Even before subscription fatigue became a thing, consumers already had to budget for monthly services, such as a pay TV package, phone bills, home monitoring systems, and other expenses.
However, more modern conveniences – like high-speed Wi-Fi and smartphones – have rendered many of these “legacy” services redundant. After all, why pay for cable when you mostly watch streaming video services? And if your family and friends haven’t called your landline for years, there’s no point in paying for that number.
So, it’s no surprise “cord cutting” has become a popular trend among all age groups. Here are several examples of what you can cancel – or at least replace with newer technology – including a couple of areas you might not have thought of.
Robocalls: Stop them with free solutions from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint
Hey, Alexa: Can a robot with AI or your voice assistant help you feel less lonely?
Cut the pay TV cord
Cable and satellite television packages can get costly, but fortunately there are many streaming services (and more to come) that use your existing Internet connection to stream to your TV, tablet, laptop, smartphone, or smart display such as an Amazon Echo Show or Google Nest Hub.
If you have a smart TV, it should already have built-in apps for popular services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, and in many cases, the ability to add more, including new entrants, like Disney+ and Apple TV+.
Alternatively, there are many products that can turn a regular TV into a smart TV, such as Roku (from $29), Google Chromecast (from $35), Amazon Fire TV Stick (from $39), and Apple TV (from $149). Personally, I like the Roku family of products the most, for its ease of use, voice remote (on some models), support for many thousands of channels, and exclusive content.
While streaming services are called an over-the-top (OTT) solution, TV lovers can also opt for an over-the-air (OTA) option, by picking up an indoor or outdoor antenna. Depending on where you live, you might find many high-quality television stations you can watch, for free. You can then add a device like TiVo’s Bolt OTA 1TB DVR ($249) to record and play back content.
Lose the landline
Of course, you know smartphones can replace landlines, but here’s a couple of additional considerations:
If you still have small children (who are too young to have a smartphone), you can use your smart speaker to place free phone calls to home and “drop in” to broadcast a message from mom or dad’s smartphone. Smart speakers, with a built-in personal assistant, start at only $39 for an Amazon Echo Dot and $49 for a Google Nest Mini. Expect prices to drop ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as well.
Google Nest Mini: This speaker offers better intelligence, louder sound and whole home audio
If you already have Wi-Fi at home, you can also use free voice and video calling services, too, such as Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Duo, and many others. In most cases, both the caller and recipient need to use the same service. Facebook has launched its Portal-branded video cameras for the home (from $149), allowing you to make free video calls over Facebook and WhatsApp.
Apps like TextNow also give you a free phone number to call and text from.
Cord-shaving for home alarm systems
Many of us pay $20 to $30 a month for home alarm monitoring – and that may not include costs associated with dispatching a security service or local police from visiting your home over a false call.
Instead, Safe by HUB6 ($249) is a DIY device that connects to your existing home alarm system – such as a compatible DSC or Honeywell control panel – and then you’d install the app and select people you’d like contacted in case a door or window sensor is triggered.
If someone on your list, such as a next-door neighbor, sees the wind has blown open the door, they can let you know everything is OK if you’re not nearby. But they could also decide if emergency services should be called, if something looks suspicious, like a broken window.
Wi-Fi down? No worries, as this product has a built-in SIM card that uses a cellular network.
The idea is you can cancel your existing service and just use Safe by HUB6, with no monthly fees or contracts, but there is an optional $10/month monitoring plan you can pick up (and stop) at any time, should you want the extra peace of mind.
As I realized last month, the app also lets you arm and disarm the home system after you leave. I forgot to set the alarm, but was able to do so on my way to the airport. Plus, if a sensor is triggered, you’ll be immediately notified on your phone which one (such as “front door” or “kitchen window” and when). On a related note, my kids recently burned toast in the kitchen and the Safe app alerted me to the smoke alarm going off, in real-time, since it’s connected to my security system.
Another solution is if you own a Google smart speaker or display. The optional Nest Aware service – which now includes all cameras, speakers and displays in your home for one price (starting at $6/month) – has an interesting opt-in feature. Should your Nest Mini (or other Nest speaker or display) hear a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm, it could immediately send an alert to your phone. You then have the option to hear the audio clip or listen live to confirm the alarm, and even call 9-1-1 emergency services closest to your home (yes, even if you’re away).
Can cellular power your Wi-Fi?
Finally, with 4G LTE cellular speeds pretty fast – and 5G around the corner – another round of cord-cutting to consider may be your home Wi-Fi.
That is, if your cellular carrier can offer comparable speeds to your home Internet, and it isn’t much more to pay for an unlimited data plan, you may not want to carry both a wireless plan and an ISP (Internet Service Provider) for home Internet.
Some cellular providers sell or rent a cellular modem, but expect a new round of cord-cutting to truly take off if 5G truly lives up to the hype.
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast at www.marcsaltzman.com.