Do you want to cut your monthly cable and Internet bills, but can't live without "Pawn Stars" or streaming cat videos? You're not alone.
In fact, the cost of digital service packages that include cable, Internet, and phone jumped from an average of $48 in 2001 to $128 by 2011, according to data from the research firm, SNL Kagan.
And while services have improved over time to include options like high-definition channels and lightning-speed Internet, these costs can still take a toll on your wallet.
If you think your cable and Internet bills could use a trim, read on to learn how you could save - without completely sacrificing your digital lifestyle.
Tip #1 - Bundle Your Cable, Internet, and Phone
Looking to save a bundle on your digital services? Purchasing everything from one company - known as "bundling" - could get you a better deal.
Why? Because digital service companies want your business, and competition for customers can be stiff, according to "Save a Bundle," a 2010 survey from Consumer Reports. It also found that many companies often package their most popular services at a lower rate, while others try to tempt consumers by offering additional perks, like free installation, gift cards, and DVRs.
Steven Zussino, president of Canadian consumer savings website GroceryAlerts.ca, offers similar insight.
"You can most likely get your television, Internet, and telephone all through one company, which can lead to some big savings," says Zussino.
These bundled packages can include anything from "double-play" or "triple-play" options that offer combinations of two or three of those services. As if that weren't enough, some providers also offer "quad-play" packages that include a cell phone plan.
"Bundling can potentially result in significant monthly savings," says Andrew Schrage, editor of the consumer-savings website MoneyCrashers.com. "Just be sure to fully investigate the offerings before signing up to make sure you won't spend more money by receiving services you don't actually need."
According to Consumer Reports, bundling has satisfied 50 percent of their surveyed readers.
Tip #2 - Shop Around and Negotiate
We know, switching service providers can be a pain in the butt. However, shopping around for a deal that can save you money...well, that should always be worthwhile.
Perhaps that's why Schrage offers this suggestion: "If you can handle the inconvenience, switch companies whenever you see a cheaper rate."
You should also try to negotiate a deal without a contract so you can switch companies easily if you find a better deal, he adds.
But what if you have a certain amount of loyalty to your current provider? Totally understandable. And if you fall into this category, Zussino suggests talking to your provider to see what they can do for you.
"If you're considering leaving for another company, talk to the retention department first to see if they can offer a better deal," he says.
For example, ask your provider if they'll match a competitor's price on Internet service, or if they'll upgrade your Internet speed at a discounted price. See what they're willing to offer to get you to stay with them.
If they won't budge, then it might be time for you to consider your other options.
"Sometimes a relationship has run its course and there's nothing left to do to save it," says consumer-savings expert Andrea Woroch of Kinoli, Inc., a company dedicated to online and mobile money-savings solutions. If your provider is unwilling to budge on a better price, it may be time for a break-up, she says.
Woroch suggests using a comparison tool to find standard rates from the top providers in your area.
Tip #3 - Opt for the Basics
If you're serious about saving money and could live without cable, it's worth considering this option, according to Schrage.
But if you think giving up on cable means giving up on your favorite TV dramas or reality shows, think again. Even without cable, there are plenty of ways to see your favorite shows, says Zussino, who advises you to see if the shows you watch are available online.
If they are offered online, then giving up cable and investing in higher-speed Internet might be a smart money-saving option for you.
While it might seem crazy, there are quite a few people out there living without cable. According to "Cutting the Cable Cord," a 2012 survey by the consumer website TechBargains.com, 29 percent of consumers don't have either cable or digital satellite service. What's more, an additional 17 percent said they were planning to end their cable service within a year.
Of course, if you're a TV-fiend, cutting cable from your life and streaming TV shows online may not bring you as much satisfaction.
The Bottom Line
Whether it's cutting premium channels, downgrading to a slower Internet speed, or simply shopping around for the best rates, it's up to you to determine what the right option is for your digital lifestyle - and wallet.
Tip #4 - Trim the Extras
Do you really need 500 channels and three paid movie services? What about high-speed Internet and HDTV? If you're not using these services to their full potential, cutting them from your plan could save you big.
In fact, "The best way to lower your cable bill is to examine your cable package and determine services and channels that you can cut," says Schrage. He suggests figuring out which channels you view the most and downgrading to a less expensive package.
The same applies to high-definition channels, says Woroch.
"Getting high-definition channels comes with an extra charge as well as an extra equipment rental," she says. If you casually watch a couple hours of TV each week, Woroch suggests sticking with the standard definition package.
As for cutting Internet costs, Schrage says that unless you're a heavy Internet user - someone who streams HD videos, for example - "consider reducing your connection speed." Even if trimming this service results in only $10 of monthly savings, he says, that's a total annual savings of $120.