/ Food & Drink, Technology

Which would you cut back on – food or the net?

It’s unsurprising that many of us are feeling the pinch and looking to save money wherever we can. So, what’s the first thing to go? It looks like it won’t be your broadband connection, TV subscription or mobile…

While over 40% of people in our first Quarterly Consumer Report told us they’ll be cutting back on buying food and groceries over the next few months, it might (or might not) surprise you that broadband, TV subscriptions and mobile phone bills are some of the least likely areas to suffer.

Only 26% would cut their spending on broadband, 34% on their TV subscription, and just 37% on their mobile phone. As for the most likely things people will cut down on, that’ll be big ticket household items, entertainment or socialising, clothing, holidays and home improvements.

So what’s so important about these ‘new essentials’ – broadband, TV and mobile – that they rate above food in our list of priorities?

Broadband and mobiles are the ‘new essentials’

It’s hard to imagine my life without broadband, particularly as the resident broadband expert here at Which?! But even my parents, who I wouldn’t class as heavy users, felt lost when they recently lost their connection for 24 hours. They use email and internet banking on a daily basis, but they also just missed that ‘hard to put your finger on it’ feeling of being connected.

I feel the same about my mobile too. In fact, I’d be a bit embarrassed if someone revealed how much of the day I spend online or on my phone! Both are essential to me, and there’s no getting away from the integration they each have in our everyday lives, which is perhaps why we’d rather cut down on fancy food.

In some ways broadband and mobiles actually save us money. OK, perhaps not enough to cover their monthly fees, but with online discounts on things like energy tariffs, the ability to easily search for deals and online billing, these ‘new essentials’ can pay us back.

Personally, I wouldn’t have a big problem with dropping my TV subscription. In a downturn it’s not difficult to assume that more of us may be spending more time at home and need something to entertain us when we’re there. Still, TV subscriptions can be expensive, and with so many free catch-up services available online (another handy feature of that essential broadband) maybe cancelling it could be an easy way to save.

Would you struggle to let go of your broadband connection, mobile phone or TV subscription?


It will be luxury food and drink – not internet. I spend at least 4 hours a day on the net – which I enjoy and is an intellectual stimulus. The luxury food such as chocolate and cake and booze are not required – but the interaction on the net is. Otherwise I’d be effectively limited to going to the OAPs Club once a week – not intellectually challenging at all.

Molly says:
28 July 2012

I am housebound and I live alone, so the Internet is my lifeline – without the Internet as a tool for buying goods there would be no food. That’s an exaggeration, I suppose, as I have good neighbours who would shop for me but maintaining my independence is vital to me – so the Internet stays. Like the previous person to post, I rely on the Internet to keep my mind stimulated and in good working order – it has had 80 years of hard wear. It is possible to eat well by cutting down on the most expensive, luxury food items so that, in this time of rapidly rising prices, the Internet remains affordable.

I’d happily lose my TV sub if I had one, all the best TV is on free to air anyway, and I already ditched the mobile ‘phone, but the fact is, the internet saves me money, maybe not enough to pay for itself, but considering how handy it is for other things I think it earns its place.

Phil says:
30 July 2012

Internet is one place to look for work so maybe axe the TV subscription first.

sara harry says:
3 August 2012

Think i would cut back on tv subscription, and yes possibly food! go for basic options but defo not internet

“who I wouldn’t class as heavy users”

Please! “WHOM I wouldn’t class etc.” It’s the Accusative case, and yes, English does still have one.

Apologies for grumpiness!

You can hear myself and Catherine talking about this in our latest Tech podcast, featuring Molly’s and jjmmwgdupree’s comments 🙂 Have a listen!

Denis Minnitt says:
6 August 2012

To me, at 86 and a widower, my computer is my main connection with the outside world. Ideas, innovations, politics, finance,advice, guidance are all there. Relatives and friends regularly update me with their activities, humour and beautiful images. What greater stimulus and happiness could one wish for? Yes, I would definitely give up a lot of luxuries: meals,clothes etc for this huge benefit!

Glynis says:
26 August 2012

I would cut down on food because the longer I’m on the Internet I’m cutting out eating. I find I do this nearly everyday and I enjoy looking at the different websites there are for arts & craft, fitness, photography, knitting, cooking, jokes & funny items. I also buy alot of items from different sites and book theatre tickets, seats on the local coach, I make appointments also I talk to friends here and abroad. So I would definitely cut down on food if I had to make a choice.