What do you do when your cable bill rolls in each month? You probably have one of two reactions. You either get really angry at how much cable is costing you or you just sigh and accept it as an ugly but necessary part of life. If you’re typical you’ve seen your cable bill skyrocket over the past few years but you haven’t gotten a thing in return. You get exactly the same channels and the same mediocre customer support but it just keeps costing you more and more.
They’re beginning to hemorrhage customers
Every quarter the pay-tv industry loses hundreds of thousands of customers. However, about 100 million people in the US still pay for TV so any reports you’ve read about the demise of the $100 cable bill are premature. For that matter, a survey done recently by Consumer Reports learned that 68% of us still pay for cable or a comparable service so the magazine concluded that really only a “trickle” of people are really leaving the cable companies. Like it or not until there is some revolutionary change in how we get our television those cable bills are not going away.
There’s a middle ground
If you spend the average of $99 a month on cable and aren’t ready to completely cut the cord, there is a middle ground. It’s called cutting back. The people who do this are called “cord shavers” and here are six money-saving tips they use that your cable company doesn’t want you to know.
That survey from Consumer Reports also discovered that about 11% of TV fans have trimmed back their subscriptions to save money. The way they do this is by taking advantage of a new trend in cable offerings called “skinny TV”. This has come as the result of cable companies finally accepting the fact that we don’t want to watch 150 channels nor do we want to pay for them. Several of the cable TV providers led by Comcast and Verizon have come up with new skinny bundles that cost around $50. If you have the average cable bill of nearly $100 a month and switch to one of these skinny packages you should save about $600 a year, which is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, that might be enough to buy a new HDTV or to cover a subscription to one of the streaming services like Hulu, Netflix or Sling TV.
Threaten to quit
You probably know by now how the game is played. You call your cable TV company and threaten to quit its service. You’re then transferred to a customer retention department where you’re offered a special deal to remain a customer. You know about this tactic but maybe you forget, get distracted or just can’t be bothered to call. So you’re still overpaying. But paying full price for cable TV is like paying the MSRP for an automobile. You know that’s only for suckers and you don’t want to be one. Call your cable provider periodically and ask about your rate. You should be able to get an especially good deal when a competitor like FIOS moves into your neighborhood. There’s just nothing like new competition to get your cable provider in the mood to cut a deal.
Mark your calendar
You’re pretty happy that you’re paying just a discounted $55 a month or so for your TV when you open this month’s bill and see your cost has now gone to more than $130. Yikes! Of course, what’s happened is that your promotional period ended. If you notice it the first time you get that bigger bill you may be able to negotiate a better deal. In fact, you might even be able to get your cable provider to refund the difference between what you have been paying and the new bill. What’s important to understand is that any special deal you get from your cable company will end and it will end with no notice. However, you can prevent your bill from doubling by marking your calendar every time you’re able to negotiate a deal and setting a reminder to call before it expires. Incidentally, the reason why it’s important to mark your calendar is because it can be practically impossible to know when your discount will end. You may have to actually call and beg to learn when it will end.
Timing is critical
If you call your cable TV provider too early to ask for promotional pricing, you may be turned down. When you need to call is within seven days of when your promotional pricing will end. If you do this the customer rep should then be able to sign you up for a new deal. Make sure that you mark your calendar very precisely and that you set a reminder about two weeks before your promotional period ends to call the cable company again.
Buy your cable box
Not long ago one of the best money-saving tips was to buy your own cable box for around $50. It might cost you $4 or $5 per month to rent it so that your $50 purchase would pay for itself in a year. However, what with DVR, HD and even wireless networks today’s cable boxes can be vastly more complicated. It won’t be easy to buy your box or you might not be able to buy one at all. But don’t make the mistake of paying for boxes you don’t really need. If you stop to think about it your family might need only one box. You could then add Chromecast, Roku or an Apple TV in your bedroom and eliminate one box. Even better, our FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is attempting to open up the market for “boxes” to more competition. If it is able to do this, then boxes should get a lot cheaper.
Best of the money-saving tips – do an audit
Audit your TV watching over the course of the next month. The odds are you’ll find you don’t really need those 300 channels and that a $50 skinny package would be good enough. Or maybe Sling TV’s 20 or so channels at $20 a month along with an antenna to get free over-the-air TV, would be sufficient. The fact is that most of us could replace about 95% of our TV watching at less than 50% of the cost.