PhotoIf you pay for cable TV, and have been for a long time, you no doubt have seen your bill climb, even though you haven't added any services. Last September, the average cable TV bill hit $99 a month.

It's led some consumers to “cut the cord,” dropping cable in favor of watching streaming video over the internet. While that will definitely save money, there may be some things you can do to lower costs, short of “cord-cutting.”

First, analyze how you and members of your household use TV. For example, if there are sports fans in the house, it might be hard to do without ESPN.

Fortunately, ESPN, along with TBS and TNT – which both carry sports from time to time – are usually on cable TV's basic tier. These live sports events are also available on some game streaming services, and are likely to be more widely available online in the future.

If you can live without all the news and home shopping channels, maybe you can get by with basic cable; it always includes the local TV stations in your market, so shop around for the best price.

Slowly rising rates

If you are a long-time cable customer, it's probably a safe bet that your provider has slowly raised your rate. Competing services are always running introductory offers to lure you away, so maybe you should check them out.

Here are some examples:

  • Verizon Fios – $65 for the basic package
  • Time Warner cable – This cable provider offers a 20 channel service for $20 a month, but it includes no sports channels. To get ESPN you would need the 70+ package, for $40 a month.

  • DirecTV – This satellite TV service starts its basic package at $30 a month.

With a basic cable package, your needs may be covered. For additional content, you can add Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime for $10 or less per month.

PhotoWith some of the money you are saving on your current monthly pay TV bills, consider purchasing a smart TV that connects directly to the internet for easy streaming options.

The first step in paying less for TV, however, will probably be dropping your current provider and switching to another service. When considering a switch, carefully weigh any costs that might not be readily apparent, such as equipment charges or hook-up fees, which can quickly erode your savings.

In February the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed rule changes that could save pay TV subscribers even more. It voted to look at ways to open set top boxes to competition so that consumers would not be forced to rent them from their providers.

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