, and several others are included.  It’s got basically all the channels we used to watch, and doesn’t have a lot of the fluff.  We even still get our local CBS affiliate, which was a nice bonus we didn’t think we’d have.  If we decide to add HBO GO (which we probably will when Game of Thrones starts) that’ll be another $15 a month (EDIT:  We did add it for 2 months. Watched GoT Season 7 – which was great, as always – and will be dropping HBO again at the end of this month).

To operate the streaming service, we had to buy a streaming device.  We went with the Amazon Fire TV and have been very happy with that.  It was an $90 investment, but we feel like it was worth it.  We’d highly recommend it and if you buy it from the following link we’ll get a small commission:  Fire TV | Streaming Media Player

When we first were getting set-up, I called my cable company to see if they had any promotions on internet because I thought I may need a more robust connection.  I ended up getting my internet upgraded from 15 mpbs to 150 mbps and my bill went down by $5.00 a month.  It wasn’t due to a promotion, it was because their prices had dropped since the last time I had called them (which was like 3 years prior).  Why I felt the need to call my satellite TV company on a regular basis and not my internet provider, I have no idea.  I learned a lesson, though!

All told, our first year of using Playstation Vue is going to end up costing us $540.00, or about $45/month.  I’m assuming we’ll get HBO GO and have it for 6 months (which may be overestimating the time period), so I’m factoring that into the cost.  That’s a saving of almost $700 over what we would have paid DirecTV.

Since our cancellation, DirecTV has been pulling out all the stops.  In fact, they sent us an invitation for a special deal that almost got me back in.  The gist of it was that if we signed a new 24-month agreement and enrolled in auto-pay we would get a discounted rate of $19.99, PLUS a $200 Visa prepaid gift card.  On the face of it, it looks like a great deal with a total 2 year payment of $280, after figuring in the Visa gift card.  In reality, it’s not that simple:  When you read the fine print there’s some caveats, mainly that after 12 months the $19.99/mo turns into $53.99/mo.  Even from the day you start the deal, there’s an “Advanced Receiver” fee of $15/mo, as well as an extra $7/mo fee for each receiver on the account (I believe I’m representing those prices right, but the deal can be found here if you want to verify for yourself).

Are We Saving Money?

Take all of those things into consideration, and I figure that, at the minimum, 2 years with DirecTV’s “Best Deal Ever” would end up costing us almost $200 more than what we’re paying now for Playstation Vue.  That’s figuring in our extra cost for buying the Amazon Fire TV, as well as the savings we would get from the Visa gift card.   

So there you have it.  Over the next couple of years we’re saving about $1200.00 over what we would have been paying DirecTV if we’d stayed on the plan we were on, and about $200 over the best offer DirecTV could make us.  

Obviously, $200 in savings over a two-year period isn’t going to get us to Financial Freedom much faster than we would have otherwise, but like a lot of things in life, saving money on stuff is about attitude as much as anything else.  That attitude can be infectious, and when you make the effort to save money in one place it becomes that much easier to find others where you can make similar adjustments to your spending.

What areas in your own life have you found to save some money on?  Let us know in the comments!