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Best cheap VPNs: Stay anonymous online without going broke

Best cheap VPNs: Stay anonymous online without going broke

All those hours you’ve spent searching for the perfect Arrested Development reaction GIF or drooling over mukbangs on YouTube seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things — but to Google, hackers, your internet service provider (ISP), and even certain government agencies, that browsing history is a valuable commodity.

And guess what? They’re probably tracking and logging every digital move you make. Like, right now.

Such is the importance of a virtual private network, or VPN.

We’ve dedicated tens of thousands of words to waxing poetic about all of the benefits of using a VPN, but for the uninitiated, here’s the nitty-gritty: A VPN is a service that makes your web presence more difficult to track and trace. And if someone can’t track or trace your web presence, they can’t collect your personal data and do icky things with it — like sell it to advertisers or use it to incriminate you in nefarious activities.

SEE ALSO: Fastest VPNs on the web

If you’ve ever looked into using a VPN before, you’ve probably noticed that some of them are free, while others require paid subscription plans. That’s odd, you might’ve thought at the time. Why would anyone choose to pay for a VPN if free ones exist?

It’s tempting to give free VPNs a shot — hey, free is free is free — but if your budget allows it, you should *always* opt for a paid provider. Here’s why.

Why should you pay for a VPN?

The short answer is this: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

A VPN keeps you anonymous online by masking your IP address and encrypting your traffic through its secure servers, and while it would be nice of providers to give away and maintain this technology for free, they have to make money somehow. (Capitalism, amiright?) So, if they’re not charging you a monthly or annual fee to use their service, they’re likely logging and selling your data in order to pay their bills. Some even have the audacity to seed their products with spyware. In the best-case scenario, that data will be used to generate eerily specific ads based on your browsing history. At worst, your privacy will be compromised.

On the plus side, we’ve found that many paid VPN providers are willing to offer their services for cheap (as in, “less than $4 a month” cheap) so long as you commit to a long-term subscription. Keep reading to find out which of these providers we like best — and don’t forget to click the gray arrow in the upper-right corner of each card to expand our write-ups.

Editor’s Note: IPVanish is owned by J2 Global, the parent company of Ziff Davis, Mashable’s publisher. Any J2 products featured on Mashable are covered independently by our content team.

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