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Slash your monthly expenses by $1,000 (or more) per year

You can pay for TV, Internet access and anti-virus protection or you can get them free. Here's how to eliminate or slash your monthly subscription fees.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 18, 2013 12:48PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News. 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyHoney Boo Boo may be entertaining, but is she worth the $100 or more you may be shelling out for cable each month?

According to The NPD Group, the average pay-TV subscription service cost $86 a month in 2011, and that number is expected to climb to $123 by the year 2015. If the research company is right, you may be on track to spend more than $200 a month for the privilege of watching television in 2020.

But here's the good news. There are ways to cut your cable bill, as well as many other burdensome monthly expenses. 

Cable or satellite TV

Let's start with the big one: your television service. Now, I know paying to watch TV seems to be the American way. After all, in 2012, Nielsen reported more than 90 percent of the nation’s households paid for a TV subscription either through a cable, satellite or telephone provider.

So I get it if you think pulling the plug is a bit radical. But it is also smart. If you have an HDTV and a roof antenna, you can get free over-the-air channels with a picture quality that puts standard-definition cable TV to shame.

In addition, if you have a newer TV, Blu-Ray player or gaming system and a high-speed Internet connection, you can use these streaming services for a fraction of the price:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu or Hulu Plus
  • Amazon Prime
  • iTunes

There may be a slight delay in watching new shows but ask yourself if it is really worth $1,200 a year just so you can be in the know for the office water cooler conversation?


Next to television, Internet is the other big monthly expense for many families.

If you are a basic Internet user and simply need service to check your email and Facebook, you may want to check out the ultra-cheap Internet available through Freedom Pop and NetZero.

With Freedom Pop, you can get up to 2 gigabytes of wireless service at 3G and 4G speeds, while NetZero offers a DSL hook-up. NetZero is as cheap as $9.95 a month while Freedom Pop is free to start, and then charges as little as $3.99 a month. However, both services might require you to buy their modem and/or router equipment.

If you have a tiered data plan with Verizon Wireless, you can use your phone as a tethered hot spot for free. The company settled a complaint with the FCC in 2012 and agreed not to charge U. S. banknotes on shelf in kitchen pantry © Supapixx, Alamythese customers for hot spot access. Depending on your plan, you might need to download a third-party app first.

If you are grandfathered into Verizon’s old unlimited data plan, you're out of luck with the free hot spot service. However, you can pay $30 a month for 4 gigabytes of hot spot access, and that may be cheaper than what you are currently paying for DSL or cable. Other mobile carriers offer their own hot spot plans as well.

Finally, if your kids qualify for the National School Lunch Program, you can get $9.95 Internet access through programs such as Comcast’s Internet Essentials.

Mobile phone service

Moving right along…let's talk about your cell phone. Signing a contract can be the best way to snag the latest and greatest phone for little or nothing upfront. But you’ll be paying for that phone in the form of higher monthly plan fees over the next two years.

If you aren't particular about your phone, try a prepaid plan that will give you access to good service with a decent, although not flashy, phone. All the major carriers offer prepaid plans, but PC Magazine reports some of the smaller providers offer even better deals.

Check out what is available in your area from the following companies:

  • Consumer Cellular
  • Net10
  • Total Call Mobile
  • Page Plus Cellular
  • Ready Mobile

Be sure to compare a couple of different providers before signing up. Most run on AT&T or Sprint’s network but Page Plus Cellular offers access to Verizon’s network. In addition, some providers, such as Total Call Mobile, may be a better choice if you need to call internationally.

Credit monitoring

We've covered the big three, but there are still plenty more ways to save. Sometimes, we get so hung up on our major expenses that we ignore the little fees that nickel and dime our bank accounts down to nothing.

Take credit monitoring, for example. You could pay a company $15 a month or more to watch your credit report or you could do it yourself. By law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year. Request yours at (the only government-authorized site) and review them for errors.

For additional peace of mind, you can add a fraud alert to your file, which requires lenders to take additional steps to verify your request before extending any credit in your name.

In short, there's no reason to pay for credit monitoring. 

Computer services

Along the same lines, why are you paying for virus protection and cloud storage when free options are available?

I am an AVG fan myself, but there are plenty of other good free anti-virus programs available. Again, we'll defer to our friends at PC Magazine to help identify the best free programs on the Web. The following are among their recommendations:

  • Ad-Aware Free Anti-Virus
  • AVG Anti-Virus FREE
  • Comodo Internet Security Premium
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Cloud storage is also easily found online. If you have an MSN account, you have access to their SkyDrive. Google users can back up documents to their Google Drive. Then, you also have Dropbox, iCloud, MediaFire and the list goes on and on.

Magazine Subscriptions

Confession time: I love magazines. My perfect morning involves sleeping children, a cup of coffee and a home and garden magazine.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get cheap magazines without paying newsstand prices. I've personally used the free magazine section of ValueMags for consumer publications and Mercury Magazines for business titles

While many free magazine offers are for digital editions, you can also find print subscriptions for free.

Speaking of digital editions, you can typically find much of a magazine’s content on its website for free. I know, it’s not quite the same as flipping through the pages, but you can’t beat the price.

If you must have the magazine in your hand but can’t find a free subscription, a trip to your local library is probably in order. In addition to checking magazines out, some branches have racks of old issues free for the taking.

Gym memberships

Last but not least, that gym membership you've been clinging to in the hopes you really will begin working out any day now.

If you really want to belong to a gym, look for free or low-cost options. Students may have free access to their school’s facilities. Your health insurance plan may get you a discount. Or if you belong to Costco, you could take advantage of their arrangement with 24 Hour Fitness. Other chains such as Planet Fitness and Anytime Fitness specialize in no-frills, low-cost gyms.

Finally, it probably doesn't need to be said, but you do know it's free to walk on the sidewalk, right?

More on Money Talks News

Nov 19, 2013 12:41PM
I wish you could sign up for a certain number of channels for cable because I only watch like eight
Nov 18, 2013 3:17PM

Ditching cable TV is one of the best things I did!  Cox Communications charged $24 for locals and a couple other channels, but quite frankly, the most important channels I have are my PBS channels.  I bought my digital antenna for $25, cancelled cable, and sent 1/3 of the savings to my PBS affiliate. And I can avoid having to watch so many political commercials at election time!


Also, my internet connection through Cox again, was supposed to get 20-ish MBPS speed, and it did, if I wanted to use the internet at noon. During the day however, I only got 1 MBPS. THAT'S  ONE (1) MBPS!!!

I found that my iPhone 5 tethered at significantly higher speeds than that, and just use it for my internet connection.


We're too used to paying too much for things like internet and TV here in America. And the programming is crap! I don't need 5 shopping channels, even if they're free!  Things like this are faster, better, and cheaper in other countries,  and I'm happy to vote with my money for better value.

Nov 18, 2013 5:57PM
Phone companies and satellite TV just want to suck you dry.  Upgrade upgrade upgrade.
Nov 19, 2013 12:18PM
Where I live, if you aint got cable or some dish service you aint got tv. Internet, two options. High and higher. Im down to bare bones and still feel like Im being riped off. Go figure.
Nov 18, 2013 8:57PM

Good luck watching netflix on your free netzero internet!

Dec 21, 2013 5:47AM
I'm in my late 50s and was raised on television.   I can't remember when the whole cable thing first began.  I've never had anything other than 'expanded basic'...or just 'basic'.  I refused the cable company boxes & remotes.    The cable came out of the wall & connected to the back of the VCR....& I could record my shows while at work.  I don't NEED 150 channels.   But the 'basic' service has deteriorated to the point  where even I.....had to finally throw up my arms and cut the ol' cord.  The final blow came a few months ago, when I was arguing about moving up to 'expanded basic' again.  They wanted to jack the price.   I told them, 'Hey...I'm paying you guys $30 for 'basic'...and NOT even using your friggin' boxes. "  They were running ads offering 'expanded basic' for the same price to new customers.   They tried to tell me that in early 2014 ( just in time for the Olympics, eh? ).....'basic' wouldn't even be available as an option anymore.   That I would HAVE to upgrade AND use the boxes.   I told them to go themselves!    I went & searched a few sites on 'indoor antennas' ( I live in a downstairs apt., and an outdoor model is impractical.     I found a link that when I entered my street address, a map popped up....showing every antenna within  a 40 mile radius....their distance, direction....WHICH over-the-air channels they carried.....and the strength of the signals I could expect to receive....for FREE.    I looked at various cheap antennas at a couple of different stores, came home & read about those models....and customer reviews.......Then I made sure the stores had a full money back guarantee if they didn't work to my satisfaction.    I bought a flat panel model that can just hang on the wall ( about $20 ).....and an 'amplified ' set of rabbit ears....meaning they also plug into a regular wall socket ( around $40 )  You have to jockey them around to find the right spot....but ( and I'm in an area lousy with hills and other obstructions )............I can receive 10 channels.   3 are in Spanish unfortunately.....and I can't get NBC, but can watch any of those shows 'online' the next day if I have to.  No PBS, but that's 'online'.    I get CBS & ABC.....The CW.....Antenna TV & Retro Television.......I'm actually sort of enjoying stuff like The Jack Benny Show, Burns & Allen, & ancient episodes of long forgotten stuff like Father Knows Best & Bachelor Father.    There's a LOT of crap too......I tried to sit thru an episode of Hopalong Cassidy.....NOT happenin'.    I live in Reno, and if I have to, I'll go live in a damned discount motel room for two weeks to watch the Olympics.......before I give another nickel to those slimy Charter Cable bastards.     
My family pays 134 just for cable. When you throw in the internet and even phone it comes out to 241 some months. We decided the new year we have had enough we already bought the converter box's. We are tossing cable out going to Netflix and Hulu and paying only for a Very good Internet plan which my brother pays around 55 bucks a month for thru Comcast as long as I can get this bill to under 100 I win because I am using the money I save to pay down our house.
Nov 19, 2013 12:50PM
I want to comment on cell phone providers in the US. I am on a pay as you go plan with unlimited calling text and data. and would not think about signing a contract. with any of these providers. I travel all around the world in my work. use cell phone locally purchasing sims card with a cheap unlocked cell phone all phones in other countries can be purchased unlocked using it in other countries as I have. in the past just change sims card. use the same phone and the credit is very cheap. to purchase. but in US all major cell phone providers . nothing but greedy corporations. and with most of us having cell phones in this country. why is the cost not cheaper. its about greed example I have a friend in the Philippines using Globe network. I text her she calls me. reason unlimited calling and the cost is 2000 pesos a month around 48.00 USD . per month. get that with these greedy pricey companies here good luck unlock phones , should be available at a reasonable price to everyone  and the service too
Dec 21, 2013 9:26AM
Cable TV is the biggest ripoff to the American consumer than anything else we use.  I hate
them with a passion and wish to hell we could use the antennas of the old days.  They are
thieves who think they own the airwaves exclusively..  THe gov't requires them to go all
digital and guess what they are giving you less TV because of it and your paying more.  We live
in the mountains  too many trees to get a good signal from roof  top antennas.  How I wish all
theses so called smart inventors would invent communication systems that you can operate and
that don't cost more than your gas and electric bill.
Nov 20, 2013 11:19AM
Fixed channel offerings are the biggest scam with cable. Who are they to make the choice for me of what I can watch!?! $110/month for crap. That's why I ditched them. I find out that I watch less TV this way. Really all I cared about that cable provided was sports, so Sunday I hang out at the bar and watch their NFL package, have a few drinks/wings and I get to socialize with the locals.
Everything else I wish to watch I can find on Netflix or Youtube.

The business model for cable TV is obsolete, can't wait for it to die.
Nov 18, 2013 9:54PM

First, I shut off full cable, just kept basic, save a bundle!


Second, I had the highest MBPS speed going, and I was paying $15 per month more for that privilege? Cut that down to $10 per month.


This is my last month of year of Norton Protection!!! Going for the ADWARE!, and MALWARE that are free.


So far, so good!!!


Then comes an outside, or digital antenna!!!

Nov 18, 2013 11:06PM
There is one thing that you might want to check before you cut your cable and put up a  roof antenna up, or that you can get the signals through the walls of the apartment that you live in if you live in an apartment.
Dec 21, 2013 7:33AM
Recently ditched cable & high speed internet.  Purchased a flat antenna $30 and a 4g hotspot for internet access. 

Dec 21, 2013 10:54AM
For anti-virus/anti-malware, if you're running windows XP and up, also consider Microsoft Security Essentials. It's free, it's written by MS, it's updated daily, it runs very cleanly and unobtrusively in the background without eating up resources. I have it on a LOT of Windows machines and it's very effective, no virus or malware problems for some years now.

BEWARE of free cloud data storage services, I've seen these go away overnight and your precious data evaporates with them. 1 and 2TB USB portable storage/backup drives are cheap nowadays, and if you don't need to have all your data available every minute of the day and everywhere you go, (let's face it, most of you could live without it...), they're a safe, reliable alternative to cloud storage.
Dec 21, 2013 11:01AM
My wife and I use StraightTalk.  Unlimited talk, text and data for $45/month, and no contract.  We use our family's old iphones when they upgrade, which is good enough for us, and just need to get a sim card for it.  We save about $500 each per year than if we were with att or verizon.  And it's on the att network.  
Nov 19, 2013 1:56PM
Focusing on saving cents instead of dollars seems like a waste of time.  Granted, if you are in massive debt or you are spending too much or don't save, then every dollar counts.  But if you are saving a healthy percentage of your income, are  you really going to be happy dealing with the hassles that goes along with these little tricks?

I didn't have cable/phone/internet, and tried to plug into free wifi, but found that important emails were not going through (like for job searches, etc.)  Just to get internet service alone was 50 bucks.  If you get DSL, now you have to pay for a monthly phone bill.  But just to hook up the phone is 30 bucks and then you have to pay per minute to use the DSL, so you end up paying more for DSL than if you just get the whole package.  

Cable companies know exactly how to price these things because they KNOW the average person who goes another route will find it's more of a hassle with minimal savings. 

The bottom line is there are better ways to save money.  And life is meant to be lived!!!!  If I am saving 20 bucks a month is not going to justify the aggravation and sitting in my apartment staring at the wall and having emails bounce back because the wifi signal isn't strong enough.

Most peoples' biggest expenses are too much house and too much car.  It's rent and buying more house than we can affford and car payments for SUVs that make a huge difference in our wallets not these petty little savings.

Dec 21, 2013 7:03AM
TV is becoming a luxury nowdays.  Depending on your provider, every year the networks demand that they get more money for their channels.  Your provider has two choices- 1) Shut the channels off because customers will not pay, or 2) come to an agreement with the networks and raise your bill.  The lesser of two evils, of course, is to provide the channels.
Dec 21, 2013 10:55AM
I'll have to say they are getting in my wallet big time and now it is aggravating me because the techie stuff is running more than the stuff I got to have, like the electric and water bill combined... this is ridiculous.  
Dec 21, 2013 8:11AM
The report was obtain from living in large cities.  If you live in a small rural area like in Arkansas, one does not have these choices.  I live in an area that using an antenna is NOT an option since the nearest tv station was an 1 1/2 drive away.  Also, cable is not an option - your only choice for tv is dish or direct.  If you want internet, the ONLY option is through the local telephone company of which you must also have a land line.  The only good information on this report is the information concerning anti-virus.  I did not know there was a "FREE" anti-virus. Now I know I can ditch Norton for good.  As far as the credit report, to pay to have it monitored monthly is crazy.  Use the free yearly service and if for some reason one needs to check it more often then just pay the small fee for an additional report in 6 months.  Most credit card companies already monitor your account and purchase history and will notify you if anything odd starts appearing.  This report will save me about $100/yr when I ditch Norton - a far cry from the $1,000 or more, but thanks anyway.
Dec 21, 2013 9:58AM
I live in an area where I have no choice. Cable or nothing.
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