Seven simple ways to reduce your cell phone bill

It’s hard to believe that we’re only one generation removed from a time when most people had a single phone line, for use in their house only, to be shared among all members of the family. And we’re only a few generations removed from a time when it really wasn’t that odd to not have a phone at all.

Phones are an integral part of our daily lives. Many of us can’t function without a cell phone immediately at hand. So we take it for granted that our cell phone bill is going to be a significant part of our monthly budget, but there’s a lot you can do to keep your cell phone bill manageable. Here are seven simple tips to help bring down the cost of owning a smartphone.

  1. Pick the right plan. The worst thing you can do to your phone budget is to shackle yourself to a plan that doesn’t suit you. That cuts two ways – you don’t want to pay for services you don’t use and you also don’t want to be on the hook for overuse fees either. That means research and paying close attention to how you use your phone. Monitor your minutes and data usage and find a plan that fits your habits. Maybe a family share plan makes sense. Use a comparison site like MyRatePlan.com to help you find the right plan for you.
  2. Use your plan correctly. Once you’ve found the right plan, make sure you understand how it works and use it correctly. Understand when you can make unlimited calls and when your minutes start to tally up. Pay attention to which apps eat up your available data fastest. Sign up for text notifications when you hit certain markers on your plan (75 percent of your available minutes, etc.).
  3. Skip the extras. The big three in a phone plan are minutes, texts, and data, but most plans come with a few more bells and whistles if you’re willing to pay for it. Extended warranties? Visual voicemail? Roadside assistance? Make sure you only pay for services you actually need and ditch all the rest.
  4. Consider app-based alternatives. Do you have an issue with using all of your minutes too quickly? Consider using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services like Skype or Google Voice to subsidize your call habits. Calls are connected via the internet, so no minutes are used. Did you sign up for a capped amount of text messages and routinely go over the limit? Try using an app-based texting alternative like WhatsApp or Viber. Most apps are free and allow you to share an unlimited number of text messages.
  5. Use the airplane mode. If you have a tendency to go over on your available data each month, be sure to take a look at which applications are using all that data. Some apps use data even when they aren’t in use. If you play any games on your phone and advertisements keep popping up, that app is using data to populate those ads. You can ward off unwanted data usage by putting your phone in airplane mode. Just bear in mind, that means you won’t be able to make or receive calls either.
  6. Consider pre-paid. If you struggle to adhere to a phone plan, skip it altogether. Go with prepaid and pay for only what you use. Just like with a contract, though, be sure you understand what you’re paying for and what your usage is costing you.
  7. Buy your own phone. Phone companies can offer you great deals on the newest phones in exchange for signing a contract, usually for at least two years of service. Those great deals, however, don’t come from a place of pure generosity – you’ll usually end up paying back most of that cost over the life of the contract. If you buy your own phone and agree to a month-to-month plan with no contract you can often score better monthly rates and save money in the long run.

Don’t take your big mobile phone bill for granted. With a little effort you can shave 10 to 20 percent off your bill. And when the money is tight, every little bit helps.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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