Television is America's great guilty pleasure. We realize that we watch too much of it, and we think we pay more for it than we should. But we get a lot of enjoyment watching a movie or playoff game with family and friends, so most of us will keep on doing it.
Consumer Reports offers these ways to save money:
FOR FREE TV, CUT THE CORD
Does opening your bill for cable or satellite TV make your blood boil? You're not alone. Monthly pay-TV bills averaged around $86 in 2011 (the most recent data available), according to research firm NPD — and that doesn't include Internet or phone service, which can easily push the tab for a triple-play package to $150 or more. If you just can't take those bills anymore, here are a few options:
• Look, up in the sky. With a UHF-VHF antenna, you can enjoy free — that's right, free — over-the-air HD broadcasts from local stations such as ABC, CBS, NBC and others. You may pull in a few dozen channels with news, movies and foreign-language programs.
• Not free, but cheap. If the antenna offerings aren't enough, you can round out your viewing preferences with an online service such as Netflix.
... OR SHAVE IT A LITTLE
Even if you hate the price of your cable service, you might still love some of its programming. Pay-TV services are coming out with lower-priced plans to hang on to potential cord cutters who can't live without "Boardwalk Empire" and other HBO originals. Time Warner Cable, for example, offers a $30-per-month "Starter TV with HBO" package with about 20 mostly broadcast channels plus HBO and HBO GO; an HD box adds $10 per month.
• Downsize. A bare-bones package might not suit you, but perhaps you don't need everything you're paying for. Consumer Reports suggests evaluating how many channels you actually watch. You might find that a lower, cheaper tier of service would satisfy you, especially if you supplement it with a streaming service.