What's Your Current Cheapskate Setup?

I'm sure that we all tweak and change as situations evolve. My goal is good quality streaming, unlimited access, and cheapest possible price. I don't need 4K video or anything like that. I'm perfectly satisfied with 720p and even 480p.

I have phones on all four networks in various free and nearly free situations (FreedomPop, Family Dollar Tracphone blip, etc.) but here is my tried-and-true-no-playing-around setup:

  1. Our general home internet consists of 2 Verizon Unlimited 3g hotspots (one for front of house, one for back of house) that we pay $5/month, each. We've enjoyed the unlimited Verizon 3g for several years and it should be around for at least another year. We get 2.2 to 2.5 Mbps and that works just fine, for us.

  2. Our other internet connection is a T-Mobile phone that's grandfathered on an unlimited talk/text/data with 14GB of high speed tethering for $37.50/month. Services on the Binge-On list don't count toward the 14GB. We finish most months with only 1 or 2GB of tethered data showing on our T-Mobile app. There's a soft cap at 50GB but, even when we've gone over, we haven't noticed any difference.

  3. Our main TV has two Amazon Fire Sticks. One is connected to the T-Mobile phone for all Binge-On related stuff like SlingTV, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. We share our SlingTV (Blue), Hulu and Netflix plans with our daughters and their families and we each pay for a third of the cost. Our out-of-pocket for monthly video is $20. Another Amazon Fire Stick (same TV, different port) is connected to a Verizon hotspot and is used for any video services that are not on the Binge-On list.

  4. We have an antenna that picks up 33 stations, even though we're in a somewhat rural area. If you want to try out an antenna but don't want to run wires you should try out the WatchAir. It's an antenna and DVR that hangs in your window and puts the TV signal on your WiFi network. You watch it with an app on the Fire Stick. Our main antenna picks up stations from a city to the north of us. We have a WatchAir in a south-facing window to pick up stations from another city. It's a great setup.

  5. My daily driver phone is on the free year of Sprint plan. I use the T-Mobile "DIGITS" app so that I can receive my T-Mobile calls and text messages on my Sprint phone, even though my T-Mobile phone stays home, serving as a hotspot.

So we pay $20/month for video, $10/month for internet, and $37.50/month for cellphone/internet. We get pretty much everything. More than we could ever watch. We've found that Sling/Hulu/Netflix/Amazon all work great at less than 2Mbps. 1.5Mbps seems to be the cutoff between a sharp picture and a slightly soft one. At 1.2 we see a little softness. Anything above 1.7 doesn't seem to make a discernible difference.

Bear in mind that we don't have high end 4K equipment. We have plain ol' ordinary Black Friday 40 inch HD TVs that we paid $149 for, a year ago.

This is what works for us. Please share what you're using and why!

Is the Verizon 3g hotspot service still available for $5/ month?
I've been searching for something like this for quite some time.

Yes. I know people who've purchased them on eBay fairly recently.

Search for Verizon 3g unlimited.

If you get it, I can give you a few tips, afterward.

After seeing Chelle's so well organized setup, I must say she's a tough act to follow. But here is my basic list, which is still "evolving" towards the unknown.

  1. Home internet: For decades, where I live had little choice for decent home internet, apart from Satellite(ugg)or dial up.. So for several years we have used a small, local company that provides fixed broadband wireless service. But we must pay $70 monthly for truly unlimited 3.5mbp down/2.5mbp up, 15 ping, speeds, for what has been a very reliable service with great CS. For a few months now I have been trying the 4GAS service on AT&T, where I'm getting 15/25 Mbp Down and 20/30 Mbp Up for $85 a month just using their desktop hotspot. This has worked great, and I would go all in with 4GAS if I had no doubt that they would be around awhile and would not raise their prices anymore, nor keep cutting back on the maximum amount of data one can use. A few days after I signed on, they lowered the max monthly data usage allowed from 300 Gigs to 200 Gigs, as well as changed some of the streaming terms of their service. However, I'm still thinking about trying the T Mobile 55+ plan for two phones at $ 60 a month and see if we could get by with the unlimited 3G speeds. Another option would be the cable they finally ran down our road a few years ago, for a resort that was never built, but this cable service is run by "Spectrum" and I have heard enough local horror stories about them that I want to avoid them.

  2. TV: We have had a "smart tv"(a matter of opinion) for several years. We use both Amazon Prime video and Netflix ($8 month) for streaming with a Roku, a Chromecast, or Android Mini tv pc box. Yes, a bit of overkill with a "smart" tv. We still have ($75 monthly) DirecTV, which we've kept until our internet problems improved, which they now have. But I have tried Google's Youtube TV and will probably switch to that soon. I also have an OTA antenna that gets all of the local major LA channels. Again, overkill for someone who doesn't watch much TV.

  3. Phone: Home phone----use GV+Obi+cordless phone. Also use a Moto E4 with Truphone sim for free incoming calls. For away from home phone, and sometimes at home, I use a Xiaomi phone on the $8+tax TPO Timo unlimited plan. Also a backup phone on Tello, and also one on $5 monthly Red Pocket plan, I guess.

So, once we rid ourselves of DirecTV, see if we can survive on T Mobile at $60 monthly, which would satisfy both mobile phone and home internet needs, and if we add $35 Youtube TV, we would check in with about $140 a month, if my math is correct.

That's a great TMobile plan. I put my mother and stepfather on it a few months ago.

I think you can bump the tethering up to LTE speeds for an extra $10/month. That would REALLY solve some problems for you.

Thanks for sharing!

Chelle, thanks for starting this thread! Reading this proves to me that I'm just throwing money away every month! My family has the cellphone bills under control (we switched to TPO's unlimited talk & text for under $10 bucks a month on each line through the Ringplus link), but our cable and internet bundled bill is like $170 per month with no premium channels and nothing special on internet speeds. I will be checking into WatchAir for sure! Thanks again!

WatchAir is a fairly new company and their product continues to get better every week. It's 720p and only has one tuner in it, so that means that only one station can be tuned in at a time. You can have more than one on your network, though.

It can be used as your antenna or it can be used in conjunction with the antenna you already have.

I'm amazed that it can pick up channels so clearly from a city that's 60 miles away-- from a first story window.

It has exceeded my expectations.

BTW-- that's an amazing TPO plan. I have one phone on it and have put many others on it, as well.

There are a few financially challenged people I know who couldn't have an unlimited cellphone if it weren't for that plan.

  1. Free cell service courtesy of the free year of sprint and cellnuvo via redpocket. Cellnuvo even covered the sprint taxes and fees. With payment stacking and cellnuvo getting more reliable with the payments that is getting better. Believe it or not lol. I also have some tello lines with free credit left. As well as truphone and freedompop sims.

  2. Free Samsung HDTV as a hand me down. Having people who like to upgrade often and don't want the hassle of selling things is great! I could have taken a free iphone too but let someone else have it. We just use the TV as a dvd player and to hook up a laptop to watch youtube etc.

  3. Unfortunately I need to pay for internet at home due to work

  4. Using ooma for my home phone for $5-6 a month but I have an obihai to try out to save a few more dollars.

  5. Bought a boost Tribute HD last year and a Verizon moto E4 this year. Both great phones for very little. Oh yes but I also bought a pixel 2 and blew the budget there. Had a phone purge and sold a bunch though so I pretty much came out even.

  6. Google opinion rewards pays for some movies. I also have amazon prime anyway for the free shipping and a relative lets us use their netflix the odd time we want to watch something. So not much expenditure on entertainment. I make use of some of the free ones out there like TubiTv as well.

Isamorph - An elderly friend of mine uses Directv and was constantly complaining about the cost. I called to see if there was a way to lower the bill and loyalty offered $25 off for 24 months or $45 off for 12 months. This was last month. It may be a big YMMV, but you might want to see what loyalty has to offer you.

Thanks---I have heard that works as well as threatening to leave. We'll be saying adios to DirectTV very soon, but may be able to save some money on a month or so anyways.


  1. Free cell service courtesy of the free year of sprint and cellnuvo via redpocket. Cellnuvo even covered the sprint taxes and fees. With payment stacking and cellnuvo getting more reliable with the payments that is getting better. Believe it or not lol. I also have some tello lines with free credit left. As well as truphone and freedompop sims.

mmfacemm, do you notice any difference in call quality from pure Sprint to Tello? Sorry if this is a bit off subject :frowning:

When my daughter fired DirectTV the called, texted and emailed constantly, trying to get her to come back.

She was paying $211 just for Direct TV (that includes equipment rentals for their TVs, and other miscellaneous charges).

She's quite happy with Sling, now.

I can't imagine that DirectTV could give enough of a retention discount to make it worth staying with them. Once they add on all the other charges and fees it greatly increases the final price.

Not in call quality. Sprint direct has some advantages like wider coverage due to roaming that Tello won't have as well as wi-fi calling. Also some international roaming is included. But I think that sprint mvnos aren't too far off postpaid.

Wow!!! $211/month? I know there are regional price differences, but that's an awfully high monthly price for Directv.

I assume that she must have had additional packages added on. She went from one extreme to the other. Once she got tired of the high bill she wanted a bill as close to zero as possible.