Canadians pay some of the highest costs in the world for their communications and entertainment needs.
These costs can do serious damage to your long term financial health because they silently drain your bank account every single month. They're even subject to regular rate hikes to maximize profits for your service provider, often outpacing the rate of inflation.
Knowing that, I try to review my service costs regularly and keep them as low as I can while not depriving myself of what I really need. Now that I have a home office, I need top speed and rock solid internet for example. I also need reliable cell phones with lots of minutes and data - whereas I used to be able to get by without that in years past.
Here's a breakdown of my current services for my household of 2 adults and 2 children - all prices include taxes and fees.
$85.04 – High Speed Internet (130mbps Down / 50mbps Up)
Here in Atlantic Canada we've always had some of the best high speed internet connections in all of Canada, but the rest of the country is now mostly caught up. Now we're simply left with little competition and few low cost providers. In fact, Rogers and BellAliant are pretty much it for choices in many areas.
But, the good news is that Aliant was always an early pioneer of high speed internet in Canada.
My parents actually had 8mbps fiber optic high speed at their house all the way back in 1997! Turns out, it was before its time and they later discontinued it in favour of much slower and cheaper DSL. Fortunately, in 2009 they brought back fiber to the home starting with 20/20mbps speeds on their lowest package. Since then they keep boosting my speed without changing my package - I'm all the way up to 130mbps down and 50mbps up these days. For about 50% more money, I could bump my speed all the way up to 1 Gigabit per second if I wanted to.
I always call and negotiate a better deal with them, but since I'm an internet-only customer they aren't willing to give out big discounts. I used to only get a $10 monthly discount and had to call yearly to get it renewed. The last time I called, I managed to increase the discount to $15/mth off effective for a full 3 years! Unfortunately, they keep raising their base prices so now I'm paying $85/mth instead of the $66 I used to pay back in 2012 when the discount was $5 less.
One major plus though is there have never been any download caps with Aliant so I can stream and download as much multimedia as I want.
Cost Breakdown: $88.95 – $15.00 + $11.09 HST = $85.04
FREE – Unlimited On Demand TV
I've been writing about cord cutting since 2010, and I'm happy to report that it's no longer a new concept for most people. I'm also proud to say that I've never paid for cable or satellite TV in my adult life. Before internet TV was a thing, I was relying on relatively cheap mail order DVD services and other creative ways to get around paying a cable bill.
These days, streaming high quality TV online free and legally is a breeze. Sadly, in recent years, cable companies have started restricting their full online catalogs to paid TV subscribers. Often the same parent company owns both the TV network and the TV service provider so they're trying to protect both sides of the business and eek out as much profit as possible.
I've never been OK with paying for TV service only to be forced into watching 3 minutes of commercials for every few minutes of actual content. It's like paying twice for the same thing. At least there is still plenty of free content available and, when that's not enough, I piggyback on a family member's cable account so I can log in and get full access to everything.
People are quick to come up with excuses why internet TV isn’t as good as cable, but with the right setup I actually think it is better because you can get all of the popular shows legally right on the network websites on demand - no channel surfing. It works just like a PVR that you never have to set up to record, manage, or worry about breaking and it has unlimited hard drive space! The only downside is that you can’t skip the commercials, although you can still fast forward, pause, and rewind.
Today, with so many reasonably priced paid streaming services out there, it's also very easy to supplement the free content with extra content to suit your needs for just a little more money.
Cost Breakdown: FREE
Bonus: Ready to cut the cord? Grab this free PDF download of my step-by-step guide.
$67.92 – Two Smartphones With Minutes, Data, LD, and Features
We used to stick to prepaid cell phones with minimal minutes and a data add-on to keep our cell phone costs down to about $15/mth each. However, since we started working for ourselves it has become essential to have reliable cell phones with minutes and data.
Fortunately, I spotted an amazing deal one day walking through the mall years ago when Fido was first launching in Atlantic Canada. This was right before the country switched back from 3 year contracts to 2 year contracts and plan prices went through the roof.
Fido was offering the usual $39 plan for $29 - lifetime. It offers the following:
- 350 daytime minutes.
- Unlimited evenings and weekends after 5.
- Canadian long distance is included in all minutes.
- Calling features like Call Display and Voicemail are included.
- 600 MB of 4G data is also included.
Since that deal came up, I've been upgrading our phones for free every 2-3 years and have had zero interest in changing providers or plans. Every now and then I will spot a special plan that has a bit more data for a similar price, but usually it's regional provider or has increased restrictions. I imagine I'll stick with Fido for at least a couple more years until something truly better comes along.
I'm curious what the details of your plan are - do you have me beat?
Cost Breakdown: $39 x 2 plan - $10 x 2 permanent discount + $0.53 x 2 911 fee + $4.43 x 2 HST = $67.92
$3.24 – Home Phone With Unlimited Long Distance + Calling Features
Before I had cell phones with plenty of minutes, having a cheap home phone with unlimited minutes, long distance, and plenty of features was necessary to make it all work.
Paying $30+ per month was out of the question for me, so I turned to VoIP since I've always had a rock solid internet connection to support it. There are plenty of VoIP options out there with varying levels of technical know-how required and even bigger variety of price points.
I opted to go with magicJack because of the combination of value and simplicity it provides. When they first launched the device, you first plugged it into your computer and then plugged a real phone (cordless) into the telephone jack and presto - unlimited free incoming and outgoing calls within North American. That's long distance included complete with a local Canadian telephone number. It didn't take them long to cut out the need for a computer either - now you just plug the device directly into a power outlet and run a cable to your router, easy as pie.
Sure, there are cheaper VoIP options out there... but at a net cost of $3.24 monthly it isn't worth my time to try and do any better.
You can check out my 5 year review of magicJack here.
Cost Breakdown: $99.95 USD for 5 years of service = $19.99 USD/year + $10 USD/year for a Canadian Number ÷ 12 months = $2.49 USD = $3.24
$9.99 – Unlimited On Demand Movies & TV Series
I have been a subscriber to Netflix in Canada since a month or two after it launched and I’ve found it to be a great service! We already have more free TV than we can handle as mentioned above so this is a definite luxury that we could cancel any time to reduce our costs. But, at $9.99/mth, it is still uber cheap for what you get.
We have two kids and try to limit the amount of TV they watch, but we do find the good selection of kids shows on Netflix keep them entertained while they eat breakfast in the morning while we scramble to get ready for the day.
My wife and I also enjoy watching entire TV series together when we get the chance and the odd movie. I honestly can’t see cancelling the service anytime soon because I think it’s great!
These days Netflix isn't the only game in town either. There's also CraveTV and Amazon Prime that offer a decent selection of shows at an even cheaper price than Netflix.
You can also subscribe to most of the major leagues online as well and get access to more coverage and games than you ever would with cable. The subscriptions can be pricey, but they're still way less than the monthly cost of TV service.
Cost Breakdown: Straight $9.99/mth (tax inc.) for unlimited content = $9.99
TOTAL – $166.19
Not ready to cut the cord but want to pay LESS? Get this 2-page PDF and learn the 5 steps to negotiate a better deal on cable.
How Much Do You Pay?
When I published this article the first time my total costs added up to $108. Now, 5 years later, my costs have ballooned to $166. That's quite a steep increase but still reasonable. And, considering my business pays for the entirety of my internet and cell phone costs, it's even less out of my personal budget.
The first time around, plenty of people commented about how they were paying even less than I am monthly. Read through those comments below for a stroll down memory lane, then add your own comment with a breakdown of your costs today. That way we can learn from each other and work to lower our costs together!
P.S. Don't worry if you're paying more than me or someone else, most people are. Take this as a kick in the butt you need to figure out a way to save yourself some extra cash!