Steadfast FinancesCable Bills Too High? Disconnect, Renegotiate Better Rate or Watch TV Online? - Steadfast Finances

Cable Bills Too High? Disconnect, Renegotiate Better Rate or Watch TV Online?

Filed in Consumer Education , Cutting Expenses , Saving Money 13 comments

No wonder everyone is wondering why their paycheck disappears so fast.  The cost of everything seems to be doubling lately.

Especially when it comes to overpaying for cable TV.

Marc Hedlund (from the Wesabe Blog) posted a small, yet highly informative graphic that gave me one of those Aha! moments that bloggers love, while simultaneously giving public relations departments one more fire to extinguish.

Wesabe’s money management software identified that Marc’s annual cable bill had increased ~ 150% from 2006 to 2008.  He states that no changes to his service during this time period.

To put it another way, he went from paying $28/month in 2006 to $71/month in 2008.

Come again?

While reading his article, I swear I could hear the voice Brian Williams’ shouting “The Fleecing of America“.

Alas, nothing we can really do but shut off our cable.  Right?  Who would do such a thing?

How Much are You Really Spending on Cable?

Being one who likes to dig up old blog articles, my RSS Reader tells me I’m not the only blogger out there who is fed up with this nonsense.

The best example I came up with was The Frugal Bachelor, who says he has paid $8950 for cable TV since he began tracking his expenses in MS Money since way back in 2000.  To be fair, he says he bundled his broadband internet service with his cable TV in the last few years so the data could be somewhat skewed towards the end, but he also says he has gone without cable for an entire year.

Nevertheless, it’s still overwhelming to think how much cash that most of us spend on cable TV once you go back, do some historical accounting and chart work, and tally up just how much our “viewing entertainment” really costs us over the long term.

The scary fact is that most working class people really don’t watch that much TV once you begin to do the math.  I catch myself flipping on the TV just out of habit or so that I have background noise.  I also noticed that I rarely watch an entire football game anymore, but tend to listen for changes in the commentator’s voice so I know when to look up from whatever I’m doing.

Which brings me to J.D.’s post at Get Rich Slowly from 2007 where he estimated that he and his wife pay $3.16 per hour of television they watch.  It might not seem like much at the time, but tack on two more years of cable price hikes similar to the graphic above, and you’ll quickly begin to think that you’ve been hoodwinked into paying more and more each year without really noticing any significant chance in pricing or value.

Can You Get Your Favorite TV Shows Somewhere Else?

You bet your ass you can!  Thanks to the miracle of high speed internet, you can watch almost all of your favorite TV shows online.  The best part, at least in my eyes, is that most online TV programs have far fewer commercials so you waste less time watching them.

Even Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, admitted that he goes the frugal (or efficient) route by watching “Lost” over the internet during a Washington Post interview:

My favorite TV program, “Lost,” I watch on the Internet now. I don’t DVR it, I just watch it on the Internet.  Why?  Because it’s free. . . . I have to admit that I’m annoyed by the four 20 seconds [of ads], but not annoyed enough to pay a buck . . . I think at the end of the day most people say, “Heck, if I can get something that’s pretty good that’s ad-funded and the ads don’t kill me, I’ll take that over the thing I gotta pay for.”

Call me crazy, but something tells me Ballmer can afford to pay for cable on his salary.  Maybe he just wanted to take a jab at Apple with the “pay a buck” iTunes comment, but it’s fairly impressive to see the major power players using the technology, not just telling us kids that it’s the new and cool thing to do.

Some suggestions for those who want to watch movies or TV online:

  1. Go to the media company itself.  If you like to watch Grey’s Anatomy, go to and watch it when it’s convenient for you.  You can even watch it in High Definition with limited commercial breaks, so instead of an hour long time commitment, you’ve can watch it in 45 minutes or less.
  2. Streaming Online Video sites.  Sites like Hulu and Joost have tons of free content that’s updated on a daily basis.  You might have to wait a few moments if you have a slower internet connection, but the fanatical fans of Fox’s 24 and Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart probably won’t mind if they missed out on an episode of their favorite shows.
  3. Get Netflix with Online Video.  For $8.99/month, you can order one DVD at a time plus watch unlimited online video until your heart is content.  The online video may not be as up to date as you might expect, but it still seems like a solid bargain compared to cable prices.
  4. Bootlegged movies.  I’m sort of hesitant about mentioning this tip from a legality standpoint, but yes, the internet can provide less than legal means of watching or listening to anything these days.  Numerous websites provide a free, albeit questionable legal means, of watching free streaming movies of bootlegged quality. So if you’re into watching a movie for the story itself and quality doesn’t matter to you, this might be a way to go.  I don’t endorse it, and I’m a total wuss when it comes to legal matters, so use these sites at your own peril.

I’m sure technology and file sharing will continue to change as time progresses, but this list should be a way to get you started in your hunt for online video entertainment.

Renegotiate Your Cable Bill

With the recession in full swing, everyone is being hit hard — including the cable companies.

There are numerous reports (WSJ and ABC News) where customers are successfully calling to disconnect their cable, and finding they can get a discounted rate.  Some are getting as much as 50% off their monthly cable bill for an entire year.

Not too shabby.

As you can imagine, it’s better to have a customer paying half the normal bill than losing the customer entirely.  Then again, you must take some action and actually make the phone call because they’re not going to lower your cable bill out of the goodness of their heart.

Perhaps it would be in our best interests to call customer service, say we’re interested in disconnecting our service (by switching to Direct TV, Dish Network or pulling out the rabbit ears with the transition to digital TV), just to see what type of deal you can renegotiate on your monthly rates.

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Posted by CJ   @   24 January 2009 13 comments
Tags : , , , , , ,


Dec 13, 2009
8:11 pm
#1 Hank :

I always find myself going out to the movies or paying for other entertainment at a high cost when I canceled my cable. I had to reorder it very quickly. I get bored, and my boredom cost me more than my cable bill thanks to going out to eat, watching movies in the movie theater, etc.
.-= Hank´s last blog ..Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-12-12 =-.

Dec 13, 2009
11:52 pm
#2 Matt SF :

I’ve noticed that my TV has been demoted to background noise or is in direct competition for whatever I’m doing on the laptop. Maybe it’s like that comfort cigarette or comfort drink addicts use to for the comfort factor.

I’m not willing to go cold turkey, but the day a la carte cable television goes to reality from urban myth, I’ll be on the reduced content bandwagon. History Channel, Discovery Channel, CNBC, FX, maybe a little Spike TV and Fox, and I’m done.

Have you given Netflix a look? You can get 1-2 movies a week or streaming video on demand for ~$0.50 per day. (Last I checked of course.)

Jan 17, 2010
5:52 pm
#3 Bettawrekonize :

The reason why cable is so expensive is that the government gives cable companies a monopoly on the infrastructure and they won’t allow anyone else to build new cable infrastructure. It’s a scam thanks to lobbyists. Other countries are ahead of us both when it comes to the Internet and television. In Japan the standard Internet bandwidth is 100 mb/s, you can watch hi def television online.

Jan 17, 2010
6:48 pm
#4 Matt SF :

Exactly, which is why I find it so ironic that cable companies like Time Warner Cable are having trouble dealing with the local legislature in the town of Wilson, NC, for creating it’s own competing cable TV and internet services. Moreover, they are actively engaging in predatory pricing by allowing any existing Time Warner customer who calls customer service wanting to cancel their service and switch to Greenlight (the local cable & internet alternative), but magically gets a “special discount” around 50% off.

Unfortunately, the folks in surrounding towns/cities weren’t that lucky and got hit with double digit rate hikes.

If interested, you can see a local government presentation here:

Will be interesting to see what shakes out considering the lobbyists are still hitting the local Raleigh legislature pretty hard. If the results turn out positively for Wilson, and I’m betting that other small towns do something similar. I know I’ll be on the phone to my mayor!

Jun 7, 2010
5:20 pm
#5 Bearkitten_in_NC :

I did call Time Warner about considering canceling. I gave them an opportunity to give me an offer. The customer service agent admitted to me that as a basic cable subscribe I “must” pay $10.00 more for digital service. Then my husband and I received a letter saying that some channels were going away from basic, but that they would help us out by giving one standard digital box for a year. We would receive the same crappy channels plus the music choice and on demand. Then we would be expected to pay full price for it after one year. Sorry Time Warner, we are tired of the crap. Direct TV is connecting us tomorrow (way more channels for about the same money) and TWC will be getting a call from us saying goodbye.

Jun 7, 2010
5:53 pm
#6 Matt SF :

Congrats on the simultaneous upgrade in service and increase in value! Too bad cable companies have a virtual monopoly on high speed broadband, but maybe FIOS or upgrades to satellite TV providers can be made in the coming years to increase competition there as well.

I wrote this post about 18 months ago, so just to update you on a few new finds, I’ve been watching a few sporting events on other streaming media sites like and when they’re not available in my area. Might be worth passing onto your husband instead of paying extra for sports packages.

Nov 15, 2010
4:55 pm
#7 Scott :

has anyone heard of this “cancel your cable day” on 1/11/11 ? It is some kind of uprising that if millions of people canceled their cable on the same day it would force them to lower the costs. Cable should not be more then $20. And that would be for everything. Gosh, they nickle and dime you now for every little thing.

Nov 16, 2010
10:16 am
#8 Matt SF :

@ Scott

I haven’t heard anything about it, but if you find something, please email me. Would be interested in seeing their motivation, sales pitch, projected subscription losses to cable companies, etc.

Mar 5, 2012
9:07 pm

I am surprised that more people do not call the retention department and negotiate a better rate. Especially so if there is a competing cable company in the area.

Mar 16, 2012
3:41 pm
#10 Bill :

Forget cable. leave those buzzards in the dust and get your TV straight from your PC for FREE!

Sep 5, 2012
4:35 pm
#11 Patty :

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