Cable TV provides countless hours of entertainment by offering hundreds of shows, movies, and sporting events for your viewing pleasure. Throw in a DVR box and you’ve got your favorite programs recorded for whenever you’re ready to watch them.
But what’s the cost?
The average cost of cable television for 50% of American adults is more than $100 per month, according to Statista. That’s at least $1,200 each year, which is a hefty price to pay on an annual basis. Cable bills can go up over time, even if you haven’t added anything new to your package. This leaves you with one expensive bill you might be overpaying.
Here’s how to save money on your cable bill and reduce your overall costs.
How to save on your cable bill: 9 options
1. Bundle your services
Most major cable companies also provide other services, such as phone or high-speed internet service. You can often bundle these services together in one package to get a better price than paying for each service individually. This is one of many easy ways to lower your bills if you’re using multiple services in your household.
Of course, this money-saving method works only if you actually need multiple services. Phone services aren’t as commonly used, but almost everyone has internet in their home. So you could bundle your TV and internet services together for a potentially better deal than paying for both separately. This way, you lower your internet bill and cable bill at the same time.
In addition, cable companies will sometimes do major bundling promotions with better prices than paying for one service alone. Keep an eye out for these deals to score big on an excellent opportunity to get multiple services and save money.
2. Downsize your cable package
If you’ve been paying for a cable package for a while, you likely know by now what channels and programs you watch often. If there are certain channels you can do without, consider cutting them out of your package entirely. This could save you heaps of money on your cable bill every month.
Let’s say you added a premium channel, like HBO or Showtime, because the new series of your favorite show just started again. If you don’t use the channel much once the TV show has stopped airing, make sure you take it off your package. Otherwise, you’re paying for something you aren’t using and losing money in the process.
3. Get rid of the DVR
DVR capabilities can be incredibly convenient when you aren’t able to watch something when it’s airing on TV. However, how much are you paying for your DVR? Also, is it completely necessary?
Many TV networks, including ABC, CBS, and NBC, allow you to watch previously aired episodes of shows for a limited time after their live showing. You can easily get on their website or mobile app and see something you may have missed. If this saves you even $10 per month, that’s $120 per year you get to put back into your pocket.
4. Audit your bill
Cable bills tend to increase, but it’s not always clear why. If you’re vigilant about checking your bill every month, you’ll know exactly what new charges or fees were tacked on.
If you’re under contract, you shouldn’t see any change in your monthly cable bill. Although, once you’re out of contract, you might start seeing some rising numbers. Keep track of any promotions you signed up for, the equipment you’re paying for, and other miscellaneous charges. As long as you know what you’re supposed to be paying from the very start of your cable bill, you can easily discuss it with your cable company if you need to.
5. Negotiate with your provider
There’s typically nothing enjoyable about talking through your bills with your cable company, especially if you’re trying to negotiate a new rate. You want your bill to be lowered, the cable provider doesn’t want to lower it, and there ends up being little-to-no progress made. Unless, of course, you prepare for your negotiations before you make a phone call.
Normally, you’ll want to negotiate your cable bill because it’s higher than it used to be. If this is the case, you need to know how much you were paying, for how long, and what you want to pay for a new price. Also, scope out the competition and see what pricing you can get for a similar cable package.
Keep in mind, the cable company wants your business. Sure, it makes loads of money, but it’ll still lose money if you decide to leave. So even getting you back to your previous price point should be a good deal for the company. If you’re prepared with competitor prices and clearly set on getting your bill lowered, you’ll have a better chance of success.
This doesn’t mean you should be rude to any customer service representatives, though. Be polite and even friendly. Unsurprisingly, people tend to react better when you aren’t yelling at them. If you need to, ask for a manager. At the end of the day, you might not get your bill lowered, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
6. Choose a different provider
If you’ve tried negotiating with your cable provider and it went nowhere, it may be time to try out another company. Or, if there’s just too good of a deal to pass up with another company, it could be time to make a move.
Either way, going with a different cable provider is an easy way to save a lot of money on your cable bill. Cable companies want your business, so they’re going to compete against each other to offer the best deals. A common strategy for always getting the best deal on your cable service is to bounce between different companies.
When one promotion ends with a company and your bill inevitably goes up, look into seeing whether their competitors are offering promotional deals for new or returning customers. Then, lock in a deal with the service provider that offers you the most for the lowest price each month.
Unfortunately, this may not work if there aren’t multiple cable providers in your area, but it’s worth a shot if there are.
7. Hire someone to negotiate on your behalf
If you don’t like to negotiate bills yourself, consider using the Truebill service to help save you money. Truebill employs professionals to help get your bills under control, doing all the negotiating for you. If the Truebill team gets your bill lowered, it’ll charge 40% of what you save. So if it saves you $100, it takes $40.
To date, Truebill has helped people save more than $14 million dollars on bills, subscriptions, fees, and outages. It works with many popular companies, including AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. If you’re losing sleep over money, let the experts at Truebill take over and negotiate on your behalf.
8. Cut the cord
With the variety of streaming services out there, there’s not as much need for you to have cable anymore. Services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Disney+ provide plenty of original shows you can’t get anywhere else, plus they all have shows you might also find on regular TV. Some services, like Sling TV, allow you to customize your channel lineups and watch live TV. Certain streaming services even have partnerships with sports networks like ESPN, so you never have to miss a game.
Cable TV normally costs so much because you get a lot of channels and different things to watch. If you watch only specific shows or sports, though, look for a streaming service or two that has what you need. Paying for a few streaming services a month would typically be much more inexpensive than a cable bill that’s more than $100 per month. Switching to streaming is a smart choice when deciding how to make extra cash.
9. Get cash back on streaming services
If you go the route of cutting the cable cord and using credit cards for streaming services, there’s a lot of opportunities to save even more on your monthly bill. Some of the best cashback credit cards and the best travel credit cards offer great ways to earn rewards on streaming service purchases.
Consider taking advantage of the current Chase and Amex COVID-19 perks and the Chase Sapphire limited-time benefits. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll earn bonus points with select streaming services (like Netflix and Spotify) until Sep. 30, 2020. With The Platinum Card from American Express, receive up to $20 in monthly statement credits for select U.S. streaming services through Dec. 31, 2020.
FAQs about how to lower your cable bill
How can you negotiate a lower cable bill?
To negotiate a lower cable bill, you’ll need to call up your cable provider and talk with a customer service agent. Before calling, it’s a best practice to get prepared for the negotiation. If you’re still under contract with your cable provider, your bill shouldn’t be changing and you’ll likely be charged if you try to get out of it. Negotiations are best done when you’re out of a contract.
Once you’re out of contract, expect your cable bill to increase. This generally occurs when the contract expires and any promotional deals expired along with it. You can now cancel your service without having to pay any penalties, which is good for you. The cable company wants your business, so if you say you’d rather cancel than pay a higher price, it will take notice.
Before calling, get information on competitor pricing for other cable companies. This can help you discuss options with your cable provider and let them know you’re serious about leaving if you can’t get a better rate. Remember to stay calm, be polite, and ask for a supervisor if the person you’re talking to can’t help. You can always try calling again to get someone else as well.
What is the best alternative to cable?
Streaming services are easily the best cord-cutting alternative to cable TV. There are plenty of streaming services to choose from, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Sling TV, and more. You can choose between hundreds of different shows and movies to watch at any time, which negates the need for a DVR. Some even let you watch live TV. The best part? If you pay for multiple streaming services every month, it may still be less expensive than paying for a $100 or more per month cable bill.
Can you get basic cable for free?
You typically cannot get basic cable for free, but there are a few inexpensive ways to get some TV channels or alternative methods of watching shows and movies. If you buy an indoor or outdoor antenna, you may be able to tune into local channels without a cable box. You don’t have to pay a monthly fee, but you will have to buy an antenna, so it’s not completely free.
You can also opt for a satellite TV service like DirecTV, but you'll likely save the most money if you choose a streaming service. Most streaming services don’t cost too much each month compared to a cable bill and you get a lot of content for what you’re paying. And if you have a T-Mobile Magenta family plan, you get a free Netflix opportunity. Magenta and Magenta Military plans get a Netflix Basic subscription. Magenta Plus plans get a Netflix Standard subscription.
The bottom line on lowering your cable bill
Saving on your cable bill will depend on your situation and what you’re looking for. When you're looking at how to manage your money, the best way to save money is likely to get rid of that TV service altogether, but that’s not always the best option for everyone. To find the best solution for your situation, go through the tips we’ve listed and see which ones make the most sense to you. Remember, saving a few bucks a month might not seem like much, but over time that money really adds up.