What to Do If Your Cable TV Bill is Too High

by AJ Pettersen · 215 comments

Cable companies are a supreme example of a natural monopoly. They’re the easiest example for economics professors to use, because, due to structural conditions, only a few competitors can exist in any cable market. Often, there is only one option that consumers can choose. The consumer has no leverage and is thus at the mercy of the cable company.

Over the years, the price of cable has increased significantly. Luckily, other forms of technology and media have grown as well, leading to a shift in favor of the consumer.

If your cable bill is too high, you now have options. 

Netflix and Hulu Plus

The internet age has opened the door to new companies, such as Netflix streaming and Hulu Plus, to compete with cable companies.

Netflix offers a wide selection of movies and TV shows, while keeping their price low ($7.99/month). They offer full seasons of TV shows, movies, and HD quality video. While Netflix doesn’t offer a lot of newer shows, they make up for it with quality streaming and a huge array of movies. One account can have up to six devices, with up to four running at once. You can even split the cost among friends and family, which will reduce the price even more. I have had Netflix for over a year now and have been very satisfied.

For the same price as Netflix, Hulu Plus offers a similar platform with a different approach. Hulu Plus puts new episodes of shows on their site the day after they’re aired. My future sister-in-law and her husband have recently dropped cable in favor of Hulu Plus. They can now watch their favorite shows the day after they’re aired, for a fraction of the cost of cable and DVR.

Dish Network

The likes of Dish Network and DirecTV have been competing with the cable companies for a while, and they generally offer lower prices. My fiancé and I currently pay $50 a month for her cable bill, while Dish Network and DirecTV offer yearly contracts for $35/month and $30/month, respectively. For us, getting a dish is out of the question, because she lives in an apartment.

It could be a good option for homeowners, though, as they’ll get a full set of channels and could save a couple hundred dollars per year.

Call Customer Service

Sometimes, a call to customer service is enough to drop your monthly bill. If you look at the current Verizon FiOS promotion codes or AT&T U-Verse coupon codes, you’ll see that the bundle prices are usually guaranteed for one to two years. After that, the cable companies are free to raise their rates considerably.

If you call and say you’re considering switching companies, however, they’ll frequently offer you a “one-time” special offer. This may seem like a backwards approach, but I’ve seen it work numerous times.

What Will You Do?

Is cable best for you? Spending $600 a year on cable is less than ideal, but it’s what my fiancé and I decided was right for us in our current situation. In the future, when we’re both working longer hours, we may consider switching to something different.

Thanks to advances in technology, we now have the ability to make choices about the way we consume our entertainment.

Use your free market power and shop for what is best for you.

How have you cut your cable TV costs? 

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current Verizon FiOS promotion codes and promos to see if you can save more money every month from now on.

Related Posts

{ 215 comments… read them below or add one }

Bundeld January 12, 2014 at 8:27 am

Netflix is definitely worth the $7 you pay for it. You stay legal by not downloading illegal copies yet you still get to see your favorite shows. Great share, thanks.

Reply

paul January 12, 2014 at 10:55 am

That’s great if you don’t watch sports. I watch MLB, NFL, NBA & NHL networks on a daily basis. Also FSD for tigers games.

Reply

Henry January 26, 2014 at 10:01 pm

I agree with Paul if you like sports you get left out in the cold. So what can you do?

Reply

Rick February 9, 2014 at 7:41 am

Like me, you would have to just do with out and hope the games are aired on network channels. My cable provider (Direct TV) just hit me for another 25.00 bucks a month. said it was a “normal” yearly increase like I was supposed to be grateful. Geesh!
The options like Hulu and Netflix are only good IF the only thing you watch are movies.

Reply

Linea January 27, 2014 at 8:06 pm

There’s an option you left out … the good old antenna, which is nothing like what it was prior to the digital switchover in 2009. The quality is 720p just like digital cable or satellite, and way better than standard cable. Reception is great in most areas if you get the right antenna. The best part is that all the old channels have suddenly become 2, 3, 4 or more channels. Each station can put extra sub-channels on their frequency thanks to digital broadcasting … many of them include their sister networks so stations that are out of range can now be watched through a station that is in range. I get 30 different channels for free after paying just $30 for an antenna and I live in a rural area at that. Even if you buy a super expensive roof top antenna it will only set you back as much as one or two cable bills.

Reply

sue April 3, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Linea, what kind/brand of ‘good old antenna’ do you have that does this for you?

Reply

Leonard Lawrence April 15, 2014 at 11:48 am

Sue: I am a TimeWarner Cable customer, and when they maliciously decided to blackout CBS/Viacom channels last year in a dispute over royalties, I purchased a Mohu Leaf Indoor HDTV Antenna in order to get my local CBS affiliate. This antenna has it’s limitations, but if you are close to a broadcast signal, you will receive crystal clear reception. Mohu makes an entire line of HDTV Antennas, some of which, like the Mohu Sky 60, have a 60 mile range.

Reply

Robert Hayes Halfpenny July 6, 2014 at 10:25 am

Most any brand will work well. Just check the range of the antenna to make sure it will reach where the TV stations are located. I live in a rural area of the Twin Cities and find that an aerial with a 45 mile radius will pick up over 36 stations. Using a Roku type device allows me to transfer Netflix or Hulu from my internet to my TV’s (other “Hulu” type of broadcasters also work too). After dropping Directv, I am saving $960.00 a year. That is a significant figure when your retirement net income is only $17,000.00.

Reply

paul May 25, 2014 at 7:37 pm

but they are local channels only.

Reply

Charlotte Hyatt January 28, 2014 at 6:01 pm

You don’t have to give up sports to use Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. I purchased a Roku for $50 and it allows me to have a lot more freedom. I am not a sports fan but I have sports channels.

Reply

Phil February 1, 2014 at 1:17 pm

No,but you do have monthly charges of abour $8-$9/month for many of the services on Roku.

Reply

Toni paez January 31, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I have dish net work been with them over 7 to 8 years my cable bill is way high called them they cut twenty dollars off but not true they rig it up to not let me have to bring it to America top 200 still it was not taking twenty dollars off it ended up fifteen off then I called dish to see why twenty has not bern taken off First the man says because u did not pay one bill ad they are ways paid do then he says because cable went up. I said oh all of a sudden it went up so we talk a smart package. He tells me my husband will get all sports channels and manyote sports Chanel’s and the basic ones I go to work come home husband is piss becsuse he had none of his sports channels even ESPN was gone the gentle men stir me so wrong so I had to go back to what I had fir him to get all those Chanel’s what is so wrong fir done cable company to give u a price on the ones. U prefer to choose why can’t that be done in any cable company we tell u what we want at a comfortable price I think 80 is a lots of money for cable I want cable and intetnet for a low price of 50 to 60 dollars a month any body know any cable like that or even if it is just the wifi like less money

Reply

Tamara Williams February 2, 2014 at 7:01 am

I had Directv until last October; I had been calling them for about six months over my high bill. I was paying $103. a month for the lowest package. I finally got enough of their bull and had it disconnected! I have hundreds of DVD’s so I just watch them.

Reply

paul February 2, 2014 at 2:45 pm

I Pay $112 a month for the next to highest package.I cut out the premium channels.(HBO,MAX,STARS & SHOWTIME) I get encore with this package which includes the western channel & I also get all MBA,NFL,NHL & NBA networks with this package.

Reply

paul February 2, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I Pay $112 a month for the next to highest package.I cut out the premium channels.(HBO,MAX,STARS & SHOWTIME) I get encore with this package which includes the western channel & I also get all MLB,NFL,NHL & NBA networks with this package.I also get espn and fox sports detroit.

Reply

JJ May 17, 2014 at 5:15 pm

I don’t subscribe to the premium channels; and I’m not into sports at all, so I save money by not having those additional channels. I think it’s unfair and rotten that the cable company doesn’t arrange it so a person can pick and choose instead of having to get channels he/she doesn’t want! A woman I know agrees; she uses Dish, and has the same complaint.

Reply

Recycler to the hilt May 17, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Where I live, in a apartment complex, we’re not allowed anything but cable or the new antenna box. The manager informed me that we’re not even allowed the dish that doesn’t require it to be on the roof, but on our porch.

Reply

Phil February 1, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Time Warner cable could care less. In Cleveland they have a monopoly on cable and raise the price at will. If you complain, they simply tell you to go to DSL or dish if you don’t like their prices.

Reply

Phil February 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm

BTW: I pay $54.00/month for internet alone. I dropped my TV service years ago and watch most of the TV I’m interested in at http://www.couchtuner.eu for free, although they do not have sports.

Reply

Tonya June 27, 2014 at 6:02 am

Cleveland has Cox, Dish, and AT&T as well. Give them a call and see what they are offering. I have AT&T internet and basic cable for $69. I also have ROKU and Netflix. My kids don’t even watch the cable so I’ll be turning it off after 1 year.

Reply

Mnyama February 2, 2014 at 7:55 am

Two words: ROKU BOX #thatisall

Reply

Phil February 10, 2014 at 6:58 am

I bought a Roku also. The problem with it was the distance between it and my wireless router. My TV is in my living room and my computer is in my back bedroom, so the signal had to pass through three walls and a distance of approx. 40 feet to the Roku. The Roku was always dropping programing because of fluctuation and weak signals from the distance. Buying a wi-fi booster and installing it in the bedroom next to the computer room helped, but wasn’t entirely successful because the kitchen was between it and the Roku. Kitchens have a lot of metal from appliances that hurt. Although I’d rather watch programs on my 48″ HD tv, I’ve learned to watch it on my 24″ monitor instead and settle for $9.00 a month total for Hulu+ and free http://www.couchtuner.eu. If your main source of entertainment is TV, couchtuner for free is awesome. If you want to watch movies go with Hulu+. If sports is your bread and butter, since it’s more controlled, you’re mainly stuck with paying for cable.

Reply

Mak February 22, 2014 at 9:40 am

Comcast kept raising my rate about twice a year and I got tired of it. I realized I dont really have time to watch TV that much so it wasnt worth it for me to keep for an hour show here and there. Plus im sick of all the reality TV junk. I tried a decent HD antanae and get a few channels in HD. The rest of the time im on the internet and use the Netflix type of services once in a while. I also have Sirius with my car and the internet package so I can listen to CNN/ Fox News there if I need to.

Reply

khalid hassan March 5, 2014 at 12:37 am

how i brought down my tv plus cable plus phone bill to $50 a month. of course by matching my real consumption of these utitilities to ‘only pay for ‘what i was really consuming. Step 1; i switched back to my old school time principle given by our principle; track and for one month write down all your spendings down to a dollar; on these utilitities(track where your money is going and; this will bring out what your are only paying but not utilizing; remember; dollar saved is a dollar earned. And remember ; it takes a few days or may be few weeks to get used to your new combination of these utilities; initially it may look awkward but decide only after a few weeks and you might see that you are really not losing much. Step 2: spend some money to buy your own ‘one time expenses like a wireless modem a wireless tv antenna; a flat monthly rate device instead of monthly billing company ; i bought the following and it helped: a wireless tv antenna($50), a clear flat monthly rate($50 per month) ‘clear’ wireless device. Signal strength may not be the best but meets my requirement;you have to let it function it for a few weeks and judge realistically. soon you would realize , it is matter of getting used to itversus the savings. calculate these on yearly basis; it turns out to be substantial.
it all starts by taking the first step; for three months just note down what all you are paying vs what all you are ‘really utilizing.So take the first step.

Reply

Martin Williams April 1, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Technology has really come a long way. We love entertainment, well who doesn’t but it comes with a cost. Now, the advent of this power-saving technology will give us many benefits while we enjoy our favorite movies and TV shows.

Reply

Donald Wilson April 9, 2014 at 9:21 am

I am either looking to lower my internet/TV billing or to do away with these services altoghther.

Reply

mxhology April 19, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I bought a Roku also. The problem with it was the distance between it and my wireless router. My TV is in my living room and my computer is in my back bedroom, so the signal had to pass through three walls and a distance of approx. 40 feet to the Roku. The Roku was always dropping programing because of fluctuation and weak signals from the distance. Buying a wi-fi booster and installing it in the bedroom next to the computer room helped, but wasn’t entirely successful because the kitchen was between it and the Roku. Kitchens have a lot of metal from appliances that hurt. Although I’d rather watch programs on my 48? HD tv, I’ve learned to watch it on my 24? monitor instead and settle for $9.00 a month total for Hulu+ and free http://www.dustreaming.com. If your main source of entertainment is TV, couchtuner for free is awesome. If you want to watch movies go with Hulu+. If sports is your bread and butter, since it’s more controlled, you’re mainly stuck with paying for cable.

Reply

Ray June 8, 2014 at 5:46 pm

One way to save on our monthly internet bill is to buy your own modem (about $80). Comcast charges $8/month to rent their modem. I purchase my own 4 years ago, and have saved hundreds of dollars. The Motorola modem is also very reliable. For phone service, we use the Ooma service (also reliable and cheap).

-Ray

Reply

Grace June 21, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Ray,

Forgive me for not understanding, but you’re saying you only need a modem for Internet? No monthly service fees? Can you explain?

Thank you.

Reply

paul June 21, 2014 at 8:27 pm

He still has to pay for internet,but it’s $8 cheaper because he owns his own modem.

Reply

Ray June 22, 2014 at 8:22 am

Thanks Paul.

Grace… That monthly $8 savings adds up quickly.

Ray

Reply

Grace June 24, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Thank you Paul!

Grace

Reply

Grace June 24, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Ray, yes even $8 adds up over time. I only get Verizon in my area though. I pay around $70.00 for landline and internet. Guess it could be worse. It’s amazing, when I think about being a child, (and it wasn’t ages ago). No cell phone, no internet, no computer. No satellite tv. Just kinda simple (though not perfect by a long shot). Ah well, we adapt. But I don’t like the push for all of these digital devices. It seems like total overload.

I try to find joy in the simple things in the real world (or IRL as my sons call it.)

Grace

paul June 25, 2014 at 8:45 am

I have A T & T for my internet connection.my phone is free through safe-link,a free phone system through the government.If you get anty kind of assistance such as food stamps,SS,SSI etc. you should be eligible for it.I get 250 minutes per month.

abraham June 16, 2014 at 10:19 pm

What about getting HBO and showtime without cable or sat?

Reply

Noway June 18, 2014 at 2:54 pm

What about getting HBO and showtime without cable or sat?

That is not possible. The cable companies will not allow it. (especially HBO since its owned by time warner) They know nobody would buy cable any more if they could just buy the channels they wanted. Hopefully one day google and apple will get their acts together and offer that type of plan.

Reply

paul June 23, 2014 at 6:35 pm

You can still get the pay channels once in awhile. They had a free showing of HBO & Cinemax this past weekend.

Reply

Movie Mood June 26, 2014 at 8:28 pm

I occasionally do request a premium channel when the promo is on if there’s a movie that appeals to me; I record it so I’ll have it to watch as frequently as I please instead of being at the mercy of somebody’s whims. I’d call it quite convenient (for the corporations) that some of the best movies are shown on premium channels!

Reply

JJ June 26, 2014 at 8:10 pm

Well, there goes that protest shot down! Let’s put our heads together and see if we can’t come up with some legal way to fix it so cable/dish subscribers can get only the channels that interest them, but none they don’t watch. Then there’ll be no worries that some big company will capitalize on it and start charging the people exorbitant prices.
Thank you, Noway. I could never quite figure out what tricks these cable and companies were up to!

Reply

Movie Mood June 26, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Please excuse my typo; my brain and hand sometimes can’t keep in sync! I intended to say “cable and dish companies”.

Reply

Susan July 6, 2014 at 6:17 pm

I agree I’ll stand right beside you JJ~

Reply

Grace June 21, 2014 at 7:12 pm

We were Dish loyalists for about 12 years, but the price kept increasing, and we did not have premium channels. Did away with Dish about 1.5 years ago and after a few weeks of withdrawal (sad but true), I began to realize I had more energy in the mornings and was a lot more productive and creative. I do not miss tv at all. My kids do watch a LITTLE tv and movies on Netflix and Amazon Streaming. If you pay for amazon prime (about $100/year) there are some shows and movies for free. No, it’s not current programming and no sports. But we don’t really care about that very much. I guess it depends what you really want to watch. I think we are healthier cutting most of it out of our lives.

Reply

paul June 23, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Dish network is terrible. I switched to Direct TV. It’s a lot better and better than cable too.

Reply

joe June 23, 2014 at 7:36 pm

It is not strange that these TV pirates can steal from the public. Not too long ago
there were no fees for watching TV. Huge companies and local establishments paid to run their adds on certain channels and assumed we would be watching. The advertisers paid to have their goods exposed hoping to draw customers, remember Howdy Doody, Art Linkletter, Alfred Hitchcock.etc? There was fifteen minutes of show then a break for the commercials then back to the show with an ad at beginning and end. Then in the 70′s for a fee you could get extra stations. Time Warner comes along and says why give customers anything for free, lets take a chance and hope they will pay for watching everything? We the
the Public can’t live for just a few weeks without our TV fell for the ploy and T/W
ran with it and are now bilking us out of billions of dollars. We have proved to them that we are spoiled brats, we have to have it NOW regardless of the cost. All advertisers know that there are always those who will buy it because they “have money” which hurts the poor smucks who have little. If we all shut out tvs off for just two days of boycott you would see the rates fall like a rock. But we are spoiled brats and can’t go two days without our “perks” I did and I can get all i need to see and know from the internet. The problem then would be the
internet fees would skyrocket. Why because our Gov’t sits on their arse doing nothing and some of them getting paid to allow this thievery!

Reply

Mike June 28, 2014 at 7:27 pm

It’s not the public being spoiled brats. It’s because there is no competition. Most cities in this country have only one cable company, and they have a monopoly on that city and no other cable company is allowed to touch it. For example…Cox cable services Omaha Nebraska, they have a monopoly on the whole city and no other cable company is allowed to come in. Blame the Gov’t not the public. We are supposed to be a free society yet our government made all these regulations that prohibits other cable companies from going out of their jurisdiction. You need competition to force prices down.

Reply

paul June 28, 2014 at 7:42 pm

That’s a big cop-out. They passed a law allowing other cable companies to compete, but they refuse to do it because it will drive down the cost. If they weren’t allowed to go into other areas, they could stop dish companies from their area.

Reply

JJ June 28, 2014 at 8:02 pm

What I’d like to know is, why didn’t I know this before? Couldn’t somebody have told me? I appreciate your commentary; it’s helping me put cable in a new light! Thank you so much, all of you! God bless you people. I just wish I could return the favor somehow.

Reply

paul June 24, 2014 at 7:52 am

Shutting off our TV’s wouldn’t do any good.you’d still have to pay for those days,besides not enough people would do it.It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.

Reply

Kidhauler1948 June 24, 2014 at 7:55 am

We are paying 128.00 a month for Comcast cable with no premium channels and have two outlets. That is outragous but we live in the woods and can’t get a dish or antenna. This is our only form of entertainment but it does dent our social security then there is hardly anything on to watch worth watching.

Reply

paul June 24, 2014 at 8:04 am

That is a problem if you have a lot of trees around or high buildings blocking the signal.

Reply

Melissa June 25, 2014 at 7:04 pm

I am trying to learn all the sneaky/tricky/techy ways to get inexpensive internet, cable, on demand, etc. Problem is, I am easily distracted or I get a little “lost” in all the possibilities and who or where can receive what. So here’s my question. What can an individual, such as myself, get in order to pay the least amount but also still receive some sort of entertainment. I need internet, small home biased business, also have the xbox linked to our main tv and it needs my wifi because all of our Netflix, games, interaction with friends and family stream from it. Security cam linked to wifi also definatly needed. So wifi is a Must, No exceptions. But cable we hardly ever use, we really only use the on demand for movies on HBO and STARZ or whatever deal our current provider is running. (Cox Cable) it is also bundled. I don’t use home phone. I only use cell. We don’t have tons of trees or things blocking except I do live in a relitavely large apartment community so buildings and direction of signal can be an issue. I live in a very large city, one of the biggest tourist areas in the world actually. Access isn’t the issue. Again I’m very tech forward so if I Can rig my own something (legally) then I will. I want to pay the least amount but also still have good speed wifi/Mifi (either). And movies and/or shows that kids today like to also keep current in their little worlds. :) Again Im Pretty distracted on tons and tons of possibilities. If I ask one provider they tend to only tell me their promos or whatever they want to sell me. I don’t want to be sold. I want point blank. Any provider. Best possible answer for my specific situation. Sorry this was a novel. Lol. :) any suggstions to all of it? Please?

Reply

JJ June 28, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Melissa, if ever you do find out a way to do this legally, could you let me in on it? Thanks. (-:

Reply

carl July 2, 2014 at 9:06 pm

I am so tired of rackig my brain on how to get a cheaper cable bill. I too like my entertainment and sports. but my god there has got to be a better way

Reply

thomas wells July 7, 2014 at 1:50 pm

you’re all to high why don’t you think of the people out of jobs. why do you have to make so much money off us. your kids kids won’t have to work ever is there live’s give all vet’s 15% discount because of them you won’t have the right to do what you are doing. their are a LOT of places doing just that . be an America and do something

Reply

paul July 8, 2014 at 8:58 am

you should send this statement to the cable & Dish companies.I doubt that they pay any attention to this site,but I agree with what you’re saying.maybe we should ask the same type question of the oil companies as well.

Reply

Ran July 11, 2014 at 12:15 pm

What works for me is to just give them a call after my contract expired.
The best time to do it on the way home from office, Keeps me occupied and I save :)

The main problem is that all of us just forget to do so, and until we found out we lost great deal of money!

I may suggest free web tool I am using http://www.Remindme2save.com,
The tool helps me keep track of my monthly payments to my service providers (Cox internet and DirectTV), when my promotion expires it will remind me to call them with the best promotion out there.

I hope it helps!

Reply

Tony July 12, 2014 at 8:38 pm

If you like sports, you use the mobile app of the sports leagues and pay for their sports package. If you like sports, it is a better deal. Imagine being able to watch every football in the nfl every week and still save money!

Reply

Valiant July 13, 2014 at 10:43 am

I think many are missing the real reason we are gorged every month by the cable companies.

It’s legal to gorge us because the cable companies campaign donations to our elected House and Senate when they vote,”YES” for a bill that favors the cable companies.

Reply

Paul July 15, 2014 at 1:51 pm

I am in Las Vegas, I found that Century Link has a internet only special for $40.00. I just watch movies on the net that are free. Thanks to reading the post you have I can add Hulu + for $8.00 and watch what ever I want. Still under 50.00. Before my bill was $170.00 a month. This is a huge savings. About the only sports I watch is professional wrestling. Which of course is scripted.

Reply

Paul July 15, 2014 at 2:23 pm

This is Paul of Las Vegas,

In reading the comments I would like to contribute my thinking about reducing your bills.

I went with t-mobile simple mobile plan. Have an old Galaxy Blaze 4 G phone which has wifi built in. $40.00 per month with limited data plan.
My Century link modem has Wifi with it so can access it anywhere in the house to check on my facebook or anything else that uses internet without using up my data plan. I down loaded a free plan for my phone for protection when using the Wifi in other areas. like the motel or at mcD so have protection on the phone besides in my computer. The CL plan I have is not for 1.5 or 3.0 or 5.0 that they call High speed internet. It is for a 10.0 plan which is much better for watching movies or any other streaming viewing. You can get their internet for $29.00 for the 1.5 (so called high speed) but for the true high speed you need a company that is running the optic cable. Which CL is currently installing in the different cities they have cable in.

Reply

JJ July 15, 2014 at 3:56 pm

From all I’m reading here, I’m finding out a lot more things about cable companies than I ever realized. It seems they’ve got us over a barrel when we subscribe to their service! Point well taken, folks! I think something is going to go—before my sanity (and funds) do. Thank you so much for opening my eyes. God bless you!

Reply

Leave a Comment