Top 9 ways Internet access can save you money

Sure, access to the Internet costs you something every month. But did you ever stop to think how much money it saves? Online price comparison and access to wholesale markets and group deal sites, like livingsocial.com and Groupon, can save the average consumer $8,000 annually, according to new study from the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), a coalition that lobbies to make high-speed Internet access more affordable and widely available. “Generally Internet shopping can be a big money saver,” agrees Jody Rohlena. senior editor at Shopsmart magazine, but beware of online impulse buying: “It’s important to stick to your budget and try not to go crazy.”

Here are nine areas of consumer spending where the Internet can save big bucks, according to the IIA study. Can you guess which spending category is in the top spot?

9.Bill pay – $47 in savings

Paying your bills online eliminates postage costs. (Ingram Publishing/Newscom/File)

The advent of online bill pay means that, with Internet access, it’s no longer necessary to pay for postage. That means you save on all those stamps, not to mention the time and hassle of all that paper.

Gasoline – $95 in savings

Motorists look for an empty gas pump at a Miami Gardens, Fla. (J Pat Carter/AP)

You can find the cheapest gas within a 10-mile radius using sites like gasbuddy.com. By using a smartphone to find the latest deals, you could save nearly 5 percent off average annual spending of $1,986 on gas.

Newspapers – $193 in savings

Newspaper headlines in New York. (Richard B. Levine/Newscom/File)

Consumers spend an estimated $193 annually on newspapers. But on the Internet, you can basically get your news for free these days.

Auto purchase – $438 in savings

This file photo, shows a 2012 Toyota Camry on display at a car dealership in San Jose, Calif. (Paul Sakuma/AP/File)

If the average new car purchase is $29,217, the Internet could save about 1.5 percent off the purchase price. Now, 1.5 percent may not seem like much, but on a large purchase like a car, it can mean a savings of several hundred dollars.

Clothing – $640 in savings

A screen shot of clothing store The Gap's website. Many retailers offer web deals with exclusive online coupons. (Richard B. Levine/Newscom/File)

Using exclusive online coupons, as well as closeout sites like overstock.com and ideeli.com, consumers could save 37 percent off the average $1,725 they spend on clothing. “You have access to a better selection of sizes, colors, and styles online,” Ms. Rohlena adds.

Food – $965 in savings

With the aid of the Internet, you could save an estimated 25 percent on your annual grocery bill. (OJO Images/Newscom/File)

Using coupon sites such as couponmom.com and peapod.com can put a dent in the average $3,753 annual grocery bill. The survey calculated potential savings in the top selling food categories, including carbonated beverages, milk, fresh bread, beer, salty snacks, natural cheese, frozen dinners/entrees, cold cereal, wine, and cigarettes.

Housing – $974 in savings

Looking for apartment rentals online could save an estimated 8 percent annually. (P. Stocklen/Newscom/File)

The study took a sample of apartment rental listings in the cities of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Jacksonville, Fla., and compared the savings using sites like craigslist.org and apartments.com to going through non-Internet channels. Consumers could save nearly 8 percent on the average $12, 697 a year they spend on housing.

Travel – $1,532 in savings

In this file photo a Jet Blue jet taxis at Boston's Logan International Airport. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia) (Stephan Savoia/AP/File)

The real advantage here is quick and easy price comparison, on sites like Travelocity and hotels.com. Airliners like JetBlue also have regular daily deal alerts for loyal customers, offering round-trip flights for sometimes as little as $90. So if consumers spend an average $7, 658 a year, they could save 20 percent by using the Internet.

Entertainment – $2,747 in savings

In this file photo, employees at Groupon pose in silhouette with the company logo in the lobby of the online coupon company's Chicago offices. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/File)

Using a sample of restaurant dining, sport/concert tickets, and leisure activities, the IIA study estimated the average person spends $5, 312 a year on entertainment. Consumers could save half just over half that amount by taking advantage of group deals on sites like Groupon.com, livingsocial.com, and bargainseatsonline.com. “These group deal sites often cater to small businesses, and it’s a good way to find out about them,” Ms. Rohlena says. “It’s an incentive to try new things.”