Lower Your Cell Phone Bill With These 8 Tips
Right now, staying connected is more important than ever. But for many people with pricey cell phone plans, it’s also more expensive than ever.
On average, Americans are paying more than $1,300 a year for their cell phone service, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While carriers all claim to offer the best cell phone deals, finding ways to lower your cell phone bill can be challenging. To help, here are eight proven tips to help you save on your cell phone.
1. Be Smart With Data
The price of your phone plan will be inflated by the amount of data you use each month. While most people only use a few gigabytes of data per month, that number will increase as apps become more robust and we use our cell phones for more functions.
If you want to know how much data you’re using, you can find the answer through your carrier or on your cell phone. Using 5 GB or less per month? You may be better off using a limited data plan or a prepaid plan. If you’re using more, you’ll probably get more value from an unlimited plan.
Here are some ideas to help you conserve your monthly data and avoid overages:
- Change your phone settings to limit the use of background data. The many apps on your phone can drain your data, even when you’re not actively using them.
- Set up usage alerts with your cell phone provider to find out when you’re about to max out your data.
- Always connect to your home’s Wi-Fi to avoid using data when you don’t need to.
2. Consider a Prepaid Plan
Building the infrastructure for a wireless network is wildly expensive, which is why there are only four major networks in the U.S.: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. However, there are many smaller carriers called Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) that lease and resell access to these networks, typically through low-cost prepaid plans. Common MVNOs are Cricket Wireless, MetroPCS, and Straight Talk Wireless (although many MVNOs are now owned by one of the Big Four cell phone carriers, making the line between MVNOs and larger providers sometimes blurry).
MVNOs offer prepaid cell phone plans and deals that could help you save big, and you can enjoy more flexibility by skipping the contract. But be aware of potential drawbacks:
- In high-traffic areas, MVNO plans get slower speeds because the four big networks get priority on their towers.
- Plans’ data limits may be too restrictive for some people.
- There may be fewer phones available for MVNO carriers.
3. Delay That Upgrade
Cell phone providers love to sell you a new phone every two years, but the truth is, you probably don’t need one. If you’re dealing with common issues like a battery that can’t hold a charge or a cracked screen, most local repair shops can make small fixes for less than $100. Compare that to the $20 to $40 a month extra you’d be paying for the next two years to pay off your brand-new phone, and the savings are clear.
4. Don’t Be an Early Adopter
Cell phone providers love to roll out new versions every year, with more bells and whistles than ever. But the differences between models aren’t always that significant. As long as you keep your cell phone’s operating system updated, you should be able to use the same apps and features as everyone else. If you must have the newest version, wait a few months. New cell phone prices can drop by 30% within three months of release. Also, the prices of previous years’ models drop significantly over time, making them a good option when you need to upgrade. Chances are, an earlier-generation cell phone offers all the features you’ll need.
5. Share the Bill
No matter what plan you’re on, the average cost per user decreases with every line that you add. If you and other family members have separate accounts, see if you can join up for a family plan. Even when you pay your monthly share, it will still be less than you’d pay by yourself.
6. Rethink Cell Phone Insurance
If you have a pricey new device, having insurance is a smart way to reduce the financial impact if it’s broken or stolen. But in many cases, paying out of pocket for a phone’s repair or replacement is more economical than continually paying an extra $6 to $12 per month for insurance, plus the required deductible if you ever file a claim, which could be up to a few hundred dollars (depending on the value of your phone).
7. Automate Payments
Automating your bill payment and switching to statement-free billing can help save trees, save you time, and potentially score you a discount of $5 to $10 per line on eligible plans.
8. See If You’re Eligible for a Discount
Cell phone carriers may offer discounts on plans or devices for members of the military, veterans, first responders, nurses, physicians, and their families. There are also discounts out there for teachers and students. Visit your provider’s website to see if you qualify for one of these discount programs.