Most of the things you do every day can also be done online – it just requires a bit of time to get started. First of all you need internet access. If you are reading this page you may be looking at this on behalf of someone else.
Getting broadband at home
First of all you need a way to get on to the internet. For most households this means installing broadband. The good news is that this doesn’t have to be expensive and you can easily do this yourself – if you already have a BT landline it can cost very little more than you are already paying for your phone.
The first step is to find a provider – BT is one of them but is usually not the cheapest. Take a look at comparethemarket and uswitch to see what is available. If you just need basic email and internet access the cheapest packages should be fine; if you expect to watch a lot of streaming video or there are several members of the household using the internet you may prefer a slightly more expensive ‘fibre’ package.
To get your home broadband going you will need a box called a router – this connects to your phone line. Once your broadband has been ordered the router will usually arrive in the post a few days later and will have instructions for getting started.
Getting broadband on a smartphone
Another option is to use a smartphone to provide your internet – you can also connect other devices using the ‘wifi hotspot’ option. This is easy to set up and can work well, but be aware that most mobile packages have a maximum monthly data limit (measured in gigabytes or GB) and can get expensive if you go over this limit. Be particularly careful if you watch video, which uses a lot of data, and most contracts won’t be suitable for watching streaming video services such as iPlayer and Netflix.
A cheap way to get started is to use an old smartphone and a ‘SIM only’ contract – look at the price comparison sites for the best deals. Before ordering a SIM you should check three things: 1. that the SIM you are ordering is the right size for the phone or is a ‘multi-SIM’ that fits all phones (this type has a cutout so you can break out the correct size for your phone), 2. that the provider allows ‘tethering’, which means connecting other devices (most providers do these days, but one or two of the cheapest still don’t) and 3. that the plan you are signing up for provides enough data (GB), as going over the allowance can be expensive.
Cheaper laptops and desktop computers
New computers are expensive, but the good news is that there are a load of much cheaper high quality refurbished devices available. These are often ex business computers, which are usually higher quality than the consumer-grade computers you can buy in the shops, and often at less than half the price.
Good models to look for on the refurbished market are HP Elitebook and Lenovo Thinkpad (laptops); HP Elite, Lenovo Thinkcentre and Dell Optiplex (desktops). These are often sold on Amazon and Ebay, and a good quality device with decent performance can often be picked up for less than £200. Look at the warranty details and the seller’s reputation before buying. If you get a desktop PC you will also need a monitor, mouse and keyboard (total about £100 new). For good performance look for a Windows 10 machine with at least an Intel i3 processor, 4GB RAM and a solid state drive (SSD).
You don’t need a top of the range phone
When choosing a smartphone you don’t need an expensive iPhone or the latest top of the range model from manufacturers such Samsung that can cost well over £500. For most users a budget phone will be fine – we generally suggest paying £100-150 and choosing based on online reviews. Models such as the Moto G series and Nokia 6 get good reviews and are adequate for most people’s needs. You can sometimes find cheaper refurbished phones on Ebay and Amazon for less than £100, and these are often very good value. Look for a 1 year warranty when buying and pay attention to the seller’s reputation.