Stressed about your monthly expenses when it comes to cable? Join the club.
Cable doesn't come cheap, and more consumers are debating whether or not to cut the cord on cable entirely.
But for those of you who don't want to lose your premium shows or sports channels, we've got some good news for you: By doing things such as bundling your cable and internet, negotiating your rate, or even switching providers, you could lower your monthly bill.
In fact, "I think most people who are successful at lowering their bills use the threat of leaving as their primary tactic to negotiating either a reduced monthly bill or the extension of new customer discounts," says Jeff Heynen, directing analyst of broadband access and pay TV for Infonetics Research, a market research firm that specializes in the global communications market.
Ready to learn about potential ways to cut cable costs? Check out these tips...
Shop Around and Switch Providers
While switching providers isn't an option for everyone, for those of you who do have the luxury of choosing between multiple providers, it could pay to do your homework.
And here's why: "At this point, all broadcast TV services are basically the same," Heynen says. "You access the same channels regardless whether you subscribe to Comcast, Dish, or Verizon. So, leaving one provider for another doesn't disrupt the household as much as it used to."
For this reason, Heynan says that "people play this game year-after-year, moving from one service provider to another, especially if their existing service provider isn't willing to negotiate to keep them as a customer."
So, if you find that your current provider isn't willing to offer you a lower rate, consider going on a slightly less glamorous version of a shopping spree and investigate the prices offered by other providers. You can do Internet research on various companies and speak to representatives to get price quotes.
Researching rates from other companies can also create leverage to discuss your rate with your existing company - and often times your company will offer a discount or some "freebie" options, according to Heynen.
"It costs a service provider hundreds of dollars in marketing and customer acquisition costs to secure a new subscriber," he adds. "So, they really don't want to lose you once they have you. Use that leverage when you negotiate."
Take Advantage of New Customer Discounts and Extras
By shopping around for the best cable packages, you can also get the added bonus of a new customer discount. While discount rates may vary depending on provider, it's worth your time to do research and see what companies are willing to offer in order to make you a customer.
For example, as of February 20, 2013, Comcast's website offers three months of HBO for free to new customers. Other companies, like Dish Network, currently have a referral promotion which lets you save an extra $50 when you're referred by a friend.
And sure, these savings may pale in comparison to what you have to pay on a monthly basis, but hey, any little bit can help, right?
What's more, if you decide to stay with your existing company after you've explored your options, you can utilize your newfound research to try and score similar new customer discounts.
"If you have been a loyal, paying subscriber and you feel slighted by all the incentives offered to new subscribers, you can usually get some of those perks just by mentioning the fact that you feel you are being treated unfairly just for being loyal," says Heynen.
Evaluate Bundling Offers
Finding a company that can combine your cable, Internet, and phone services could equal a winning formula.
"The more services you get, the bigger the discount," says Heynen, who notes that using the same provider for all digital services is always a quick fix to reduce your monthly bill.
However, it may not be a winning formula or quick fix if you don't end up utilizing the additional services you're paying for - like a landline - for example. That's why it's important for you to evaluate the need for the services you're thinking about bundling together.
Even so, Heynen suggests taking a home phone service, no matter if it's not 100 percent necessary for your lifestyle and needs.
"Generally, the monthly price for having the service is more than offset by the discounts you receive on TV and high-speed Internet service," he says.
But as a warning, Heynen suggests paying attention to the time frame on your bundled rate discount.
"Cable operators are generally the best at offering bundled discounts, though you always have to be aware of when that bundled rate goes away," he says, adding that you can always negotiate to keep that lower rate. "The more services you have, the more aggressively your service provider will vie for your business should you threaten to leave."