Monday, July 31, 2006

Strategies for Cutting Cable Bills

In a recent post about cable bills and movie rentals, I featured Bette from Hollywood, a woman with a $125 monthly cable bill. To my cable-free vision, Bette's expense seemed excessive. But one consumer's luxury may seem frugal to another.

At least one reader thinks Bette has a good deal.

''Paying for good things on your screen is actually a great use of entertainment money,'' wrote a fellow called Alberen. ``What else can you do all day, every day all month and only spend $80 bucks on it?''

He has a point. Trips to the movies, malls and bowling alleys can easily exceed $80 during a month's time, Alberen said. Bette believes that her cable-line reduces her entertainment expenses at other outlets. Consider the numbers: Weekly movie dates for two adults cost roughly $20 a week, before gas, popcorn and other expenses. On a monthly basis, four movie dates would cost at least $80 a week. Therefore, on an hourly basis, cable is a better value, Bette said.

Even so, there are ways to squeeze more out of your cable bill, according to Melissa Tosetti, editor and publisher of Budget Savvy, a California-based publication now available free at During a recent telephone interview, Tosetti, a cable fan, offered these tips:

Do your homework. At least twice a year, preferably quarterly, you should review your cable bills and check out prices offered by competing cable companies.

Think satellite. Even if your cable operator has a monopoly in your region, various satellite companies have competitive introductory promotions. Take notes.

Call the ''Cancel Service Department'' of your cable company with details about lower prices or discounts elsewhere. Be honest and be prepared with actual names and numbers, Tosetti said. It won't pay to lie.

Be persistent. Don't accept ''no'' on the first phone call. Repeat calls may yield a customer representative or manager more receptive to your comparison shopping. Plus, companies periodically run special promotions.

Bundle it up. Consider packaged deals that include Internet and cable access. Shop around and compare costs.

And finally, know yourself. Tosetti and her husband love the History Channel and HBO, but have little use for premium sports channels. Therefore, she tailors and reduces her cable expenditures to match her tastes. Launch your own television audit to eliminate cable waste.

''Of course, don't pay for what you don't use and watch out: the small screen is an incubator for body rot,'' wrote Alberen.

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