The State of Consumer Media Spending: How Much Are Americans Spending on Internet, Phone, and TV?

Are Americans paying too much for phone, internet, and TV?
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Peter Holslin
Dec 14, 2023
Icon Time To Read7 min read

Although incomes have been on a slight rise over the past year, a data analysis conducted by Reviews.org has found that Americans spend up to $282.55 per month on their internet plans, phone plans, streaming subscriptions, and cable TV packages. That’s 6% of the average U.S. worker’s monthly earnings, and those expenses add up considerably over time.

Over a 60-year-lifespan, most Americans can expect to drop about $189,420 on internet, phone, and TV. The good news is that there are lots of easy ways to save on your monthly media and telecom bills. For example, you can almost cut your phone bill in half simply by changing your cell phone plan—jumping from a major carrier like Verizon to a more affordable MVNO carrier can save you as much as $330 a year.

Read on for our analysis of telecom expenses and suggestions on ways to save.

How much are Americans spending? A breakdown of expenses

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. worker in the private sector makes $1,165.47 per week. That calculates out to an average annual income of slightly over $60,600 per year.

graphic showing lifetime cost of connectivity

Average income for U.S. workers:

  • $1,165.47 per week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics1
  • $60,604.44 per year

Government data shows that weekly earnings have been on a slight uptick since last year. But inflation has also gone up, exacerbated by raised interest rates and layoffs in industries like tech and media.2

And as our data finds, it’s costly to stay connected in an increasingly Wi-Fi’d world.

Average monthly telecommunication costs: 

  • Home internet plans: $81.29 per month
  • Cell phone plans (from Verizon, T-Mobile, or AT&T): $66.07 per month
  • Streaming services: $55.04 per month
  • Cable TV packages: $80.15 per month
  • Total: $282.55 per month

Average cost of home internet

Provider
Monthly price
Download speeds
Upload speeds
Data cap
Connection type
Learn more
$19.99-$120*75-2000 Mbps10-35 Mbps1200 MbpsCable/Fiber
$60-$6072-245 Mbps31-31 MbpsUnlimitedFixed Wireless
Spectrum
$19.99-$89.9930-1000 Mbps4-35 MbpsUnlimitedCable
$55-$225^300-5000 Mbps300-5000 MbpsUnlimitedFiber
$49.99-$89.99°300-2300 Mbps10-2300 MbpsUnlimitedFiber
$69.99-$299.99**12-100 Mbps3-3 MbpsUnlimitedSatellite
$50-$75††100-940 Mbps10-940 MbpsUnlimitedDSL/Fiber
$9.95-$149.99‡‡100-2000 Mbps5-100 Mbps1280 MbpsCable
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Pricing for some packages are for the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.
w/ Auto Pay. Regulatory fees included in monthly price for qualified accounts. See full terms.
Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter.
^ Price after $5/mo Autopay & Paperless bill discount (w/in 2 bills). Plus taxes $ fees. Limited availability. May not be available in your area.
° Price per month with Auto Pay & without select 5G mobile plans. Fios plan prices include taxes & fees
** Offer available to new qualifying customers. One-time standard installation fee may be due at checkout. Minimum 24-month service term required. Equipment lease fee is $12.99/mo. Taxes apply. Service is not available in all areas. Offer may be changed or withdrawn at any time.
†† Speed may not be available in your area. Paperless billing or prepay required. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply.
‡‡ Prices exclude taxes, surcharges, usage-based charges, certain equipment, and other fees or charges, which are subject to change.

Internet typically doesn’t cost as much as utilities like electricity, but it still puts a significant dent in consumers’ monthly expenses. Reviews.org’s data shows that Americans spend nearly $1,000 a year on their internet bills, which adds up to an estimated $58,923.64 over a person’s lifetime.

graphic with house image showing that households typically have 4 connected devices

The average U.S. netizen spends 4 hours and 52 minutes per day actively using their home internet. Most households have at least 4 devices connected to the home Wi-Fi network at any given time.

So quitting internet entirely is not going to happen for most of us—but it is possible to quit overspending on Wi-Fi.

How can you save money on internet?

The easiest way to save on internet is by downgrading your internet speeds. Depending on where you live in the United States, getting a basic internet plan can save you hundreds of dollars per year.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, internet providers have offered increasingly fast internet speeds to meet rising demand for customers. But most people don’t need pricey gigabit or multi-gigabit plans, which can cost upwards of $100 per month.

Cable and fiber internet providers typically offer bottom-tier plans for $50 a month or less. Speeds range from 100Mbps to 300Mbps—ample bandwidth to support a small or mid-sized household.

graphic showing average cost of internet by connection type

Here’s a quick rundown of other ways to save on your internet bill.

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Average cost of mobile phone plans

On average, Americans pay $66.07 a month for a phone plan from one of the Big Three cellular carriers. Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have the largest nationwide cellular networks, providing boosted speeds and increased data capacity over 4G LTE and 5G connections.

Thanks to the growing use of online tools and the advanced capabilities of wireless tech, the average American now spends 4.5 hours a day using their phone to make calls and scroll social media but also track their health, manage online bank accounts, operate smart-home devices, and more.

graphic with big 3 versus MVNO details

How can you save money on your mobile phone plan?

Just as with internet, you can save money by downgrading your phone plan without losing out on data or features.

Phone plans with unlimited data are the most popular mobile option on the market. And yet the average American uses only 13.5 GB of mobile data per month. That means you have an unnecessary expense when you pay $80 to $100 per month for an unlimited plan from one of the three major carriers—Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.

You can bring your bill down to nearly half of that if you spring for a plan with a tighter data cap, or by switching to a budget-friendly MVNO provider like Visible, Mint, or Tello. An MVNO mobile plan is 42% cheaper than a Big Three plan, costing just $38.50 per month on average. That calculates out to $19,848.73 in savings over a customer’s lifetime.

graphic showing americans spend 4.5 hours per day on phone

Here are a few other ideas to save money on your mobile bill:

 

Compare top cell phone plans by provider
Provider
Best for
Our plan pick
Plan price (1 line)
Details
Best deal for new customersUnlimited Data Plan$15/mo. for first three months
Best budget planUnlimited Text, Talk, and Data Plan$25/mo.
Bundle dealUnlimited Data Plan$45/mo.
Best bundle alternativeUnlimited Plus Data Option$39.99/mo.
Coverage$25 Unlimited Plan$25/mo.
Best family planUnlimited Basic$75/mo.
(3 lines)

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Average cost of cable TV

In terms of home expenses, Cable TV is on the pricier side of things. The average viewer spends $80.15 a month on their cable TV package, while satellite TV costs a bit more at $86.06 a month.

That adds up to just under $1,000 a year, or $57,706.76 over a 60-year lifespan.

The rise of streaming and the proliferation of streaming services have led to a lot of “cable cutters” doing away with their cable plans entirely, but cable is still a popular way to catch up on popular series—39.21% of Americans have a cable TV subscription.

How can you save money on your cable TV plan?

According to our data, Cox has the most expensive cable TV plans, with customers forking over an average of $103.25 per month. Spectrum has the lowest prices, with customers paying just $41.66 monthly on average.

Cable TV providers don’t always overlap geographically, but you can save big bucks by researching the cable TV options available in your area.

Budget out how much you can afford to pay each month and figure out what channels and features you want—whether it’s local news, cloud DVR, or a deal on premium offerings like HBO Max. From there you can look for a specific package that meets your needs. And remember that you can also look into streaming TV options like YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV.

Here are some other ways to save on cable and satellite TV:

  • Look for discounts and promotions that apply to specific groups like
  • Talk to customer service about bundle deals with phone and internet.
  • Avoid add-ons and additional services that add more expenses to your bill.
The best cable internet and TV bundle providers
Provider
Price
Download speed range
Data cap
Max available channels
Details
Xfinity$76.15-$151*75-1200 Mbps1.2 TB10-185
Cox$40-$225.99‡‡100-1000 Mbps1.25 TB75-250
Spectrum$69.98-$156.98-1-1000 MbpsUnlimited75-150
Optimum$80-$235^^300-940 MbpsUnlimited50-420
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Pricing for some packages are for the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.
‡‡ Prices exclude taxes, surcharges, usage-based charges, certain equipment, and other fees or charges, which are subject to change.
Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter.
^^ Prices w/Auto Pay & Paperless Bill plus taxes. Terms apply. Not available in all areas.

Average cost of streaming services

graphic showing streaming cost breakdown

It’s no secret that people can’t get enough of their streaming services. According to our data, one in three Americans believe subscription-based streaming services are a household need. On average, Americans are paying for three streaming services at a time.

But increased competition between entertainment companies and the dwindling number of cable TV subscriptions has made prices for streaming subscriptions jump up considerably in the past few years. In October, Netflix announced a $2 to $3 price hike on some of its plans, while the ad-free version of Discovery Plus went up by $2 a month. Hulu raised its standard ad-free plan from $14.99 per month to $17.99 per month.

Ouch! Considering that streamers now spend an average of $55.04 per month on their subscriptions, it’s important to be a bit more strategic about what you’re subscribing to these days to manage these pricing acrobatics.

How can you save? Just over 41% of Americans share their accounts with others to save on costs. Recent password-sharing crackdowns mean that might soon no longer be an option, so you may be better off downsizing your number of subscriptions and spending more time on free streaming services.

According to our data, Tubi TV is the most popular free streaming service, with 43% of streamers reporting to Reviews.org that they use the platform. Other popular options are The Roku Channel and Pluto TV.

Here are some other ways to save on streaming:

  • Prioritize your needs by unsubscribing from platforms you use infrequently.
  • Stagger your subscriptions, signing up for a platform temporarily to watch a specific show or movie, and then canceling when you finish.
  • Look for free trials from internet and mobile providers like Verizon and AT&T. 
Ad-supported streaming services
Service
Monthly price for with-ads plan
Monthly price for no ads plan
Details
Hulu$7.99/mo.$17.99/mo.
Disney+$7.99/mo.$13.99/mo.
Paramount+$5.99/mo.$11.99/mo.
Peacock$5.99/mo.$11.99/mo.
Max$9.99/mo.$15.99–$19.99/mo.
Netflix$6.99/mo.$15.49–$19.99/mo.
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

How much you can save on internet, phone, and TV

Are you worried about paying too much for internet, phone, and TV? Well, it’s time to worry less—if you play your cards right, you can save up to $157 a month on those expenses.

As we pointed out in the sections above, all it takes is a little ingenuity and resourcefulness to shave big bucks off your monthly bills. Here’s a final breakdown on the best ways to do it.

How to save on internet, phone, TV, and streaming:

  • You can save up to $50 a month by switching from gigabit internet to a 100Mbps or 300Mbps internet plan.
  • You can save up to $27.57 per month by choosing a low-cost MVNO cell phone plan over an unlimited plan from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon
  • You can save up to $61.59 per month on cable TV by switching providers or getting a lower-cost TV package.
  • You can save up to $18.34 a month by reducing the number of streaming services you use from three to two and using free streamers like The Roku Channel instead.

Methodology

To calculate the lifetime cost of being connected, we used the most recent pricing data available to determine the average monthly cost of internet, streaming, and cell phone bills.

We determined the average internet price by analyzing monthly internet plan pricing from providers across the United States.

To determine the average monthly cell phone bill, we sourced pricing data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Finally, to determine the average monthly cost of streaming, we surveyed 1,500 Americans to determine the median amount the average person spends on streaming services per month. We then used additional data from our survey to determine the most popular streaming services and determined the total monthly cost using standard pricing for each of these services.

We then scaled the average monthly cost of each of these services to determine how much, on average, Americans will spend on these services in a year and throughout their lifetime. Life expectancy was sourced from the World Health Organization.

All figures are in U.S. dollars.

Sources:

Peter Holslin
Written by
Peter Holslin
Peter is a journalist and editor who has been covering tech, culture, and music since the late 2000s. Prior to joining the Reviews.org team, he was the senior staff writer at HighSpeedInternet.com, where he covered 5G, mobile hotspots, and internet services. As a freelancer, he’s also written for Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, Pitchfork, LA Weekly, and many other publications. He studied writing and journalism at The New School University in New York City and got his start in the media industry as the music editor of the California alt-weekly San Diego CityBeat. He’s also a musician and DJ and owns too many vinyl records for his own good.

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