April 12, 2008

When Less is More

WITH THE WEAK ECONOMY, it makes sense for people to re-examine their spending on various goods and services. It's not only a question of trying to strengthen one's own balance sheet, but also taking advantage of economic conditions to score a better deal on the goods and services one regularly buys. Given this, I've been thinking about my own spending on communications, which represents a good portion of my monthly "fixed" expenses -- about 15 pc of them, to be exact. Here's how things break down:

Cost: $68 (incl. taxes and fees)
Status: Inviolate

Until Congress or the FCC decides that they'll allow cable customers to buy channels on an a la carte basis, I'm pretty much stuck with this bill, which provides me with access to a) CNBC, b) a whole bunch of sports channels and c) everything else. I never watch the channels in Category C, as many of the shows on these channels are so bad they would constitute violations of the Geneva Convention if they were shown to war prisoners. On half of them, one expects the idiot hosts -- whose peppiness is only exacerbated by the idiot producers who would pass off dryer lint as fascinating -- to erupt in exclamations of "EXTREME!" whenever something of moderate interest actually happens on their shows. And yet, I can't get the Big Ten Network nor a decent Canadian television feed (for the CFL games, of course) to save my life. Christ.

But wait, you say. What about satellite television? Not going to happen. I live in an apartment complex and I have a sweet deal going with my landlord, so I'm not about to screw things up by badgering him to let me have a DirecTV dish, even if that would solve all my problems in terms of access to football broadcasts.

Cost: $48 (incl. taxes and fees)
Status: Inviolate

At this point, I've come to like my high-speed broadband connection so much that losing it would be akin to cutting off my right arm. Could I survive without it? Well, of course -- but until I stop writing and relying on it for most of my communications needs, it stays.

Cost: $41
Status: Annoying but needed accessory

I am a late adapter to the mobile phone, which has been in wide use in America since the Eighties but a device I did not acquire until 2005. I use it as infrequently as possible, and although I have found it useful for certain things (like checking my stocks when I'm on the road, and meeting up with people when I'm on the road) I have found other uses of it (such as text messaging) patently uncompelling. Part of me would ditch it tomorrow if I could; the other part of me finds it useful enough to keep.

Cost: $70
Status: Hmmmmmmm.

Yes, I still have an actual copper-based "landline." Among my peers, this is a quaint anomaly: although there have been no jokes about whether I actually still use a horse-and-buggy as well, I imagine many of my friends have wondered about it -- particularly since it costs, you know, $70 per month, which is ridiculous. That does include unlimited long distance in the U.S. and Canada, and cheap calls to Mexico, for which I occasionally find use.

Still, I have considered switching to digital voice service, if only because it also offers the same package, but for just $40 per month. However, I am loathe to make the switch.

True, I have gotten beyond the "what if the power goes out" problem, as I would still have my mobile phone. Also, I think if I was in a situation where the mobile and cable networks both went down, the whole "being utterly screwed" aspect probably wouldn't change much if I still had my landline. But I am leery of turning over my phone line to the same people who provide me with cable television. And I'm also not convinced I should rely solely on my cell phone, even if I make all my calls on nights and weekends. Old habits die hard, I guess. That said, if anyone out there wants to convince me otherwise, hey -- go for it. I'm all ears.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at April 12, 2008 10:23 PM | TrackBack

$70 a month for landline? You're being ripped off. I have Vonage -- $30/month (and that's including whatever taxes or fees they might tack on, which isn't much, if I remember right), and I can make unlimited calls to the US, Canada, and even some places overseas.

Posted by: Geoff Brown at April 13, 2008 10:06 AM

I second Geoff: You are indeed being ripped off.

Posted by: Matt at April 13, 2008 10:29 PM
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