Don't gigabyte more than you can chew

NET VALUE: Finding the right internet service deal can be a pleasing cost saver.
NET VALUE: Finding the right internet service deal can be a pleasing cost saver.

The internet is awesome. It offers all the cute cat memes, arguments with strangers and scantily clad attractive people you could ever want. It's a miracle anyone ever leaves the house.

Unfortunately, all that online escapism costs us more than hours of lost productivity.

How do you make sure you're squeezing in the maximum number of Facebook status updates and YouTube "fail" videos for your buck?

Dealing with internet service providers (ISPs) can be a bit of a hassle. There's a tendency to choose one, then forget all about it.

The only reminder is the monthly bill; or nothing at all if the cash gets spirited out of your account by direct debit.

It's pretty crucial to double-check all the big expenses about once a year to make sure you're still hooked up to the best deal, but it's a chore.

As your loyal servant, I've put in spadework to figure out the technical mumbo-jumbo that goes into an internet bill.

Step one is to weigh up your current needs. There're big discounts available for "naked" broadband - which doesn't mean surfing the web in the nude, but ditching the traditional phoneline.

If you make all your calls by mobile or over the web instead, you'll typically save about $20 a month on the cost of the basic connection alone.

Next up is speed. If you need to stream videos quickly, use Skype a lot, or play online games, you'll probably want a product called "VDSL".

Otherwise, standard broadband is plenty fast enough for tooling around on regular websites, and will save you about $10 a month.

The next level up again, ultra-fast broadband, is usually just as cheap, but it's not yet widely available. Put your address into your ISP's website to figure out if you're in the zone.

Finally, look back at previous usage to see how much data you typically chew your way through each month.

It's tempting to get a huge data cap or an expensive "unlimited" plan so you don't have to worry about running out of broadband.

But be cautious. When I took the time to check, I found we had a 200 gigabyte package - or enough to surf the web continuously for about 20,000 hours.

Turns out we typically use about a quarter of that - between six people - and have only once even come close to using half.

And our usage is about double the New Zealand average of a mere 23GB of data per month.

You'll typically save $20 a month by sticking with 80GB - which is in itself an enormous amount - rather than unlimited.

Once you've figured out your needs, shop around with all the major providers to find the cheapest deal.

A handy shortcut is the Consumer NZ website, which helps you compare plans.

Be sure to check out any extra offers running, like free modem installation. Some providers like Vodafone also have hook-ups with companies like Sky TV, which can add further savings.

We managed to knock $15 off Sky, as well as $15 off the internet plan we were currently on, plus another $10 for linking to a mobile phone account.

All up, our monthly internet bill is about to dive from $100 to $60, when you account for the added TV savings.

That's a fairly impressive $480 a year. More than enough cash to hit the "log off" button, step outside the house, and go and actually do something.

Sunday News