Have You Checked Your Cable Bill Recently?

If you haven’t paid attention to your cable bill recently, you might be paying more than you need to. The author shares his favorite tips for scoring savings.

This is not my usual type of article, but a recent money saving experience with my cable company inspired me to share my story with the FedSmith community in the hopes it might help you too.

My cable bill jumped recently by about $20 per month. It was partly due, I believe, to a previous promotion I had which expired, and it may also have been due to a recent speed increase applied to internet service in my area.

Regardless of the cause, I preferred the lower rate so I called Comcast to see what I could accomplish.

Periodically Check for Discounts

Cable companies often run different promotions that can save you money, so it’s worth calling at least once a year or so to see what’s available, especially if you’ve experienced a recent price increase due to your old promotion expiring. I have found that any given promotion I have lasts for 1 year after which time my bill will jump, sometimes by as much as double. If you have your bill payments on auto draft, remember to check the actual bill from time to time; you might be shocked if you haven’t looked at it recently.

Besides not having inquired about specials for a year, I also was not using some of the services I was paying for so that made it an easy pitch for me to make.

Be Prepared to Dig a Little

In my experience, Comcast always has some promotions running, they just aren’t necessarily publicized. I am less familiar with other companies, but I’d guess they likely do the same thing. It never hurts to ask.

When I called Comcast about a year ago to get my cable bill lowered at that time, the person I ended up talking to was wading through what was apparently a lengthy list of current promotions to find one that would suit my needs (he did find one). It took a couple of calls to find the right person and department, but don’t let that dissuade you. I found it to be well worth the effort as it cut my bill in half.

Knowing about potential obstacles such as this had left me largely dreading the call to Comcast this latest time because it can take quite a while or be frustrating. To the company’s credit, it was actually quite a pleasant experience. With only a modicum of difficulty with telling the computer why I was calling, I got a person right away who was friendly and helpful.

The first person I talked to said there were no current promotions but that I could cancel the service I wasn’t using to save some money. Ok great. I was then transferred to the customer care department to complete the transaction.

Ah, but the person in this department said there actually was a promotion. In fact, it kept my internet service at the new, higher speed, shaved $23 per month off of my bill, and it had no taxes or fees. Now we’re talking!

It did have a 1 year commitment, so be sure to look for any fine print such as this before signing anything. I was ok with it because I have no plans to move in the next year, and since I spend much of my time working online I am quite certain I will continue to need my internet service for the next 12 months.

Potential Savings

As I mentioned, my 10 minute phone call saved me $23 per month. When I called a year ago, it cut my bill in half, roughly a $50 savings per month. It might not sound like much, but it all adds up over time.

Other Savings Tips

Using the Competition

If you really want to swing for the fences, another tactic I’ve tried both myself and seen others use with success is pitting offers from companies against one another.

One person I talked to subscribed to DirecTV and was leasing the TV receivers. New models were out, so he called to get them but was told he would have to pay the full retail price out of his own pocket (roughly $800).

Frustrated by this, he checked with Dish and found they had comparable equipment and features for far less money (the equipment was provided at no cost to him), so he ordered service with Dish.

When he later called DirecTV to cancel, they then offered him the equipment he had wanted for free. It was too late as he had already set up the new service, but if he had said initially he would just cancel and go with Dish, he might have been able to get the discount without the hassle of actually switching since he was happy with the DirecTV service.

Of course, if you try this approach, be prepared for the company to call your bluff and force you into making a switch!

Know About Lease Fees

When it comes to home internet service, cable companies will charge you a modem rental fee to use the service. The advantage of this is it is their proprietary equipment and they will have more direct access to the device for troubleshooting or adjusting the settings which helps you in getting technical support. You can also generally upgrade to the latest and greatest cable modem any time or have it replaced for no additional cost if something goes wrong with it.

On the downside, you pay a fee for this, usually in the $10 – $15 per month range. A friend of mine is currently paying Comcast $11 per month for his. Seems small, but again, costs like this add up over time. You can buy a cable modem for $50 – $100 and pay no lease fee. It pays for itself in less than a year in most cases.

If you are comfortable enough with handling the technical aspect of managing and setting up your own equipment, this is a good cost saver.

I own my cable modem and have for a few years now and my service hasn’t missed a beat. In fact, Comcast has successfully increased the service’s speed in my area a couple of times since I’ve owned it. I’d estimate I’ve saved $300-$400 in lease fees so far by owning the modem outright.

Other Tips?

I’m sure many of you have had your own experiences with ways to save money on your cable bills; what other tips do you have that you’d like to share? Give us your best money saving tips in the comments below.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.