According to a 2011 industry survey, the average household pays $552 per year to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Despite this cost, the internet pays its own way. Newspaper delivery costs $180, but online subscriptions go for $45. Postage runs $50 per year if you pay bills by mail, but nothing if you pay online. Retail stores are pricey, but with internet vendors like eBay or Craigslist you can locate what you need quickly and buy it secondhand for less. Despite these savings, don’t deny yourself the frugal pleasure of trimming one of modern life’s basic overhead costs. Here are three strategies.
28.1 Consider Alternatives to ISPs
If you surf infrequently, you have several options for finding low-cost access.
□ 28.1.1 Visit Libraries
Most branches offer computers with FREE broadband access.
□ 28.1.2 Locate Free Wi-Fi
Many businesses offer FREE internet access to anyone with Wi-Fi enabled devices, including McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Panera Bread. Locate hotspots at WiFiFreeSpot.com. When you use public Wi-Fi, take steps to protect your identity and data. For details, read “10 Tips for Public Wi-Fi Hotspot Security,” at PCMag.com.
□ 28.1.3 If Permitted, Use the Internet at Work
If it’s allowed, surf during your breaks.
□ 28.1.4 Access Free Broadband
Amazon’s Kindle includes a basic browser that provides FREE internet via Wi-Fi and, if you pay more upfront, 4G mobile access.
□ 28.1.5 Consider Free Dial Up
NetZero.net offers up to ten hours of FREE dial-up web surfing each month. At home, use this slow service to access text-based sites that don’t require much speed. Visit the library for any sites that require a fast connection.
□ 28.1.6 Buy PAYG Access
Some phone companies—Virgin Mobile, for one—offer prepaid cards that provide mobile internet access without a contract.
28.2 Cut Back on Internet Use
If your usage is more than light (several hours each week), but less than heavy (several hours each day), cut back and adopt 28.1 above.
□ 28.2.1 Forgo Video
Rely instead on old standbys like TVs and DVDs.
□ 28.2.2 Get News, Sports, and Weather Elsewhere
Access these reports for FREE on radio and TV.
□ 28.2.3 Use Snail Mail
Monitor your finances monthly instead of daily.
□ 28.2.4 Check Email Less Often
According to experts, this improves your efficiency. Added benefit: it reduces your need for constant internet access. Rely more upon the telephone and face-to-face interaction.
□ 28.2.5 Use the Sneaker Net
Download large files to disks or flash drives and hand deliver them. It worked during the Clinton years, and it still works now.
□ 28.2.6 Plan Ahead
Prepare lists of upcoming internet searches. This improves your online efficiency and reduces your need for ISPs.
□ 28.2.7 Recreate Offline
For video games, buy a used TV gaming console. Rediscover cards and board games. Go for walks, read books, and participate in other activities that don’t charge monthly access fees.
28.3 Pay ISPs, but Pay Less
If you spend five hours each day on the internet, a $40 monthly bill works out to 27 cents per hour. That’s cheap. But make things cheaper yet with these tactics.
□ 28.3.1 Bundle
You might cut your overall costs for internet, landline, television, and cells if you buy them all from a single provider. Run the numbers in advance to confirm your savings.
□ 28.3.2 Shop Around
Locally owned wireless ISPs often offer lower rates. Check the yellow pages for options. Or visit price comparison sites such as WhiteFence.com.
□ 28.3.3 Don’t Buy Speed That You Don’t Need
Don’t pay for fast service if you rarely visit sites that require broadband access.
□ 28.3.4 Avoid Duplication
Do you really need both home and mobile internet?
□ 28.3.5 Share With Neighbors or Roommates
A neighbor’s Wi-Fi might spill into your house. Share access and split the costs. Don’t use anyone’s internet without permission.
□ 28.3.6 Seek Out Special Offers
Before you hire an ISP, search for special offers and coupon codes.
□ 28.3.7 Prepay
Some ISPs—particularly dial-ups—offer discounts if you pay a full year in advance. If the ISP goes bankrupt before the year runs out, you’ll be out some money, so pay upfront only if the company is well-established.
□ 28.3.8 Leverage the Technology to Save
Your internet service pays off whenever you access FREE content: music, e-books, audio books, magazines, news, video, sports, streaming radio, and baseball broadcasts (visit MiLB.com).
□ 28.3.9 Suspend Service During Travel
Many ISPs allow you to temporarily suspend your account when you go on long vacations. Take advantage of these policies. Don’t pay for internet you’re not there to use.
□ 28.3.10 Play the Cancel Card
Drop service at each contract’s end and go a few days without internet to re-qualify for introductory rates. Alternatively, if you cancel as you leave on vacations or business trips, you can snag a lower price when you return and not miss any service at all.