5 Ways to Reduce (or Eliminate) Your Cable Bill

TV remote and sports on the TV screen

TV remote | Source: Thinkstock

It seems ridiculous one of the highest monthly bills due each month for many of us is the cable bill. No matter what provider you have, they’re always nickel and diming you, and before long your bill is way more than you bargained for.

Fear not though: You can easily cut your cable bill by being a smart consumer. We’ve developed a set of five steps to follow to make that monthly payment a little less painful. I’ve used some of these very techniques listed myself so I know they work, and many of them provide almost immediate relief.

So what are you waiting for?

1. Threaten to cancel

I’m surprised by the number of friends who’ve complained to me about their high cable bills, but haven’t tried one of the easiest tricks in the book: attempting to cancel. Most cable providers have some type of retention department whose sole purpose is to prevent you from doing exactly that. So why not give them something to do?

From personal experience with Comcast, I know that many of their promotional plans come with an expiration date which is not advertised well when you sign up. The easiest way to see if you’re on a promotional plan is to look at your bill. I know that both Comcast and DirecTV actually list the promotional discounts on the bill itself, oftentimes with the expiration date.

When that promotional period is about to end, call your cable provider and tell them you’re cancelling because your bill is increasing. They won’t let you get away most of the time as long as you’re pleasant on the phone, and you might even end up with a much better deal than when you signed up. After all, it costs more to gain a customer than to keep one.

2. Buy your own modem

Cisco modem

Cisco modem | Cisco

The biggest ripoffs often come in equipment rental. While you won’t be able to purchase your own cable box most of the time, you surely can buy your own cable modem. You’re paying each month not only for Internet service but the modem as well if you don’t.

This can cost you as much as $8 to $10 extra per month depending on your provider, according to Money. After as little as six months, you will have spent as much as it would have cost to buy the modem outright, if these prices from Best Buy are any guide.

Our suggestion? Buy the modem outright (making sure it’s supported by your cable provider first!). Cable Internet technologies don’t change quickly and you should get at least two, even three years of use out of it. You will save hundreds in rental fees over the life of the modem that would have otherwise gone right into the pocket of your cable provider, and if you move, you’ll still be able to use the same modem in many cases.

3. Pass on movie and premium channels

Living room with television

Living room with TV | Source: iStock

Unless you have a real need for them (say, HBO for Game of Thrones), kick premium channels to the curb. It is cheaper to subscribe to an online movie service like Netflix or even Amazon Prime instead.  Netflix is $8 per month, and Prime $99 for the year — in both cases cheaper than a premium channel package over the course of a year.

If you have a smart TV, chances are you won’t even need any kind of set-top box like a Roku either — the TV will have the compatible app built right in.

4. Cut out cable altogether

Source: iStock

Cutting the cord | iStock

With Netflix and Amazon Video available, you might actually be able to live without cable service at all. All providers offer an option for Internet only service which will save you a good deal of money. Is there really a need for those 200 channels you never watch? Probably not.

An enticing alternative if you still need live TV is Sling TV. For $20 per month you get access to two dozen live streaming channels including CNN, ESPN, A&E, and the History Channel. Sling also offers additional channel packages for news, sports, movies for an additional $5 per month each, and HBO live and on demand for another $15 per month.

5. Buy a digital antenna

hand reaching for the off button on a remote to turn off the TV

Watching TV | iStock.com

People are surprised to find how much over-the-air (antenna received) television has changed in the age of digital television. In the old days, our televisions received just one channel per broadcast, and picture quality wasn’t always the best if you weren’t getting good reception.

Digital TV changed this. Now several content streams can be sent at the same time, according to HowStuffWorks. Broadcasters piggyback their main network stream with several lower quality streams which broadcast simultaneously on so-called “sub channels.” And you either receive a crystal clear picture, or nothing at all. There’s no in between.

Take here in Philadelphia for example. I have ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC affiliates along with some independent channels. But in addition to these, according to Tablo, I have access to about two dozen other channels ranging from comedy to classic movie and game show networks. All free of charge.

Combined with Netflix and Sling — that sounds like enough reason to cut the cord.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald