Whichever way you look at it, having a family is an expensive undertaking.
That’s why many people go looking for the cheapest home broadband packages rather than the best set-up, when the time comes to renegotiate new broadband contracts.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the best approach.
A few pounds saved is little consolation if you want to watch Ultra HD Netflix but bandwidth is being consumed by relatives playing Fortnite, or uploading endless selfies to social media.
So what should you look for before you sign a contract that will have an effect on your quality of life – as well as activities like streaming and gaming?
Look at the basics first
Speed is the basic measurement of broadband, but the speed you need depends on your household’s lifestyle.
Look at both download and upload speeds when you compare providers, because most offer speeds which are faster down than up.
If you have a budding YouTube star under your roof, or lots of people adding pictures to Facebook and Instagram, upload speeds will matter, too. This is also true for home workers.
If you want to stream Netflix in HD, you’ll need a minimum connection speed of around 5Mbps. Watch the same movie or programme in UltraHD, and you’ll need around 25Mbps.
Until recently, broadband speeds were advertised with the tricky ‘up to’ prefix, meaning you might get nowhere near the listed speed.
Providers are now required to advertise an average speed which is the speed at least 50% of customers will achieve at peak times. This is a big improvement, but still not perfect, so the speed you actually get could still be significantly different.
Online speed checkers can tell you what other people in your area are getting from their providers, which may be helpful.
You will often find the cheapest home broadband deals use ADSL connections, but these are less reliable and generally slower than fibre broadband.
That’s a moot point if you live in an area without fibre, though fibre broadband is being rolled out nationally.
It’s worth checking if you can get it by paying a visit to the Openreach website, which manages most of the UK’s broadband infrastructure.
Boosting your signal
Regardless of starting speed, external factors can slow down home broadband.
These include the number of connections, the quality of cables and router, the presence of viruses or malware and even the distance between router and device.
Some broadband providers include virus protection, but you’ll probably need to add extra protection for your devices and files.
Whether you have the cheapest home broadband or the costliest, you may have dead spots in your home where the signal is slow or non-existent.
You can solve this by adding a mesh system, also known as a ‘repeater’, ‘node’ or ‘satellite node’ system.
This uses a series of repeater units to boost the signal and overcome the patchy or dead spots; some can even be used if you are locked into your ISP’s router.
This is useful if you want to escape when your teenager is blasting Spotify at full volume, or when someone is using a chat function while playing online games.
The price is right
It’s entirely understandable that many people begin their search by looking for the cheapest home broadband, but this can be unhelpful.
You might get lucky and find the cheapest deal is also the best for your family. If not, many contracts last a year or more, and that’s a long time to be stuck with a poor connection.
However, if you have a good understanding of your household needs before you go looking for great deals, you won’t go far wrong.