What's the first thing you do when you move into a new apartment? You sign up for internet, agreeing to fork over anywhere from $50 to $100 per month so you can stream, game and browse to your heart's content. That's all fine and dandy, but what if there was an easy way to save money on home internet?
That's where your cell phone plan comes in.
Using your smartphone as a hotspot could save you hundreds of dollars per year, which is great for anyone who's on a budget.
A hotspot is easy to use, too — all you have to do is switch on your phone's hotspot setting and you can connect various devices to your phone's network, such as your laptop, smart TV and tablet. Using your phone's hotspot can replace your separate home internet account, as long as your phone plan includes unlimited data or a generous amount of hotspot data.
Here's everything you need to know about using your mobile hotspot to save money on home internet.
In short, hotspot data enables you to connect your other devices to the internet using your smartphone's cell signal. The great thing about a mobile hotspot is that it allows you to get internet wherever you have mobile service — whether you're hanging at home or on the go. There's really no good reason not to take advantage of your mobile hotspot if your plan includes one.
There are several advantages and disadvantages to replacing your home internet with a mobile hotspot. We've outlined some of the key pros and cons below.
If you know that you use colossal amounts of data each month and don't want to deal with slow speeds and low-quality video, then replacing internet with a mobile hotspot may not be the best choice for you.
Conversely, if you're a renter looking for places in your budget to save money, a mobile hotspot plan is one of the first changes you should consider.
You can easily save hundreds of dollars per year by getting rid of home internet and using your mobile hotspot. The average US adult spends about $60 per month on their internet, which equates to $720 per year in savings. In some cases, you can even save upwards of $2,000, depending on which internet plan you were on.
The first thing you need to do on your quest to ditch home internet is determining if your phone plan includes hotspot capability or a dedicated hotspot allowance. Hotspot capability means that you can use your primary data allowance to connect other devices to your mobile network. Conversely, a dedicated hotspot allowance is separate from your primary data.
Each of the carriers in the Big Four, which is a group comprised of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, offers a dedicated hotspot with at least one of its unlimited plans. Some smaller providers, such as Cricket Wireless, Metro by T-Mobile and Boost Mobile, come with a dedicated hotspot, as well.
Meanwhile, other cell phone providers charge an extra fee for hotspot use. If you're looking to save money, you'll want to steer clear of the carriers that charge an additional cost.
If your cell phone plan is hotspot-capable, congrats! To prevent overage fees or glacially slow data speeds, you'll want to switch to an unlimited plan if you're not already on one. Once you do that, you'll need to verify the amount of data your plan allows you to use before your data speeds slow.
This detail is helpful to know because many wireless carriers will slow your data speeds during times of heavy network congestion in order to free up the network for customers who have used less data that month. This is a nightmare you can prevent by making sure to do your research.
If your unlimited plan includes 30GB of high-speed data or less, it may not suffice for all of your cellular data and home internet needs — especially if you're wanting to stream all your favorite shows and movies. Look for unlimited plans with 50GB or higher, such as T-Mobile Magenta Plus and AT&T Unlimited Extra.
Your other option is to sign up for a cell phone plan that comes with a dedicated hotspot allowance, which doesn't suck up your primary data. Some of the best mobile hotspot plans offered by major carriers include the following:
These plans also include entertainment perks like Netflix and Hulu and run anywhere from $60 to $90 per month, which is fairly inexpensive considering you're no longer paying a monthly internet bill.
Plus, if you and your roommate(s) sign up for a hotspot family plan together, you'll be able to save even more money per line. Additionally, some small carriers offer budget-friendly plans featuring dedicated hotspots:
One great perk about these small carriers is that their plans are prepaid, which means you aren't subject to a credit check in order to sign up for a plan.
Another thing you'll want to consider when deciding whether to ditch home internet or not is what happens once you've used your hotspot allowance for the month. Instead of cutting you off entirely, many carriers will dramatically slow your tethering speeds.
For example, AT&T slows hotspot data from 4G LTE to 128 Kbps, which is virtually unusable, while Verizon slows from 4G LTE to 600 Kbps, which may suffice for basic web browsing and possibly Netflix streaming on your phone. If this is something you're willing to live with, a mobile hotspot may be a good choice for you.
Before you commit to a phone plan with hotspot privileges, you'll want to check which carriers provide coverage in your area. It's a good idea to go with a carrier that provides robust coverage throughout your city or area in case you decide to move to a different apartment after your lease is up.
Check out network coverage by carrier below:
Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile provide excellent coverage throughout the United States, while Sprint's network has the best coverage along the eastern seaboard.
Now that you've got a mobile hotspot plan, you're going to want to use it. Say goodbye to installing a modem in your house. Turning on your phone's hotspot and connecting devices to it is super easy and doesn't require any technical knowledge. Here's how:
Voila, you're connected and ready to go. Before you know it, you'll be saving money on your home internet and will have plenty of funds left for more exciting things.