Cost of living crisis: How to save money on your broadband bill

Claire Nottage | November 30th, 2022

Man checking his bills

Find out if you could be paying less for your broadband

Broadband may be a home essential, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth. You can easily reduce how much you spend on it each month, from only paying for what you need to switching broadband provider at the end of your contract. We’ve put together the key ways you can reduce your costs and give your bank balance a boost, from finding a cheaper broadband deal, to shrinking your TV package.

1. Switch to get a better deal

Frustratingly, all broadband providers keep their best – and cheapest – deals for new customers. This means that the best price you will ever get from your broadband provider was the one when you first joined up. This price would have been fixed for the term of your contract – likely to have been 18 months or two years – and after that point it will have increased significantly. In some cases broadband providers almost double the monthly price once the initial contract term has ended.

To ensure customers are aware of this price hike and have the opportunity to switch before the price rise, Ofcom now requires all providers to inform their customers that the end of their contract is approaching and that the price will increase at that point. Once you get this notification, it’s time to start searching for a new broadband deal. You can try to haggle with your existing provider and they may grudgingly drop the new price a little, but it still won’t save as much as getting a completely new deal with another provider.

When looking for a new deal, it’s also worth keeping your eyes peeled for any cashback offers or other freebies. Some of the bigger providers, such as Sky and BT, regularly offer cashback in the form of a prepaid credit card. However, these offers are often only in conjunction with the more expensive packages, so always look at the overall cost of the package as it may not work out to be the best deal if you are looking to save money.

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Haggle with your existing provider

If you're beyond your contract period and really don't want the fuss of having to switch provider, there's a slim chance you may be able to haggle with your current provider. For this, you will need to call them on the phone and sound serious about switching if they can't offer you a better deal. It's best to go in armed with a better deal from another provider to point out to them. This won't always work, and it can depend on how long you've been a customer, but still worth a try if you can't of won't switch.

Switching broadband is simple

Although it may seem like an intimidating prospect, switching broadband is straightforward, and it can save you hundreds of pounds a year. Work out which broadband speed you need and take a look at our broadband comparison page. Put in your postcode to check what’s available at your address and we will show you all the options. You can filter by price, speed, contract length and provider to find a deal that’s right for you.

Unless you are moving to or from Virgin Media, or to a niche, full fibre provider like Hyperoptic, both of which run on their own network, there is no need for you to tell your current provider you’re leaving – your new one will do all that for you.

Compare broadband deals

2. Only pay for what you need

With many of the big broadband providers now advertising faster and faster speeds, it can be easy to think that the broadband speed you currently have isn’t good enough, whereas in all likelihood, it probably is. In general terms, the faster the download speed, the more expensive the monthly cost.

If you’re not sure what your speed is at the moment, then check with your broadband provider first to see what you are paying for, and then run an online speed test to see what you’re actually getting. Bear in mind that if you run a speed test on a device connected by wifi rather than cable, it is likely to be slower than whatever your provider quotes you.

If you are receiving pretty much what you should be getting, the next thing to do is decide if your broadband speed is coping with the demands you put on it. For example, can it keep all your devices connected, or do websites struggle to load? Do streaming services such as Netflix take forever to load up or freeze in the middle of you watching something (known as buffering)? If you answer yes to any of these, then it’s worth getting a faster connection. If not, then your current connection is coping just fine – you don’t need to pay for anything faster.

Choosing the right broadband speed

If you’re not sure what speed you do need, or wondering if you can get away with paying for something cheaper, here’s a rough guide as to what you should need to keep everything ticking along.

  • One person – If you live alone, an entry-level fibre speed of around 35Mbps should be enough for gaming, streaming and browsing
  • Two people – Depending on how you use your internet connection, 35Mbps may be enough. If you like to stream in UHD however, or download a lot of videogames, then it might be worth taking a step up to 50Mbps or 76Mbps
  • Four people – Four people all sharing one internet connection are likely to require a minimum of 76Mbps – enough to keep all the various smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs connected
  • Six or more people – Very large households may get away with 76Mbps if no one streams in UHD, downloads huge videogames or has numerous devices to keep connected, but it is more likely that an ultrafast package of 100Mbps or more would be a better bet

3. Drop your TV subscription and stream instead

If you mostly watch streaming services for your TV entertainment, then you might want to consider switching from a big TV package such as Sky Q or Virgin 360 to a simple streaming box and a broadband connection.

Virgin Media now offers its Virgin Media Stream box for just a one-off upfront fee of £35 with any Virgin broadband package. It comes with over 40 free-to-air channels and access to a wide range of apps to which you can choose to subscribe if you wish. Not only is this cheaper on a monthly basis than a Virgin Media broadband and TV bundle, but it gives you the option to cancel at any time, rather than committing to an 18-month contract. Choose from Netflix, Disney+, Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, BT Sport and more.

Alternatively, consider switching to a streaming device such as a Roku, Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV stick. With an upfront cost from as little as £20, you can then watch Freeview channels through the free apps (such as BBC iPlayer and ITVX), or choose to subscribe to the likes of Netflix, NOW TV, Disney+ and Amazon Prime for an extra monthly fee, but which you can cancel at any time if finances get tight.

All streaming services require a broadband connection to work, but with a decent fibre connection costing from as little as £18 per month, you can save yourself a lot of money.

4. See if you qualify for low-income broadband

If you are on certain government benefits, you are eligible to apply for broadband exclusively available to low-income households, which is offered at a lower price to help households that are struggling financially. Several providers, including BT and Virgin Media, offer these special packages. To qualify, you will need to be in receipt of one or more of the following:

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit)
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support

Providers that offer low-income broadband

A growing number of broadband providers offer a social tariff for eligible customers. As well as mainstream providers such as BT, more niche providers such as Hull-based KCOM and pure fibre specialist Hyperoptic also offer special discounted packages. Bear in mind that the discounted prices are only available for a fixed-term period and after that you will have to switch to another provider’s social tariff or face paying bigger bills each month again.

Package Download Speed Contract Price
BT Unlimited Fibre Essential 35Mbps 12 months £15 per month
BT Unlimited Fibre 47-71Mbps 12 months £20 per month
Virgin Media Essential Broadband 15Mbps 30-day rolling £12.50 per month
Virgin Media Essential Broadband 54Mbps 30-day rolling £20 per month
Vodafone Essentials Broadband 38Mbps 12 months £12 per month
Sky Broadband Basics 36Mbps 18 months £20 per month
NOW Broadband Basic 36Mbps 31-day notice £20 per month

BT Home Essentials

Eligible customers can choose from BT Unlimited Fibre Essential which comes with 35Mbps and 700 minutes and costs £15 per month, or BT Unlimited Fibre which comes with 47-71Mbps (depending on your area) and unlimited minutes and costs £20 per month. If you just want a phone line and no broadband, BT offers its call-only plan for £10 per month with unlimited minutes. If you choose to leave early there are no exit fees to pay, unlike a regular broadband deal.

Visit BT for more info or see our BT Home Essentials guide.

Virgin Media Essential Broadband

Customers on Universal Credit can choose from 15Mbps for £12.50 per month or 54Mbps for £20 per month with Virgin Media. Provided on a rolling 30-day contract, customers can leave at any time without being penalised.

Visit Virgin Media for more information.

Vodafone Essentials Broadband

Anyone in receipt of benefits can choose to sign up to Vodafone Essentials. Costing £12 per month, it comes with a 38Mbps download speed on a 12-month contract with the option to leave early without being charged termination fees.

Visit Vodafone for more information.

Sky Broadband Basics and NOW Broadband Basic

Sky only offers its Broadband Basics package to existing customers on benefits, and comes with 36Mbps fibre broadband and pay-as-you-talk calls for £20 per month on an 18-month contract. Brand new customers can get the same deal with NOW Broadband, which offers contract-free NOW Broadband Basics. Both packages come with the option to terminate your contract early without being charged cancellation fees.

Visit Sky or NOW Broadband for more information.

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