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Now THATs a coffee!
It happens several times a week, it requires me to sit in front of a computer and constantly pour over numbers.  I guess you can say I have a bit of OCD in me.  I have never tracked the number of hours I log, but I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to tracking my monthly budget.  I’m the type of person that likes to ensure everything is going smoothly.  I even track anticipated expenses months out to ensure that I have the cash flow now to pay for those expenses.  No other normal person does this. At least  I think.

I’m a planner and I have a fixation for numbers.  That’s the best I can explain it.

And as some of you may know, I charge a fixed rate for the monthly rent price, which is the way I have operated ever since the beginning of this venture.  The reasoning was that I can have my roommates automate their rent payments into my bank account because there is no need to wait and split the utility bills every month.

One of the downsides to this pricing scheme is that when one of my utility bills increases, I can’t pass it down to my roommates immediately.  Nevertheless, I still stood by it because I wanted the convenience of receiving the rent money without “going” after it.  For instance, as I’m writing this today, 2/2/12, both roommates have paid their monthly rent on time.

 

THE SHOCK OF THE MONTH

As I was obsessively checking my budget this month, my cable bill took me by surprise.  Despite my package being the bare minimum – consisting of only the internet and expanded basic channels – I was absolutely shocked the bill amounted to $117.15, an increase of 12% from the prior year for the same month.

The break down of the $117.15 is as follows:

  • Internet – $46.95 plus taxes
  • Expanded Cable – $61.95 plus taxes

Since I collect a fixed price rent, I can’t just tell my roommates, “hey, by the way, the rent’s going up by such and such next month.” Although, my basis is justified, it just doesn’t work that way.  I have to give advanced notification of such change and in writing or at least e-mail.

I would feel this could bring about some negative feelings.

Instead, I told my roommates, I would be cancelling the Cable TV because I felt neither my roommates nor myself watched enough TV to warrant paying for the cable TV service.  I would, however, still be paying for the Internet as we’re all online simultaneously.  After a brief conversation, both my roommates expressed no disappointment over the impending cancellation of the cable TV service.

 

A LA CARTE: THE MATH WORKS OUT TO BE CHEAPER

On the other hand, had my roommates complained about the loss of cable, I would have probably implemented an a la Carte option.   By this option, I would try to accommodate them by purchasing each episode of their favorite TV show.

Online services such as Amazon instant Video, Apple iTunes, and Hulu Premium syndicate TV shows for a cost.  I know Hulu premium is $7.99 a month.  I could sign-up for this account and theoretically share my login information with my roommates.

Alternatively, iTunes sells TV shows at $2.99 per episode.  If I happen to watch only one show a week, you’re only paying $11.96($2.99 x 4 weeks) per month, which is cheaper than paying for Cable TV.

 

DOWNSIDE TO THE A LA CARTE SYSTEM

The only downside I can see to this a la Carte method is when it comes to live sporting events such as the Super Bowl.  A solution can be to view the game at a friend’s house or a sports bar, which will make the game more enjoyable to watch.

With the Super Bowl on Sunday, I won’t disconnect the Cable Service until Monday.  Not that it will make a difference as my roommates are not big sports fans.  They may still, however, watch it because of the commercials because it will be the talk around the water cooler on Monday.

After this experience, I know what a company now faces when they have to “water down” their benefits while trying to keep customers or employees happy.  I’m just thrilled that I was able to cut an expense without much resistance.  The opportunity doesn’t happen often.  So I’ll what I can get.

Now each time when I obsessively track my budget, I now have an extra $60 to work with.

My question to everyone: has anyone here gone the a la Carte method to TV shows?

Creative Commons License photo credit: robynejay

{ 5 comments }
  • Linda February 3, 2012, 9:33 am

    Yes, we do that to a certain extent. My current roommate (my boyfriend) brought a nice addition to the house: an awesome home entertainment system with an Apple TV. The Apple TV connects to his iTunes account, through which he can purchase shows he wants to watch a la carte. He loves the Pickers show on the History Channel, so he buys episodes he wants to see.

    When I cancelled the cable TV (which was even more basic than yours) my internet costs jumped, but my overall costs dropped since they had jacked up the fee for the bundle. We use my Netflix streaming account to view a lot of movies and TV shows and his Hulu Plus account, too.

    After Christmas, we also purchased a Blu-Ray player that connects to Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Marketplace to stream directly to the TV. The Blu-Ray player was only $89 and it will be useful for several years. Then there’s the tried and true method of connecting the laptop via an HDMI cable if for some reason we can’t see a program/movie any other way.

    BTW, our experience watching standard TV has vastly improved since we can pull in HD channels via the roof antenna. I can get multiple HD channels for my local PBS station and other local network channels. The cable company charges a premium for HD. If you think you’ll want to watch any broadcast TV try connecting an antenna to your HDTV; you may be surprised what you can view.

    Reply
    • Mike February 4, 2012, 12:18 pm

      @Linda I never gave the thought about connecting an antenna to get some basic programming.

      It’s good to hear that this a la carte system is working for you. I’m pretty happy about the savings as a result of the system.

      @jack: I agree, I’m not running a hotel service. I do make my roommates by laundry detergent, garbage bags to keep it all even keel. The decision about my roommates to renew the lease is definitely a good point if I choose the cable TV service goes.

      Reply
  • Jack February 3, 2012, 1:47 pm

    Be careful not to over accommodate your housemates, as I used to do. Soon it felt like I was running a hotel where my linens were being used routinely, toilet paper, hand soap, paper towel etc became a very real cost, and whenever there was an issue I was expected to have a solution within a short window.

    Sometimes decisions have to be made, and you took into account your tenants use of the cable as well as your own and you should stand by your decision. The housemates have a decision too – whether to renew the lease or not.

    Reply
  • Helen May 26, 2013, 11:45 pm

    I cut the cable December 2012 and informed the tenants that they can save $ by purchasing a Roku and opening a HuluPlus account. They were paying $25/month to have their own cable box. They agreed it was cheaper to have alternative viewing options.

    We don’t miss cable at all!

    Reply
  • Jeremy June 28, 2014, 6:25 pm

    Depending on the state you live in, if you charge a flat fee to your renters, you can write off part of your house and utilities on your taxes each year. I’ve done this and actually got money back since the house is considered a business now. As such, utilities, rent and insurance all get me a nice write off each year. I use a tax service to do this, so they will charge you more for their services, but in the long run I feel that it’s worth it. Not charging a flat rate means you have to give Uncle Sam a large chunk of money at the end of the year as Income Tax.

    Also, you can write off other expenses, such as cleaning, painting, advertising and more on your taxes. Check with someone that knows or does taxes for better information.

    Reply

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