Tag Archive: bills

Updates: Apr 10-16

I had a bad month or so where I was incredibly swamped with writing!  Of course, at the same time, Brian was incredibly swamped with work.  I am exceedingly grateful, of course, but now I’m trying to get myself back on track, setting up a schedule and making sure I set aside time to get all the little things done.

On to the clicky-clicky:

  • A cool new Canadian-made device will soon allow you to control your electronic gadgets from afar, monitor how much electricity each appliance or device is eating up, and allow you to nuke it.  Sustainable, useful, and financially responsible – hopefully it will appeal to the technically-minded out there.  For myself, I am quite happy with the “off” switch on my power bar, but I am glad that the option is out there.
  • You’re bound to get funny looks from family and friends, but it’s important to get into the habit of not spending, as Canadian Dream: Free at 45 discusses.  Staying busy and being engaged really does prevent idle spending.  For myself, this revolves around writing, learning new recipes and going to (usually free!) concerts and events.  But it is true, even when you go out on a “spending” occasion.  For example, the bf and I notice this especially when we go out to the bar with friends.  When we spend less time mindlessly staring at the TV and more time talking to our friends and engaging in conversation, we order less food and fewer drinks.
  • This is actually from a while back, but I never got around to talking about it.  Can you retire on $25,000 or less?  Apparently that’s how much 54% of actual retirees have in savings.  I have that much in student loans alone.  It’s a scary thought, and although PopEconomics points out that most of the people are surviving, I have no intention of spending my days watching hours upon hours of TV.

Is home internet a necessity?

I am always looking for more things to cut from my expenses,  especially as I prepare to take the final year of classes in my program. Recurring bills are a good target because you don’t just save money once, you continue to save money every month onwards.

I’ve started giving the cable and internet bill the evil eye, as the anniversary of my 6-month promotional price is coming up.  I could cancel and sign up for a new promotion, preserving my current low costs, but I could also cancel and leave it off completely.

Is having internet at home necessary?

Internet is a more tricky issue.  I do agree that in today’s world, internet is a necessity, especially for someone in a computer science program! But is home internet a necessity? I don’t feel like I would be disconnected from the world, because I have a great phone with a decent data plan.  In a pinch, my phone can act as a mobile hotspot that I could connect to wirelessly from my laptop.  There’s also a coffee shop with free wifi about five blocks away, a public library about three blocks away, and of course, I would have internet while on campus.

But in just two months, I’ll be resuming classes in computer science.  It’s my final year in this program and I’d like to do well.  It’s an assignment-heavy program.  Most of the resources are found online.  While much of the material can be saved for offline access, it’s hard to anticipate everything that’s required.

Pros of canceling home internet

If I canceled my home internet, it would save $15 a month, or $10 for the share that Brian and I pay. Over the course of 6 months (the length of a typical promotional price period), we would save $60. It would force me to make more use of the data plan I pay for on my phone, which would be good because I currently only use 1/5 of my data plan allocation.

How could I make it work?

Without internet at home, the most economical alternative would be for me to spend more time on campus getting my work done.  While feasible, I would probably run into issues around meal times.  Do I carry my life with me in my backpack and pack multiple meals?  It’s doable but a bit rough when I already have to carry a laptop, books and a lunch. Do I spend money on campus buying food?  What if I get thirsty or tired – now do I need to get a coffee?

What if I had to do work outside of campus, perhaps on the weekend?  I could go to the coffee shop but then I’d need to buy at least a small drink for $2-3.  If I had to do that every weekend, even only once, that would cost me around $10 a month – and most likely more.

So is internet at home necessary?

With the promotional prices that I get, internet only costs $10 a month for Brian and I, taxes and fees included.  We are getting such a low price that we would not save that much money by canceling the service. An extra $10 a month is useful, but not as useful when compared the negatives.

In fact, canceling the service could cost us more in the long run because there is the possibility of having to go to the coffee shop on the weekend to do work for my classes. It’s also a lot more convenient and economical to do my work at home since I wouldn’t be tempted to buy snacks at school. Food on campus is generally pricey and not terribly healthy anyways.

And finally, our roommate – though fairly tolerant of most of our cost-cutting measures – would probably kill me if I canceled the internet 🙂

So while it seems that home internet is NOT necessary – there are many alternative options but around my home and on campus – the cost of those alternatives would outweigh the cost of having home internet.  Unless for some horrible reason I can’t get a good price on internet when it comes time to find a new promotion, I think internet service will be sticking around my apartment at least a little while longer.

Damn you MSP… damn you

Until very recently, I’ve never had to pay my Medical Services Premium.  It’s always been deducted from my paycheque by my employer.  Before that, as a student, I didn’t make enough money to pay my MSP! But after giving up my full time job this summer to transition into my career-changing internship, I was left without anyone paying my MSP.

It didn’t show up on my radar for months.  I simply didn’t think about it at all and meanwhile, Revenue Services BC (gulp) could not contact me because they did not have my most recent address.  When they finally caught up to me, through a trail of phones calls with incomplete voice mails, tax returns and government ID applications presumably, I was three months behind in payments. (faints)

It was definitely an unexpected, inconvenient and painful mistake – but I dug into my emergency fund and got over it.  I didn’t qualify for premium assistance, based on my previous year’s income, so I began treating and paying my monthly premiums as another bill.  When the MSP letter arrived in the mail each month, I would go online and pay for it.

But just this month, I forgot again!  I called them today to settle it, so I was only about a week and a half late on payment.  However, it is still troubling.  I’m not sure why I can’t seem to manage to pay this bill on time, but I don’t think it’s worth risking my credit score to find out.  So now I’m going to bite the bullet and get the bill automatically deducted from my credit card.  I had hoped to avoid putting it on auto-payment because I’ll eventually have to cancel that payment, but it seems a better alternative to forgetting about it entirely.

Cable TV and internet are two of those annoying bills that somehow seemed to have crept into the “necessities” category for many households.  While I don’t consider TV and internet essential, my finances are such that I can afford them.  But, there’s no need to pay full price!  Here’s how you can get cable TV and internet for less.

How much TV?

First, how much cable TV do you need?  I don’t watch a lot of TV, but both the boyfriend and I enjoy watching live sports.  He also follows a few network TV sitcoms.  For us, the basic cable package provides both of these features.  While I do occasionally watch TV series which are broadcast only on specialty channels, I usually end up downloading episodes for ease of viewing.

If you don’t watch a lot of TV and you don’t follow live sports, why the hell do you have cable?!  You could get rid of your TV entirely. Or less drastically, you could get yourself a pair of modern rabbit ears and grab a couple of free channels off the air for idle channel surfing. Many OTA signals are now digital! Download any TV shows that you care to follow.

How much internet?

Secondly, how much internet do you need?  Internet providers in BC offer different tiers of service depending on the speeds you’re looking for.  The boyfriend and I do an average amount of downloading, plus we surf the web and occasionally play online MMORPGs.  We’re quite happy to stick with the “regular” speed internet.  Perhaps if you do a lot of downloading, you’d want a higher tier… or you could schedule your downloads for the night time while you are asleep and speed doesn’t matter!

Again, if you don’t go on the internet regularly… why the hell do you have internet at home?!  If you only use the internet to surf the web and check email once a day, you don’t need to have internet at home.  Just show up to work 15 or 20 minutes early and use your work computer.  I did this for 2 months after a move, and I’m a computer science major!  I use computers A LOT, so if I can live without internet at home, so can you.  Other ideas: Stop by the local library and make the most of your free membership to use their free internet.  Take your laptop to wifi hotspots (coffee shops, universities, etc.) and browse for free.  Options abound!

How to get the best prices?

Finally… prices.  How do you get the best price for cable and internet?

I have ALWAYS found that merely calling up the cable company does not get you the best price.  Frequently, third-party contractors who solicit customers on behalf of cable companies will offer better deals and promotions.  These contractors are often found at kiosks in malls or at special events.  This is where I signed up for cable and internet most recently.  For $19.99, I get basic digital cable and high speed internet for 6 months.  My digital box is free!  When my 6 months is over, I will cancel and then either my boyfriend or my roommate will sign up for the same deal for another 6 months.

If a deal isn’t available, I can cancel my service and go to the competition.  With the competitor, I will probably be able to get another good introductory deal for 6 months.  I may even get bonuses for leaving my current provider!  Conversely, my current provider might offer bonuses for me to stay.  Either way, a win-win situation.

And if you are not concerned with having regular internet and TV service, as is often the case for me, simply cut your service.  Within a few weeks, your cable company will call you up with a “special offer”.  I know a couple who has done this indefinitely and they’ve only ever paid $10 a month for cable.  For a few weeks or months out of the year, they do not have cable.  But in return, they’re saving tons of money!

Cable TV and internet don’t have to be a weighty bill every month.  Know your own needs and know how to play the system.