Do One Thing: Lower your cable bill (time: 60 min. or less)
The price of cable has more than doubled over the last 15 years and goes up about 5 percent each year, experts say. But it's possible to shrink your bill and still watch what you want. Follow us.
This is for you: If you want to trim some cable fat.
Hands-on time: Less than an hour to research competitors and call your cable company
Total time: Same
What you'll need:
- The phone number of your cable company or its website-some companies offer live customer service chat on the web. (For instance, Comcast.)
- Your account number or the phone number associated with your account
- A recent bill so you know what you're paying for each service
When to do it:
Call during business hours in the morning. Customer service reps might be more reasonable in the a.m. before they've dealt with tons of complaints. And if you can, call after a rate increase. You then have a valid argument for wanting to get your bill reduced.
Before you start:
Take a typical week or two and monitor your television surfing. Write down all the channels you and any family members visit or DVR for later. You might find that none of you are ever watching the premium channels you're paying a higher price for. (You may, at the very least, discover all the TV shows your roommate would never admit to loving.)
What to do:
1. Check out other cable offers. You might be able to find competing rates in your area by visiting ConnectMyCable.com and inputting your home address. You can also view a detailed comparison at BillShrink.com. Don't forget about fiber-optic services offered by AT&T Uverse and Verizon Fios, which may be available.
2. Call your cable company and ask for the department that can discontinue or reduce services. (Need to get a human on the line? Use GetHuman.com.)
3. Tell the representative that you'd like your bill to be lower, and ask what deals are available.
4. The rep will likely offer you some kind of triple-play package that bundles cable, Internet and phone. If you don't need phone (or Internet), tell the rep you'd like to hear about deals on the services you already have.
5. Be nice but firm to the rep. You want this person to be on your side, while at the same time subtly suggesting that you might leave for a better offer from another company. (That is, if you can find a better deal from another company.)
6. Keep your eye on the prize, which is a lower monthly cable bill. A free premium channel (if the rep offers you one) isn't actually going to save you money, unless you're already paying for that channel now. (And those deals typically expire after a couple of months.)
7. Go through the services on your bill line by line with the representative. In each case, ask if there's a way you can pay less.
8. The result can vary greatly depending on who you get on the phone, so if the rep isn't working with you at all, hang up (after a polite "good-bye," of course) and call back for a different person.
9. If you're offered a rate cut, make sure you lock down the expiration date of that price package. Is it three months? A year? Ask if you can extend the term. Then find a way to remind yourself the month your rate expires-the month after that your bill will almost certainly go up and you likely won't be notified.
10. As a last resort, ask if the company has an economy option. Comcast recently started offering a $29.95 "digital economy" cable package, but a customer service rep didn't volunteer this info until asked. (And according to company literature, you also have to be subscribed to Comcast's phone or high-speed Internet services to get it. But still-it's cheap.)
12. Another strategy: If you only watch one show on a premium channel (such as HBO's "Entourage," which was only on for three months last year), discontinue the service when the show isn't running.
Who helped: Adam Lynn, policy coordinator for Free Press
Did you do it? Tell us what worked or share other tips in the comments below.