15 Ways to Save Money On Your Cell Phone Bill

by Ryan Guina

iphone.jpgCell 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.

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!

If you need to change carriers, there are ways to cancel your cell phone bill without paying fees, or transfer your cell phone contract without fees.

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!

Bonus tip:

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.

Published or updated August 11, 2015.
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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ryan

Ron, there are unlimited text plans that usually start at around $10 per month, but I’m not sure how much they cost for a family plan. That may be a great way to avoid high text message bills. Or, you could make them pay for their own texts out of their allowance. (you can also block texts, but that would be a very unpopular action!).

Data is a tricky situation. Some data plans are extremely expensive. You may consider getting them a phone that doesn’t have data capability (i.e. no e-mail, or streaming video capability). Most people don’t really need that, especially teens. I didn’t need it until my website became more popular and I needed access to my site e-mail account wherever I may be.

You could also consider getting each family member a phone on the Sprint SERO plan, but each line is $30 and there are no family plans. However, it comes with unlimited data and texts, so you wouldn’t have to worry about over charges.

There are a lot of options… I wish you and your family the best on this one! 😉


2 TheProffesor

Ryan it’s true, the data is a tricky situation, you don’t want to get your teens a phone that will charge if they go over their data plan. Most prepaids will be a solution, because they won’t go over, but it may not be enought for them. If you are willing to go a little over budget and pay a bit more, Straight Talk has an unlimited plan that inlcudes unlimited data for $45 a month, and also no contracts.


3 Ron@TheWisdomJournal

Talk about useful tips!

This is a great list, one that I need to incorporate in MY family. My cell phone is issued by my company and they don’t care what I use if for. But my wife’s phone isn’t and we are considering dropping our land line.

Where I need some advice is in the “add a teenager” to your cell phone account. I have two teenage girls (14 and 13) who don’t have one yet. All I ever hear is, “I’m the ONLY one in my class that doesn’t have a cell phone.” I tell them I was 34 before I had my first cell phone…they don’t think that’s funny.

I’ve heard horror stories about $750 bills, texting at 3am, and unreal data charges. I’m not sure what we should do. My wife is about to start back to work and I DO think the girls need a phone, but I just don’t want to be socked with a bill that is higher than my mortgage payment.


4 DamianM

Oh ron… I hear you… teens can be dangerouns with a cellphone that is not expense controlled. Really I’m not surprised with the $750 bill horror story. I got my teen son, he is 13 a Straight talk because it’s a pay as you go and there are no surprises there, it’s a great start up phone and you will sleep at night cos they can never go over their minutes, plus if you are feeling generous you can get them a $30 a month plan with 1000 text and 1000 minutes or an unlimited plan for only $45, it’s a bit more but you will avoid lots of headaches.


5 Dividend growth investor

Sprint SERO is a nice way to save money. But if you are a big talker I believe that the Simply Everything plan beats out the competition by a wide margin.


6 Frugal Dad

Excellent tips! We have stripped away just about all the bells and whistles we possibly can and I still get ill when the cell bill arrives. It just seems to be one of the costliest things I pay for every month when you look at the actual usage.


7 No Debt Plan

Excellent list. I am curious to your experience with Sprint SERO thus far. I considered dropping our Verizon contract to switch, but ended up deciding against it for now. We’ve loved Verizon thus far. I know Sprint has been having customers leave in droves due to billing errors and general poor customer service. What has your experience been thus far?

@Ron: Whatever plan you sign up for, at least with Verizon, you can block access to just about everything. You could give them unlimited texting for a certain amount per month, and then call customer service to block their data access, block access to downloading programs (a big issue for some teens, and it can cost money), block access to just about anything.


8 Dividend growth investor

Here’s the link to the sprint everything plan that I was refering to in my previous post




Great post. We’re considering our cell phone options now as out 2-year contract with Verizon has expired and our phones are starting to get beat up. I’ve been looking into the SERO program that you mentioned. I don’t think they offer free texts anymore but it still looks like a great deal.


10 lulugal11

I only have a cell phone and ditched the land line LONG ago. I got an unlimited texting plan with TMobile (which they have stopped now..sorry) for $5!!! My boyfriend and I have a family plan and get 700 daytime minutes plus unlimited texting and nights and weekends. Most of our friends have TMobile so we always stay under our minutes.
We also use Grand Central and Skype to make and receive phone calls so our plan works for two of us for $70 a month plus tax.


11 Mrs. Micah

Even at $30/person, SERO would probably be a good option for us. That or pay as you go. Our phones will be coming up for renewal in November. Wow. We got them the November before our wedding and now it’s only 8 months until 2 years. Crazy.


12 deepali

I’ve heard good things about this for kids:


13 Ryan

@ Dividend Growth Investor, Thanks for the info on the Sprint plan. I never come close to using all my minutes, but this may be a helpful plan for others! 🙂

@ No Debt Plan, I love the SERO plan so far. After taxes and fees, I pay about $35. This includes the unlimited data plan (which I love!), unlimited texts, nights & weekends, and mobile to mobile minutes, 500 anytime minutes, and good coverage in my local area. I had Verizon before Sprint, and I loved their coverage and customer service, but the Sprint plan was just too good to pass up. I think Sprint does have awful customer service, but I was willing to deal with that to get the plan I wanted. (I rarely call customer service for anything). Great tip for Ron, by the way. 🙂

@ lulugal11, I haven’t had a land line in about 8 years. I just haven’t needed one.

@ deepali, Thanks for sharing the link. That looks like a good source for kid’s cell phones.


14 Alan

All in all, cut down on those extra features that you do not need at all. Also talk to your company or boss and try to see if any wireless services offer any deals to your company employees. I got in on a deal that saves me around $20 a month compared to the same features off a non employment plan.

Oh, don’t lose your cellphone. It’s extremely expensive to replace unless you buy a second hand one and usually that’s a huge downgrade from the phone you had. Even the free phones start at $100 without a plan.

But this is a great series of tips mate, well done with this list.


15 Becky@FamilyandFinances

I have Sprint and get a discount through my employer, which I love. I had to call Sprint once because I got charged a roaming fee in my own city! I was pretty unhappy that that happened, but the CSR reversed the charge immediately with no hassles. That’s been my best and worst experience with Sprint 🙂


16 Lisa

One trend I’ve noticed with my teenagers is they prefer texting to talking live on the phone. Go figure. They’ve got unlimited texting for a fairly low price. So I’m happy.


17 Sarah B.

Save money on cellular long distance!… I am now using YapOn for all my long distance calling. I use it on my cellular as well as my landline. Not only is it a reliable, high quality phone service, it is really easy to use and saving me a LOT on money! I can even call my friends and relatives who are overseas with my cell phone for pennies. There are no connection fees, hidden OR monthly fees, I get everything I pay for! And without having to change my cell phone provider or rate plan!


18 Matt

For any real bargain hunters out there, I strongly recommend STI Mobile. It is a pre-paid service with no frills… but it is worth it. I pay $0.12/min, or $0.10/min night and weekends, plus a $0.10 daily access fee.

The service is fantastic, and it can be supplemented with data/text options. I text for $0.05 each. I use around 120 min/month, with about 250 messages in and out, and I pay around $22/month… and NO TAX.

This is definetly something to consider.


19 DamianM

This is indeed a great list, it does need a little update. I’m not sure I know what the STI mobile is, but I see the values you are talking about, isn’t that net10? they have a 10cents a minute nationwide. Also now lots of prepaids are offering plans, unlimited minutes for $50, that’s a great deal and a money saver!


20 Dojo

Option # 5 is the best advice I can give. I recently switched to a “prepaid plan” and I love it! Since I am a college student, using a prepaid cell phone relieves plenty of stress because I spend less money on cell phones and more money on the essentials. I only pay for this minutes I need, can text, and can even make long distance calls (without an extra charge) to my family back home. I would highly recommend switching to anyone who needs to cut their bills.


21 Frank Lee

Prepaid is the only way to fly, with no bills or overages or other funky stuff.

I use Straight Talk. It’s unlimited for $45 a month, prepaid (so no bills) and on Verizon’s network… the best.

Unlimited talk and texts, plus 30MB of data, which is about 350 web pages. Fantastic deal.

It’s available at http://www.StraightTalk.com


22 Ryan

Not a bad deal, Frank. My current deal is better, but it is no longer available under the same terms… so something like that would be an option if I didn’t have my current plan.


23 Pat Yoe

I also have Straight Talk, which is just an amazing deal.

I was skeptical at first but everything good I’d heard about it is true.

No more crappy coverage from AT+T. The Verizon network is solid and I haven’t dropped a call yet.

I think $45 a month is fantastic and I got a very nice Samsung phone with a qwerty keyboard so texting and web surfing is easy too.

I’m saving hundreds of dollars a year now so it’s pretty awesome.

I’m not the only one who thinks so, either.

Here’s another happy Straight Talk-er:


24 Michelle

I have traveled to the UK many times and have always used my cell phone. Every time I come back I regret having used it. On my last trip to London I rented a Smartphone with Fonmigo. I paid local rates and it came with a free Internet package. I recommend it.


25 wealeylover

number 5 is the most important one. I switched to a prepaid phone and for only 50 bucks a month I have unlimited talk, text, and data. Why waste your energy trying to only call at certain times, or counting your texts. With this company everything is included in the amazing price, plus you can change the plan month to month, and the service uses both Verizon and At&t, depending on where you live, which is awesome


26 Megan

I hate having to constantly check how many minutes or texts I’ve used up for the month and finally upgraded to an unlimited plan. It’s $45 a month pay as you go plan for unlimited everything…what a bargain. My husband also has ST now but unlike me, unlimited would be excessive for him so he opted for the 1000min/text for $30. We’re both very happy with our choices 🙂


27 martianencounter

Megan, I’m really interested in the prepaid plan you mentioned. I’m guessing by ST you mean straight talk, which I’ve heard mentioned on a few other blogs here and there as a wonderful. cheap alternative to the evils of contract phone plans. I’ve been thinking about switching, but I’ve been worried about service and phone selection (I’m kind of attached at the hip to my blackberry) but then again I’ve read that service is just as good or better and there are comparable phone options. Any further advice?


28 cheryl

my contract is up with Verizon in June.. I just got a great deal on a blackberry..love it. I too, have tossed and turned about changing phone carriers. Verizon does have good coverage, and i was leaning towards straight talk,but leary.. i am on the Oregon coast,and their coverage map doesn’t seem to have a wide area of coverage.. I am to retire end of April so wanting to cut costs. suggestions? i had tracfone for 7 yrs and its a very good carrier. My husband uses one. the issue i have is i text more than calling.ideas? thanks..


29 cheryl

i also wondered if you can use your present verizon phone with straight talk?


30 cheryl

i just heard from straight talk..cannot use any phones with them except their phones.they did tell me wherever verizon works, they also will work, as far as
coverage area goes.


31 jasmine

To Cheryl, my cell carrier is Straight Talk. But I’m sure Tracfone is also with the same carriers as Straight Talk,so if your husband uses Tracfone and it works for him, then Straight Talk should work fine too. And yes,you would have to buy one of their phones,but if you happen to make international calls for business or keep in touch with family or friends Straight Talk now has International calling available to anyone regardless of your carrier-at much lower cost! Check out the web site for prices. Best of luck,don’t think you will regret choosing Straight Talk,specially with their $45 Unlimited Plan.


32 Willie Sutton

Tracfone is trying to upgrade apparently. They recently introduced a touchscreen phone and one with a qwerty keyboard. That’s Tracfone, the cheap company. LOL!


33 Nat Day

For those concerned about texting – my 10 year old daughter uses her Ipod Imessage feature to text anyone with a phone number or email that she has. Also, she uses an app called Kik which allows her to text her friends with a Kik account. She uses her Skype app to stay in contact with her sister in Australia or her Facetime account. Her innovation costs me zero dollars!


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