You've finally settled on an Internet, cable, and phone provider for your new home. You feel fairly confident that you're getting the best rate. You know what your monthly bill will be … or do you? It never ceases to amaze me how much bigger my cable bill is than I anticipated. What are the hidden costs of digital services, and what can you do to minimize them?
The rate you're quoted isn't the bottom line -- don't forget that you'll pay local (state) taxes on top of the amount you negotiated. While it'll only be a few dollars, factor them in when you're creating the monthly budget for your new home.
Federal taxes and surcharges
In addition to local taxes, you'll also pay federal taxes and surcharges on your Internet, cable, and phone bundle. These can range from a few cents to a few dollars, and when combined, they do add up. Expect to see them on your bill, and do ask for verification from your service provider if you aren't sure what they are for.
Does your Internet, cable, and phone provider charge a fee to set up your service, run wires, or come out to your house to assess whether or not you can get the advertised service? If so, you'll need to factor that one-time charge into your budget, too. You may also be able to negotiate and get this fee waved (especially if you'll sign a two-year contract), so it never hurts to ask!
Are you renting your cable box, satellite, or wireless router from the service provider? My family pays a $5 fee for every cable box that we have in the house, and higher if the boxes are HD-ready or equipped with DVR service. This fee is charged on a monthly basis, making it an important expense to consider. (Note: You can often buy some of this equipment, such as a router, outright from the provider when you start service -- and you may even find additional savings by purchasing it elsewhere.)
Did you use more minutes than your phone plan allows (if you have a limit)? Do you make overseas calls? My family regularly calls friends in the U.K. -- we can always expect a pricey bill for those charges. Do you regularly rent movies from a pay-per-view or on-demand service? They'll add up, too.
Pay attention to the fine print when you sign up with a service provider. If you're signing up for a contract with a specific time limit, you'll be charged a cancellation fee if you break your agreement before the time is up. Just how much is the fee? Make sure you know before you sign up.