Cut the Cord! Cheap TV Offers More Than You Think

Save money

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If you’re wondering how to save money on your cable bill, it’s easier than you think.

Just recently, I noticed my cable bill had gone from $134 a month to $151. I called to find out why, since I knew that I was locked into a two-year contract with this company and it wasn’t up yet. I was informed that the $134 rate was only for the first year of the contract. WTH? What kind of contract is that?!

For most of my life, I have believed there was a special place in hell reserved for cable companies. (This spot has now been taken by companies that manufacture printers that only work with ink that costs more per ounce than cocaine.)

But I have to admit that the guy I talked to at my cable company was helpful and I ended up with a $115-a-month bill. I had to give up some channels, but I didn’t watch them much anyway.

The cable rep mentioned that he had to make a lot of deals lately, as customers were staying away from cable in droves. He attributed the reason to the availability of cheap TV, including free programming online, and millennials’ preference for watching “videos of themselves.”

Call Your Cable Company

So if you want to know how to save money on your cable bill, first find out what you’re even paying for. Log onto your account and review the charges. If you don’t know what they’re for, give a call to your cable company and find out. Ask how you can save money on your cable bill — you’ll probably find out that you do have some options.

Consumer Reports says bundling services sometimes helps. If you get TV, internet and phone, for instance, the charge may end up being less than you would pay for each separately.

Digital TV

When digital TV first came out, angry cable subscribers returned their converter boxes en masse and became DTV devotees. Sure, there was the layout of cash for the dish and converter box, but oh, the rapture of declaring independence from the cable company!

The newness of America’s affair with DTV wore off as soon as a slight breeze blew, knocking out service. This is annoying any time it happens, but to get the dreaded “No Signal” message during overtime or right before the season finale of Game of Thrones is just horrifying.

DTV is cheaper, but you have to be the laid-back type to not let the outages get to you. Livewire gives some hints for securing a more reliable signal.

Netflix

At $11 to $14 per month, Netflix is the bargain that everyone’s taking advantage of. This service allows you to watch as many movies, old TV shows, new TV shows, original shows and specials as you want. But only the ones they have, which may not be the ones you like. So that’s the drawback.

One other potential drawback is who you share your Netflix account with. Your subscriber fee allows up to four people to watch different shows at once. If you keep giving your password to people you date, co-workers, family members or your teenagers (who give it to 30 of their closest friends), you could find yourself all snuggled up in bed with a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a 2-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper only to find you can’t get into your account, because a bunch of people you don’t even know are using it.

Similar to Netflix are Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other subscriber services.

Money management
Many viewers today watch programs on devices other than TVs.

What Can You Get for Free?

Many providers, including Netflix and Hulu, offer free trials. If you’re clever, resourceful and good at remembering stuff, like when to cancel the service before your credit card gets charged, then you could probably get away with free programming for up to a year.

CNET lists five sources of free programming, although you can’t be too fussy about what you want to watch. But that’s the point, right? If you can’t live without seeing the latest episodes of your favorite shows, it’s worth the money you pay to your cable company to be able to see them.

But some people just don’t watch enough TV to make that $150-a-month bill worth it. You can save money by opting for pay-per-view. Or stock up on DVDs in the $5 bin at Best Buy, GameStop, Target or Walmart. If you like them, you can save by watching them over and over, and if you don’t like them, get rid of them at a yard sale for $1 each and at least get some money back.

Your local library likely has thousands of DVDs. You can watch a different one every night for years without paying a penny. This is great, free entertainment for children as well. When my son was little, he took a liking to an odd series of VHS tapes called, “There Goes a …” — a half-hour look at different vehicles. There Goes a Tractor, There Goes an Airplane, There Goes a Firetruck — you get the idea. He watched each one dozens of times. Even if your kids like something mainstream like Thomas the Tank, your library probably has that.

So many consumers today are focused on paying off debt and looking for ways to save. Reducing — or eliminating — your cable bill is a great way to do that.

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