Reality Check: Downgrading Monthly Services

Earlier I shared about saving money on rent, and I looked for other ways to save money with little effort. I focused on my monthly bills, because I realized I was paying for services every month that I wasn’t using.

Mobile Phone:

I like having a mobile phone for emergencies, and I also use it to call long distance. I always signed up for the cheapest monthly plan I could find, and the most recent one was about $40 after tax. I knew I wasn’t using anywhere close to the number of minutes available.

I decided to look into prepaid phones, and I found the Pay-As-You-Go prepaid plan from T-Mobile. There is no contract — you just buy a prepaid phone and the number of minutes you want. If you start by adding $100 worth of refill minutes, the cost will only be 10 cents per minute, and the minutes won’t expire for a year. The phones are inexpensive too, but I don’t think they are of any lesser quality. The wireless service in my area is better than what I had before.

I signed up for T-Mobile’s prepaid plan 9 months ago, and I’ve used about 50 minutes per month. This has cost $5 per month (much nicer than the $40 I was spending before). I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but if you use your mobile phone as seldom as I do, it would definitely be worth switching over from a monthly plan to a prepaid plan.

Savings: $35 per month, $420 per year


Home Phone and Internet:

I am including these together because where I live, you must have both for an internet connection. We have the cheapest possible home phone service that is available. Since we use the mobile phones for long distance, I requested that the long distance service be disabled on our home phone. We weren’t using it, but they were charging us $3.50 a month for it to be available.

I also called once a year or so to ask if there was a lower-priced internet service, just to make sure we were getting the best value we could. At one point they had raised the price to $40, and when I called, they lowered it back to $20 for the same speed and service. 

Savings: $23.50 per month, $282 per year


We don’t have cable or satellite. We don’t even have a rabbit-ears antenna, because it won’t work here. As nice as it would be to say “we don’t watch tv”, trust me, if we had it I would watch it a lot. What we have instead is a Blockbuster subscription that costs $18 a month and lets us watch movies when we feel like it. Also, if you haven’t heard, a lot of shows are online. I can watch The Office anytime, so I don’t feel deprived.

Savings: $32 per month, $384 per year

Total Savings:

It took a few phone calls and research on my part to lower these monthly costs, but now that I’ve done it, I benefit from it every month.

Total Savings: $90.50 per month, $1,086 per year

Isn’t that incredible how it adds up?  Maybe these tips will work for you too, so you can save money off your bills and keep it for something better.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. We are ALL ABOUT downgrading the services. I had a prepaid phone for a while until the university gave Kyle a phone so I took his old one/account. You are so right – if you don’t use it much, it is SUCH a better deal.

    We don’t have extended cable anymore. It’s actually been almost a year and a half since we ditched it! We pay $17 a month for basic and get PBS (important to me and D) and the networks. OH and CSPAN and CSPAN2. Makes for dull weekends, but it’s liveable. It’s actually kind of liberating, right?

  2. smallnotebook says:

    PBS is so fun to watch on Saturday mornings. I love Norm on This Old House. It really was more about the time than the money when we decided to go without cable. Sometimes I miss it. Just not all the commercials!

  3. Great tips! I did exactly the same thing with my cell phone (I went with t-mobile as well)- the savings are incredible.

    Right now I’m struggling with how much to cut from my cable bill. It’s hard to give up TV completely, but I’m sure we would get by.

  4. How can i give up Internet and cell phones? Thats very hard to do. My own services for basic phone + TV+ Internet = $99 and the long distance is not included.

  5. Virgin Mobile also offers a great deal on cell service for those who rarely use cell phones.

    Linked to your credit card (which it draws from to top off $15 if your balance falls below $5 or so), my service costs me $5 a month. That $5 can be used towards calls which are 25 cents a min for the first 10 minutes of a call, and 10 cents a min for every min thereafter. I use my cell for 5 min a month on average, so this is a great deal for me. For $60 a year, I have a phone in case of emergency.

    (Assuming I can find the phone and that it is charged, but that’s another story…)

  6. Eden, maybe try just a temporary cable cut, to see how it goes. I’m glad you experienced great phone savings too!

    Hi Dan, I haven’t given them up either, but I did look around to see what the best options available were. Or sometimes even calling the company can help.

    Thanks for the tip on another mobile phone option, Holly!

  7. If you can get high speed internet (around $20 nowadays for the lowest level and NO communications taxes in FL) you can also get Yahoo Messenger phone service and pay $0.01 per min. and no monthly fee to make phone calls out (only). It includes long distance calls (no charge for tollfree). Altenately, they also have a $10/mo service to get a phone no. and receive calls (you still pay for minutes that are non-tollfree).

    An even more affordable way to cut phone and long distance bills with your high speed internet connection is to get a USB phone adapter from “”, $40 after trial and $20 service charge from the 2nd year forward. It gives you a phone number to receive and call from, voicemail and even 911 service. Only drawback is that your computer has to be on and connected to the internet for the phone to work.

    As for cable, I think it not only cost money in monthly charges, but also personal free time and higher energy cost (electrical consumption). If it wasn’t because we get it free with my husband’s job, I would do without it, as we have done for nearly 8 years.

  8. My husband and I have Tracfone. I purchased the Double Minutes and then the 400 minutes for $100. That carries me for 6+ months.
    We don’t pay rent or utilities because it’s part of our work contract.
    Netflix and online TV channel websites allow for lots of TV programs to be watched for free.

    Rona´s last blog post..I Love Pancakes and Waffles – Box or Scratch?

  9. I recently switched from having a landline to bundling it with my internet provider. Before, my monthly phone bill (landline and cell) was $130 and my internet service was $30. I now pay $30 for my cell and $75 for my bundled phone and internet. The savings is $55 a month. I also live in an apartment complex that offers basic cable for free. While I have digital cable, I only pay $50 for the package. I am looking to drop the one movie channel I pay for, so another $13 a month saved. I also dropped home delivery of the newspaper last year. I still keep up with the news online and less to recycle.