Get rid of cable slowly by cord “shaving”

cable shaving - a cord cutting alternativeNot ready to cut the cord – why not consider cable shaving?

How often have you heard that cutting the cord is really straight-forward and something you should try?   It seems so simple, just cancel your cable service and you’ll save tons of money, oodles of cash.  Sounds great right…but what exactly are you giving up?  How do I actually get started?  Will you have to buy a ton of equipment? Will you ever watch sports again?!?  Will I have to SPEND a lot to SAVE a lot????  How complicated will this get???? ARGH!!!  If cord cutting seems like too big a task to take on, no problem! There’s no rule that says you can’t try shaving the cord first!

What is cord shaving?

If you haven’t seen the term “cord shaving”, prepare yourself because you’ll probably be seeing this or some variation of it a lot more often in the near future. Cable shaving refers to people who scale back their cable package to a lower tier of service rather than completely terminating their subscription.  Example: let’s say you have a cable package that includes digital programming, HD service plus maybe a few movie or premium channels. Instead of walking away completely, you’d be cord shaving if you cut back to a bare-bones, basic package that lowered your costs.  You’d still have access to some channels, but not all.  Interesting article in WSJ (link) gave some perspective on the latest in shaving versus cutting trends.
networks taking a hit from cable cutoffs

Source: WSJ

Basic plans that include little more than local broadcast stations now make up some 12% of pay-TV subscriptions, up from 8% to 10% a few years ago, according to estimates by some industry executives. Some consumers are also turning to cheaper, sports-free and family-oriented packages, executives say.

Why not just cut the cord?

Convenience, habit, fear, confusion….people have lots of reasons for ultimately NOT getting rid of their cable. For decades, Americans have been used to sitting in a comfy chair, grabbing a remote and hitting the “On” button.  Let’s face it. Breaking a habit that has been burned into multiple generations just doesn’t always feel natural.  So, while potential big cost savings is certainly a plus, other factors can also come into play when thinking about the cable cutting equation.

Who should consider cord shaving versus pulling the plug entirely?

Easy answer – it depends. For some people, one option might be more clear than others. If you have problems getting a decent reception from a digital antenna (OTA), then keeping a bare bones package that gives access to local stations might be a good option.  For others who are okay with taking a slower unwinding of their cable presence, this also makes a good option.  Finally, if the thought of trying to sign up for streaming services and finding new smart DVD/blu-ray players is enough to induce hives, consider just paring back some of your cable plan.

Our shaving experience – it worked so far!!

As we started out to try to trim our own cable expenses, we ended up going the “cord shaving” route as a first step.  Basically, there was little to lose by asking for a lower bill and it let us view all of our options.  Plus, we weren’t ready to make big investments in new equipment.

Making the calls – telling our provider we’re just not that into them

Ok.  Sitting down and having a conversation with your cable or satellite provider, probably isn’t at the top of your “fun things to do list”. Though it can make for interesting YouTube clips.  🙂

Currently, we are with satellite provider DirecTV. So, we found a spare three-hour block of time (just kidding) and made the call to customer service to ask about scaling down our current package.  A bit of confusion ensued which wasn’t too surprising.  All in, total time on the phone was probably a little under an 1 hour, but in the end some magical “deals” were found and we avoided terminating our service. We’ve been with them >2 years, and we were really looking to avoid a contract extension if at all possible.  To find a lower rate, we ditched an add-on sports package we never watched and changed to a different plan, ultimately sticking with the service for now.
Pre-call costs: Before the call our current bill was ~$160/month plus $51/month for internet = $211/month. Argh!!! Seriously?!?!
Post-call costs: After the call, our satellite bill was dropped to $97/mo. Internet remains unchanged as that is through different provider. Total savings = $63 per month (>$750/year).


Exploring alternatives

Even if you do hit paydirt with your provider and are able to trim down your monthly bill, it’s always worthwhile to see if the grass is greener on the other side.  On a whim, I separately checked out what a basic cable/internet package from Xfinity would cost (they are our local provider).  The headline showed that the basic TV/internet combo package would run $59/month and include ~50 channels plus internet. This is a lot fewer channels but their advertised internet speed was DOUBLE what we have now on our AT&T plan.  Hmmm….what was I missing?  Why wasn’t this a great deal?

Fine print details

As I dug through the station lineup, it looked like the only missing channels that would be really noticeable to our family were NFL network and DisneyJr.  With our Netflix subscription and current movie library I felt like we’d be OK on the DisneyJr absence from the lineup, but NFL Network made me start getting anxious…had to see how that might impact the rest of the NFL season.
The “catch” with the Xfinity deal turned out to be the duration of the deal.  It only lasts for 12 months, then the rate increases to $82/month just for internet. Extra fees would also be tacked on (e.g. more than one TV, HD fees, etc) which would ultimately move the base price tag of this special deal to ~$140/month, all in once the initial deal is over.  Eek!
Initial projected monthly cost = $60/month (savings~$128/mo) Future projected monthly cost = $140/month (savings~$8)


Did we shave?  Yes we did!

Total potential savings we realized from “shaving” the cord are ~$60/month. Not bad at all!!  That covers the cost of a new smart Blu-ray player and a few months of Netflix to put it in perspective. Xfinity/Comcast hasn’t exactly had the world’s greatest customer service reputation and while DirecTv hasn’t been exactly stellar either, we aren’t ready to jump just yet…not for just a mere $8/month of savings. The faster internet speed could be more attractive and something to revisit with internet speed testing showing we are getting a lousy 2Mbs at some points in the house (10x lower than advertised; thanks AT&T).
KEY TAKEAWAYS:  Try cord shaving, rather than cord cutting as a good first step in finding savings. Look at deals from other providers. Read the fine print…as always.

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