Reducing your monthly expenses and maximizing the value you get from what you spend are two critical components of financial security. Often, in moments of stress, we think that the only way to "fix" our money issues is to earn more, but this is not always the best solution, especially when doing so causes you physical, mental, or emotional harm.
As a result, it's important to be on the lookout for ways to save, and it is especially important to do so when it comes to expenses we truly need, such as the internet. When we deem something a necessity, it's easier for us to give in to spending more money. "Oh, well," we say. "I have no other choice."
Well, this isn't the case, both in more general terms and also when it comes to your internet bill. Yes, a reliable internet connection is a necessity of modern life, and yes, it does cost money. But this doesn't mean you must subject yourself to the whims of internet service providers. Instead, you can take positive action and actively reduce the amount of money you spend, or, at the very least, get more out of it.
Below you can find nine different ways you can lower your monthly internet bill:
1. Stop Renting Equipment
Internet providers are famous for their hidden fees. While they will argue that they aren't hidden since they are usually listed somewhere in the fine print, the reality is that few people ever know exactly what their monthly bill is going to be before they sign up for a service contract.
Unfortunately, many of these fees are unavoidable, such as installation fees and state and federal taxes. But one fee can be avoided: the equipment rental fee. Depending on the provider, this can be anywhere from $5-20 per month, and it covers the cost of your modem and router.
This typically doesn't feel like a lot of money every month, especially when you're already paying around $80-$100 for the internet. But over time, this can add up. For example, if your equipment rental fees are $10 per month, that's $120 per year. Most internet plans are two-year contracts, so that's $240 right there you will be spending on equipment you don't own.
The alternative? Buy your own equipment. Yes, this will require some upfront spending, but for around $100, you can get both a modem and a router that will work just fine and that you will own. If you can make this last you several years, that's hundreds of dollars in overall savings.
Of course, if you cheap out and buy something too old or not equipped to handle your connection, you may see a reduction in service. But if you prepare yourself for this initial expense, you can not only take ownership over part of your internet connection, but you can also save yourself a decent amount of cash.
2. Upgrade Your Modem and Router
In some cases, it's not always about reducing the amount you're spending on internet but instead increasing what you get from that internet. This doesn't necessarily save you money, but it does improve the value you are getting from your monthly internet bill, which can sometimes be just as good.
One easy way to do this is to ensure your modem and router are as up-to-date as possible. Older equipment is less likely to be designed for the speed of modern connections, which will slow your internet down considerably. This will be especially noticeable in homes where multiple internet users are trying to access the same connection at once. In these cases, bandwidth can be seriously hindered by older equipment, and upgrading can have a significant impact.
If you are renting equipment from your internet service provider, then the first thing you should do is speak with them about upgrading. Since the cable company owns the router and modem, it's their responsibility to keep it up-to-date. Plus, old equipment on their grid can slow the entire network down, so they have a vested interest in ensuring you have the latest technology in your home. As a result, if you go this route, this upgrade shouldn't cost you any money.
Of course, if you decided to purchase your own router and modem - which we just discussed as a money-saving tactic in its own right - you will need to spend some cash, but this should still lead to savings in the long run. The effect of such a purchase on your internet experience can be pretty tremendous.
3. Settle For a Slower Connection
If you really feel that your internet connection is too expensive, you can downgrade your service to a slower connection. At first glance, such a move might seem like a bad idea. After all, isn't a super-fast internet connection essential in our highly-digital world?
Well, yes, it is, but only to a point. Internet companies are constantly pushing faster connections as if they were necessities, but in many cases, all they are trying to do is get you to sign up for something that costs a bit more money even if you don't need it.
Because of this, it's essential you take a closer look at your exact needs to determine if you are paying too much money for a much higher-quality connection than what's truly necessary for your home. To help you do this, consider the following guidelines about internet speed:
- 10-15 Mbps - This connection speed is suitable for light users who rely on the internet for not much more than email, social media, and light surfing, such as checking the news.
- 15-25 Mbps - Connections such as these are good for those who do a bit more than just email and surfing, such as light video streaming.
- 25-50+ Mbps - This is necessary for those who do lots of video calling, streaming in high definition, and data transfers.
One thing you'll notice is that many internet companies these days are pushing connections of 100 Mbps or more, but, in reality, few people actually need such speed. Signing up for this service might cause you to spend more money than you need to. Instead, most of us can get away with a slower internet connection. If you're unsure, then consider downgrading and seeing how things go. If you find the connection doesn't meet your needs, then you can always upgrade again and restore your service to something that performs a bit better.
Don't Forget About Bandwidth
However, before you downgrade your service, we should remind you to keep the bandwidth concept in mind. This refers to how much data can travel over your network in a given moment and comes into play where there are lots of people accessing the same connection at once.
If you have four people in your home all using the internet for streaming and video calling, then there's a good chance downgrading will have a negative impact on your service. If this is your situation, consider asking your ISP if there are ways to pay for a slower connection without sacrificing bandwidth. If you don't, then downgrading your service can have a multiplicative effect and leave you with a connection that doesn't meet your needs.
4. Sign Up for an Income-Driven Plan
Almost all of the major companies, including Comcast (Xfinity), Spectrum, AT&T, and Cox, offer special discounted service packages for those with low incomes so that they can remain connected.
Of course, these services are usually reduced, but they can also cost as little as $10 a month for a 15 Mbps connection. This is quite a good deal and can make all the difference for those living with little financial breathing room. Here's a quick summary of the different plans offered by these companies so you can see what's available:
- Xfinity Internet Essentials - $9.95 per month for connections of up to $15 Mbps
- Spectrum Internet Assistance - $14.99 per month for up to 30 Mbps
- AT&T Access - $10 per month for up to 10 Mbps
- Cox Low-Cost Internet - $9.995 per month for up to 15 Mbps
Of course, the exact price and connection speed is likely to vary based on your situation. But, as you can see, there are a handful of options when it comes to reduced-cost internet plans.
If you think you qualify or would like to explore one of these plans, then reach out to the company, as each one has slightly different eligibility requirements. The chances are that if you're having trouble paying your internet bill, you'll find something that makes it slightly easier for you to be connected.
5. Work with the Company and Negotiate
Most people don't realize that while internet companies advertise their plans and packages as if they were set in stone, there is actually a fair bit of wiggle room. All you need to do is assert yourself and negotiate for a better deal.
To do this, all you need to do is call your internet service provider and let them know that you are not happy with your service, either because the quality isn't up to what was promised to you, or because you feel like it's too expensive.
From there, they should provide you with some options, but don't just settle for what they tell you. Go in with a plan for what you would like and then stand firm. Ask to speak to supervisors when you're not getting the answer you want, and don't settle for what they tell you. Of course, you likely won't be able to get all you were seeking, but you should be able to get something.
Also, don't forget your secret weapon: threatening to leave for the competition. Unfortunately, in the United States, far too many people don't have a lot of choices when it comes to the internet, but you must use this freedom if you do.
Telling your current internet company that you are seriously switching to a competitor will likely spur them into action and cause them to come up with all sorts of deals and discounts that allegedly previously didn't exist. Yes, it's a shame that we must often come to this point to save money, but standing up for yourself can often lead to significant savings both now and in the future.
6. Bundle More than One Service
One option the internet company may present to you (and if they don't, it's one that you should consider) is to bundle your internet plan with some other service they offer you. This does mean you will be spending more money overall, as you will be paying for more than one service, but the savings you get on each service can be well worth it.
However, this only works if you already have or plan to have one of these additional services: home phone or cable TV plans. If you're a cord-cutter just looking for internet, you'll probably be out of luck. But if you still want or need cable, then combining it with your internet plan can help save you a good deal of money on both.
When bundling, though, make sure you don't forget your negotiating skills. Remember that you're spending more money with them when signing up for multiple services and that this entitles you to some savings. Don't be afraid to push for things, such as free or discounted access to premium channels, as this can help lead to savings and an increase in the overall value of your plan.
7. Switch Companies to Take Advantage of Promotional Pricing
Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about internet (and telecommunications companies as a whole) is their use of promotional pricing. Of course, this tactic is not used exclusively in the telecoms industry, but they seem to be particularly good at it.
Essentially, what they do to lure new customers and sway those of the competition is to offer their services for a reduced price during a certain promotional period, usually one or two years. Then, after this period ends, your bill will go up, and this increase is often a considerable one. This is why when you see ads from the company you're using offering a price that is way below yours, you often can't access it. These prices are reserved for new customers, which can seem, at times, as though these companies are "punishing" those who remain loyal to them.
However, if you're willing to change companies every year or two, you can save quite a bit of money. All you are doing is signing up for a new service to take advantage of whatever promotion they are offering and canceling your old one before the rate hike takes effect. In some cases, though, you might not even need to change companies, as your current one may respond with your decision to cancel by offering you the promotional price again for a longer period.
The obvious drawbacks to this are that you need to be constantly vigilant about what deals are out there and which one is best for you. You also need to be ready to switch companies every so often, which may or may not lead to gaps in service. If this is the case, the gap should only be a day or two, but it might seem like a lifetime to us highly-connected individuals. Yet, in the end, if these few days save you a substantial amount of cash, then it's likely going to be worth suffering through this slight inconvenience.
8. Switch to Mobile Data
For those looking to save money, consider ditching your wired internet connection altogether and instead relying entirely on your mobile data connection. Think about it: if you spend $50 per month on your phone and $80 per month on your internet, that's $130 per month total.
However, if you upgrade your mobile plan to one with unlimited data, which shouldn't cost much more than $60, and use your mobile hotspot while you're home, then you can spend a little less than half and still get the same services.
Of course, there are a few things to consider if you're going to do this, such as:
- Using your mobile hotspot will drain your phone's battery, and this constant strain will likely shorten its overall lifespan. If this will be an issue, consider getting a dedicated mobile hotspot device, though these often come with their own monthly fees. Still, doing this can be cheaper overall than paying for both mobile and wired internet.
- Bandwidth on mobile networks tends to be lower, so this approach likely won't work well if you have multiple internet users in your home.
- You need to live in an area with a consistent 4G mobile internet connection. Typically, this means living in a larger urban area where there are many towers, and the infrastructure is good. If you're considering this move, make sure to monitor the quality of your connection over a period of time so that you don't run into any surprises when you do finally make the switch.
- You MUST get an unlimited data plan. Using your mobile internet to stream media and video call will consume your monthly data allotment and lead to costly overage charges, defeating the initial purpose of switching.
In general, we don't recommend doing this, as it's quite likely such an arrangement will sacrifice your overall quality. But it can work for some people so long as you prepare properly, and in these instances, you can save quite a bit of money on your monthly internet bill.
9. Apply for Government Subsidies
If you find that no matter what you do, you are still having trouble affording the internet, know that there are some programs out there that will give you access to discounted internet.
Probably the most well-known of all of these programs is the Lifeline program, which provides a $10 discount to those who qualify. Typically, this discount is reserved for those with low incomes, and to get it, you must prove that you meet these requirements. However, if you do, this is a great way to reduce your internet bill so that you can continue to access this vital service without too much financial hardship. You can learn more about the Lifeline program, including its specific requirements and application process here.
Another place to look is EveryoneOn, a non-profit organization dedicated to closing the income-driven digital divide. They offer a tool that points you to all the different deals and discounts available to you in your area.
Internet access is considered a necessity in 2020, and being unable to afford a solid connection can be a real hardship. We hope this gives you some ideas on how you might save on your internet bill, either now or in the future. Not every suggestion will work for every household, but we encourage you to think through some tactics that might work for you and try and save yourself at least a few dollars every month.