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Smart Buying

Shrink Your Cable Bill

A new tool helps you compare the costs of television services so you can find the best deal.

BillShrink -- the Web site that helps you compare credit cards, cell-phone plans, gas stations and savings rates -- now lets you compare cable and satellite television service.

The best way to cut costs, of course, is to cut the cable cord entirely. But if you're addicted to ESPN or a devoted Weeds watcher, BillShrink will help you find the best deal on television service.

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The best part about this new BillShrink tool launched May 26 is that recommendations are based on what you watch. The tool prompts you to enter your address, current provider, types of programs you're interested in and your must-have shows (as well as your TV type and current monthly bill). The results page shows you both programming and equipment costs for the services in your area with channels you want. Plus it shows you the amount you could save over two years.

Unfortunately, BillShrink's TV-service comparison tool doesn't include all service providers -- just the top nine cable and satellite providers, which cover about 80% of households. So in some areas, you might not get a complete listing of all the offerings.

For more ways to lower your cable or satellite TV costs, BillShrink offers these tips:

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1. Know which channels are most important to you. There's no need to sign up for a premium package if you just watch a few shows on network television.

2. Consider all the fees. When comparing providers, look at the cost of equipment their services require -- not just the cost of their programming. And remember that you'll pay more for each TV that will need equipment.

3. Cut the cable cord temporarily. If you'll be traveling a lot this summer, ask your cable company to halt your service while you're gone. Or if your favorite premium-cable show won't be on during the summer months, downgrade to a package with fewer channels.

4. Consider a longer-term contract. Many providers offer discounts if you sign a two-year contract.

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