How to Cut the Cable Cord in 5 Easy Steps

Illustration about cutting the cord with cable

I spend days psyching myself up to make the calls. My targets include the very companies that make dialing the number possible: communications providers. Why am I connecting with these connectors who give us access to wireless phone, email, entertainment and internet? To cut that very expensive cord.

This is no trivial matter. According to a survey by eMarketer, the average U.S. adult is expected to spend 5 hours and 45 minutes each day on devices in 2016, including mobile, laptop, desktop and tablet. Add television on top of that and we sit in front of multiple devices throughout each day. As “The Internet of Things” matures, the cost of communications will command a bigger portion of our household budgets. On the horizon: advancements in home and health monitoring, wearable tech and mobile-everything.

It also costs a ton. Cable, internet and phone can easily top out at $250/month. Here’s how I tackled the problem:

Know What You Use and What You Can Live Without

First, I arm myself with information aimed at putting money back into our household: my current statements, informal surveying of friends to see what they use and how much they pay, a quick look at what communications subscription services our family has and has not used over the past few months. Then, every three to six months I voluntarily put finger to keypad and dial a number that winds down an audible road of prompts and options. Intermittent “All customer service representatives are busy……” reminds me of the important job ahead. I use the 15 to 20 minutes on hold to review my rhetorical jujitsu because I want my time to pay off. And that should be your goal as well.

The Art of the Negotiation

Why are consumers able to successfully negotiate with their communications providers? It all started with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The marketplace changed when cable and telephone companies were allowed to compete and offer bundled services. Buyer decision-making became more important as companies began vying for consumer’s brand preference for bundled internet, phone and cable services because once you leave, you leave all three and that is some serious money. Then streaming came along and suddenly cable seems not just old, but downright anti-consumer when you can get so much great content via Netflix or Hulu for under $12 per month.
Simply put, communications companies are willing to negotiate a lower monthly plan to retain you as a customer. Knowing this, let’s arm you with five tips to put more value and savings into your communications bundle.

Paying Less for Cable in 5 Easy Steps

1. Research your existing provider, competitor offers and your employer perks

Communications companies offer a variety of plans every few months to entice customers away from competitors. Find a plan that best suits your household and use it to negotiate a match or better offer. For example, one communications company offered three bundles in May. One plan included dish television with internet; dish television with internet and home phone; and dish television with an unlimited wireless data plan. Another company allows you to build your own bundle using television, mobile data, landline, home security and internet services. Lastly, check with your employer to see if they offer employees communications provider discounts — especially if your workplace has a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) mobile phone policy. Many organizations have agreements with wireless services to offset employee’s mobile phone costs. [Editor’s note: I still enjoy 17% off my personal cell bill from a job I left in 2009. I won’t tell if you won’t. It’s well worth it to ask.]

2. Keep track of your offers

Many promotional offers end after several months and the higher rates return long after you remember signing up for the lower promotional rate. Also, lower rates usually correlate to less service or fewer products. Again, ensure that you are receiving everything you need and want. Mark your term of service right into your computer or family calendar. It’s a good reminder to circle back to providers and go for those lower prices.

3. Be aware of the upsell

Providers always want customers to try services and products they may not be familiar with. For example, complimentary premium television channels may be offered for three months hoping that you fall in love with the service, sign up and then pay a monthly fee for the new service once the introductory period ends. Beware! As you try the premium service, write down how many times you actually use it and then figure out the extra cost per use. If it’s cheaper going to the movies or that big sports event, cancel the extra service at the end of the period.

4. Be prepared to lock in

Communications companies will try to lock you into a plan for a set amount of time, usually up to two years. The advantage is that your rate is guaranteed for a set period of time. One con is that a better offer may come along and penalties are enforced for breaking the contract. However, being a long-time customer and paying bills on time can give you leverage when renegotiating the locked-in rate and penalties. Negotiating the terms of a contract is just as important as the actual rate.

Here’s one very important tip as you get closer to the end of your two-year contract. Things that look like freebies or upgrades may come with a request to sign some paperwork. Chances are very good you are about to sign a two-year renewal without knowing it. Just. Say. No. Like with all other services, if you want to renew, you will. If not, you won’t. Cable isn’t a life sentence.

5. What happens when your skills fail you?

If your current provider is not willing to negotiate a better deal, you have a few choices. One, you can always walk. Two, you can nibble away at the bundled package by eliminating one or more service offerings. Three, wait a few days and call back. A different customer service representative may be more accommodating. Remember to always be nice. Threats and demands may allow you to get some steam out of your system, but they do little to support your cause.

What do you think? Have you successfully navigated cutting the cord with cable? Tell us in the comments below or in our Facebook community.

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There are 19 comments to "How to Cut the Cable Cord in 5 Easy Steps".

  1. Jen says 28 May 2016 at 10:45

    The title of this article is misleading. I was hoping to learn how to eliminate cable. This was about paying less for (and keeping) the cord, not cutting it. Bummer.

    • Katie Ryan O'Connor says 01 June 2016 at 11:30

      Great point Jen. Here’s our best advice on completely eliminating cable: Unless you want to pay a cancellation fee (which can be substantial) confirm and then circle the end-date of your contract with a fat red marker on your calendar and call that day to cancel. In advance, though, poll neighbors and friends for advice on standalone broadband internet providers. Use Vonage or similar company if you must have a landline phone. This is my plan. I will let you know how it turns out!

    • Roderick Kelly says 01 June 2016 at 13:08

      Jen, you are correct about the headline. I apologize. Our family eliminated cable and our landline in our home and haven’t missed them. We live in a metropolitan area so moving to an antenna was easy because there are more than 30 high definition channels available. We also have Netflix (about $9 per month), which the kids use on their electronic devices. The only other costs we incur are high-speed internet($35/mo.) and the occasional Amazon Prime movie rental ($3.99-$5.99/movie). We are still saving about $150/month.

    • JB says 10 June 2016 at 18:49

      Get netflix and a netflix enabled device, and cut the cord. It’s that simple. I have been without cable for about 8 years now. That’s a savings of over $5,000 in that period of time for me. Which TV show is worth $5,000 to you?

      • Katie Ryan O'Connor says 13 June 2016 at 14:38

        That is a great way to look at it. Definitely no shows are worth $5K! (Though Game of Thrones fans may feel differently 🙂 Now though you can simply get HBO streaming for GoT, right?)

  2. Chris says 28 May 2016 at 15:53

    So complicated these day to deal with cable companies. Thankfully, things are a little less complex, as I have no landline and cable (just internet and pre-paid cellular for me!)

  3. Beth says 29 May 2016 at 06:53

    Really, it’s not this hard. If you aren’t using something, cancel it. If you want a better deal, talk to some people you know about what services they use and how they scored their last deal.

    I think part of the reason people don’t call to lower their costs on things is because they build up the process too much in their head. You’re not negotiating a home sale or big investment. Just do it.

  4. cc says 30 May 2016 at 06:47

    I negotiate annually with my cable-internet-phone provider (Time Warner in this case but they were just bought).

    Every year they send me a letter raising my rates while telling me how much money I am saving.

    In 100% of my negotiations, I have always lowered or kept the same rate as the year before… But you are right, do your homework and be ready to tell them you can get dish cheaper, put your phone number into a Tracfone (less than $100 a year) and know what you need for internet speed.

    They always negotiate, sometimes I even get extras thrown in (higher i-net speed, DVR, some premium channels I never watch anyway)…

    Be ready to negotiate -everything- including your trip to Walmart (their price matching can save you some real dough).


  5. Mrs. Picky Pincher says 01 June 2016 at 12:49

    It’s also worth noting that there are cheaper, less horrible alternatives to cable. Mr. Picky Pincher and I use our Netflix and Roku box for “cable” and we never feel deprived. For movies, we simply rent DVDs and Blurays from our local library–free!

  6. WM says 09 June 2016 at 03:25

    Cut the cord myself and never looked back! It’s so much easier than it seems at first..

  7. Alex Gonzalez says 09 June 2016 at 12:26

    How to really cut cable:

    This article should include information about sling TV and PS VUE, two exceptional services if you ask me. You pay $20 for 20 channels with Sling or $30 for 55 channels with Vue. Both are month to month internet TV services with no hidden fees or taxes.

    In my opinion PS VUE is better but is currently limited to people with a PS4, PS TV or Fire TV.

    Both offer on demand, VUE also offers cloud DVR, where you can record any show and play it back later within 60 days (you can also fast forward!).

    With these services I was able to cancel my cable completely I now access these services using the internet I am already paying for. All the perks of cable (besides needing an internet connection), without any hidden fees, surcharges, or taxes.

  8. Mrs. Picky Pincher says 10 June 2016 at 12:05

    We use Netflix and got a Roku box instead of getting cable. We’ve been very pleased with this setup and have never felt deprived. Combined with renting DVDs (for free!) from the library, we have all of our entertainment needs covered for $15 or less a month. Score!

  9. JB says 10 June 2016 at 18:48

    Been without cable for over 8 years. YOU WILL NOT MISS IT! And we have 2 young kids, which is all the MORE reason to not pay for that filth. Books and playing are our entertainment when bored.

  10. Andrew says 16 June 2016 at 09:38

    As technology improves, cable companies are able to offer higher internet speeds for lower prices. This means that if they can keep you locked into a contract for longer than 12 months, it’s in their best interest. Each year, give them your internet service provider (ISP) a call after shopping around and tell them what you found and what you are willing to pay. Best place to shop around? Reddit. It’s people driven forums have ISP retailers and consumers alike spilling the beans on what they pay and what they were able to negotiate.

    My family cut the cord as well. Netflix has been enough for us. There are plenty of other online resources to acquire free internet streamed movies and TV shows.

  11. yyz says 05 July 2016 at 06:27

    Everyone is talking about “cord cutting” and then they go on about how they are using streaming services.

    Streaming services require an Internet connection. How do you cut the cord when you need Internet service for everything?

    It seems cable companies have a near monopoly on Interent connections. Yes, there are other technologies, but for reliable and fast, cable seems to be the only viable option.

    What am I missing here?

    • Roderick Kelly says 05 July 2016 at 09:44


      You are correct that a high-speed internet connection is required for streaming. When people refer to “cutting the cords” they really are referring to cutting one, two or all three communication services that are in your home (land line phone, cable television and internet). Communications firms tend to bundle the services at a cost that is typically north of $100 per month and usually closer to $200 per month. By only paying for high-speed internet and “cutting the cord” on the other two servies, customers can save considerably.
      Hope that helps.

      • yyz says 05 July 2016 at 13:58

        Thanks! My local cable company, Charter, offers 60MB/s internet plus CATV for $30/each (when bundled) for the first year. “First year” is the key. It goes up on year 2 and again on year 3…to about $120/month total.

        A friend of mine told me that the contracted installer, recommended “cancelling” then “re-ordering” under his wife’s name to get the first year price again. (He actually told them to say they are moving out of area and then have the wife activate as the next home owner. The contractor said the cable company doesn’t keep track of the names, so it’s possible to do this each year).

        FWIW, I called and threatened to discontinue service and they wouldn’t budge. (However, a year or two ago, they did agree to a discount which has since expired and they wont do again).

        I can live without TV, but living with Internet would be difficult.

  12. Bajan_queen says 20 July 2016 at 08:26

    We cut the cord in January. We now have an antenna for local stations so I can check in on local news, a subscription to Netflix and Hulu and we subscribe to YouTube channels for miscellaneous viewing (gymnastics stream live). To determine which streaming service I made a spreadsheet to compare the shows we watch faithfully to the availability on various services. We did upgrade our Internet speed bUT that was an additional $15 a month. Overall I’m very pleased.

    • Katie Ryan O'Connor says 20 July 2016 at 11:24

      What type of antenna do you use? Is it effective? –Katie

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