Q. My monthly cable TV bill just keeps going up and up. My last bill was about $20 more than before and I’m not even sure why! I don’t want to get rid of my service but I gotta get my bill down. Do you have any ideas? — Jennifer, Washington, D.C.
Jennifer, I feel your pain. Due to higher programming costs, and a few other reasons perhaps less justified, most TV providers annually raise their subscribers’ monthly fees. In fact, six major pay TV operators raised their bills again last January!
In addition to paying more for your programming package, cable and satellite operators routinely increase fees for other services, too, such as DVRs, Internet modems, regional sports channels, and the dreaded broadcast fee (local channels).
After they add it all up — and squeeze in taxes and other miscellaneous charges — it feels like you need a loan officer just to watch TV, or access the Internet.
But there are some things you can do to lower your bill. One is obvious. One may not be and I’m calling it, ‘The secret to saving money on your TV bill.’
First, the obvious one: Take a close look at your bill and think real hard if you really need everything you’re getting. For example, some TV providers charge almost $20 a month to rent a HD DVR. If you don’t record many shows, you could get by with a less expensive HD receiver.
Also, do you subscribe to premium channels such as HBO and Showtime? They usually cost more than $10 a month. If you don’t watch them very often, why pay the extra cash?
Of course, if you are using these types of services, that’s a different story and I wouldn’t tell you to drop them. But give it some serious thought. You might be surprised that you’re paying for things you really don’t need. With that in mind, what about your overall programming package? Do you need all the channels you’re getting? Would you be satisfied with a less expensive package that includes fewer channels?
For instance, if you don’t watch sports very often, some pay TV ops will offer cheaper plans that do not include sports channels. (These channels may also exclude regional sports channels, which will eliminate the regional sports fee.)
After you’ve done this review, there’s one more thing you can do. Yes, the secret thing. And it is…
Pick up a phone.
Yes, pick up a phone and call your TV provider. Tell the customer service person that you believe your bill is too high and you want to know what he or she can do to lower it.
It may sound crazy, but TV providers will often work with you to cut your bill down. They may offer you a six-month or annual discount on a program package or a premium channel. The reason why is that they want to keep you as a subscriber. The competition for video subscribers today is intense and the TV providers are desperate to keep their sub numbers up. They know that if you call and sound concerned, there’s a decent chance you will drop your service and sign up with someone else. So they have specials ready to keep you on board.
It may not work all the time — the TV providers are more likely to work with you if your bill is higher than average — but it does work.
So, give ’em a call. You might walk away with more cash in your pocket.
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— Phillip Swann