THE BLOG

How Paying for Internet at Home Helps You Save Money

03/21/2013 08:03 EDT | Updated 05/21/2013 05:12 EDT
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A man looks at a webpage while connecting on the internet on March 15, 2013 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / LIONEL BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

Simply by reading this, there could be a cheque with your name on it in the amount of $8,870 or more -- this year, next year and every year thereafter.

To cash these cheques all you need to do is know how to use the Internet with an eye to saving money. Why $8,870? That's how much money the Internet Innovation Alliance calculates households connected to the Internet in the United States save every year compared to the 30 per cent of households with no Internet access. (There's no comparable Canadian data yet, but it has to be in the same ballpark.)

Where do these huge savings come from? From simple, common sense things like price matching online, buying online, digital coupons, or finding cheap or free ways to solve problems and cut into the high rates Bell, Rogers and others tap you for simple access to the Internet.

The average Internet connected family frees up thousands of dollars without giving up anything at all -- if they shop around online. Does it sound too good to be true? It's not. And get this: the savvier you are with tech manoeuvres the more you can save. To start, let's look at communication and entertainment.

Long ago, like 2008, it used to be that you had a home phone, cable-TV, a cell phone and Internet. You'd get a discount rate if you bought them all from the same company like Rogers, Bell or Telus. Way back in the day, the pricing was more or less fair and pretty straightforward, and each service had its own role. For example, you couldn't watch TV on your phone or call people through your computer.

Today, it's completely different. Between your wireless phone, cable and Internet connections, you can do everything you need. (Only patsies still have wireline phones! What good is a phone that's literally tethered to the wall?) Let's just cut the landline and save anywhere from $25-55 dollars a month, or $300-660 a year.

Think you'll miss long distance? Just hop on Skype or Gmail, both offer free long distance calling anywhere in Canada and the U.S., and internationally for pennies on the hour. It might take an extra few minutes to learn and set up the first time, but it will pay for itself in the first conversation.

What about television? Rogers' packages range from about $40-150 per month, or about $500-1,800 a year. Is it worth it? It depends. If you use the TV as background noise, or have a few shows that you follow, probably not. Netflix Canada may not have as big a library as down south, but at $8 per month its pretty good value for the money. Afraid about missing out on sports? An NBA streaming pass (that works on your TV) will run you $60 for a season. The other leagues have similar offers.

None of this is hard to set up, it's just a little effort and lot better than blindly following the script read to you by the Bell or Rogers sales representative. And it's not only cheaper, it's also on your terms.

As for shopping, there are plenty of ways to save more money; from buying almost new stuff on auction sites to downloading your favourite author's latest book for $10 apiece instead of shelling out $35 for a hardcover. An added bonus to downloading is your tablet allows you to change the print size and use backlighting to make reading easier on the eyes.

If all this tech stuff is intimidating, hire a teenager at $20 an hour to tutor you. In half a day, you'll have saved enough money to pay him or her for the time.

Technology literacy simply gives us more options, lower prices, and better value. Reading, writing, and 'rithmetic were the baseline requirements to be educated in the past. Add basic technology skills to the mix for the new normal in the 21st century economy -- or pay more for everything.

Akamai's 'State Of The Internet' Report Q2 2011: The Top 9 U.S. States With The Fastest Internet