Stephanie Rader, a new mom, said her Internet and cable costs were getting out of hand at her Cincinnati-area home.
"We were paying $115 a month," Rader said, "and we decided we were not watching that much TV anyway."
Fifteen miles to the north, Kim Mitchell is a motivational speaker who said her satellite bill was ridiculous at her home.
"This last bill was $165. Just for TV," she said.
Both these women wanted to cut costs. "It's just too much," Mitchell said.
So they did what a growing number of people are doing: They called their cable provider for a lower rate. It's become known as
"downsizing your cable bill," negotiating a lower rate, with or without reduced service.
Rader decided to start with her Internet connection.
"We were actually paying $39.99 a month just for Internet," she said.
Then, she saw a promotion for
$14.99 internet, available for many customers. Comcast, Cox and other cable providers are now offering similar "basic" deals.
"They were offering basic Internet for $14.99, so we decided to make the switch at that point to save some money."
She and her husband were worried about the slower speed: Two megabits a second instead of four or more with other "standard" providers.
But reviewers say unless you are playing online games or watching Netflix on multiple TVs at the same time, you will barely notice it.
"We were testing different web pages and the speed seemed to be pretty equal, we were loading pages pretty quickly," she said.
Lower your cable or satellite bill
Mitchell, in the meantime, decided to dump her pricey satellite package and buy a
Roku streaming video player. (She also considered
Apple TV, but decided on the
newest Roku system for $89)
Now she uses Verizon's Internet service to stream Netflix and many cable programs.
"I found the Roku 3," Mitchell said. "It allows you to have games on your TV, Netflix, some parts of HBO, just a whirlwind of products on it."
Add an antenna: You have local channels
And as a growing number of people are discovering, a decent antenna will give you dozens of local channels in crisp high definition.
Each broadcast channel has as many as 3 to 4 "sub channels," meaning the days of picking up just four channels with a rabbit ear antenna are long gone.
An HD antenna can get you as many as 30 channels.
"We watch a lot of local stations," Mitchell said.
What you can do
So how can you cut your costs?
- Start by calling your cable, satellite or dish provider: Ask them about cheaper plans and packages that may save money compared to your current plans.
- Tell them you're considering leaving if you fail to get any appreciable savings. Ask for their "retention department," where trained reps will bend over backwards to keep you.
- Consider buying an antenna for your local channels.
- Consider downgrading to "basic Internet," as long as you are not a heavy video user (multiple TVs on at once) or an online gamer, where the upload speeds (from your Xbox, etc, to the server) may be too slow.
- Look into Roku, Apple TV, Google TV and other web streaming services. Even a basic $75 Blu-ray player can now get you Netflix and some Hulu network programs. Many newer TVs are now "Smart TV's" and automatically get Netflix.
Rader and Mitchell have both cut their $150 monthly bills in half, and still get the shows they and their kids love.