Single Minded Moms: Single Mom Meets Budget, How I Dumped the Phone Company

By Jessica Pegis

Last month after I, a single mom, decided to embark on a budget I became a bundler. I finally looked for the best home phone deals and decided to dump the phone company and welcome cable into my life for television, internet, home phone, and cell.

It all started with a rent increase and the dawning realization that my child’s jean budget had only one place to go: up.

Fears of economic meltdown didn’t help. Over and over again I heard the experts advise us to trim our budgets–to do whatever we can to a) get out of debt, and b) establish 3 – 6 months of emergency savings. No point sweating over your retirement if you haven’t got the basics in place.

But could I really go steady with one service provider? I told a friend about the switch-over and she hemmed and hawed. “I just can’t give one of those giants all my business,” she protested. “It would creep me out.”

Maybe so, but a bundling war is shaping up between the cable and telecom companies, and it has a direct impact on the single-parent wallet. It doesn’t really matter as long as you choose: when you bundle you save a bundle.

Funny three years ago, consumers weren’t buying. In a 2005 Ipsos-Insight survey, only 7 % of cable and phone company customers said they’d sign up with either the cable or phone company for bundled service. By 2010, it’s estimated that half of all US households with high-speed internet will enjoy three-way or four-way bundles.

So here’s how I did it–and what you can do. And just remember: your service provider is not a member of the family, although mine sent me a sappy we-miss-you card after I cut them off.

Just ignore them and be strong. It’s your money.

1. Do not assume that you should contact your current providers and ask for a lower rate. I had already complained about my long-distance plan and knew my rate was still not the lowest. At least three companies offered a better deal. If you’re moving on, move on.

2. Get out a notebook and calculator and add up your bills.
I added up two separate bills (representing two providers) for:

  • Two cell phones
  • Home phone including call-display, call-answer, and a North American long-distance plan
  • High-speed internet for three computers (one of them belonging to my brother, off-site)
  • Cable TV service

Allow a moment of teeth-gnashing over the ridiculously high number. I also recommend you keep this arithmetic handy so you can refer to it when you call the new service provider.

3. Browse online for bundles and discounts. I investigated our cable company and Vonage because I was intrigued by the Vonage ads. With a Vonage phone you get an adaptor that turns sound into data that travels through your high-speed Internet connection like an e-mail and comes out as sound. However, it turned out that Vonage’s lowest rate–$14.99/month–didn’t include unlimited talking or long-distance. Scratch that one.

4. Contact your new service provider. Armed with my numbers, I phoned the cable company to make the switch. I explained that we needed to go through the items step by step, compare, and arrive at a final figure. The customer care rep was more than willing to do that. She also applied all the available discounts. Remember: the more you bundle, the more you save. They may even toss in a freebie or two.

My bottom line for phone–$19.95 for basic rate with voicemail + $19.95 for a North American long-distance plan– ended up being just a couple of dollars more than the Vonage Pro Plan.

Either, it beat the pants off the phone company.

5. Schedule the technician to come to your home and move everything over. (If you’re switching to cable like I did, remember that the phone has to live near a cable outlet.) This step was more painless than I thought it would be, especially with our fussy wireless network. Mind you, the guy did come with the wrong modem and when I got the right one, I didn’t bother to attach the antennae. . .but within a day we were up and running.

6. Put up your feet and count your pennies. In all, our savings amounted to $67/month, or $804/year. And my savings would have been higher–about $80/month–except that we decided to leave my brother’s off-site computer with the phone company.

These days, it’s had to believe we didn’t do this years ago. I had been a loyal phone company customer for more than 30 years. But I just couldn’t see it: that marriage was over.

So don’t make my mistake. Bundle today and save.

Next Installment: What does green slime in the fridge have to do with budgeting?

Other Single Minded Women Articles You Might Enjoy:
Single Minded Moms: Single Mom Meets Budget
Trench Coat Single Mama—Ready for Whatever Life Throws at Her
Single Minded Moms: Healthy Lunches for Kids that Pack a Big Yum Factor!