I Don’t Use The Cable Package—Do I Have To Pay The Cable Bill?

I Don’t Use The Cable Package—Do I Have To Pay The Cable Bill?

Dear Farnoosh,

I just moved into a new apartment and we have a pretty pricey cable package. It includes internet and DVR. I turn on the TV once a week and don’t even know how to use DVR. I definitely don’t take advantage of the fancy ESPN cable package my roommate has, either. What’s a tactful way to ask if I can perhaps get a break from the bill?

Sincerely,

A.G.

Dear A.G.,

While I’m guessing your lease requires that you pay your portion of the utilities, it probably doesn’t state that a fellow roommate can choose a pricey cable package and force other roommates to chip in, regardless of their interest or use.

But before you bring up the cable bill to your roommate, you may want to consider a couple of things.

Take a Step Back

First, consider all your shared costs—everything from heat to water, internet and phone. Are you using any of these utilities more than your roommate? Are your long, hot showers, for example, making up for 80% of the water bill? Do you request to have high-speed Internet while your roommate does not, yet you both still split the bill? If there’s any imbalance in how you use your shared utilities, then you may come to the conclusion that despite the fact that you don’t care for ESPN or the DVR, it all evens out.

If not…

Understand the Bill

If you don’t have access to the monthly cable statement, ask to see what goes into the breakdown. Most cable providers charge you a flat fee for basic cable and charge for the upgrades separately, including DVR and certain premium channels. Know how your bill is calculated. It’s worth reviewing. Who knows—you may have a “bundled” deal that includes cable, internet and phone, and it’s helping the both of you earn a major discount on the total cost…in which case you may not be paying through the nose like you thought.

Offer to Pay for Basic

While you may only be using the TV only 5% of the time, unfortunately that doesn’t mean you can only pay 5% of the bill. A tactful way to address the uneven use of a souped-up cable plan is to explain that when you accounted for your housing costs you had only budgeted enough for basic cable. And since you don’t use the TV or the DVR regularly, would it be agreeable if you pay your half of the basic cable plan? It’s a reasonable request, especially since fancy cable is not a technical “need.” This will be quite hard for your roommate to debate.

Call Your Cable Provider

Along with your suggestion of just paying half of the basic plan, I recommend that you get on the phone with your cable provider and ask for a lower bill. Threatening to cancel ESPN or DVR could earn you some freebies or a major discount. If you’ve been a good customer, you’re in a place to negotiate and ask for some wiggle room. Discount varies from provider to region to each individual customer, but expect at least $10 to $20 off your monthly bill for six months. Hey, maybe they’ll give you free ESPN for a few months.

Let This Be a Lesson

In the future, get details on the utilities before moving in and make sure they’re in writing. If, for example, the cable bill seems steep, ask for the breakdown and request to be exempt from paying for some of the add-ons you don’t use. These are the little details you may have more ease ironing out before you move in.

Follow Farnoosh On Twitter! @FARNOOSH

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