Tame your budget-busting cable bill with these money-saving tips!
Expiration dates aren’t just for leftovers: Your Internet and TV bills probably include one, too, and you’re going to want to put it on your calendar.
That’s the date when whatever discounts you got for signing up with a service go away—leaving you paying a much higher rate unless you call to negotiate something better.
Your first step is finding that date so you can put it on your calendar. That can be less obvious than you’d think: Even if you can remember when you signed up for service, not all promotional discounts end 12 months later.
If you’re lucky, that will be on your bill, but it probably won’t be on the first page. For example, a Verizon Fios bill I inspected called out expiration dates for various discounts on its second page in reasonably clear language: “$55 Internet discount includes $20 discount expiring 4/9/18 and $35 discount expiring 4/19/19. TV discount expires 4/9/19.”
The potential financial upshot: a near doubling of the bill from $99.99 to $184.99.
(Disclosure: I also write for Yahoo Finance, a subsidiary of Verizon’s media division Oath.)
If you don’t see any reminders about expiring promotions on your bill—or if you have paperless billing, without a detailed breakdown of your costs e-mailed to you—log into your account online and check there.
When it’s time to call and bargain for a new rate, research your options first. See what other companies will charge for Internet and TV, even if provided separately. While you may not have a good choice of broadband providers, many cable TV subscribers can credibly threaten to switch to satellite TV.
Don’t forget merger-induced complications. If you had signed up for cable or Internet from Time Warner Cable before Charter purchased that firm two years ago, you’ll eventually have to choose between paying the non-promotional rate on your old plan or switching to a newer bundle from the combined company, which now goes by Spectrum.
When you call to ask for a better deal, be clear but don’t be a jerk. Note whatever options you have as well as how long you’ve been a customer, then say you’ll switch if you get stuck with a non-promotional rate. You may then get switched to a customer-retention rep, whose job consists of getting you to stick around.
Much of the time—as I’ve seen in reports from readers and friends as well in posts in such forums as Reddit’s r/Frugal—asking will yield sizable rate differences. To put it another way, if you don’t put in a few minutes to ask, you will inevitably subsidize the people who do take the time to bargain.
Whatever the outcome of this chat, don’t forget other ways to trim your bill. Buy your cable modem if you’ve been paying rent on it. Actually, you should do that now unless there’s a high probability you’ll move in the next year.
You should certainly take a hard look at the channels on your current bundle and decide if you need them all, especially regional sports networks that often aren’t carry a separate surcharge.
Finally, if you’re not ready to cut the cord entirely, consider ditching cable service on a second or third TV in favor of online streaming or over-the-air broadcasts. That can easily save $10 to $20 in hardware fees per set, although your odds of being able to replace a cable box with a free app from your TV provider are getting better.
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