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How To Save Money On Your Cell Phone

We all want to save money on our cell phone. No matter which plan you choose you always have this nagging feeling that you are paying too much. Here are some ideas to truly save on your cell phone service.


save money on your cell phoneEven economists have a hard time understanding why cell phone companies charge what they do and, perhaps more importantly, why we pay it…all the while enduring spotty reception, abysmal customer service, and two-year service contracts.

Although the specifics of cell-phone pricing are intriguing and may remain a bit mysterious, the answer to the “why we pay” question really comes down to two points:

  • We’re suckers for the latest and greatest gadgets (especially phones, which we can show off to all our friends), and we’ll pay anything to get them.
  • We’re risk averse. We’re so afraid of going over our data allowances one month and getting hit with a huge bill that many of us are willing to pay $100 every month for unlimited data even if we only use, on average, 3 GB.

How to Buck the Trend and Save on Cell Service

Going with plans that have less data is quick way to cut your monthly costs. Unless you are streaming movies over 4G you probably don’t need much data. Just checking your email or looking at Facebook while you are not on wifi doesn’t use much data. You can call your current carrier and have a customer service rep check your average monthly data usage. Get a plan that is close to what you actually use. Your carrier may also offer a way to add on to your data for just one month for a flat fee if you are getting close to the limit.

Some carriers are now offering rollover data. So if you don’t use all your data one month the leftover data is rolled over to the following month. Helpful if you are going on vacation or have an upcoming period of time when you will be away from wifi quite a bit.

Consider Prepaid Phones

There are a lot of options for prepaid cell phones. Even the mainstream carriers now offer prepaid options. You do have to purchase your phone outright and then add a carrier, which makes it more difficult to get started. But even if you want a $500 phone, if you plan to keep it for 2 years, it only comes out to just over $20 per month for the phone. So if you look at it that way the prepaid plans can be significantly cheaper.

Look Beyond Major Carriers

There was a time when it mattered which carrier you chose. Service and phone selection between the major carriers varied quite a bit. Remember when only AT&T had iPhones? But that’s just not the case anymore. Today you can get pretty much any phone on any carrier and the differences you find in service is negligible. That said, there are huge savings to be had by going with a generic carrier.

For example, did you know that Walmart offers two very affordable nationwide plans through Straight Talk that have no contract? You can choose between:

  • 1,500 minutes, unlimited texts, and 100MB of mobile web access for $30 a month
  • Or $45 a month for unlimited everything

Typically, when Walmart competes on price, Walmart wins. That can sometimes be a bad thing, like when they drive small-town hardware stores and pharmacies out of business, but this time, I won’t be crying for the big wireless carriers.

Staying With a Major Carrier But Saving Anyway

Not a fan of either the prepaid or alternative carrier methods of saving on cell service? You may still be able to save money on your cell phone and stay with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile.

BillShrink allows you to quickly search for and compare cell phones and plans across the four major carriers. If the best deal on a new phone and plan is more important than a getting a specific phone, but you want to stay with a major carrier, this may be the saving strategy for you.

What about you? How do you save on your cell phone service?

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Comments

  1. I’m seriously looking into a prepaid phone or just dropping my cell altogether. I hate feeling like I have an electronic leash! 😉

  2. Good post!

    Smart to point out the savings with Straight Talk, too. They really add up!

    For people interested in the selection of phones, please visit
    http://straighttalk.com/ShopPhones

    You’ll see the full array of Straight Talk phones, recently updated!

  3. I think I’m already saving as much money as possible. My cell phone was free with a two-year Verizon contract, I’m already on the lowest minutes plan (and use most of them), and have unlimited texting (do lots of text-messaging). I don’t need the fanciest phone or a data plan, so I keep it simple.

  4. Don’t forget that many cell phone providers offer public sector/military or large corporation employment discounts. Talk with the sales clerk to see if you qualify for any additional discounts.

    My wife and I save 15% each month with AT&T, because of where we work.

    -Dan Malone-

  5. I have Straight Talk. I previously had Verizon then switched to AT&T but the bills were CRAZY!.

    When I heard about Straight Talk I couldn’t believe it but got it from Walmart and have had it now for 2 months and it is just sick! I’d heard that it was on Verizon and the coverage is rock steady, so yeah!

  6. I also have Straight Talk and I love the savings and finally be being on the strong and dependable Verizon network. Their $45 unlimited use plan is a real money saver for me – I have $50 more a month and I have the potential to save more than $600 a year versus my previous carrier. Even their selection of cell phones are affordable and without the threat contracts – I recommend the Samsung Finesse as a really cool Smart Phone with IPhone like features. Its so great to actually use my cell phone and not worry about overage fees – thanks Straight Talk for that!

  7. All of my customers love straighttalk so far. I too would recommend for anyone looking for a bargain on unlimited talk and text.

  8. Sam Soong says:

    Great post!

    I’ve been looking for ways to economize and when my cell contract was up, I got a Net10 phone. I pay 10¢ a minute and 3¢ for texts. It’s a terrific value and there’s no contract or overages.

    Check it out! You can get ’em online at net10.com or at Target, Walmart, Best Buy etc.

  9. I think that locked cell phones that carriers offer nowadays are a big scam. When you subscribe a contract you will pay so much in a long term.

  10. I switched to prepaid also! I got a TracFone and love the money I am saving. There was NO contract and No monthly fees! For only $20 i got an airtime card that gave me 60 mins of talk time. Plus, Nationwide U.S. and international calls to 60 destinations are the same price as a local call with my TracFone.

  11. In today’s day there is no need to by a locked phone while locking yourself into a contract. With the internet it is easy to find an unlocked phone without any contract.

  12. I saved with prepaid and it has been awesome. I switched to Net10 where I pay 10¢ a minute and texting is only 5¢ a minute with no daily or monthly fees, roaming charges, activation or cancellation fees. Switching has saved me so much money and I couldn’t be happier.

  13. I have a bit of a dilemma right here. I would like to purchase myself a decent phone and cannot decide on which one to select. First of all, i am considering the Samsung Blackjack i607, which my buddy has. It appears pretty durable, and everything seemed good, but then i started looking at other phones. Now my biggest dilemma is choosing between the Nokia 5070 and the Samsung i900 Omnia. Any advice is welcome.

  14. Trim your texting packages down to something like 100 texts per month is a good way to save. Also, don’t go for over the top data packages — use your laptop or desktop computer to access the internet instead

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