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How to cut down your TV, phone and internet bills in perfectly legal ways

The CRTC wants Canadians to know that if they don’t like their cable TV deal, they should shop around. The broadcast regulator is even offering an online guide on how to do so.

It also pays to shop around for phone and internet service. There are a growing number of choices out there, including smaller competitors and online alternatives that could help you save big money on all your telco bills. 

CBC News scoped out various options and highlights some here that are easy to obtain and, yes, perfectly legal.

Get free cellphone service

Exceeding your cellular plan’s talk minutes every month?

Waterloo, Ont., companies Fongo and TextNow both have apps that offer free cellphone service using Wi-Fi or your mobile phone’s data connection.

Simply download either app to your cellphone at no charge and sign up. You’ll immediately get a phone number, voicemail and countrywide calling — for free.

TextNow also offers free unlimited texting in North America while Fongo charges $1.99 a month. Both apps also have low-cost long-distance deals.

Agnes Thomson Fongo cellphone

Agnes Thomson, 80, in Powassan, Ont., downloaded a mobile app to get free cellphone service using her internet.

A word of warning, when relying on Wi-Fi, a weak, congested or spotty connection could lead to diminished or temporarily dead service.

But the hiccups don’t bother 80-year-old Agnes Thomson in Powassan, Ont. About a year and a half ago, she ditched her home phone and got a secondhand iPhone.

Thomson didn’t sign up for a cellular plan. Instead, she just uses the Fongo app and her home internet service.

Now, her only phone-related expense is two cents a minute to call family in Scotland.

“I enjoy it,” says Thomson. “I can talk for a while and won’t be getting a big bill.”

Get cheap home phone service

Just can’t part with your landline? You might consider getting a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) system for your home phone. It enables you to make calls using the internet.

Companies like TekSavvy offer the system for a monthly fee, typically much lower than the cost of a traditional landline.

But you can score an even cheaper deal by purchasing a device like MagicJack or Ooma. You connect it to your home phone and your internet router, and get VOIP service plus features like voicemail for around $4 or less a month.

magicjack home phone

Stephen Weyman uses a device called MagicJack to get free home phone service that works via the internet. (Stephen Weyman)

Stephen Weyman in Moncton, N.B., has been using MagicJack for the past five years. He bought the device online, but you can also find it in stores like BestBuy for about $45. That includes a free year of service.

“It’s very easy to use and set up and it’s much cheaper than home phone service,” says Weyman, who runs the consumer tips website HowToSaveMoney.

He also says the service is reliable — as long as your internet doesn’t fail. 

Share your Netflix password

This tip may sound improper … but it’s not. Last month, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings declared that sharing your password for the streaming service is just fine.

He stated it’s something Netflix has to live with, because there’s so much legitimate password sharing going on. “So there’s no bright line,” on the issue, he said.

However, that doesn’t mean you can now share your service with your entire extended family.

A standard $9.99 Netflix plan allows watching on only two screens at the same time. An $11.99 premium plan allows for the maximum of four screens playing simultaneously.

Explore streaming and antenna options

Still clinging to cable because Netflix just isn’t enough? You have a couple of other streaming service options: Bell CraveTV and Rogers Sportsnet Now.

Cineplex also offers a huge selection of movies that Canadians can download to rent or own.

To get the main Canadian networks for free, try an indoor or outdoor antenna. Indoor ones may pick up fewer channels, but they’re super easy to set up and can cost as little as $20.

But before splurging, Weyman recommends checking out the resource site TVFool, which helps you figure out which over the air channels are accessible in your area. 

Weyman also points out that many Canadian networks — including specialty channels like Bravo, HGTV and The Comedy Network — have content available for free online. Weyman offers a comprehensive list on his website.

And if you don’t enjoy watching shows on your laptop, there are simple ways to transfer the content onto your TV.

hdmi cable the source TV

Connect your laptop to your TV with an HDMI cable and you’ll be able to watch online content on your television. (The Source)

The easiest method is to buy an HDMI cable, retailing for around $20. Use it to connect your laptop or tablet to your television and any online video you play will show up on your TV screen. 

For a wireless connection, Weyman suggests getting a Google Chromecast, which costs around $45. Plug the device into your TV set and you’ll be able to stream video onto your television, cable-free.

Shop around for TV and internet

There are a growing number of smaller providers offering Canadians TV, internet and home phone services at competitive prices.

Many people have heard about the growing company, TekSavvy which offers internet and home phone deals.

But there are other small companies offering competitive rates including for TV packages. For example, Zazeen, VMedia, and CIK Telecom offer the skinny basic TV package for well below the usual price of $25. Internet service is required and only VMedia serves all provinces.

You can also find internet deals from the big providers’ discount brands. Bell’s Virgin and Rogers’ Fido brands are both currently offering deals for unlimited high-speed home internet.

For help finding the cheapest plans for all telco services in your area, check out price comparison website: CompareMyRates.

Many Canadians are convinced they can get the best deals by bundling their products with one provider. But with all the options out there, you might find better prices by shopping around and taking the best offer for each individual service.