Whether it's "Big Love" on HBO or "What Not to Wear" on TLC that keeps you on the edge of your seat, one thing is certain - you simply could not live without cable. However, that precious cable box that allows you to watch all of your favorite shows comes at a hefty price. And unfortunately, that cost continues to rise year after year.
As the media companies that own all the fabulous TV shows you adore continue to charge cable companies higher fees to broadcast their programs, cable companies then turn around and pass those costs along to you. As a matter of fact, the price of basic cable skyrocketed by 122% between 1995 and 2008, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
But you continue to pay those phenomenally high cable bills because you just can't imagine living without A&E's "Dog the Bounty Hunter" or Showtime's loveable serial killer drama "Dexter". Luckily, there are many ways to save on cable - and you won't even have to miss your most cherished television shows to do it. Here are five simple tips for slashing your cable bill.
Tip #1: Pay attention to what you actually watch.
Your cable plan may offer hundreds of channels, but if you're like most viewers, you probably gravitate to only a handful of networks.
For the next week or two, take notes and keep tabs on what you actually watch. If you find that you never flip over to those expensive movie networks, get rid of them! You could save hundreds of dollars throughout the year. (Saving money can be a chore, but these tricks put money in your pocket with no effort at all. Don't miss 5 Painless Ways To Save More Money.)
Tip #2: Take a closer look at your cable bill.
Far too many consumers simply pay their cable bill without a second glance at the fine print. You may mutter under your breath about how your cable plan is way too expensive, but you go ahead and write that check. Take time to actually read through your cable bill.
First of all, like anyone else, cable companies often make mistakes. Let's say you find a charge for a cartoon movie about fairy princesses and you know for a fact you didn't order it (sure you didn't). Call your cable company and ask them to remove the charge.
As you look through your bill, think about other ways you could save money. Most cable companies will allow you to bundle your high speed internet bill with your cable bill and you can even throw in your phone bill for good measure. Depending on the company, these bundle plans could save you up to $40 month! However, be sure to do a thorough price comparison before you make the switch.
Tip #3: Break up with your cable company.
Look around at what other cable or satellite companies charge for plans similar to yours. If it's far less than what you're currently paying, it may be time to make the switch. Plus, when you call your current cable company to leave, they may offer you a deal you can't refuse.
However, be careful - many cable companies may offer you a promotional discount in return for a longer contract. For example, they may offer you a $15 a month discount, but they'll rope you in for another year. If you plan to stay with that company for a while anyway, go for it! (If you'd like to save more money, first you'll need to conquer the first step: coming up with the cash. Check out Top 6 Mindless Money Wasters.)
Tip #4: Explore other viewing options.
If you're addicted to those high-cost premium channels, you may think there's just no way to cut down your cable bill. Not true! If you can stand to wait for your favorite shows to come out on DVD, you could save loads of cash. Simply subscribe to Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq:NFLX) or join a video store and you can rent the entire season for your favorite show as soon as it releases. You may even be able to check out DVDs from your local library for free.
You can also download most TV shows from iTunes for just $35 for an entire season. If you know exactly what shows you like, why pay for the entire network? These days, when it comes to catching your can't-miss television shows, there are countless low-cost alternatives to cable.
Tip #5: Turn off the idiot box.
Let's face it: the more time you spend flipping through the channels, the more TV shows you end up hooked on. Less time vegging out in front of the tube will mean a less lengthy list of can't-miss TV shows. (Conquer two of your New Year's resolutions in one - lose weight and save money with 7 Ways To Trim Your Budget - And Your Waistline.)
Take some time this week to do something other than watching television. Take your dog for a long walk, go to the park with your kids or play Trivial Pursuit with your spouse. Not only will this allow you to get some exercise and spend more time with your loved ones, but it also may help you realize that there are more important things in life than Dexter's next victim or whether or not Bill is going to bring a fourth wife into the family.