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How to pay for cable TV when only one person wants it?
May 19, 2014 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Moving in with roommate problems!

I am moving in with a roommate next week as I start a nursing program. My roommate wants cable (200+ channels) while I have been happily living without cable for at least the last three years - Netflix and what I can find online is more than enough for me.

The internet provided through our school is $34.95 per month, while the cheapest cable TV/internet package seems to be around $106/month. This will come out to be about $500 extra total throughout the year that I'll be paying for a service I don't really want -- but if it's there, let's be realistic, I am sure I will watch it.

I am inclined to think I should just pay for it as I can technically afford it, I'm sure I'll watch it at least a little, and I want to remain on good terms with my roommate and it doesn't seem right to ask her to pay for it. On the other hand, it's a bit hard to stomach that I could be paying $17 for the service I really want but instead will pay $53. I also won't be working so it's more painful than normal to spend money. I did offer to pay for half the cable when we first discussed it but I guess I didn't realize how expensive cable is.

Has anyone been in a similar situation and come up with a good solution?
posted by queens86 to Human Relations (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I was in this situation and I didn't pay, but my roommate was totally fine with it, in fact he suggested it I think.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:32 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I've been in two roommate situations, where one roommate wanted cable, and the others weren't interested. Both were fine with paying for it themselves. If it was bundled with internet, we'd split that (in both situations it was 3-ways), but they paid for the cable add-on, or the cost difference to add cable.

Just gently bring it up with your roommate. Say that you're really not interested in cable, but will happily split the internet costs. A decent roommate shouldn't have a problem with that.
posted by raztaj at 8:33 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Sounds like you can't really afford this, so don't pay for it. Also don't "watch it at least a little." Make a concerted effort not to.
posted by grouse at 8:37 AM on May 19 [11 favorites]


What if you pay the internet cost, and they pay the remainder? That's roughly a 2:1 split, and then the understanding will be that you both get to use both resources.
posted by Dilligas at 8:38 AM on May 19 [7 favorites]


As a compromise between paying for just half the internet and paying for half of everything, perhaps you could offer to pay for all the internet and she can pay the additional amount for the cable. That works out as approximately a 1/3 to 2/3 split which is about the middle ground anyway.

That's not necessarily what I'd do -- as someone who hasn't had cable for several years, I'd be hard-pressed to pay for it, too. But it's one middle ground option that you might feel better about.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:38 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


...but if it's there, let's be realistic, I am sure I will watch it.

It would be totally reasonable to ask that you not have to chip in for cable TV if you're not going to watch it, but it wouldn't be okay to then start watching it because that will put your roommate into an uncomfortable situation where they're subsidizing your TV watching, which is what you two agreed you didn't have to do.

If you're not going to watch it, you shouldn't pay for it. But if you're not paying for it, you shouldn't watch it even if it's there.
posted by griphus at 8:38 AM on May 19 [14 favorites]


I am inclined to think I should just pay for it as I can technically afford it,

and I want to remain on good terms with my roommate

and it doesn't seem right to ask her to pay for it.


You're setting yourself up for a lifetime of being taken advantage of. Motivate yourself to have this conversation directly with your roommate. Let her know you don't want cable. Once she knows where you stand, she will make her decision.
posted by Kruger5 at 8:38 AM on May 19 [5 favorites]


I was in this situation and I didn't pay for the cable and didn't watch it either. I split the internet portion of the bill with my roommate.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:40 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Also, is the cable box going to be on the living room TV, or in your roommate's room? If your roommate just has the one cable box in their room, then there's no issue as I doubt you'll be sneaking in there just to watch cable TV.
posted by griphus at 8:41 AM on May 19 [5 favorites]


Well, I have a few questions.

Do you have a tv? If you have a tv and you hook it up to cable, I think you should pay. If you have one only to stream Netflix or play video games or attach your computer, then you can probably only pay cable.

Will your roommate's tv be in a shared space? If it's in your roommate's room, then you don't need to pay.

If your roommate has a tv, which will be in a shared space, then you're losing some access to the shared space, but gaining cable you don't want. I think I'd agree to split the cost of internet + the cheapest cable package (not all 200 channels plus plus), and your roommate can pay the extra. This way you don't feel guilty for watching the tv when it's there, or that you're being used for having to give up the living room whenever your roommate wants to watch tv.
posted by jeather at 8:42 AM on May 19


I don't know what people who say you shouldn't watch it if you don't pay think you're supposed to do when someone else is watching cable and you're in the apartment...

The best solution is only living with people who have similar ideas about what utilities are desirable/necessary, but you ALREADY AGREED to pay for half of cable, and your roommate may have made her decision about who to live with believing that you would pay for half the cable, so I think you should to pay up, and in the future pay more attention to utility costs when choosing a housing situation.

(Also, you'd be paying the $17 for internet regardless, right? So you're paying $36 extra for cable, not $53. I'm a devoted cord-cutter but I think you should pay.)
posted by mskyle at 8:43 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Don't pay a dime for it, and if your roommate insists, maybe suggest that s/he keep the TV set in their bedroom so you're not tempted to watch any.

Is your roommate amenable to some non-cable entertainment smorgasbord, such as available via Netflix, a Roku box, Amazon Prime, etc.? That could be a workable compromise.

Don't be shy about putting your foot down. $500+ is a lot of money, and cable is awfully distracting.
posted by magdalemon at 8:44 AM on May 19


Huh... I tend to be a netflix person, but I've always chipped for cable in every roommate situation ever. Likewise all of my cohort in SF; it's considered a fairly basic utility and everyone chips. So I guess just don't be shocked if your roommate has a similar background and is annoyed by your refusal to pay.
posted by samthemander at 8:44 AM on May 19


I don't have a TV, but there is a TV already in the apartment that will be there when we move in (the place is furnished). She is also bringing her own TV and originally said she was going to keep it in her room but now said she'll put it in the living room so we don't have to pay for two cable boxes. I definitely don't want a TV in my room, even if there is a spare TV.

I like the idea of me paying for internet and she pays for cable, which would save me ~$200 over the course of the year. But then isn't that still unfair since I will be watching TV, but she would be paying for all of it...? It seems like it would get really complicated if we had some deal like, I only watch TV once a week or something like that. But if I paid for all the internet but didn't watch any TV that wouldn't really be fair either ..
posted by queens86 at 9:05 AM on May 19


Sounds like you're starting to accept that you're going to pay for half of everything. What you really want, I think, is a room mate who doesn't want cable either. That's not what you have.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:13 AM on May 19


Well, you could argue that if she doesn't want you to watch the tv, she can keep it in her room, and then she pays cable and you split internet. If she wants to keep in the shared space, I think that it's fine if you watch it, because it's your living room too.

I once did that -- I paid the add-on amount for the cheapest cable, which was I think $10/month, didn't care if other people watched tv, but had priority on the tv if I wanted to watch something. Obviously this is a cheaper package than you are going for, and it was pre-Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime. But I didn't feel cheated, and I don't think anyone else did either.
posted by jeather at 9:14 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Split the internet and have your roommate pay for the cable. That's how we operate in our house of 4. 1 guy picks up all the TV because he wants to watch sports.

You can absolutely watch it and not pay for it.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:14 AM on May 19


You said you were going to pay! Paying for something you don't want isn't *fair*, but backing out of something you already agreed to pay for is not fair either.
posted by mskyle at 9:15 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I like the idea of me paying for internet and she pays for cable, which would save me ~$200 over the course of the year. But then isn't that still unfair since I will be watching TV, but she would be paying for all of it...? It seems like it would get really complicated if we had some deal like, I only watch TV once a week or something like that. But if I paid for all the internet but didn't watch any TV that wouldn't really be fair either ..

Yeah, but she would also be using the internet, so it works out. I think "you pay for internet, she pays for cable" is the fairest thing: if you lived there alone, you'd only pay for internet, so you win. If she lived there alone, she'd pay the whole thing, so she wins. Everybody wins.
posted by The Michael The at 9:17 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I think it will depend on your television watching patterns, if you are just watching the occasional show or just happen to be doing other things around the house while the TV is on, that doesn't change the fact that you'd be perfectly happy without cable and the cable has been purchased for your roommate only. It wouldn't be unfair. If you're going to watch it all the time or try to dictate what shows need to be watched at what times then I think you need to make it an even split or your roomie may get resentful.

I mean, if one of you has a toaster you're not going to charge the other one a dollar every time they use it, right? As long as the use is reasonable and respectful. Unless your roommate is at that level of nitpicking/nickel and dining, your above proposal should work.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:18 AM on May 19


Tell them you don't want to use it or pay for it. If you find yourself watching it a lot, offer to pay the bill for that month. This will motivate you to study instead.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:35 AM on May 19


Having been on your roommate's side of this, I really would have appreciated having this discussion *before* I picked a roommate. Your roommate has already budgeted $X for utilities, and gotten your agreement. Go ahead and ask if she'd mind splitting it 66-33 instead of 50-50, but don't be surprised if she balks. Sticking with what you've already agreed on isn't being "taken advantage of", and paying for something you'll probably use anyway is absolutely fair.

Sometimes, cable/internet/phone comes in a bundle and getting rid of/downgrading one makes the price of the others go up. Seems crazy, but check if *adding* phone service brings the entire bill down.
posted by mgar at 9:37 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


I did offer to pay for half the cable when we first discussed it but I guess I didn't realize how expensive cable is.

That was a little bit buried and maybe people are missing it, otherwise I don't understand why everyone thinks you can just back out of paying for cable at this point. I agree that there are many, many fair ways to split a cable bill. But you already agreed to split the cost of cable with your roommate. At a minimum, you should approach your roommate in a spirit of "I messed up when I agreed to pay for cable, which I don't really want. How can we come to a decision that works for both of us?"

(If you were randomly assigned to each other as roommates, then you have more wiggle room because it's not like she decided to room with you believing that you would pay for cable.)
posted by mskyle at 9:42 AM on May 19 [8 favorites]


To answer your follow-up question, the idea of you paying for internet and her paying for TV is that you both get to use both (she will obviously use the internet right? even though you pay for all of it.) but that since she will likely use the more expensive cable somewhat more than you, she is paying a larger share.

I think you just need to have an honest conversation with your roommate and gauge her reaction. The most important thing is not setting either of you up for growing resentment about the situation down the line. Explain you didn't realize how expensive cable is, you know you agreed to split it, but would she feel comfortable doing the internet/cable split situation? Also, maybe she would be willing to get a cheaper cable package. If she is put out, be completely open to following the 50/50 arrangement. I don't think you're "backing out" or doing something so horrible...you didn't realize the cost when you agreed and it sounds like your conversations have been somewhat informal.
posted by dahliachewswell at 9:49 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


If the topic of splitting cable came up when you were deciding on being roommates, you owe it to her to pay half. An expectation was set that dictated whether or not you became roommates and to back out now would be a change of those terms.

If the discussion on cable came up after you agreed to be roommates, however, I would be frank that cable is more expensive than you thought and you'd prefer to go without than pay that much for it. This gives her the option to choose that as well if the prospect of paying the whole thing is too much.

If it was me, if this became at all a bone of contention, $32/month in additional costs that I can afford (which I'd recoup by watching at least some TV) are entirely worth not being at odds with a roommate for the next 12 months.
posted by rutabega at 10:01 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I like the you pay for Internet / she pays for cable solution as suggested above.

I like the idea of me paying for internet and she pays for cable, which would save me ~$200 over the course of the year. But then isn't that still unfair since I will be watching TV, but she would be paying for all of it...?

Well, think of it this way: how much will she use the Internet compared to how much you'll use the cable? Yes, on the one hand she'd be paying for the more expensive thing, but if you're just barely using the cable (say, 1-2 hrs / week), and she's getting a lot of utility from the Internet (say, 10+ hrs/week), then it works out fairly, I think.
posted by Asparagus at 10:03 AM on May 19


I'd try to convince her to skip it for 2-3 months to see what it's like, and agree to add it on and split it after that. If you show her Netflix and Hulu she may actually end up being fine without it.
posted by amaire at 10:12 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


As a compromise, could you add a few more services to your Netflix (maybe Amazon Prime and Hulu + Roku box) so that your roommate feels like they're getting enough options for entertainment that they don't need cable? Splitting the cost of all that would still be far less than what you're paying for cable.
posted by katyggls at 10:13 AM on May 19


Agreeing to split cable means you need to agree on a cable package to split, not that you automatically agreed to split the most expensive available package. Which is why I think you're okay to split internet + some inexpensive cable package, and she can pay for the extra channels or HD or pvr or whatever it is she wants.
posted by jeather at 10:37 AM on May 19


How about everyone pays one share per TV that they use. They have one personal tv, and you share the living room tv, so they would pay 2/3 of the cable tv cost, and you'll pay the other third. It's a good (and scalable) justification for the 2:1 ratio that other people are suggesting.
posted by Garm at 10:43 AM on May 19


The internet provided through our school is $34.95 per month, while the cheapest cable TV/internet package seems to be around $106/month.

Just one thing to keep in mind--I'm not sure what the exact setup here is, whether the cable is all controlled through your school or what, but are you absolutely certain about these prices?

There are all sorts of new account promotional deals with the providers. I don't use cable, but I actually had cable for 6 months after I moved into my current apartment, because for whatever insane reason, there was a promotion that made cable+internet cheaper than internet alone. It was cheaper for me to have cable I never used. (But then after 6 months it went up to something super crazy and I dropped back down to internet only.)

Anyway, my point is, are you absolutely certain that cable is $106/month for forever, or is there a chance that in 6 months you'll age out of a new customer agreement and the price goes to, say, $150+? Something to make absolutely certain of before deciding.
posted by phunniemee at 10:56 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Thanks for your opinions everyone!
I went back over our conversation and realized that she didn't actually seem so set on cable (it wasn't something we agreed on when we decided to be roommates, it was more like... do we want cable? I don't know, how much is it? etc, and we never made a real decision, but she said to 'go for it' when I found that $106 cable package) so I messaged her and suggested the Hulu/Netflix idea and that we could sign up after a month if we changed our minds.. she is totally ok with that. So happy ending :)
posted by queens86 at 11:14 AM on May 19 [14 favorites]


Don't forget Amazon Prime Student, which gets you 6 months free and then half-price Amazon Prime after that ($49/year instead of $99/year). 2-day shipping is awesome when you're busy studying and don't have time to go buy stuff, and you get Amazon Instant Streaming too, which fills in a few of the gaps with Hulu and Netflix (e.g. The Americans is only streamable from Amazon).
posted by The Michael The at 11:25 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


You don't want cable. You don't want to pay for cable. Start with that. You might find that your roommate doesn't want to pay for cable by herself. In which case, your problem is solved.

If your roommate still wants cable, gets it, and you end up watching it, or wanting to, you should be proactive about bringing up the question of what your fair share would be. You stop short of proposing anything, let her say what she would find fair. If you find it fair, then you can accept it. If you don't, then you should make a counteroffer. I think that paying half would be too much, unless you actually end up watching it a lot. A quarter might be fair. Anything less than a quarter wouldn't seem worth the bother, given the amount of money in question. If it is worth the bother, then one or both of you worry too much about small stuff, but if you do, you do, so best not to sweep it under the rug.
posted by Good Brain at 1:54 PM on May 19


In case she changes her mind and decides she wants cable after all (this is not a hypothetical situation, it happened in our apartment): I'm actually kind of shocked people are saying you should pay for cable TV that you don't watch. Every apartment I've ever been in, one or two roommates have TV and the rest don't -- usually they keep the TV in their rooms -- and the ones who do pay more of the cable/Internet bill accordingly. This isn't some kind of selfish arrangement in my experience, it's default. (n.b. I live in an expensive city with a lot of "I don't watch TV!" types)
posted by dekathelon at 3:29 PM on May 19


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