7 Tips for Cutting Cable Costs

March 14, 2012

Thanks to Andrea Woroch for sharing some tips on cutting cable costs in this guest post.

When I was a kid, cable television was a luxury. It was a rare treat only found at hotels and friends’ houses. My parents didn’t want to take on the extra expense and they worried all of the extra channels would turn my brain to mush.

Though it seemed like a grave injustice at the time, I now understand where mom and dad were coming from. When the monthly cable bill shows up I have to seriously question how much HBO means to me. If you feel like you’re spending way too much to watch your favorite shows, try a few of these tips for cutting the cost of cable.

1. Cancel Quickly
Cable companies use special promotions like free trials of movie channels to lure you in. Their hope is you’ll forget it’s only a preview and they covertly start charging you full price when the promotion is over. Your provider isn’t required to send out a notice when the trial is nearing its end, so the responsibility for cancelling on time falls on you. Otherwise you’ll find an unpleasant, expensive surprise in the mail the following month. Set a reminder on your phone or jot the promotion’s end date in a calendar.

2. Don’t Forget the Box
Surprisingly, the cable box is a prime culprit when it comes to running up your electricity bill. This article from The Consumerist notes that your cable box can use more electricity than your refrigerator or air conditioner. Instead of leaving it idle while you’re at work, power the whole thing down. Otherwise, use a lamp timer to program your cable box to turn on when you generally return from work and power down around bed time. This won’t do anything for your cable bill, but this will cut $40 a year per box off your electricity bill.

3. Switch to Streaming
There are lots of options for watching shows and movies online. Devices like Apple TV or Roku allow you to stream movies from the Internet directly to your TV. While streaming service from Netflix only runs $7.99 per month, the shows you want to watch aren’t always available. If you find yourself in this predicament, you can always order digital versions with a discount Amazon gift card from sites like GiftCardGranny.com to reduce costs further.

4. Eliminate HD
Getting high-definition channels can come with an extra charge as well as an extra equipment rental. If you casually watch a couple hours of TV each week, consider sticking with the standard definition package. Your friends might not want to watch March Madness at your place, but they’re not chipping in on the bill anyway. If you don’t even own an HDTV, check your bill closely to make sure you’re not paying for channels you can’t watch.

5. Ask for a Better Rate
There’s nothing to lose from calling up your cable company and asking for a better rate. They’re not going to start charging you more, and with a little hassle they’ll usually put you on one of their current promotions supposedly reserved for new customers. For a few negotiation tips, see this prime example of cable-bill haggling done right from Get Rich Slowly.

6. Swap Service
Sometimes a relationship has run its course and there’s nothing left to do to save it. When your cable provider is unwilling to budge on better price, it’s time for a break-up. Switching service is a hassle, but worth the savings in the long run. If you’re fed up with your current cable company, BillShrink.com has a helpful comparison tool that lets you view standard rates from top providers in your area.

7. Back to Broadcast
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the same can be said for TV today. Though there are still broadcast channels that don’t require a paid subscription, they do require a digital converter box or HD antenna. Picking these accessories up is a one-time expense of around $30, but provides unlimited access to major networks like NBC and FOX. Shop online at sites like Amazon.com to find the cheapest options and read product reviews to ensure quality.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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8 Responses to 7 Tips for Cutting Cable Costs

  • Victoria @LendNotBorrow

    I love your 5th point, to just ask for a better rate. As you said, they generally will put you on the promotion price. I’ve also noticed when you bring up the competitors offering price they are willing to give you the promotion price a little quicker!

  • ChristianPF

    Wow, this article really highlighted how much money we’ve saved by not having cable! Since my wife and I married 3 years ago, we’ve gone without cable. I had no clue that HD channels cost more! If we would have decided to get cable, surely we would have gotten HD!

    The Internet is our primary (and only, really) source of information. We’ll watch movies on Hulu and talks Ted.com occasionally but that’s it.

    Thanks for the reminder that we’re on the right track!

  • Tyler S.

    Making the switch to internet subscriptions (both Netflix and Hulu) proved the easiest way for me to save. Even those 2 combined were much cheaper than the lowest cable options which include so many channels I don’t need.

  • Jonathan

    Free trial are awesome. I do this frequently with other things like online DVD rental and gym memberships. In all truth we often buy things thinking we need it but then realise we don’t. A free trial gives you time to change your mind. I also make the most of the free trial period.

  • Jeff Crews

    ASking for a better rate is one of the best things you can do. I have done that for multiple things, and I have always been happy with the results. The key is Persistent and Polite!

  • Julie @ Freedom 48

    I too grew up without cable – we used an antenna on our roof, and got a total of 8 channels. Because of that, we spent so much more time running around, playing outside, building things etc. The ideal childhood =)
    So many people think cable is a necessity and couldn’t imagine living without it. That’s crazy!

  • Justin Mazza

    Good tips here Ben. As a kid we would have cable on and off again for years.

    I just got Directv HD installed and I now I can’t even watch “non HD” shows because of the poor picture quality.

    For the record I have the minimum channels allowed for Directv.I’m talking beneath basic. I don’t watch the TV that much but there are some shows and programs that I do enjoy watching.


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