You are Probably Paying Too Much for Your Cable

Today I have an guest post by Mark Daoust from Debt Management – Talk!. I find the concept behind this site quite intriguing. It is a discussion forum where people get paid to share debt management tips, provide each other support and exchange success stories! By sharing the revenue generated by the forum with the people who participate, Mark hopes to get more and more people involved. (More info about the revenue sharing system here.) Neat, right? Anyway, today in his article Mark talks about his experience of trying to ditch cable. I really enjoyed the article - I hope you do too.

I am thoroughly convinced that most of us are actually addicted to cable. How can I say this?

Because I’m currently going through withdrawal myself.

My wife and I recently made the painful decision to cancel our cable television. Now this may not sound too difficult, but when you realize that since we do not have an antenna for our television we also do not get even the most basic network TV, and then the sacrifice becomes a little bigger (when “Heroes” starts up again we’ll definitely have to find some solution). Without television we are left with our Netflix subscription, which we just happened to drop down to the lowest level.

As painful as the sacrifice has been, it has taught me two things:

  1. Most people are paying way too much for cable (and could reduce their monthly expenses with one phone call), and
  2. Life without television has its definite rewards.

The decision to remove cable from our lives was done purely out of the desire to start applying more money every month to some old medical debt that we have, but I have learned a few lessons which I will certainly be applying in the future.

Cable Companies Will Negotiate with You

I actually tried to cancel cable more than once, but failed in my first attempt. It may sound odd, but between my personal desire to hold on to our cable television and the fact that the cable company was going to offer a monthly rate that was 25% cheaper than what I was currently paying was a very convincing sales pitch to keep cable flowing into my household.

What I had never realized, in fact, is that there was an option other than canceling my cable outright. I had no idea that the cable company would be willing to negotiate down what I was currently paying. I was frankly surprised that one phone call was able to save me 25% on my monthly bill – without an expiring date on the discount. This was a permanent discount on my cable bill.

But the price discounting surprise continued. Three months after I got my discount, my wife and I decided to axe the cable for the summer. I called the cable company determined to sever my ties with television – at least for the next few months. The agent that I talked to saw that I had already been receiving a discount, then proceeded to find out why I was cancelling. When I explained that I wanted to save money for the summer, she kicked into high gear negotiating a new price that would be acceptable to me. Although I didn’t accept any of her offers, I was surprised that some of the deals she was offering would have resulted in my monthly cable bill being reduced by as much as 60% with only minor changes to the stations I was receiving!

Since my original bill was approximately $110/month, and the discounted bill was about $50/month (a little less), I could have saved $720 over the previous year had I just contacted my cable company!

How to Negotiate with Cable Companies

I learned some great lessons from my cable-cancelling experiences that I will be applying when we fire back up the old cable line (assuming we don’t sign on with DirectTV). Cable doesn’t have to be as expensive as it is and can be a great place to save a good amount of money. Below are a few tips for saving money on your cable bill:

  1. Be Careful of Promotional Rates. Cable companies will rarely tell you how much you will pay after their promotional rates expire. Always find this out in advance and be sure to write down the expiration in you calendar, Blackberry, Outlook, Google Calendar, or whatever you use to keep track of important events.

  2. Don’t Be Afraid to Call Threatening to Cancel. Of course, you don’t want to be rude or abrasive, but just call your cable company and explain that you want to cancel or drop down to the most basic service. Chances are good that they will offer you a discount on your bill.

  3. When They Offer a Discount, Ask for a Bit More. When the representative does offer a discount, see if they can increase it a little. Be specific. If they offer you a rate of $74.95/month, ask if they can do $64.95. They may so no, they may meet you half way, but it never hurts to ask.

  4. If You Have Cable Internet, Try Dropping Your Bandwidth. Most cable internet companies will offer different levels of access speed. But what I have found is that the higher levels of access speed really do not make that much of a difference for the prices you will be paying. Dropping down to a lower speed can save you a lot of money without much of a noticeable difference in your surfing.

  5. Work with a Representative to Get a Package to Fit Your Needs. When I called to cancel, the representative asked me a lot of questions as to what channels we tend to watch as a family. What I found was that I was actually paying for a package that didn’t really meet what we were looking for. If I had decided to keep my cable, I could have saved a lot of money by simply getting a more appropriate package.

Finally, Consider Giving Up Cable for a While

While I still miss watching “Iron Chef” and all the interesting things on the History Channel, giving up cable has overall been a positive experience. I find that my evenings are now spent more with my daughter, with work, or with friends. There is more time to read books or to do things outside. Most importantly, I am saving over $100/month which is going directly into debt that would otherwise be hanging over my head.

And when I do fire up the cable again, I know that there will be plenty of promotions going on to lure me in as a customer. This time around I’ll see what I can do to get the most out of those promotions (with both the Cable company and satellite TV companies vying for my attention, I may have some leverage).

Am I still addicted to cable? Probably, but I would not be opposed to unplugging the chord next summer as well. The summer time is a great time to spend extra time outside and with family, and if I can save over $100/month to spend more time with family, then, well, that might just be worth it.

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Jon said...

I've lived without cable (and TV in general) for 2 or 3 years now and I'm still somewhat addicted. I don't exactly yearn for it all the time, but when I'm around a TV with cable it's like I can't look away! Even commercials are entertaining.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience with my cell company. I decided that I didn't need the phone anymore, so I called to cancel, and I ended up with a deal so fantastic that I ended up cancelling my landline instead. Companies are definitely willing to negotiate with you to keep you as a customer.

ispf said...

Jon: If you can find the commercials entertaining, you really must be addicted :) Seriously though, I admire your will power to go without cable/TV in spite of the addiction!!

anonymous: Yeah, that applies to several other businesses as well. When I called to cancel a credit card (this was before I smartened up about credit cards - don't ever cancel your credit cards since it brings down the average age and increases the utilization, and consequently could reduce your score) the rep talked me into an increased credit line with reduced APR. We were working on reducing our debt at that time and ended up moving the balance from other cards to this card!

Anonymous said...

You can watch Heroes online on the website and avoid the need for cable/reception that way...

Resident Alien said...

I had a similar experience with Comcast. I ended up getting the promotional deal that they were only offering new customers.