Between checking work and personal email, posting on social media sites, and researching local restaurants, having access to the Internet is a very real modern-day necessity.
But that doesn't mean you have to pay an arm and a leg for it.
According to Michael Matthews, founder of The Mobile Culture, a tech and mobile consulting firm based in New York City, "there are many options for reducing your monthly Internet costs. It just depends on what you use it for, how often you need access, and what companies are available in your area."
Intrigued? Read on to learn about five tips for lowering your Internet costs.
Tip #1 - Shop Around
Because there's often a rush to get Internet installed, it's common for people to sign up with the largest provider instead of shopping around for the best deal, says Matthews.
But when you take time to research other providers and compare prices, you could potentially uncover some savings.
For starters, ask your friends and neighbors about their experience and satisfaction with their current Internet providers. After you have the name of a few different companies, research their rates and contact them to see if they have any new customer discounts.
Even if you don't end up switching, you can become a more informed customer by learning more out about Internet service options, adds Matthews.
Tip #2 - Bundle Up
Got a landline and cable? Consider bundling these services with your Internet for potential savings.
Many providers offer discounts to customers that are willing to bundle Internet, cable, and phone services together all on one bill.
According to "The Benefits of Bundling and Bargaining" - an article from Consumer Reports, a nonprofit consumer-awareness organization - one in three surveyed Consumer Reports readers chose to bundle their TV, Internet, and home phone services.
Besides saving money by bundling their digital services, surveyors liked the convenience of having only one bill from one provider.
Tip #3 - Determine Your Speed Needs
Just because a digital services provider offers the fastest Internet speeds doesn't necessarily mean you need it for your home computer.
In fact, according to Matthews, many customers are overbuying Internet speed, and therefore overpaying. The worst part? They don't even know it.
"Because they're upsold by the provider during installation to get the fastest available speed, they often don't know there are other options available," Matthews says.
If this sounds familiar, take a look at your current online usage and then evaluate whether you really need high-speed Internet. For example, if you only use the Internet to check email and hardly ever watch movies online, play online games, or download large files, a slower Internet connection may be adequate for your needs.
Tip #4 - Negotiate Your Rate
Did you know that your bargaining skills could come in handy when looking for the best rate? Apparently not too many people have received that memo.
According to an Annual Telecom Survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center in spring 2011, "Seven out of 10 respondents with a triple-play service bundle didn't even try to bargain their bills down."
The good news: For those surveyors who did bargain, "more than 90 percent got some accommodation from their provider."
But before you put on your bargaining hat and call your current provider, Matthews provides a few tips to keep in mind:
- Call at least three different companies and get quotes to gain bargaining power.
- Call your current digital services provider and ask for a discount. If the company's rep pushes back, mention that a competitor has offered you a lower rate and you're considering switching.
By negotiating your rate, your current provider will most likely reduce the cost instead of taking the risk of losing you as a customer, adds Matthews.
Tip #5 - Use Internet Outside Your Home
If you only use the Internet sparingly and tend to use Internet access in local cafes or libraries, you may be able to get by with a slower home Internet speed - or get rid of your home Internet altogether.
Obviously, this won't work if you need Internet access beyond the times of operation for public hotspots - like late at night or early in the morning - but using the Internet outside of the home could be a great option for someone who doesn't need 24/7 access.
Matthews does warn that not all community Internet is created equal.
"Some Wi-Fi signals will be stronger than others," he says. "If you need fast and reliable service, your office or the library is probably a better bet than a neighborhood coffee shop. And often, restaurants or cafes require you to purchase something before logging on."
But before you kick your home Internet to the curb, make sure that you understand your preferred Internet access, your needed Internet speed, your online customs (just emailing or also downloading pictures, watching online movies, etc.), and how often you go online.
Being more aware of your Internet habits could help you reduce your monthly rate.