Cut Your Internet Bill in Half
A friend of mine recently told me that she was canceling her Internet access at home because it cost too much. “Wow”, I said. “I could never do that. How are you going to get check your email and go online to do stuff? “She said that she’d check email on her phone, and that if she ever needed to send a big attachment, she’d go to a coffeehouse with Internet access. I was still unconvinced: I hate typing on my phone, even for a short email, and going to a coffeehouse seemed too inconvenient.
“Oh, and one more thing”, she added in passing. “If I really need Internet at home, I’ll share it with my neighbor“.
That, I though, was brilliant!
Sharing a Wi-Fi Network
How many Wi-Fi networks are available at your home or apartment? If you have a smartphone, laptop, or tablet with WiFi (like an iPad), you can easily check. I used to live in a large complex where I would literally see dozens of networks from my own apartment. Now I live in a 6-unit apartment, and I see 5 Wi-Fi networks.
My monthly Internet bill is $52. If I shared it with someone, I would save $312 per year by sharing!
If you just use the Internet for checking personal email, Facebook, and non-mission critical stuff like that, this scheme just might work for you (and your neighbor). On the other hand, if you plan to watch a lot of video on the Internet, and your neighbor does too, this scheme might not work too well because there might not be enough bandwidth to watch two videos at the same time.
For those of you plug your computer directly into your modem using an Ethernet cable, you would need to get a wireless Wi-Fi router. These are not that expensive. You’d pay for it in about two months of savings. You can find some wireless routers here. (The featured photo at the top of this article shows my wireless router).
If you are using a desktop computer (as opposed to a laptop), you will probably also need to get a Wi-Fi receiver for it. These either plug into a slot in your computer or your USB port. These are not very expensive and available here.
If you’re the one with the Internet connection, how do you guarantee you new partner will pay? Well, if they don’t, you can simply change the Wi-Fi password and turn that person’s Internet access off. After a period time when trust has been established, perhaps you can decrease the billing cycles to once per quarter to eliminate the hassle of writing or cashing checks all of the time.
I don’t advocate using other people’s open Wi-Fi networks without their permission. That slows down their service and is uncool and unethical, not to mention downright illegal! That is also why I strongly suggest that you password-protect your own WiFi network if you have one. Note that some Internet providers also state in their contracts that sharing of Wi-Fi service with someone “outside your dwelling” is not allowed. Check your terms of service.
Lowering the Cost from Your Existing Provider
If sharing an Internet connection doesn’t appeal to you (or if you live in the boonies with no one to share Internet with) ask your Internet provider about a lower-cost, lower-speed option. For example, Time-Warner’s Standard cable Internet package costs $44.99 for 15Mbps, which is overkill for most home users, but that is what most people get because that’s what the cable companies push. Time Warner’s Basic package is $29.99 per month for 3Mbps and their Lite package is $19.99 for 1Mbps. That might sound slow, but right now, I have crappy DSL, which is only 1Mbps, and I can still watch videos (although they are sometimes sluggish). So even if you only go down to the Basic 3Mbps package, you will save $180 per year with probably no noticeable speed difference! If you go down to 1Mbps (which is what I have on DSL), you’ll more than cut your bill in half and save $300 per year!
Another thing you can do is call your Internet service provider and ask for a discount. This is especially effective if you have a lower quote from a competitor or if you threaten to leave. I’ve heard this works 90% of the time. This worked for me with my cable company when I cancelled my cable TV. They immediately offered to lower my rate if I signed on for a year. It can’t hurt to ask!!
Some Internet providers charging a monthly “rental fee” for the modem. This is really outrageous and you should protest and threaten to buy your own if they don’t waive this fee. Cable modems cost around $60 so after a few years of rental fees, they will be making pure profit at your expense. So, go to your cable company’s website and look for a list of approved modems (or just Google it), then buy it yourself on Amazon and save the monthly fees!
Tethering Your Android Phone
If you have an Android phone with Internet access, you might be able to “tether” it to your computer, basically allowing you to get Internet access for your computer through your phone. I wouldn’t use this technique to watch a movie or anything like that. It will work for normal email and light web browsing. Check your carrier’s policies about bandwidth and total download amounts. You could eat through any limits pretty quickly by doing this and actually spend more if you have the wrong kind of plan. But, if you have a data plan with lots of GB of data, or unlimited data, go for it.
Some carriers allow tethering on iPhones, but you’ll have to pay an extra fee for it (perhaps $20). But hey, it could be a good solution for you. Check with your carrier and be careful about data limits that could really raise the cost.
Free Dialup Internet
There are some Internet providers like Net Zero and Juno that give ten free hours of dialup access (remember that screeching noise when connecting?) per month. Obviously, these services are going to be slow because they are dialup, and they have big ads which make them even slower. They can be hard to connect to during peak times. Cancelling can be a bit of a pain, sometimes requiring a phone call. But, if you really can’t afford anything else, these services can be a last resort if you just want to hop on the Internet to grab your email and things like that. It won’t be very fun though.
Net Zero and Juno also have low-cost paid dial up services start for around $10 per month.
You could go to Starbuck’s for free Internet, but if you have to buy a coffee every time, that can be more expensive than just getting home Internet. Most public libraries (remember those?) offer free Internet access if you get a library card. Yes, it’s not home Internet, but it might work if you only need it occasionally and get Internet on your phone the rest of the time.
Some cable companies have low-rate plans for people with low incomes. Comcast offers a $9.95 per month plan if you have a child eligible for the National School Lunch Program. Check with your local provider to see what they offer.
Any other ideas to save on Internet access? Please leave a comment. – Brian