Recently I canceled or stopped buying three key items that almost everyone has and replaced them with something else that significantly reduces my monthly and yearly expenses.
I canceled my cable television service (Cox), digital telephone service (Cox), and I stopped buying bottled water. Here’s what inspired me to drop these things and how I replaced them with something else that cost much, much less.
Although I like to find creative ways to reduce expenses, what motivates me more is beating “The System” or cutting the chain as I like to think of it. We are so indoctrinated through advertising throughout our lives that we absolutely must have certain products and services. It’s simply not true.
If you’re like most people, there is probably a huge amount of “stuff” in your home that you don’t need. And I’m sure you’d agree if you took an honest look at all your possessions. More often than not, it is just a matter of getting rid of certain items, giving yourself some time to get used to them not being around, and then you realize how you don’t miss or need them anymore!
Chop the Television Cable
You may have noticed that I included the name of the service that I used for television and telephone. I want to mention up front that I have no animosity toward Cox. I have found their customer service to be excellent. However, although their basic television didn’t cost much, the number of channels you get didn’t make it worth the cost. I choose basic service because television and especially the news is not that important to me. And having 200-500 channels of mind-numbing TV is absurd to me.
In 2009 the television industry made the switch from analog to digital broadcasts. Digital provides higher-quality picture and sound. At that time there was a push by retailers to buy a converter box for your analog TV if you wish to continue using an antenna. Or you could simply sign-up for cable or satellite television service and you would not need a converter box.
Then the flood of flat screen Plasma, LCD, and LED HDTVs came. I still had a 13” analog TV, so after investigating the cost of a converter box I elected to sign-up with Cox. When I did I got a package deal that included television, telephone, Internet, a free modem, and free installation. It was a solid deal.
In 2011 I got a 22” flat screen LED HDTV and hook it up to my Cox coaxial cable feed. The massive difference in quality between the analog and digital televisions was astonishing.
As I read the manual for my new HDTV, I discovered that I could hook up my computer to it as well! I elected to use an HDMI cable because it transmits a digital display (video) as well as sound (audio). I had been using a 17” flat screen LCD monitor for my computer using a VGA cable. VGA transmits a lower quality analog display and no sound. So I got several upgrades for the price of one. I was ecstatic!
Somewhere along the way, I discovered that you can receive many of the digital broadcasts for free if you have a digital TV and a digital antenna. The idea of getting television for free and beating the system at the same time put the fire in me to find an antenna that would work and then DROP my cable service. I tried a variety of antennas from inexpensive rabbit ears to a moderately priced Winegard antenna.
I like the Winegard Free Vision antenna the best because of its small size (2’ diameter), cool looking design, and the fact that you can use it indoors or outdoors. In addition, Winegard’s technical customer support is incredible. The lowest price I could find for this product was at Amazon.
Because I’m receiving a direct signal, I am getting a higher quality picture and sound than I did when I was getting signals second-hand through Cox cable. I’m also getting about the same number of channels as I did with Cox, but several of them are different. I am only counting English and non-commercial and non-religious channels. The ones that are new to me have a lot of old and classic television programs and movies, which I enjoy.
I am not getting all the national network stations because I live too close to a mountain that has the majority of transmitters on it. I expected this to be an advantage, but it’s not because a signal that is too strong won’t work. Winegard went to extraordinary lengths to help me overcome this problem and get a couple more network stations. We weren’t able to get all the networks, but through the process, I gained higher quality reception overall. I’ve gotten used to the channel lineup that I get and I no longer miss the others. If I want more free TV programs or movies I can just go to Hulu.com. And I am totally digging the free part.
Cut the Telephone Cord
Although I just had basic service, 40 percent of my telephone bill was fees and taxes. I didn’t even have long distance service, which is clearly a waste of money these days with Internet services like Google Voice and Skype around. This is especially true if you have a cell phone. I’ve been using Google Voice for years with almost no problems and it’s still free as of 2012. The only disadvantage is that you must have your computer on to use it.
You’ve probably heard about MagicJack. The only way that you can use the original MagicJack is when your computer is on. It is still an amazing deal but having to have your computer on to use it is a bit of an inconvenience. Even so, I bought one. I later discovered that if I dropped my Cox telephone service, I had to return the special combo modem they loaned me for free and buy one for the Internet. These two issues were a deal breaker for me so I returned the MJ.
Then in 2011, the MagicJack Plus was introduced. It allows you to use the MJ whether your computer is on or off. In order to use it without your computer, you needed to plug it into a router and an electric outlet. Since I would have to return the Cox modem if I dropped their phone service, and since I wanted a router anyway, and since I was dropping their television service as well, I decided to go all the way and buy a MagicJack Plus and a modem/router combo. I bought the Zoom Cable Modem/Router Combo. It’s faster than the Cox Motorola modem that I had and it’s an effortless process to set up a wireless connection.
Once you connect the MagicJack Plus to a router and electrical outlet, you can use it just like you would any landline telephone. You can even connect it to a wireless phone as I have. You can also use it like the original MJ and take it with you when you travel, connect it to any computer, and make calls to the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands from anywhere in the world for free! You also get free voice mail, caller ID, call waiting, and directory assistance (included with both MJ’s). You get all this for an annual subscription fee of $29.95 or $19.95 (as of publishing this article) if you buy a five-year plan. When you buy the MagicJack, the first year’s subscription is included. It’s an outstanding deal.
The sound and connection quality has generally been excellent. I have had a few calls that had some static or breaking up and I had a few dropped calls, but I had that happen with my Cox digital telephone service too! I have the economy Cox internet service, which may be contributing to the less than perfect connection record.
Update – After changing a setting on my Zoom Cable Modem/Router Combo to increase its speed and redoing the instructions given to me by MagicJack technical representatives, I have not been experiencing any of the problems I mentioned above.
The MagicJack Plus is new technology and they offer free software updates to correct glitches. They also provide free 24/7 technical support chat that I have found to be quite good. So I am willing to give the folks at MJ a little leeway in exchange for a significant reduction in my monthly expenses and the pleasure of beating the system.
Refuse to Haul Tons of Bottled Water
I stopped buying bottled water after I watched an outstanding documentary entitled, “Tapped.” It points out how the bottled water industry is ripping us off by selling us water from the same sources that we usually have access to but at more than a 1,000 percent profit!
As pointed out in the documentary, municipal (city) water supplies are required by law to be tested several times a day. There are no such legal requirements imposed on the bottled water industry. The majority of bottled water is derived from municipal water sources. The rest is drawn from water sources that the bottled water companies have bought and are continuing to buy across the United States and around the world. Some of these sources are the same ones that city municipal water agencies use.
The other alarming issue that the documentary presents is how the plastic bottles themselves can release toxic substances into the water inside of them. In addition, since plastic bottles take 1000 years to biodegrade, they are toxic to our environment and to the living organisms in the ocean.
We can fulfill our drinking water needs using a quality filter to purify the water taken from the tap in our kitchen that is connected to a municipal water source that is tested for purity several times a day. This can save you piles of money and the backbreaking effort of carrying tons of bottled water from the store to your home each year. I don’t know if it’s really tons, but it felts that heavy because of how often it’s necessary.
I detested hauling those 2.5-gallon plastic water containers. I had no problem lifting and hauling in a couple of them a once, but I kept thinking that there had to be a better way. After seeing the “Tapped” documentary I was on a mission to find the best system I could.
After extensive research and a couple of trials with competing products, I discovered the Clear20 Water Filtration Pitcher. It was rated a “Best Buy” by Consumer Reports.
The Clear20 Water Filtration Pitcher is a clever device that is unlike any of its competitors. It has a hose attached to it that you connect to your kitchen water faucet using one of the adapters that are included.
Here’s my theory on why the Clear20 Water Filtration Pitcher is superior. Competing water filter pitchers like the Brita, Pur, and ZeroWater rely on gravity to push the water through their filters. This limits the number and complexity of the filter stages they have due to how long it would take to fill the pitcher. Consumers are not willing to wait an hour for the pitcher to fill up so product engineers had to reach a compromise. Since the Clear20 Water Filtration Pitcher takes advantage of the water pressure in your home’s plumbing by having a hose connected, it can push the water through multiple and robust filter stages in a short amount of time with no problem. This is just my opinion.
Tip: Be intentional and quick when you pour. Otherwise, the automatically opening lid over the spout may drop onto the water flow and cause some dripping. Once you get used to this, you won’t have any problems.
For when I’m on the go, I bought two stainless steel water bottles that I fill with from my Clear20. I use them when I go power walking (winter/fall), swimming (spring/summer), and when I go on long trips in my car.
The water produced by Clear20 Water Filtration Pitcher is crystal clear and great tasting. I love it. And as you can imagine by now, I especially enjoy beating the system, reducing my expenses, and protecting the environment with the single act of giving up bottled water.
As with any new equipment or routine, each of these changes takes some time before they become a “normal” part of your life. And since the common way of doing these things is so deeply ingrained in our consciousness, you may have to compete with the urges to give up and go back to the “old” way for a while. Once you realize that you’ve crossed over the threshold to a new way of doing these things in a way that saves you money, beats the system, and protects the environment, you’ll feel a delightful sense of satisfaction.