Is your cell phone bill close to or in excess of $100 a month? Those with standard phone service (talk plus text) average around $73 per month. And if you’ve got smartphone service through one of the big providers, your bill may be astronomical. A study by Cowen and Company found that Verizon service averages $148, Sprint at $144, AT&T at $141 and T-Mobile at $120. That’s a lot of dough for phone service. If you’re also paying for a landline, you’re putting a lot of scratch toward being accessible. Today we’ll look at five ways to whittle your costs:
#1 Buy Your Own Phone
One of the ways the big cell providers lure you in is with their advertising that promises you a top of the line new smartphone for very little money out of pocket. But here’s what you have to know – the provider isn’t “giving” you the phone. They increase the amount of the monthly bill to cover the cost of the device. And, over the long haul, you’re likely paying double (or more) of the retail cost of the phone because even after they’ve recovered the cost, they keep charging the premium amount.
The answer? BYOP (buy your own phone). If you must have an iPhone 5, buy it for cash and then opt for the cheapest service provider. But you can also get really nice used phones easily. Check out Craigslist. I scored an iPhone 4 (after my old one died) for $60. Once new tech comes out, people dump their old phones for cheap and you can scoop up a nice, nearly new phone for cheap, then take the steps below to lower your monthly service.
#2 Don’t Sign a Contract
Contract services are for suckers. Cell providers love these because they lock you in for a couple of years at premium rates that you’ll keep paying even when the market price drops. What’s more, many people keep paying the contract price after their contract expires on a month to month basis or renew for the same deal to upgrade their phone. Being locked into a contract prevents you from taking advantage of deals.
And if for some reason you can’t afford to keep up your contract payments and you’re cancelled, the carrier will come after you for your past due balance, plus either the cancellation fee or the remainder of the monthly payments. If you want to change carriers, you’ll pay a hefty cancellation fee. And if you break your phone and aren’t due for an upgrade, you’re facing more financial hassle because you’ll have to buy your phone out of pocket and pay the steep monthly bill.
#3 Opt for the Cheapest Monthly Provider
When cell phones first became common, those with better credit could get a better deal, but that’s not the case anymore. You still need a reasonably good credit score to get a contract with a major provider, but you won’t get lower rates – they’re pretty much prixe fixe these days. Instead, opt for a month to month provider. This is the way to get the cheapest price.
Check out this cool video prepped by PC Magazine that covers the cheapest plans. With many monthly providers you can also customize your plan. If you never text, you can pay for phone and data. If you strictly text and use data and rarely actually talk on your phone (that’s me) you can opt for a plan with low minutes but plenty of the options you do use. This will allow you to minimize your bill while getting exactly the services you want.
#4 Consider Scrapping Data
We all love our smart phones, but these fun and productive devices are costing us big. Those who use gaming apps spend an average $13 more and those using social media applications, an extra $12 per month according to JD Power. That can add up to an outrageous cell bill quickly when you’re already paying a hefty monthly bill.
One of the costliest component of cell phone bills these days is data. And if you run over, the costs soars. So think about where you use your data services. Do you watch Netflix at Starbucks, troll Facebook from your sofa? If you mostly use your data services where there is also WiFi, you may be able to scrap the data and just rely on WiFi. This can drastically cut your monthly bill and may be very doable.
#5 Free coverage
There are actually a couple of ways where you can get free cell coverage. First is FreedomPop, which provides 200 voice minutes, 500 texts and 500MB of free data all at no cost, but it uses a Sprint VoIP network. You have to buy a $99 HTC phone to use the service. Yep, free. That’s cool. Depending on where you work, you may get an offer of a free company phone. Take it and cut off your service even if you have to pay a month or two of bills to get out of your contract.
The only caveat on work phones is that if you port in your existing number, they may hassle you about getting it back when you go. If you’re willing to relinquish your number this can be great. But also know that they may be able to read your data and see what you’re surfing and texting. Finally, if you are classified as low-income, many states offer free wireless service through SafeLink and similar providers. There’s no data, but you get limited talk, text and a free phone.
If you can change up your mobile service to save some green, consider devoting those savings to your student loans. Every extra dollar you can pay early towards principal will get you out of debt faster and cheaper. Sign up now for Tuition.io’s free student loan tool to track your debt, see the impact of making extra payments and assess alternate repayment plans.