In today's digitised world, smartphones, laptops and tablets have completely changed the way in which we communicate, entertain ourselves, and access information. Having a good broadband and phone service is therefore essential to so many aspects of life and work.
Unfortunately, a combination of idleness, rising prices, and a lack of market knowledge can combine to cause all sorts of financial headaches for phone and internet customers. If you want to cut your monthly outgoings by finding the best phone and broadband deals though, there are a number of quick and easy steps you can take, and tips to keep in mind that'll help with paying bills, giving your wallet the quick cash boost it deserves.
Bundles or separate providers?
As recently as five years ago, customers were being encouraged to mix and match their phone and broadband service providers, but this state of affairs has changed rapidly. Bundle deals – phone, television, internet and mobile deals, combined into one package – are becoming increasingly popular with service providers, as customers put down their home phones, broadband rates fall, and companies look for ways to improve the profits that have otherwise slumped.
As such, in many cases it's often far cheaper for customers to buy all of their services in one neat package. Many providers also offer cheaper versions of their services to existing customers that can easily be added to the total cost of the bundle, meaning savings across the board.
With these deals though, always consider whether or not you're going to need TV, a mobile phone plan, internet, and a home phone – if you rarely use your landline, are happy with Freeview, or have no need for new-fangled smartphones, there's absolutely no point in paying for services you'll never use.
Compare and contrast
Price comparison websites are an incredibly popular means of understanding what options are open to you when it comes to phone and broadband tariffs, much in the same way as energy rates, water prices and banking charges can each be reduced.
For broadband customers, there are a wide variety of comparison sites out there, each offering a selection of tools, guides and other materials that will guide you through the comparison and bill switching processes. Get to grips with the lengths of the tariffs, download speeds, prices and extras, and you'll be able to make an informed decision.
The same goes for phone deals, although here things are a little more complicated. You'll need to know whether you want a pay-as-you-go, pay monthly SIM-only, or pay monthly handset-included contract.
Pay-as-you-go and SIM-only contracts tend to be cheaper, although you typically won't be supplied a phone with the deal. Tariffs that have a phone included will often be more expensive – although before choosing one of these, search the net and see how cheap your chosen model can be purchased for outright, adding the cost of this to the total cost of your favoured SIM-only package. This is because it's often cheaper to pay for the tariff and handset individually, instead of spreading the cost of the handset out over the life of the contact.
If you're already on a phone contract and you want to switch, you'll have to contact your current provider, telling them you want to leave and asking for a Porting Authorisation Code – this will allow you to keep your number when you move to the new contract.
If you're switching broadband provider, you might not even need to contact your existing provider – new rules means that all you have to do is contact the company you'd like to switch to, let them know what you'd like to do, and they'll handle all stages of the swap-over.
Note, though, that if you are changing to or from Virgin Media or another cable network provider, you will still have to contact both companies and coordinate the connection switch-off and switch-on dates.
Regular or superfast?
There are two main types of internet deal available to consumers: broadband and superfast broadband. The former typically covers download speeds up to 17Mb, while the latter is used to describe speeds between 38Mb and 200Mb. Superfast tariffs allow for a faster internet connection, letting users stream, download, and upload files at a far faster rate than regular broadband tariffs.
It might appear that you should go for the faster option, although think before you buy. First, if your internet usage levels are low, or you're only using your internet connection for less data-heavy applications such as web browsing and the occasional video call, then paying less for a regular broadband package is unlikely to impact your browsing.
Second, only a small majority of areas across the country can access superfast broadband – typically those who live in urban areas. To check if you can benefit from faster speeds, visit the website of a superfast provider, or visit one of the many price comparison websites that have superfast-assessing tools available.
Mobile phone deals will offer prospective customers a variety of deals on inclusive allowances which can save money for users – free texts and minutes, for instance. The amount of data afforded by a plan – very important for smartphone owners – should also be taken note of.
If you use lots of mobile data, it's a good idea to opt for a higher download limit, but know that data downloaded over Wi-Fi connections doesn't count against your data limit. A really easy way to cut mobile phone costs is to simply use Wi-Fi connections more than 3G or 4G ones.
With the market currently hosting a large number of broadband and phone providers, it pays to haggle when you're enquiring about signing up. These companies want your money, and certainly don't want you to sign with a competitor, therefore giving consumers the ability to whittle down prices on their terms.
All you need to do is ask for a discount, mentioning the cheaper deals that you might be mulling over. The chances are that you'll be able to save at least a few pounds per month.