A Virtual Private Network (VPN) remains a secure method to connect to the internet, as data is transmitted and received through an encrypted tunnel to provide privacy online. A common goal is a higher level of security, to keep your personal information away from prying eyes, such as your ISP who might want to collect and resell your internet browsing data for additional profit.
A decent VPN can be an investment of as little as a couple of dollars a month, depending on the service, and whether it’s an annual or monthly subscription. But while a VPN does represent a modest expense on the face of it, bear in mind that there are multiple ways that a VPN can actually save some money. Let’s look at some scenarios.
Ever heard that no two people pay the same price for an airline ticket? There is certainly quite a bit of truth to that statement, with prices for a ticket varying depending on when the ticket was purchased, as well as where from, because airlines will often quote a different price over the phone compared to on the web, with another different price obtained via a third-party travel booking website.
We can add an additional variable to the pricing model, and that is the purchaser’s location. Using a VPN allows the user to change or spoof their location so that to the website, they’ll appear to be elsewhere, and may be able to get a cheaper price as a result.
As a test of this, we put in the same arrival and departure airports for the same days of travel, simultaneously in two browsers. When shopping from the Netherlands, the least expensive trip was a hefty $522 (£405), while from the US, a cheaper flight came up at $414 (£320), representing a saving of $108 (£85). Another tip is to shop from a poorer country, as the prices will often be less compared to more affluent nations.
This type of local pricing is readily apparent when booking an airline ticket, and also applies to other scenarios; another good example is hotels. But this goes beyond travel, with regional variations in pricing to be found in the likes of software subscriptions, such as Office 365 or Apple Music.
- Check out our list of the best VPN (opens in new tab) providers in the market
Crunch the cookies
Cookies are those sneaky little pieces of code that junk up your browser, with just about every website you visit these days adding another one to the collection. These cookies track you, figure out where you go online, and add this information to their ever expanding database profile of each internet user.
This occurs pretty seamlessly, and many users are not aware of the cookies piled up on their computer, until their browser crashes as it gets overloaded with too much stuff – although admittedly, with a modern computer’s robust processing power, this is less of an issue than it was years ago.
However, when they decide to return to actually purchase the item, unfortunately, the retailer decides, based on the tracking cookie and the IP address, to raise the price as now the company believes the consumer is more seriously interested in the product.
Rather than just paying the higher price, the countermove is fairly simple. Clear the cookies out of your browser, with software such as CCleaner, and then use a VPN which changes your IP address, so you appear to be a different customer to the retailer. Performing both of these tasks should make you look like a completely new customer, who will be offered the price you originally saw.
Cord cutting, the trend that cable and satellite companies want to ignore, continues to be popular, with just under one-third of households in the US either dumping their Pay TV service, or embracing the current trend of never having a Pay TV service at all (folks in this boat are known as ‘cord-nevers’).
This trend is particularly popular among millennials. However, while they don’t want to pay the cable company for a TV subscription, they still watch tons of video, with 61% of millennials (opens in new tab) using online streaming as their primary way to watch television content. However, if you’re spending a lot of time online streaming, it can be challenging to find an adequate amount of quality content.
A VPN can be used to bypass country restrictions due to geo-blocking, and enable access to more content. For example, in the US we do not have access to the UK’s BBC iPlayer, or to India’s Hotstar, both of which have large expansive libraries of content.
Using a VPN, you can spoof your location to appear in the relevant country, and then stream video content from these services. Another example of this is that Netflix, due to licensing deals, has different libraries of movies in different countries, so by accessing Netflix from different locations, you can enjoy a wider variety of content.
The rise of malware has continued, including particularly nefarious strains such as ransomware, and indeed crypto-mining (hijacking your PC’s resources to mine coins for a malicious party).
Heck, even your router is at risk as hackers attempt to take it over, with a recent security hole described in several brands of popular routers, including Netgear and D-Link. A VPN, with its encrypted tunnel and temporary IP address, is an excellent defense at stopping fraud, and all types of malware, so that they will not compromise your PC.
How does this save you money, though? Well, because you’re safer online with a VPN, standard anti-malware protection may suffice for less critical use situations. In other words, you may feel comfortable simply using Microsoft’s integrated Windows Defender software, or another free antivirus option, rather than forking out for an expensive security suite.
Another way you can save money is by potentially avoiding an expensive ransomware attack, where the end result can be that folks are so desperate to get their data – which has been encrypted and is thus unusable – back, they end up paying the stated ransom fee. And that can be quite substantial indeed…