How much does cable cost per month? So much that it could be more than your electric, water and trash service combined, according to a report from DecisionData.org, a home services comparison website.
“One thing that’s crazy about it is how opaque the pricing is,” says Ben Kurland, co-founder of BillFixers, a service that negotiates bills on behalf of consumers.
Cable companies may advertise one price for service and then tack on broadcast fees, cable box rentals or other costs that can easily add $50 or more to a monthly bill. Another common strategy is to upsell bundled service packages which make it difficult to understand exactly how much is being spent on cable itself.
Keep reading to learn more about the average cable cost per month, how to get the best deal and when to cancel cable altogether.
Average Cost of Cable Per Month
Because of factors such as promotional pricing and bundled services, it can be hard to answer the question, “How much is cable a month?”
The most official answer can be found with the Federal Communications Commission, which publishes a biennial Report on Cable Industry Prices. The most recent report available is from 2018 and includes the following average prices:
— Basic service: $25.40 per month
— Expanded basic service: $71.37 per month
The report also looked at the cost of direct broadcast satellite TV. It found the plans most comparable to expanded basic cable service were $70.95 per month from DirecTV and $64.99 from Dish Network.
How Much Is a Month of Bundled Services?
A significant caveat to the FCC report is that it draws on 2016 data and may not accurately reflect how much cable costs per month now. Plus, many people buy their service as part of a bundled package, rather than a standalone cable plan.
More recent data of package pricing is available through separate reports from DecisionData.org and from bill payment service Doxo.
A review of publicly available data by DecisionData.org found the average cable package costs $217.42 per month. That’s more than many households pay for other utilities combined, according to the website. It also notes that cable package prices are similar regardless of the size of a household.
The U.S. Cable & Internet Market Size and Household Spending Report 2021 from doxoInsights reports 82% of U.S. households have a cable and internet bill, and they pay an average of $116 per month. The report also notes significant regional differences with residents of the least expensive state, South Dakota, paying an average of $92 per month while average costs in the most expensive state, Alaska, are $148 per month.
Although cable can be more than other household bills, it may be worthwhile for families who regularly watch television. “You’ll spend a lot of hours consuming this content, which means it’s one of the cheaper ways to spend your time,” says Howard Dvorkin, certified public accountant and chairman of Debt.com.
Save Money on Cable Costs
Cable companies often reel in new customers with promotional pricing. “When you sign up for your cable service, they are going to give you a good deal,” Kurland says. After that first year, though, the price can quickly climb.
Kurland recommends customers call their cable provider every year to ask for a lower rate. Many companies expect this type of negotiation and are prepared to be flexible on pricing to maintain an existing customer. For those who don’t want to haggle over prices, services such as BillFixers will negotiate on behalf of customers in return for a share of the savings.
Another way to save money is to avoid paying for bundled services you don’t need. Companies are adept at convincing customers to add items such as landlines or premium channels in exchange for saving money off the individual price of services.
Bundled services can be a deal, but only if consumers actually need everything in a package. “Figure out what you want before you go to comparison shop,” Kurland advises. Then you are less likely to be talked into unnecessary extras.
Should You Cancel Cable and Stream Instead?
Of course, the best way to save money on cable is to eliminate it altogether. That’s what Christy Baldwin of Lowell, Michigan, did four years ago.
“We use an antenna (for over-the-air channels) and stream through our existing cellphone data,” she explains. While her family previously had cable and was happy with the service, they found it to be pricey. A switch to a satellite television provider resulted in poor customer service and poor signal reception.
Now, the family uses a casting device to stream shows from a phone to their TV. “We use many free TV streaming apps,” Baldwin says. They also pay for some subscription services such as Disney+, Amazon Prime and Netflix. Overall, Baldwin says her monthly cost is about $50, half the lowest price available through her previous satellite TV provider.
“There’s what I call the ‘tech headache’ factor,” Dvorkin says. Those who are used to the ease of cable may find there is a learning curve to streaming shows from various services and devices. “It seems like a little thing, but it can be a big frustration.”
However, for those who are comfortable with the technology and limit their number of subscriptions, streaming television is a viable way to save a significant amount of money. After four years of cutting cable, Baldwin sums up her experience this way: “No regrets.”
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