Cell phones. You just can’t seem to get away from them nowadays. It seems that just about everyone in America has a cell phone. In fact, my wife and I use cell phones as our main form of communication. We just don’t have the need for a land line, and not having one saves us about $20 per month.
But cell phone bills can be confusing to understand, and often times cost way more than they should! These tips can help you reduce your cell phone bill so you have more money to do the important things in life.
Top 15 ways to reduce your cell phone bill
1. Mind your minutes. Paying for too many minutes will add to the cost of your monthly cell phone bill, but that isn’t as bad as going over your minutes, which often cost up to $0.45 per minute above your plan. Track your minutes for a couple months and adjust your bill accordingly.
You can check your minutes free on most cell phones, or even on track your minutes with FireFox extensions. Another free service is OverMyMinutes, which will alert you by text or e-mail if you are about to go over your minutes.
2. To text, or not to text… that is the question. Understanding your texting habits can do a lot toward reducing your cell phone bill. Many plans charge around $0.10 per text, or you can buy packages of 100 texts, or unlimited texts at a cheaper per text rate. But if you aren’t using many texts, it may not be worth the package price.
3. Drop the insurance. Unless you have a brand new phone that cost you several hundred dollars, then drop your insurance. At $3-5 per month, it adds up quickly! Over the course of your contract, you probably paid enough in insurance costs to buy a new phone.
If you have a new PDA or other expensive phone, insurance may be worth it – but probably only for a few months to a year. After that, you can easily replace the phone by signing a new contract and buying a new phone at a discounted price.
4. Drop roadside assistance. Here’s another $3-5 per month that you can get away without paying. Many auto insurance plans offer it for less than cell phone companies do, or you may even already have it in your plan. Why pay for something twice?
5. Consider using a prepaid cell phone. I had a pay as you go cell phone when I lived in England. For me, it was the best option. Now, I have a smart phone and data plan, and a prepaid phone just wouldn’t cut it. But for may people, it is a great option. Paidtwice wrote a great article about prepaid cell phones.
6. Combine or drop lines. Many companies offer discounts for forming family plans. When I was with Verizon, my plan was $40/mo, but a comparable family plan with two lines was $65/mo. Those savings add up quickly. The deals are even better if you have more people in your family; additional lines usually cost around $10 per line. Consider dropping unnecessary lines as well.
7. Get the Sprint SERO Plan. A few months ago my wife and I changed our cell phone plans to the Sprint SERO plan. The plan offers 500 minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited data, free nights and weekends starting at 7pm, unlimited mobile to mobile, and more – all for the low price of $30 per month. That is a deal you can’t beat! Update: This offer is no longer available.
8. Take advantage of employee discounts. Many companies have employee discounts ranging from 10-35%. My current company offers a 27% discount for most providers. That’s not bad!
9. Peak minutes vs. Night & Weekend. If you are going over your minutes, analyze your invoice to determine where your over usage comes from. You may be able to buy an add-on that will change your night and weekend minutes to a more favorable time. Sprint for example, allows many plan members to pay $10 per month to have their nighttime minutes start at 7pm instead of 9pm. At $0.45 or so per minute, that can add up to a great savings – depending on your usage.
10. Double check your invoice! Cell phone invoices can be confusing, but it is important to understand them and what each charge is. Some of the charges are not required by the government, even though they have “official” sounding names. Some of these include regulatory cost recovery, Federal Universal Service, E-9-1-1, or number portability. These are put in place by the cell phone companies to recover their costs.
A great way to double check your invoice is to use Validas, which analyzes your invoice for errors or ways to reduce your bill. The Validas service will make recommendations based on your plan and usage that can take care of several of the tips in this article in one fell swoop. Validas is also currently offering a free trial of their service.
11. Use free directory assistance. Calling 411 information service from your cell phone can cost a dollar or more. So why not get the same info free? Try using Free411 by calling 1-800-free411. Google offers a similar service, 1-800-GOOG-411, and even gives the caller the option of having the info sent via text message to their phone – a very handy feature!
12. Avoid costly extras. Ringtones, games, mP3′s, GPS service, and streaming videos are not only unnecessary, they are extremely costly as well. $1.99 doesn’t seem like much until you add about 20 of those together. Some of the ringtone and text services cost $10 or more per month. Your best bet is to stay away!
13. Use a land line for local calls. If you are near a land line, pick up the phone extension instead of using your mobile phone. It will save you a few of your plan’s minutes. I wouldn’t recommend doing this from work because some companies have policies against personal phone use.
For long distance calls, consider having someone call you right back if they are on a cell with unlimited long distance or don’t mind footing the bill. Just don’t do this all the time, because people will get tired of it quickly!
just a note… I only have a cell phone, so whenever someone calls me long distance from a landline, I always call them right back. My long distance is unlimited and I never use all my minutes. Hopefully I can save them a few bucks!
14. Utilize in-network calling. Mobile to mobile, in-network, Favorites, or whatever your carrier calls it this week, they all have one thing in common – the ability to save you money! If the majority of your friends and family are on one network, consider changing cell providers to their network – it will save all of you minutes and money!
15. Roaming charges. Beware of roaming charges! These can add up extremely quickly! Double check your service plan and be familiar with your local area. If you have a nationwide plan (which is the only way to go in my opinion!), you still might receive roaming charges if you frequently use your cell phone where your provider doesn’t have any towers. It’s best to be aware of your situation to avoid these charges!
Data plans. Not all cell phones are compatible with data transfer plans, but most new phones are. Determine what your data plan needs are, and plan accordingly. This is basically the same thing as text plans – know your usage and either go a la carte, or buy an unlimited data plan.
I have an unlimited data plan included with my Sprint SERO plan, so I don’t worry about how often I need to check my e-mail while I am out and about (and if you contact me during normal business hours, chances are I will respond with my cell phone. I do have a day job, you know. ).
Check out these great cell phone deals! T-Mobile is currently offering some great deals on their individual and family cell phone plans, and here are special AT&T Wireless offers. Want to avoid contracts? TracFone offers great pay as you go plans.