There are lots of ways to save money in the new year, from doing your own taxes to negotiating on tire prices. But when it comes to your digital life, some of the easiest tips for saving money come down to not overpaying for things you don’t really need or want.
We list three easy tips below. These tactics won’t all work for all people, but they can be relatively painless for many of us.
Case in point: Cable TV. If you watch tons of sports and love shows on many channels, your pay-TV package may be just what you need. But many people can switch over entirely to streaming services and barely notice the change.
In addition to what we list below, here are some bonus quick tips: Buy an older model smartphone, negotiate when you’re shopping online, and change the way you buy printer ink.
Get more expert advice from Consumer Reports on how to pay less for practically anything.
Fire Your Cable Company
Cutting the cord has been a holy grail for consumers for years. That’s when you keep your internet service but cancel the TV package, perhaps subbing in online streaming services, such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, for entertainment.
But in the past, doing that could have meant giving up familiar channels, such as NBC, FOX, and HGTV. No longer. Newer internet TV services, such as DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, and Sling, include conventional channels in their mix. (Depending on where you live, an indoor antenna can also bring in traditional broadcasts.)
For instance, streaming service DirecTV Now charges $35 per month for a bucket of more than 60 channels. There are also higher-priced options that offer more, or you can add some premium channels, such as HBO, for just $5 to $8 per month.
Keep in mind: All services offer different mixes of channels and pricing. And these services don’t have all their channels available in all markets.
Don’t Overpay for Cellular Data
Unlimited data plans can cost just $60 to $85 for a single line, depending on the carrier and such factors as whether you want HD-quality video. But the takeaway is this: An unlimited data plan may be cheaper than whatever older plan you’re still using and may be cheaper than paying for each line’s data individually.
For instance, recently a 10GB plan from AT&T was $100 for a single line, $5 more than the company’s Unlimited Plus option for one line. (Cellular plans change frequently; we keep track of pricing at the biggest carriers.)
On the other hand, if you don’t use much data, don’t pay for it. You can get unlimited voice time and 1GB of data for just $30 at Consumer Cellular (less if you’re an AARP member). And this carrier is highly rated by Consumer Reports subscribers on factors such as value and customer service.
Buy, Don’t Rent, Your Router
If you’re still paying rental fees for your modem or router, you could be losing money.
Leasing a cable-company router or modem generally sets consumers back $5 to $10 per month—or about $60 to $120 per year on top of the fees you pay for your internet service.
Buy the equipment and you’ll be ahead within a year or two.
This can be a confusing purchase, and we have lots of basic information on routers. For now, just make sure any modem/router combination you buy is compatible with your service: Most traditional modems work with cable networks but not with fiber-optic networks, such as Verizon FiOS.
Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the February 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.