In times where monthly budgets are strained for many, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of people are looking to reduce their monthly spend on things like phone bills, premium TV packages, internet provider costs and more.
Having a phone and an internet connection is a luxury, not a necessity. That said, it is possible to save by shopping around and looking for a better deal.
Telephone lines & tariffs
There are hundreds of different plans and tariffs out there when it comes to your home phone. For that reason, it makes sense to do some serious shopping around to ensure that you get the very best phone deal. If you don’t touch your house phone and you’ve only got a phone line so you can have an internet connection, you’ll be best on a deal that includes the cheapest possible line rental and no call packages.
If on the other hand you’re constantly glued to the house phone, you should look for a tariff that includes a call package – this can significantly reduce your spend on making calls each month. Whilst call packages aren’t free, they can reduce your bill by hundreds of pounds. From “weekend” call packages to “any time” call packages – there are plenty to choose from, each with their own merits.
The thing to remember with your house phone is that all providers charge line rental – this tends to be anything from around £9 to £15 per month. On top of line rental are your actual call charges, call packages and other things.
A good way in which to chat with friends without running up your home phone bill is to use a VOIP service like Skype. With Skype you can make calls to friends over the internet – it doesn’t cost a dime when you’re calling another Skype user. Calling telephone numbers from Skype isn’t free, but it’s not expensive either. If you make a lot of international calls, you should definitely check out Skype sooner rather than later – it could save you a fortune!
Internet & broadband deals
The market is ever-changing for internet customers. A couple of years back there were only really a couple of products to choose from, good old dial-up and DSL (if you were lucky). Now there’s cable, fibre and of course mobile broadband too. You really are spoilt for choice!
DSL and cable connections tend to be the favourite – they’re cheap, often less than £15 per month. As well as lots of new broadband packages on the market, there are lots of new suppliers too – helping to drive prices down. You may have seen Plus Net’s ads on TV recently. Plus Net was a relatively small company that ended up being bought out by BT – Plus Net and BT are separate entities though, and you can pay up to 50% less for your connection through Plus Net, compared to BT.
If you want the best broadband offers, be sure to look at the deals available on DSL and cable in your area. Newer technologies like fibre optics tend to be very pricey at present, and they’re not likely to come down in price in the near future.
Having a fixed internet connection brings many merits – the main merit being speed. If you’re a hard core gamer or you do a lot of movie/TV streaming over the internet, a reliable, fast internet connection is a “must”. If your house is full of internet addicts then a super fast fibre optic broadband connection might be in order. If you’re on a budget though, DSL or cable will usually suffice.
Look carefully through the fine print before signing up with any broadband provider – some charge ridiculous amounts of money for going over data download limits – some may even cut you off completely.
If you simply can’t afford to pay for landline phone rental and an internet connection on top, you can always look at mobile internet dongles. All of the main mobile phone networks offer dongles – prices start at less than £10 per month for some of the smaller data packages. For high data usage you’ll be looking at around £15 or more per month – but that’s still significantly less than you’d have to pay for a fixed broadband connection.
The beauty of USB internet dongles is that you can take them with you wherever you go – they’ll work virtually anywhere in the UK (providing there’s sufficient coverage). The obvious drawback is speed – USB dongles aren’t as fast as a DSL or cable line in most cases, but the portability and flexibility they offer does make them a good alternative to a fixed internet connection.
If a USB dongle is also out of the question it’s well worth looking into tethering your mobile phone. Most new phones can be tethered allowing you to connect to the internet on tablets, computers and laptops simply using your mobile phone as a gateway. Be sure to check with your mobile phone network provider to see if this practice is allowed – some companies do levy an extra charge (although it’s typically around £5 per month, significantly cheaper than paying for a fixed connection or a USB internet dongle).
Compare TV packages
There are lots of premium TV services and digital TV packages out there including Sky satellite TV, Virgin Media and BT Vision. What all of these services have in common is that you pay a premium each month to watch channels that aren’t available on Freeview. From sports to movies, from documentaries to music channels – there’s a whole range of choice available through these services, but it doesn’t come cheap!
Our number one tip with premium TV is never to signup with the salesmen (or women) that have stalls in shopping centres and precincts. 99% of the time they won’t be able to offer deals half as good as you’ll find on the internet.
Some of the higher end premium TV packages including sport and movie channels can cost upwards of £70 per month – that’s over £800 per year! What you’ll find is that premium TV companies are always looking to entice new customers on board with great deals, so there really is no need to pay full price – look around for offers and deals – if you can’t find anything appealing, follow our retentions advice below.
Once again, another great place to find top deals on premium TV is via cash back websites including Quidco and Top Cash Back. These sites often give you a lump sum cash back up front, or even vouchers to spend at a specific shop.
Retentions teams are your friend when it comes to premium TV. All of the major players hate to see their customers leave – so if you’re currently out of contract with your premium TV provider, be sure to give them a quick reminder! Often a five minute call can save you up to 50% (in fact, I saved 75% on Sky TV one year simply by calling retentions).
Here’s a quick guide to calling the retentions team along with some tips to help ensure you come out of it with your desired outcome:
Do some research before the call, compare TV packages – if you’re with Sky then make sure you research the offers BT and Virgin Media have going. Research Sky’s competitors and let them know what you could be getting elsewhere, and at what price.
Do a quick online search for the telephone number for the retentions department of the company you’re with. If you can’t find it, just ring the normal customer service number and ask to be put through to retentions, or the cancellation department.
Be cheeky – make it absolutely clear what you’re saying: “I can get a similar TV deal for half price with X company, can you match that?”. Retentions people aren’t silly – they’ll often pull out all the stops to keep you.
Never settle for what’s offered to you at first. If the operator offers you 50% off the package for six months, push for 12 months at 50% off – or even six months at 75% off.
If the call doesn’t go down the way you wanted and nothing is offered, you don’t have to continue with the cancellation if you don’t want to – just tell the operator you’ll consider your options and call back again later or tomorrow to cancel. This is your “get out of jail free card” in case they’re not forthcoming with offers and retentions deals.
Get an all-in-one package
Lots of companies out there including BT, Sky and Virgin Media now offer all-in-one packages, they include line rental calls and premium digital TV. Whilst these packages can sometimes look a little expensive on the surface, when you dig a little deeper it soon becomes clear you can save up to 50% by taking out all of these services with just the one company.
Price comparison websites are a great place to find the very best all-in-one packages – just remember when your initial contract is up, you need to go back and reassess the market. Just because your package offered the best value when you took it out, doesn’t mean it still offers good value a year or two down the line.
Price comparison websites
As with utilities and energy tariffs, you’ll almost always be able to slash your spending on technology by using price comparison websites. The advantage to using a price comparison website is simple: They collate information about different deals from different companies and put it all side by side for you to analyse. Provider A may be cheaper than provider B, but provider B may offer an unlimited data cap, whereas provider A may not.
Having deals side by side allows you to make an informed decision – the cheapest deal is never the best deal. Finding the best value deal is obviously very time consuming if you try to do it manually – with a price comparison site you can usually arrive at the best value deal in just a matter of seconds.
Do you really need a TV Licence?
The answer is no, you don’t necessarily need a TV Licence. At £145.50 per year (at the time of writing, August 2013), a TV Licence isn’t particularly costly. That said, it still equates to over £10 per month – money better off in your pocket than someone else’s.
If you watch live TV on a TV set, your laptop, through a games console or through any other source, you do need a TV Licence – there are no two ways about it. If you record live TV through a DVR (digital TV recorder) or your Sky digital box, you do need a TV Licence. Even if you watch or record the TV, but you don’t want the BBC, you still need a TV Licence.
If however you only watch catch-up TV through the likes of the BBC iPlayer or 4 on Demand, you don’t need a TV Licence. If you only listen to the radio (including the BBC Radio stations), you do not need a TV Licence.
With the increase in the number of TV on demand applications, more and more people are completely cutting themselves off from live TV for one reason or another. So, if you’ve not turned the TV on for months and you only watch catch-up services on your laptop or tablet computer, you may not need a TV Licence.
There’s no time like the present to review your TV licence situation! Just bear in mind the penalties for being caught watching or recording live TV without a TV Licence are pretty severe – so don’t kid yourself you don’t need one if you actually do.
Start saving now!
There are lots of different ways in which you can save money on your utilities bills like gas and electricity – perhaps the main way of saving money is to use less. With technology like internet, phone tariffs and TV Licences, you don’t usually get a discount for using less, so you have to look for other ways to save money. The very best way to save money is to evaluate the deals you’re getting – you can bet your house on the fact there will almost always be a better deal out there somewhere, it’s just a case of taking the time to find it.
Our final top tip is to take control of the bills that go out of your account – remember the old saying: “You look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”? It’s so true! One of the biggest mistakes people make is to leave contracts to expire and renew automatically. You might have searched for the best broadband or premium TV deal a year ago, but what’s to say that deal is still the best? 99% of the time it won’t be.
At the end of every contract you should actively research the market again – never be scared to switch provider either. OK it may cause a day or two of inconvenience, but a lot of the time you’ll be saving hundreds of pounds over the space of a year.
We all like little luxuries like premium TV channels and super fast broadband internet, but you don’t need to pay over the odds for it.