When to Tell Them What You Can Spend

A year or more ago I called the cable company’s retention department and told them I could only spend $60 a month for cable and internet. They made it happen. This worked because I spoke with the retention department, not sales. Their job is to keep customers.

That was a time to tell them what I could spend.

That company has since been bought out, and my bill gradually inched up. So, I called a rival company. They spent twenty minutes trying to get me to tell them all about what shows I like and what channels I prefer. I kept telling them I just want the cheapest plan. They kept enticing me with HGTV and ESPN. If I had let them suck me in, I could have ended up with an expensive package of shows I LIKE, not the low-cost service I NEED.


There are times to keep your spending ability a secret:

Never tell a car dealer how much you can afford. Do the research and negotiate the lowest price. If you tell them what you can afford, they’ll be sure to charge you at least that much. Same with repairs. First, find out what’s wrong with it and what they estimate it will cost. Then you can discuss less expensive alternatives. Tell any salesperson or service provider you can spend X amount, and you are leading them into the temptation of selling you something that costs that much.



HDMI Switcher Saves the Day

Only one of the HDMI ports on my TV works. I want to connect both cable and Roku. I thought I’d have to buy a different TV. Luckily I entered “HDMI port” in my TV search on Amazon and the first thing that came up was a “switcher.” I had never heard of this, so I Googled it and learned that it can convey input from several different sources to the TV, and it automatically displays the one that’s turned on. So for $30 I can seamlessly switch from cable to Netflix.

Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Communication: Make the Cable/Internet Company Jealous

I was considering getting my internet from a different company where it was less costly. That would break up the bundle with the company I have now, so I’d only have cable with them.

When I talked with the sales department at my current company, they didn’t have an offer for slower internet and just basic cable that was less than $120 a month. That’s outside my comfort zone.

I priced internet alone at the competitor. Then I called back and asked for the department that handles reducing or cancelling service (instead of the sales department). Suddenly, they could give me 2 mbps internet and basic cable for $60. 2 mb is more than plenty for what I do. No one here plays graphics-intensive mmogs.

Make them think you’re transferring your affections to another, and suddenly they can offer a competitive rate.

Wonderful review

I am so moved by this review. “Tightwad Gazette of the 21st Century” is exactly what I wanted people to think about it:

“Great book!, February 18, 2014

By Lita McRiley “Sorlina”See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

This review is from: Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely (Kindle Edition)

This book is jam-packed with tips, ideas, and strategies for saving money. It’s the Tightwad Gazette of the 21st century… internet addresses for DIY help, encouragement for readers, personal anecdotes, this book has it all. To top it off, it’s delivered in a light, easy to read style that isn’t preachy or judgmental. A very helpful, and enjoyable, read!”

The Tightwad Gazette has been the “bible” of thrifty living. My hope was to make it the ‘old testament’ and mine the ‘new testament’, and it seems I have succeeded.


Free TV

Someone who read my book told me she took note of the part about free TV, did what I did and now has 30 channels and no cable bill. Here’s that part of the book:

“At my new condo cable wasn’t included in the condo fee. That wasn’t a good time for me to pay a monthly fee just to watch TV so I went to Walmart and bought a digital antenna. They had models that cost $10, $20 and $30. I went with the $30 since it was a one-time purchase and I hoped it would get me the most channels. may help you find out what channels an antenna is likely to bring you in your area, and what kind of antenna will be best.

I enjoy shows like Psych, Big Bang Theory, Castle and NCIS. They don’t come through with the antenna.,,, and many others are great about airing recent episodes of their current prime time shows online. They have fewer commercials than watching it on television. I let a few weeks go by and then get comfortable and watch a mini marathon of my favorites, on my laptop. I know there is a way to connect my laptop to my television so that shows from the internet will play on my TV. I searched for “how to connect your laptop to your TV” and found a video about it. I understood it but it seemed a bit complicated so I’ll wait and maybe do that later on.

To look for your favorite shows, search “watch <name of show> online”, and look among the results for the originating TV channel. There are many sites that will stream TV shows. A lot of them want you to sign up and download special software. That usually isn’t necessary. If you go to the website of the channel that airs the program you can watch it without downloading anything. Another great resource is They have a huge selection of shows, hundreds of them, in every genre. (Throughout this book I use the “<” and “>” symbols to indicate a place where you type in whatever words are appropriate. The “<” and “>” shouldn’t be typed into the search field.)

It’s possible to watch some televised sports on the internet as well. is a site that lets you stream sports events from all over the world to your computer. Notice the different links for football (soccer) and American football. is a very interesting site on which people can set up their own “channels” to stream their choice of programming. If you click on Live Channels at the top of the page you can select the type of programming you want, to see what they offer. You may need to download software such as Adobe Flash Player (free) to watch these sites.

Movies are available for free online as well. The free movies are old enough to be out of copyright. They have all kinds of films, ranging from A Farewell to Arms to Cujo to Reefer Madness to It’s a Wonderful Life. They are usually streamed through Google video or YouTube. See for instance and Or do a Google search for “watch free movies online”. As of January 2014 Redbox offers a free movie once a month if you sign up to get text messages from them. Sign up by texting REDBOX to 727272. To find a current offer, search on “Redbox current offer text”. My public library has a large number of TV shows and movies on DVD. They have tons of music CDs in a wide variety of genres too. They also show very recent movies at the library every Friday for free.


I spent about 8 months having to adjust the antenna when changing channels. I got tired of losing signal every afternoon when it rained. When I junked my car I freed up $300 a year that I had been spending on car insurance. I shopped around the internet for low cost basic cable and signed up with Bright House at $26 a month. My TV is fairly new and has a digital tuner in it so I get nearly twice as many stations as the basic cable plan provides. It gives me more to do now that I’m not going places as much. I know that having even basic cable is not spending as little as humanly possible, but it relieves the isolation of living alone without a car. Also it’s something that guests expect to have available to them. Like any other service, it pays to occasionally shop around all over again to see if you can get a better deal. If you find a better deal and you like your current company, call your company and ask if they can match the better deal.”

Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely

Free Movies

Yesterday I passed a Redbox machine. It had a sign on it saying Free trial offer: text FREETRIAL to 727272. The offer includes 4 DVDs and some other stuff I already forgot by the time I got home. Luckily an internet search found the offer: Please note that if you don’t want to keep the subscription you have to actively cancel it, it won’t go away on its own at the end of the trial period.

If you want to keep up with their occasional free movie offers and what their new releases are, you can subscribe to their email newsletter at

Their website also says: “For monthly freebies, customers can join the Redbox Text Club by texting REDBOX to 727272. Up to 2 messages a week. Message & data rates may apply. Text STOP to quit, HELP for help.”

My attention span is barely long enough for a half hour TV show, but I might very well try out a movie since it’s free.

Another source of free DVD movies and TV shows is the public library. Mine has hundreds of them. They have newer movies than I thought they would, and I don’t have to remember to cancel anything.