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8 Strategies to Save Big on Your Cable Bills
If you’re trying to stick to a budget in 2017, you’ve probably been eyeing your cable bill - and you’re not alone.
More than 7.6 million people have canceled their TV subscriptions over the last five years to cut costs.
And it’s no wonder why. According to U.S. News & World Report, in 2015 the average customer paid well over $100 per month - and that was just for regular cable.
Start adding premium services like HBO or monthly subscriptions like Netflix, and a hefty chunk of your monthly budget goes straight to entertainment.
So: how do you lower your monthly costs and still get everything you want? Follow our 8 strategies to finally get a cable bill you can live with - without sacrificing the channels you love.
1. Scale Back
First, be ruthlessly honest about which channels you really watch. Are you taking advantage of the 150 stations competing for your attention?
Most people aren’t, and they’re finally wising up.
“In 2008, cable subscribers had 129 channels to choose from, and they watched an average of 17 channels in a given week,” explains The Economist. “Five years later, they had 189 channels, and were still watching only 17.5, or just under a tenth of the available offerings.”
It probably comes as little surprise, then, that consumers stopped paying for services they weren’t using, and started looking for ways to cut costs.
If you still like to watch the local news and network sitcoms, ask for bare-minimum pricing, or “skinny TV,” says finance writer Bob Sullivan.
“Providers, led by Verizon and Comcast, have come up with new bare-bones bundles that cost around $50,” reports Sullivan at Time.
“If you have an average cable bill and switch to a skinny package, you’ll save $600 annually.”
Not too shabby, eh?
2. Go Digital
With services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, you can watch just about any TV show or stream just about any movie - on your own schedule.
For plenty of customers, that’s more than enough, says tech reporter Timothy Stenovec.
“Nearly a fifth of Americans who use Netflix or Hulu don’t subscribe to cable TV,” writes Stenovec at Huffington Post. “And that number gets even higher if you look at a younger segment of the population. Almost a quarter of young adults between 18 and 34 who subscribe to Netflix or Hulu don’t pay for TV.”
These “never-cords” - consumers who’ve never paid for regular television service - are an ever-expanding demographic in the digital market.
Maybe it’s time to see what Millennials love so much about streaming services - and cut the cord yourself?
3. Do Your Research
Monopolies over TV services have eased over the past decade, says Sullivan, which makes it easier for customers to scout out the best deal.
“New entrants like Verizon’s FiOS and SlingTV have created genuine competition,” he writes at Time.
And once you find your optimal price point? Call and ask whether your current service provider can deliver the goods, advises finance writer Renee Morad.
“Connect with a customer service rep to hear about all the details and terms,” Morad explains. “Then call competing providers and tell them that you were offered this deal and were wondering if they can match or beat it.”
It may not be pretty, but pitting these giant cable companies against one another to compete for your business can result in major savings.
4. Weigh Your Options
If you’ve taken stock of the channels you use most often, you should have a good idea of what you can and can’t live without.
Don’t let cable companies pressure you into taking a service bundle you don’t need, just because it seems “cheaper.” Do the math, says Morad.
The savvy writer took her own advice, opting for a high-speed internet connection and a DIY DirecTV subscription. But be forewarned - it took plenty of phone calls and legwork to get the deal.
“I was able to lock in a reasonable price that—when coupled with the DirecTV monthly cost—was still lower than any similar bundle that was offered during my calls with various cable companies,” she reports.
If you combine good negotiating skills with top-notch research skills and a fearless attitude toward tech, it’s easy to uncover real bargains.
5. Play the Game
Have a high bill but not using all of your services? Then it’s time to put your best poker face on, says Vox.
"It pays to play hardball," explained a former Comcast customer rep to the online news site in 2014. "Threatening to cancel will get you further than outright asking for a discount."
That’s because customer service representatives only have so much wiggle room - their job is to get you to stay without giving you a price cut. And if they think you’re not serious about canceling your subscription, they won’t budge.
Decide ahead of time what you want to walk away with after your phone call - then be polite and firm until the rep cracks.
6. Be Your Own Advocate
You know the old saying “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”? Well, to get a good deal on your cable bill, you’re going to have to get used to being that squeaky wheel, my friend.
Negotiating your price down requires having a good understanding of the other offers out there - and asking for what you want.
Not sure you have the guts to do it? Check out a service like Clarity Money, which will help you lower your bills without getting on the phone.
“The company...identifies bills that are negotiable and provides a service that automatically renegotiates for a lower rate,” reports Jonathan Shieber at TechCrunch.com.
While Clarity Money charges a small fee for the service, the app is a good option for the phone-shy or time-crunched.
Plus, you get to use the app’s powerful algorithms - the same ones that drive credit card companies or utility services - to your own advantage.
Finally! Big data in favor of the little guy.
7. Hit the Window
While it’s not advertised, there’s a small window of time when negotiating with your cable company yields stellar results.
According to Sullivan, that window is about a week long - the week before your bill jumps to the higher, “regular” price.
“I had to call within seven days of my promotional price ending, I was told,” reports Sullivan. “Until then, the rep couldn’t sign me up for a new ‘save the customer’ deal.”
Sometimes there’s really nothing a rep can do without risking their job - or a deep cut in commission - so you might as well play the game.
Be sure to mark your Google Calendar for the week your promotion ends, and build out time in your busy schedule to negotiate a lower price.
Remember: you can always play hardball - especially if you’re armed with research about offers from your cable company’s competitor.
8. Try Again
Most customers who get bold and negotiate for lower prices only do so once - they get what they want and stop paying attention to their bill.
If you don’t keep checking on pricing, you could be missing out, says Morad.
“Even if you’re locked into a contract or are somewhat satisfied with your cable and internet bill, periodically make it a point to do your research and call around to be sure you’re getting the best price or taking advantage of the latest new deal,” suggests Morad at Forbes.
Get stuck with a stubborn rep when threatening to cancel your bill? You should definitely try again, says Timothy B. Lee at Vox.
Most customer service reps only have so many discounts they can offer each month - and you might have talked to someone who had nothing left to give.
“So if you wind up in a standoff with a particular representative, politely end the call and try again a few days later,” writes Lee. “You might get someone who has more flexibility to offer you a discount.”
You’ll never know unless you try - and the amount of money left over in your bank account will totally be worth it.
Tired of spending so much money on your cable bill? Trust us: you don’t have to take it anymore.
Between digital streaming services and customer service workarounds, there are plenty of deals to be had - as long as you know how to ask for them.
Stick to a monthly budget or use a money-saving app like Clarity Money to do your dirty work for you. But whatever you do, don’t settle for a high bill when you could be saving like a boss.
Have you negotiated with your cable company? Tell us what strategy helped you lower your bill in the comments below:
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