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Save on your cable bill with these smart strategies

Tired of paying a ton of money for your cable? Lowering your monthly cable bill could be easier than you think with these smart strategies.

By Diana Bocco

If you feel like you've been wasting your money on cable bills, you probably have been. Luckily, there are some options you can take to reduce your cable bill.

From extreme measures like cutting the cord, to more small-scale actions like researching cable providers, there are some proven ways to help you put money back into your pocket. Ready to stop wasting money on your cable bill? Consider these strategies…

#1: Switch Cable Providers during the Right Time of Year

If you're lucky enough to live in an area with several cable companies competing for your business, you have a big advantage says Jon Lal, money-saving expert and founder of the free coupon site, BeFrugal.com.

With multiple providers in your area, you can compare offers and discounts before picking the most suitable company, Lal says.

Ready to Save? Click to compare rates from providers in your area now.

However, in addition to being picky about what cable provider you want, you should also be conscious of when to change providers.

In fact, Lal says that cable prices might vary depending on the time of year, so it might pay to wait a couple of months before picking up the phone.

"For example, there may be special pricing available during the fall, especially if you are in an area with several colleges, as a cable company is competing for business," Lal says.

So before you decide to jump ship on you current provider, make sure to do your research and find out which companies offer the best rates - and when.

#2: Got a Triple Play Package? Don't Forget to Bundle Your Cell Service, Too

The most popular bundles typically combine cable TV, Internet, and phone services into one package.  The idea behind bundling is that getting a package that offers all services together can save you money.

However, according to May 2013 telecom research by the Consumer Reports Research Center, "You can get even more discounts by adding cell-phone service to a triple play. Verizon and AT&T offer such 'quad plays.' Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner offer them (with Verizon Wireless phones) in some locations," notes Consumer Reports' website.

Of course, before you choose to bundle any or all of your services, you need to first determine if it's really worth the savings. For example, Warrick says that if you only use the basics, like local calling and standard TV, then a bundle probably isn't worth it. Most bundles come with more premium services, like nationwide calling and a bigger channel lineup.

"But, if you heavily use cable TV, long-distance calling, and Internet, well, then a bundle might make more sense," Warrick adds.

According to Yung Trang, president and editor-in-chief of TechBargains.com, you can save at least 25 percent by bundling cable, Internet, and phone or any variation of these services (instead of paying for them separately).

Another way bundling saves you money? If you choose not to bundle and go with individual providers for each service, you can end up spending $20 to $30 set up fees for each technician, Trang says. "Save the extra money by bundling and only paying one set up fee," he adds.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that bundling discounts often last for only six to 12 months. "Be sure to call before the bundle discount expires and negotiate a new rate," Trang adds.

Ready to Save? Click to compare rates from providers in your area now.

#3: Opt for Netflix or Hulu Instead

More and more TV shows are now available online (and yes, we do mean legally), so if you only watch a few select shows, streaming TV via subscriptions with Netflix and Hulu might help you cut costs.

"Streaming can work out well if you're a casual viewer or only watch certain shows, Warrick says. "For example, if you're one of those people who only watches Mad Men religiously, you probably don't need an expansive cable package since you can locate and watch the program you want on a streaming service," Warrick adds.

The best part? When it comes to picking out your streaming services, there's a ton of options for TV and movie lovers alike. So, how much do these streaming subscriptions cost? Here's a look at four popular options:

  • Netflix: $7.99/month
  • HuluPLUS: $7.99/month
  • Amazon Prime Instant Video: $79/year
  • Vudu: Rent movies for $2 for 2 nights

And while these prices do fare better when compared to cable, there are some downsides to streaming that you should also be aware of.

To start, the availability of television shows is somewhat inconsistent. "Some shows are uploaded the next day, while some take a week or even a month to be added," says Jeff Haynes, TechBargains.com editor. And if you're a big sports fan, streaming options will leave you frustrated, because many streaming venues don't provide live coverage. "The best and most timely sports coverage remains on network and cable TV," Haynes explains.

Finally, keep in mind that you'll need to bump up your Internet connection if you want to watch shows and movies. For example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends a minimum download speed of 4 Mbps to watch high definition (HD) video and 1.5 Mbps to stream feature movies.

Ready to Save? Click to compare Internet rates from providers in your area now.

#4: Negotiate Everything: Rates, Channels, Fees, etc.

It never hurts to ask your current provider if it's possible to lower your monthly bill, according to Jackie Warrick, chief savings advisor for CouponCabin.com.

But before you pick up the phone and call your cable company, Warrick recommends figuring out exactly what you want. Do you want to lower your monthly bill by 10 or 20 percent? Or maybe you want your movie channels for free?

"Have this information ready so you're not ambivalent once you start talking to them," Warrick says.

If there is more than one cable provider in your area, you should also research their prices before starting any negotiation process.

"Before you call, find out competitors' rates and what your provider offers new customers," says Julie Vlahon, communications representative for TechBargains.com. Then, when you call your cable company, make it a point to mention that their competitors are offering lower prices.

"The last time I complained to my cable provider, not only did they lower my monthly bill by $20, but they also offered free HBO for six months, free Showtime for a year and removed the monthly fee for my DVR [digital video recorder] for six months," Vlahon says.

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