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When you use the internet every day, it’s easy to forget that what’s connecting you to the rest of the world is your broadband - a utility that’s comes straight to your home like gas, electricity and water.

Whether it’s helping the kids with their schoolwork, catching up on what you’ve missed on telly or staying in contact with family and friends, most of us wouldn’t want to cope without broadband these days.

As with any utility, it pays to shop around, so before signing up you should compare broadband deals with an Ofcom-accredited website. Here are five ways to save money on your internet and get the best deal possible for your family:

1. Check the small print

Even if you don’t use your home phone to make calls, you still need a landline to get broadband. The only widely-available exception is Virgin Media broadband, which you can get without a phone line as Virgin Media has its own cable network rather than using the national telephone network like most providers. Line rental usually costs more than broadband, so it shouldn’t be overlooked. You should also compare contract length, as the really cheap deals are normally subject to a 24-month agreement. It might be worth paying more for the flexibility of a shorter contract if you’re not sure you’ll be able to see out a longer one.

2. Pick the right package

Don’t be lured in by a broadband package with a super-low monthly price if the speeds and usage you get are going to limit your family’s enjoyment of the web. A household of three or more internet users, each with their own gadgets, whether it’s a laptop, smartphone, tablet or console, needs a decent amount of bandwidth for a smooth online experience. Superfast fibre optic broadband, which is now available to most of the UK, is ideal for families that do a lot online. In any case, you’ll probably need unlimited broadband with the fastest speeds available on your budget so you don’t have to keep an eye on a monthly usage limit or slow one another down.

3. Bundle!

A bit like the offers you get in supermarkets, where buying three instead of one means you’ll paying more initially, but make a decent future saving, it’s almost always cheaper to bundle your broadband with other services. For example, if you want Sky TV, you can save a fair few pounds every month by getting Sky Broadband Unlimited with it - getting unlimited broadband separately from another provider is likely to cost you more. BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk all offer TV, broadband and phone bundles.

4. Only pay for what you need

When you compare broadband packages, it’s easy to get carried away with an amazing deal that offers more than you actually need. Before you sign up, think about whether you’re going to be paying for unnecessary extras you can save money on by ditching. On the other hand, don’t obsess about price alone - if you skimp on speed or TV channels you could regret it, and any saving you made will be quickly forgotten.

5. Switch and switch again

Broadband providers offer their best deals for new customers, so once your contract expires it’s always worth having another shop around to see what extra you might be able to get – and how much money you might be able to save - by switching provider again. Contracts normally last between 12 and 24 months, so if you haven’t switched in two years or more, you’re almost definitely missing out on savings, speed and more.

Take some sunshine, add refreshing drinks, stir with friends and you have a winning mix for summer. The days are long and the nights are light, so to celebrate, why not raise a glass filled with a delicious cocktail, organic wine or fruity cider? The following suggestions are easy to make and even easier to make and even easier to enjoy.

cocktail

Mouth-watering Mixes

For starters, let’s begin with mixing an aforementioned cocktail. Grenadine and orange juice blended with icy cool scoops of sherbet is known as a June Bug. The colour is coral, the taste is terrific and it is a welcome addition at any barbecue or garden gathering. For adults, add some white rum or vodka to this thirst quenching drink that really packs a fruity punch.

Fancy something a bit different? Mix bourbon with sparkling lemonade, drop in two tablespoons of lemon juice, two teaspoons of blackberry rosemary syrup, toss in a handful of blackberries and you’ve created a delightful blackberry bourbon lemonade. Or get experimental with dark spirits, light spirits, fruit juice and lemonade to create an original summer drink of your own.

A Splash of Wine

If you like white wine, why not make a cool cucumber sangria? Simply slice a melon and put in a pitcher with slices of lime, cucumber and twelve mint leaves. Add a drizzle of honey and splash of lime juice, a bottle of semi dry white wine and chill for two hours. Top up with a litre of carbonated water and you’re good to go.

Go Organic

Summer is the time to put those rich bottles of red to one side and splash out on a crisp and welcoming white or refreshing rose. In recent years, organic wines have increased in popularity and come down in price.

It is often reported that a daily glass of wine can be good for you, and organic wines are free of sulphates, chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides and pesticides. Many wine connoisseurs also comment that there is a notable difference in the quality and taste, not to mention having less of an effect the next day!

There’s no need to splash out either, with many websites showing you how to make your own. Freezing fruit, working out water to sugar ratios and foraging, are all part of the fermenting fun, it's good for the environment, and it’s a lot more economical too.

Fruity Ciders

Finally, ciders have evolved almost beyond recognition in recent years. Now they come in a range of strengths and flavours, not just made from traditional apples. Pear, mixed berries, you name it, there’ll be a cider out there for you made from your favourite fruit.

So when it comes to summer, simply decide if you want to drink fruit punch, cocktails, wine or cider, with or without alcohol, bought or made and then select who you want to clink your glass with!

Image by Shreveport-Bossier, under the Creative Comms licence.

Suzanne Wright is a big foodie and travel addict. She especially enjoys Thai cuisine and adventure travel, her favorite activity being canyoning.

I’m a huge believer of the internet and think that everything should be doable on the web. We humans do not use the power of technology to the best of it’s capability, and while we are taking steps every day to work toward doing just that, we will always be behind on a few things.

One such thing is payment methods.

Credit and debit cards have been around for decades. They weren’t as widely used before, but they were around, and other than the addition of some data chips, they use the same technology.

That technology is quickly becoming out-dated and irrelevant.

I remember saying to my friend, “I wish we could just scan our phones to pay for things”, as I dug for my credit card in my wallet. I have thought that often when I have forgotten my card at home, or the time my wallet was stolen.

Soon we will likely be able to use our phones as virtual wallets. Making payments with a phone isn't something that is unlikely; in fact, some credit card companies are trying to transition into electronic payment methods, like American Express credit cards.

mobile payments
via http://mashable.com

There will be some pros and cons of a mobile payment structure, such as the following:

Pros of Mobile Payments

Convenience

It will inevitably be super convenient to pay for goods and services with your phone. You won't have to carry a whole bunch of cards around and, I don't know about you, but my phone is always nearby. I have lost several debit cards over the past decade of having them, but never a phone.

Safety and Security

Many people may disagree, but I would say that having a mobile payment system instead of an actual plastic card would be far more secure. You can protect your phone with a password, and make it erase it's memory after 10 failed attempts at guessing the password; while many cards do require a pin to use them, not all of them do, and online payments don't. This leaves you vulnerable to fraud.

Cons of Mobile Payments

Smart Phones

It's safe to say that the vast majority of the population of the developed world under the age of 60 has a smart phone, but there are still plenty of people who don't have them, and they can be quite expensive. If you need a smart phone for mobile payments, it can deter those people that don't have one.

Smart phones are expensive so it can increase the cost of consumerism substantially.

Battery Power

The most frustrating thing is when your phone dies in the middle of the day. I've been there. I imagine it would be far more frustrating if your phone died and your methods of payment died with it. I could just see myself stuck at the grocery store with a dead phone and no way of paying for groceries.

 

There are other big considerations when analyzing the feasibility and benefits of mobile payments, but I think it would be a step in the right direction for the credit card world.