Paying too much for cable? Four tips to save

Consumers who fear they might be paying too much for cable services can take these four steps to lower their costs.

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Are you someone who enjoys having cable TV, but feel your monthly bill is too high?

Don't worry - you don't have to cut the cord on your cable service to score a lower monthly payment. Intrigued?

To get more entertainment value from your cable dollars, turn your attention to the following four tips that could help lower your cable bill and raise your levels of customer satisfaction.

Tip #1: Shop Around and Switch Providers

If you think your cable TV bill is unreasonably high, don't get mad, get even - by shopping around for a better deal.

But before you get into shopping mode, you should first consider your budget and the services/channels you want, says Nelson Santiago, a community outreach manager for Consumer Action, a San Francisco-based consumer rights agency.

From there, Santiago suggests checking out Consumer Reports, the product testing organization with print and online publications, to assess the different services that providers offer.

"Consumer Reports gets into customer satisfaction and issues you might have with these services," Santiago says.

Once you've done your research, you could then make a more informed decision about which cable provider has the best overall deal. You should also check with friends to see what they think of their current provider.

At this point, if another provider appears to be a better match for you based on factors such as price, performance, and customer satisfaction, it might be time for you to make a switch. You'll also want to keep in mind that certain providers don't offer coverage in select areas, so make sure to look into that, too.

[Think it's time to switch cable providers? Click to compare rates from providers in your area now.]

Tip #2: Bundle Cable with other Digital Services

Babies are known as bundles of joy, but "digital" bundles could bring joy to cable TV subscribers who want - and need - to cut back on monthly expenditures.

Digital "bundles" often combine a variety of telecommunications services - including TV, Internet, and local and long-distance telephone service.

Research firm, J.D. Power and Associates, says bundling is particularly appealing to those renting an apartment or home, its website notes.

The benefits of bundling services, according to the research firm, include:

  • Convenience of dealing with a single provider
  • Receiving a  discounted price for using additional services
  • Receiving a single bill instead of separate bills for individual services

Santiago warns, however, that bundling isn't an automatic solution to saving money on your cable TV bill.

"You have to do the math and really figure it out," he says."Don't go into bundling blindly."

[Think bundling cable, phone, and Internet is right for you? Click to compare rates now.]

Tip #3: Inquire about Discounts and Promotions

Cable TV services typically require some sort of contract that makes you commit to a subscription rate for a year, Santiago says. But once this honeymoon period ends, he recommends you contact your service provider to inquire about possible discounts and promotions.

"If you ask, you may be able to qualify for some offered discounts that you didn't know about, like getting a premium service for two years and getting the second year half-off," Santiago says.

Of course, discounts and promotions often come to an end, so you'll want to consider the following factors when inquiring about discounts, according to the Consumer Action website:

  • Make yourself aware when any promotion ends, how much the price will increase, and whether the promotion locks you into a contract.
  • "Make sure you understand the 'fine print' of your service plan," as early cancellation fees could be expensive - even if you are paying a discounted rate.
  • Never ignore those change-of-terms notices you receive

Remember, not all discounts are created equal. Really take some time to shop around and compare offers from different cable providers.

[Ready to compare offers and rates from multiple cable providers? Click here.]

Tip #4: Cut back on Premium Channels

Just like craving chocolate or biting your nails, subscribing to premium channels can be habit forming for customers of cable TV service.

So if you are a premium subscriber, how do you kick the premium habit in order to save money?

Santiago says being realistic with your needs is a good way to start.

For example, "If you decide that the premium channels are just playing the same thing over and over again, maybe it's not worth the $10 or $15 a month you pay for them," Santiago says.

If you're worried that you might miss out on something by not having a particular premium offering, you might want to track your viewing habits for a period of time to see how many hours you are really spending with a particular channel. If the number is high, you'll at least know your money is being well spent. If the number is low, it may be time to axe certain channels from your subscription list.

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