Life without a cable connection is unimaginable. We are simply addicted to television, but fail to realize that this addiction comes with a hefty price tag. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), basic cable prices have increased by 122% between 1995 and 2008. You may be surprised looking at this figure, and might wonder why these numbers are skyrocketing. It is simply because media companies are charging enormous fees to cable companies, and they, in turn, are passing the charge down to their customers.
The problem we face is that, we are tempted to add all the ‘attractive features’ to the package without giving them a second thought, just because they are available and are something new in the world of entertainment. Do we really need HD? We don’t. We don’t need all the ‘added features’ to watch our cherished TV shows. Buzzle will let you in on some tips to slash your cable bill, and still enjoy watching your favorite programs.
Track Your TV-watching Pattern
From today onwards, start keeping a track of the TV-watching pattern of the entire family. Do it religiously for one week. Maintain a diary if required. At the end of the week, if you realize that you only watch some specific shows, and very rarely sit down to watch a movie, then it’s time you review your cable bill. You will note that for a long time you have been paying a price for something you didn’t even use. After you recover from your realization, it’s time to act! You can knock off the channels that you and your family aren’t very interested in. Saving money is not easy, but at the end of the month, you’ll be happy with a little extra cushioning in your wallet.
Check Your Cable Bill Thoroughly
Month after month, you just grumble about the ‘amount-to-be-paid’ printed on the bill, and pay it without even giving a second glance at the finer print. This time, when you receive your cable bill, look at it closely. Start from the first sentence and read till the end. You may even come across a charge that has been put on your bill by mistake. For example, let’s take into account an action movie that you didn’t order. If you are sure that the levied charge is wrong, and you never used the service, go ahead, pick up the phone, and ask the provider to get the amount removed.
Remove Extra Features
First of all, when you read your bill carefully, you will realize the amount of money you pay for bells and whistles. It would be pointless to keep on paying an extra $10 for just one show on HBO or Showtime, when there are many other options available to watch the same show for half the price. Removal of premium channels can slash the bill by almost $50. For movies, rent from Redbox kiosks. For shows, stream them through Hulu or Roku.
Second thing to do is to decide if you really need the DVR taping function. Is it really that necessary to record live TV to watch it later, when you can just ‘watch it later’, without even paying half as much as you are paying for the DVR? Third, take a decision about the HD programming feature. You used to watch TV before HD came into existence… right? So why not now? If you switch your HD cable box for a Non-HD one, your bill will reduce by almost $20.
Next on the list, high-speed Internet connection. If you are only sending emails and doing some casual browsing, then I would recommend you to use only basic speed services. If you are paying extra for the maximum bandwidth available, downsize right away. After all ‘saving money’ is the aim… isn’t it?
Do Some Research
Before you pick up that phone and negotiate with your cable provider, do some research. You have to search for rates that other cable providers are offering. You can tap the power of the Internet to find the locations of some of the cable providers. Browse through their websites, call, or visit their store. Gather all the information you would require as leverage when you call your service provider.
You can also ask your friends, family, or people in the neighborhood, about their cable bills. If you realize that you are paying more than others, you can use that information as leverage again, to haggle with your cable provider. After you gather all the information, set a realistic goal for yourself. You have to be sure of what is it that you exactly want. A 15% reduction in the bill or the removal of extra features, or simply wanting to stop the services! Decide before calling.
Call Your Cable Provider
This is the main step towards lowering your bill. Keep all your information ready and call your provider. You don’t have to sound irate at all, in fact, you may have to indulge in a little bit of flattery. Start by informing them about the duration you have been with them. You could say that you were going through the yearly budget, and found that cable services are very pricey, and that you are going through a financially-strapped situation.
Tell them that the services that they provide are good but not affordable, so you are being forced to quit and opt for a cheaper option. Once you drop the ‘switch provider’ word, most of the time, it happens that out of the fear of losing a customer, they will offer a better deal or add some perks into your package. If removal of the extra features is your point, tell it upfront, and get them off your bill as soon as possible. Finally, if you do not get any positive results, be ready to switch providers.
Alternatives for a Cable Connection
If you can wait until your favorite show comes on the data-streaming websites, then you could save a major chunk on your bill. An alternative way to find all the ‘made-for-TV’ shows and movies, is on sites like Hulu. For a comparatively lesser charge, you can get them on Xbox, Wii, PS3, Roku, or AppleTV. You can also tap into Netflix and Amazon’s library of movies and TV shows, with paid memberships of around $10 – $15 per month. All of these require an Internet connection for data streaming.
You can also try to find a local video store in your locality, and hire the entire season of family-dramas and sitcoms as soon as they are out. The idea is, if you can pay and get the entire season of an exact favorite show or movie, why pay for the complete channel subscription.
So, if your cable bill is making you break into a sweat, follow these suggestions, and enjoy your favorite movies and shows on a shoestring budget.