Over the last 15 years, cell phones have gone from being a convenience to being a necessity – for most. For some, they are an expensive necessity – and for even more people, the monthly mobile bills are probably outrageous.
People spend an average of $90 – $115 per month on cell phone bills… while it seems like almost all the kids out there have phones, it wasn’t until I was 25 until I had my first.. and that wasn’t that long ago :)
The great thing about mobile phones is that plans and carriers have changed so much in the last few years… with changes to try to keep your costs down, even for phones that are an incredibly high cost.
Nonetheless, your monthly phone bill can either be one that you dread getting in the mail (or, paper bill by email) or one that you don’t mind seeing.
Usually it’s the dreadful part though ;)
Here are a few ways you can save a few bucks on your bill and make it a little more manageable on your budget.
#1 – Shop Around
Determine if a reliable data network and great customer service are your goals – if they are, then it’s best to stick with a larger carrier instead of a smaller one. Sometimes the bigger carriers will have across the board better service on 4G Reliability, Web, Voice and text.
#2 – Forego the Contract
We did this years ago and it was probably the best move we ever made! Sometimes locking yourself into a plan/contract will lead you to spend more – signing on for 2 years of service may get you a lesser price on that iPhone. But… if you can learn how to tuck away a few dollars per month in a “Phone Slush Fund”, every 2-3 years you should have enough to pay for a phone without having to sign a contract or make installment payments on a phone (even if they are no interest).
The line access fees on installment plans (non-contract) are usually lower. If you are in a bad contract with a high termination fee, explore your options of making changes without incurring more charges. Or, sometimes cellular companies will buy you out of your contract to earn your business. It’s worth researching.
#3 – Determine your Data Needs
Wants, versus “needs” – are entirely different, so keep that in mind when shopping. Calculate the data requirement you may need each month and consult with your carrier to determine how much data you are using.
If a family member is frequently traveling and away from Wi-Fi, then figure a monthly data requirement for that phone only (instead of everyone). And compare carriers – sometimes, unlimited data plans CAN be cheaper (as in our case!)
#4 – Take the Less Popular Route
As much as the big carriers tend to stand out in the cell phone industry, sometimes you can go smaller by sticking with a TracFone, Virgin Mobile, or even Straight Talk – not only are their prices low, they are great for basic service.
Sometimes you can buy a cheap phone from the company for less than $40, or even less in some cases (Net10 is often times even lower).
Familiarize yourself with their plans though – instead of charging for unlimited data, sometimes they have an access fee per phone and then lower priced additional rates ($10 for calls and starting at $20 for data).
#5 – SKIP the Insurance
I know for most this sounds crazy, but it’s so costly. As forward as this sounds, but if you can’t afford to replace your phone if something happens, then you have purchased a phone you can’t afford. If you truly need insurance for your phone, then perhaps think about a lesser priced phone altogether.
#6 – Nix the Stuff you Don’t Use
It was several months ago when I realized that I was paying for music to play when people called me – did I opt into that? No – I did not.. because I’m pretty particular about what I want on my phone. Turns out that my provider had added that on my plan at an extra cost for me.
It might seem common sense, but most people don’t even glance at their cell bill that comes in every month – you may be paying for things without even realizing where your money is going.
Make a point of sitting down, opening that envelope (or, email if you get paper bills) and going through it to determine if you really need all of the items you are being charged for.
Here are a few things that we try to watch out for when we are using our mobile device:
Streaming Music. My kids love streaming music but it eats up my data so fast. Streaming eats up 1MB of data per minute, so try to limit your time.
Watching Video Streams: HD Video Streams can consume an unbelievable amount of data (5MB or 6MB per minute)… movies on You Tube can do some serious damage if you don’t realize how many you are watching — this is especially critical for kids who love to watch those toy videos :)
Uploading Videos: If you opt to upload a short 2-3 minute video clip in HD (1080p) you can use as much as 300 MB. Either wait until you are on wireless at home or reduce the size.
Video Calls: My 2 year old just figured out how to do this and it’s something we’re currently working to fix… face to face video calls can use 2.5MB – 3MB per minute.