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Save Money on Cell Phones

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Save Money Cell Phones

Save Money Cell Phones

I've written about how to save money on landline phones, but I realized that I didn't cover cell phones. It's time fix that. There are a lot of people spending too much on their phone bill and if these tips help one or two people, it's well worth the effort. Of course it might help 10 people, if you spread the word by using the e-mail link at the bottom of the post.

    Manage Your Plan

  • Use BillShrink - Billshink is a company that looks at your cell phone usage (among other things) and tries to help you save money.
  • ... Or Use Fix My Cell Bill - For $5 you can upload your cell phone bill and get recommendations on how to save money on your cell phone.
  • Get the Right Amount of Minutes - No secret here. If you ending the month with lots of minutes, switch to a plan with fewer minutes and save some money. If you find that you are running out of minutes don't pay overages. If you aren't sure where you fall, consider AT&T with their rollover minutes.
  • Look for Friends, Family, and Network plans - A lot of companies allow you to designation people you call most for discounts... That works well for my family. Some companies allow you to pay a little more for unlimited calling in the network. With Sprint that $5 option probably saves me a few dozen dollars every month.
  • Skip a Cell Phone Plan - A prepaid cell phone is a good way to save money for those who don't call a lot. Some companies that offer this are TracPhone, Boost, and Virgin.
  • Look for a Special Plan - Sprint had a program called SERO (Sprint Exclusive Referral Offer) which was an amazing deal. It was easy to get into as well. I'm not aware of any current deals like that, but it can't hurt to try to find a message board and see. There's also Let's Talk that has some interesting options. I'm not sure if they are the best cell phone plans, but they look good.
  • Reduce Your Use of Data - The days of unlimited data are coming to an end. Use smartphone apps to limit the amount of data you use. Android has Onavo Extend that compresses data before it gets to your phone. It will also tell you which apps are using the most data. With that information maybe you can use them more sparingly.
  • Avoid Cell Phone Extras

  • Skip Ringtones - The ringtone is one of the worst buys in the history of telecommunications. Sometimes people pay $2 or more for some 15 seconds of a song in the form of a ringtone. I don't understand it. Fortunately a lot of phones, with a little work, will let you upload ringtones on for free.
  • Be Careful of Text Messages - I take it back, the text message is one of the worst buys in history of telecommunications. At 10 or 15 cents for around 150 characters, it's the most expensive data in the world. If you do a fair amount of text messaging, consider and unlimited plan or a large bucket of text messages.
  • Get Out of Your Cell Phone Contact

    Getting out of your contract maybe a way to save money. Perhaps you want to drop your phone altogether... or maybe you see another plan with a different carrier that's going to save you a few dollars. Either way, it's better to get out of a big termination fee and save some cash

  • Watch for Contract Changes - Sometimes you can get out of your contract because companies change their terms. For instance they may change the cost of text messaging. When these kind of things happen you may be eligible to get out of your contract for free.
  • Swap Your Phone - Companies like Cell Trade USA and Cell Swapper help you work this out. Seems like a decent plan in theory... I haven't had to try it for real.

I saved the best tip for last... If your contract is up (or if you can get out of via the method above), call up your current company and say that you are thinking of switching to another carrier to get the sexy phone (Blackberry Storm, Apple iPhone, Palm Pre) on their competitor's network. You'll often get sent to the retention department, where they will try to make you happy with all sorts of extras. It's better for them to keep you at a discount than to go recruit a new customer to replace you. Now some may see this as a little dishonest, but I think it's fair game. I would have an iPhone now if it was available at Sprint. Because it's not, I feel they should give me a reason to stick with them.

It's better for them to keep you at a discount than to go recruit a new customer to replace you. Now some may see this as a little dishonest, but I think it's fair game. I would have an iPhone now if it was available at Sprint. Because it's not, I feel they should give me a reason to stick with them.

This post discuses the many ways you can save on your cell phone plan. Another way to save money is by visiting savings.com where you can find savings coupons for cell phone, computers and other great products.

Photo Credit: MarkKelley

Last updated on August 31, 2012.

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24 Responses to “Save Money on Cell Phones”

  1. Don’t overlook employer discounts, either. My employer has special deals on billions of different products/services, including cell phone plans.

    Rollover minutes are nice. The vast majority of our usage is night and weekend or mobile to mobile, so we don’t need a lot of minutes. But if we do happen to have a lot of usage one month because of extraordinary circumstances, we won’t get dinged with overages.

    Also, if you have a bad experience, see if you can escape the plan without paying the fee. We had a local carrier and ended up very frustrated with the coverage. No reception at the local mall or in the downstairs of our house. My wife called to complained. They verified the crappy coverage and let us out of the contract without paying the fee.

    There are a variety of sites that show you how to create ringtones. If you have any technical ability at all, you can probably do it. I have a bunch on my phone. I awake to the sound of “we didn’t start the fire” as my alarm clock and hear the theme to “baseball tonight” when there is an incoming call. I put some of that noisy heavy metal on my wife’s phone.

  2. JB says:

    Be careful with services like BillShrink. They don’t take into account mobile to mobile minutes. My entire family is on one provider which means all of our calls to each other are free (well… nothing is free, but you get the idea).

  3. MoneyEnergy says:

    Oh yes… I’m definitely on the Ultra Simple Plan with my cell phone. I use Virgin. No contract. Pay as you go. So right now, my minutes are gone and I have to top up today. But I’m sure it saves me money. It’s a really basic phone. No websurfing or downloading here, barely even an answering machine, too. It has room for about 3 messages!

  4. MLR says:

    Each of my past 4 employers has offered discounts. For my carrier (Verizon) the discounts have been between 18 and 22%. For other carriers I have seen as high as 25%.

    Bill Shrink is a nifty site, but along with not factoring in mobile to mobile it also won’t help you out if you can get an employee discount! So be careful :)

    Going along with ringtones, don’t be one of those people with the ringback tone… I will hate you.

  5. Jerry says:

    I can’t understand the ringtone phenomenon, either, that’s for sure! Talk about something that leads to a waste of money… on the other hand, employee discounts are a great deal. Our last account in the States before we moved overseas had a wonderful deal. Also, I think that the phone insurance is often a rip-off for many people. For others – those who destroy phones all the time – it might be worth it.
    Jerry

  6. The Van Man says:

    The best thing is to not use your phone so much – that saves me a fortune!

  7. PennyScraper says:

    If you have already gone over your alloted minutes for the month, this is how you save?

    Call your phone company on the last day of your billing cycle and ask that your plan be upgraded. The upgrade is done retroactively to the begin of your current billing cycle.This makes your overages now within the limits of the new upgraded plan! So now your paying about $10 more instead of 40¢ per minute.(Of course do the math to ensure you will actually save.) Then the following month you can downgrade your plan minutes again.

    The catch is that when you upgrade your plan you are entering into a new contract with your service provider.The new contract is going to be extended for a year from the date of upgrade. Not a problem if you planned on staying with your current provider.

  8. Lazy Man says:

    Actually a few companies allow you to buy more minutes for the current billing cycle without having to upgrade. I know I did this with Sprint a couple of years back.

    Since a new contract typically has a $200 cancellation fee (or value in a new phone upgrade), it’s probably not worth upgrading your account for minute overages unless you weren’t even close.

  9. PT Money says:

    Nice to see your experience with limiting Cell Phone expenses. Looking forward to sharing this in the Carnival of Money Stories next week.

  10. cheap chick says:

    I dumped my AT&T phone and got out of my cellphone contract when the company changed its terms. (Did you know that if they do that, it voids the contract? They don’t tell you that, but I saw it on the Consumerist site and it worked! No termination fee too. Haha.)

    Anyway, I got a prepaid Net10 phone and everything is 10 cents a minute… even International calls which is great since my son is traveling right now.

    But the best thing about this is that there aren’t any bills and I know what my costs are because I pay upfront for my calls. It’s great!

  11. Geralt says:

    I love the idea of going prepaid. I think I will switch as soon as my contract expires at the end of next month. I have already found the plan I’ll be using too. Called StraightTalk from Tracfone, gives 1000 minutes, 1000 texts and 30mb data for $30! Incredible at 2c a minute and 1c per text or something like that. It is still a fairly heavy use package for much less than I’m paying now.

  12. Ann says:

    Prepaid cellular phone plans are great if you don’t use a lot of minutes, or aren’t sure when you’ll be using your minutes. If you’re using a prepaid plan, you’ll never have to deal with a contract or a monthly charge. You pay as you go, refilling your phone whenever it runs out of money. Many major cell phone providers have started offering this kind of service to people who don’t need or want a regular cell phone plan.

  13. Chris Chan says:

    Prepaid is the only way to go. I have a Tracfone. It’s a great way to keep in touch with your kids. Calls and texts are less expensive on a TracFone than on other phones and with no contract, there’s no surprises!

  14. Chris Chan says:

    PS.
    Speaking of cellphones, I came across this Net10 video mashup here: http://no-evil.net. Funny stuff!!

  15. KT says:

    I find prepaid works best for me as I do not use a lot of minutes. I used to pay $40/month under my old plan but since I made the switch to TracFone,I average $10 (if even) per month! No contract! No more paying for unused minutes :)

  16. Bruce says:

    These are all great tips! I needed to save money on my cell phone bills so I switched to straight talk. I got a great phone with a great plan that fits everything I needed. I now have unlimited calling and texting for only $45 a month. There was no contract and they are part of the Verizon network so my service is has been great!

  17. Kimberly says:

    I’ve seen a lot of interesting information here. I personally went with prepaid because I was tired of the huge bills with my previous carrier when I really wasn’t using the phone enough to justify. I went with Net10 and the savings have been huge and not to mention, I have quality customer service and a calling network. Net10’s “easy minutes” plans or pay-as-you go work prefectly for me since I really use my phone exclusively for work and emergencies – I dont worry about fees or contracts. Their phones are affordable and the TMobile calling network has provided really solid coverage, especailly here in Miami. Best of all, Net10 is super easy to find and purchase – you can check out Target or Best Buy for the phones and minutes cards. I feel like I’m finally paying exactly for what I need a phone for. Net10 was a great fit.

  18. Marty says:

    Family Circle Magazine in this months magazine listed http://www.cellbills.com as an easy way to slash cell phone bills and cell phone cost. It is a very easy to use website that shows you how to reduce your cell phone cost. Here is the article link from Family Cirlcle Magazine.

    http://www.familycircle-digital.com/familycircle/201008?pg=88#pg88

    I hope this helps some people save money on cell phone bills!

  19. Harduponcash says:

    To try make ends meet, some months are crazy whilst others you find are easier to breath financially. Net10 has this amazing offer which is flexibile. I can change between options monthly according to my depleting funds like the unlimited option for $50.00 and $25 for 750 minutes. Now I can spend according to budget.

  20. TheTomsFamily says:

    Prepaid cellphones is the way to go if you need to save money on your bill, because there’s no bill and you pay only for the minutes you use. Now, for example Straight Talk lets you switche from a pay as you go to a fix prepaid plan with no contracts or penalties according to your seasonal needs. So I go from the $45 to the $30 a month accordign to how much I need to use that month.

  21. CarolynSmith says:

    You know tomsfamily is right, Straight Talk is awesome, nver before have I experienced the freedom of a pay as you go phone or an affordable plan like the ST $30, for only 30 a month you get 1000 text and 1000 voice and 30 web, it’s more than enought for me and my family. The best thing is that I dont have a contract and I can switch whenever I want. I got mine online at http://www.straighttalk.com but you can also find it at walmart.

  22. martymcfly says:

    I was looking to save money and so I switched to a prepaid phone, but unlike what this article says, it itsn’t for people who don’t use as many minutes. Like carolyn said with straight talk, they also have an unlimited plan for 45, which is so cheap! Like close to the minimums of most contract plans, and you get unlimited text, talk, and web! no extra costs, nada. Plus they use verizon’s netowrk which is awesome. we need to band together and stop letting the contract plans get away with their pricing

  23. Kasey says:

    I think the key to saving money on cell phone is to find the right fit for your needs. Luckily living in the US, we have so many options to choose from. For me, since I’m a heavy user, only an unlimited plan make sense. I also did my fair share of shopping around and found StraightTalk to be my ideal fit…reliable service and unlimited everything for only $45 a month…totally doable!

  24. Twoforone says:

    I’ve been thinking of switching to prepaid for a while now, but unsure which is the best option. You guys mention straight talk, but my friend has net10 and says it has better service than even the contract providers since it uses verizon and AT&T’s networks, which I don’t really get, especially when they’re half price, but hey, I’m not complaining. Have you guys found the phone selection to be comparable to those contract providers?

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