VPNs are widely regarded as essential tools for staying private online – and that’s a stone-cold fact. When we surveyed our readers though, a whopping 25% of those who didn’t use a VPN claimed that cost was the defining factor in their decision.
What many people are unaware of is that VPNs aren’t simply security software, and by combining a cheap VPN with some savvy shopping techniques it’s possible to save money in a whole bunch of ways – and your VPN may well start to pay for itself.
Here, we’ll be running down a number of tips to make your money go further when using a VPN, from picking the right service to start off with, to saving cash online. Time is money, as they say, so let’s get straight into it.
- Stay protected with the most secure VPN services
- Check out our list of common mistakes to avoid when using a VPN
- More: Is OpenVPN still fit for purpose?
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1 – Pick a good value VPN
As with any important purchase, doing a little research before you part ways with your money is worth the time it takes. When picking a VPN, though, it can truly be a minefield for the uninitiated.
You might be tempted to go for a free VPN, and while some deliver a passable service, for the full package you’re best off going for a premium provider. Free services almost always restrict data and server locations, and to get the most out of the following steps, they simply can't cut it.
You also don’t want to pick the very cheapest option on offer, either, as you do tend to get what you pay for. If you’re after the lowest monthly cost, we’d recommend something like VyprVPN, which offers a 3-year plan for just $1.67 a month.
2 – Access streaming sites and get more from Netflix
Every network seems to be coming out with a premium streaming service these days, and that means each provider has a slimmer selection. If you’re happy to only watch Disney content, maybe Disney+ is enough for you, but for real depth and breadth you’ll need a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and even DAZN and ESPN for sports.
With a Netflix VPN and a little research, though, you’ll discover that certain shows are available on different platforms around the world – and you can access them by simply changing your VPN server.
For example, all of The Office US is available on Netflix in the UK, whereas in the US it’s a Peacock exclusive – and you have to pay to watch past season 6. If you’ve already got Netflix, connecting to a UK server will let you watch every episode without any extra cost.
Using Flixwatch.co is the best way to find exclusive content and movies in different Netflix catalogues, and Justwatch.com is useful for all the other services.
3 – Avoid dynamic pricing for flights and car rental
If you’ve ever scoped out the price of a flight, left the site, and returned to check it out again, you’ll likely have seen a more expensive price compared to hours, or even minutes ago. That’s called Dynamic Pricing, and it’s done in part to encourage you to buy now to avoid and even steeper price hike in the near future.
This can all be avoided by using a VPN. Since each time you connect you’re assigned a new IP address, to the site you look like a different person looking for the first time. Combined with Incognito or Private Browsing on your browser to evade cookies, this means you can be sure that you’re getting the true price each time you look.
Dynamic pricing is also used for hotel bookings and car rental amongst other things, so it’s definitely worth using a VPN here. Also, as a side note, disconnect and reconnect your VPN each time you check to refresh your IP.
4 – Get cheaper prices on subscriptions
Many subscription services tailor their prices to certain regional markets, and often (but not always) countries with a lower GDP per capita will get a better price.
We won’t give any specifics, but services like Netflix, Spotify, Apple Music, Office 365, and even premium news sources like The Economist can be found with substantial discounts in different parts of the world.
This process is very much a case of trial and error, though – and in some cases you’ll need a credit card registered in the jurisdiction to sign up. To get around this, gift cards can often be purchased on Amazon or directly from the provider, but not in every case.
The rewards certainly merit testing the waters, though, and much more information about particular services can be found elsewhere online.
While a quality VPN requires a small investment, making sure to use it to its full potential can save you a considerable amount of money – and if you do a lot of travelling or shopping online, it could well start to pay for itself.
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Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.