This is a guest post by Jason Price from OneMoneyDesign.com. Jason is a husband, dad, soccer fan and blogger on the journey to true financial freedom. He enjoys sharing tips and ideas about money, career and more.
I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t have a cell phone and has to account for this monthly expense. The introduction of smart phones has made this technology a mainstay. People use their phones for much more than talking these days with the ability to communicate via social networks, use apps and other features.
While cell phones are here to stay, they do cost money and depending on your plan, can become quite expensive. That being said, there are a number of ways you can save money on your cell phone bill each month if you’re willing to put forth a little effort. Let’s take a look at some obvious and not so common obvious ways to cut this expense:
Know Your History
It’s important to review your usage history and consider a cheaper plan if you’re not using all the minutes each month. Most people don’t do this because it takes too much time to review the statements, but it’s costly not to do so and it probably won’t take you more than an hour. Simply plan one evening to log into your online account and print your last 12 statements (or pull them from your files). The next evening can be devoted to writing down all the minutes and data you’ve used month to month, or adding this information to a spreadsheet. Knowing the limits for your current plan, you can easily compare your actual usage and see how many minutes you’ve left on the table each month. Use this information to consider cheaper plans from your current cell phone provider or even new providers.
Monitor Your Minutes
Check your usage weekly, online or via the dialing code provided by your carrier and make sure you manage your calls accordingly. My wife and I have iPhones so we downloaded our provider’s free app that lets us monitor our usage for both data and cell phone minutes. Minutes and data on a cell phone are similar to managing money in your checking account, so you have to manage closely to make sure you don’t go over your plan or aren’t too far under each month. Watching your minutes, if you have a limited plan, is something you should consider doing at least once per week.
Ask for Affiliate Discounts
We got iPhones and it’s not because they were the cheapest deal. We got them because we asked for an affiliate discount. I work for a large company and they have a negotiated discount with our cell phone provider and we get a nice discount on our monthly bill. This makes the plan much more affordable for us. If you work for a large company, university or government agency you may be eligible for the same discount. Check with your HR department first and then make sure you mention such discounts when signing up for new plans are renegotiating your current plan.
Ask for Student Discounts
As kids go back to college they’ll see their friends with new cell phones and want the latest features too. Don’t necessarily jump to buy them a new phone as it’s costly to keep upgrading your plan. However, if it’s time to look for a new plan, make sure the provider knows you have a student and ask for a related discount. Also, you might be eligible for such discounts if you’re an adult student. Make sure you consider such discounts in comparison with employee discounts and family plan savings to get the best deal.
Cancel Your Coverage
Unless you have a disaster-prone teen, insurance that covers your phone for loss or damage is usually a waste. Cell phone providers love to sell you these additional services. It’s sort of like your local electronics store selling you additional warranty coverage. It’s usually not worth it to pay for the extra coverage. Instead, save what it would normally cost you for the coverage or replacement and send that money to your savings account each month.
Say You’re Leaving
Carriers don’t want to lose customers, so if you tell them you’ve found a better plan, you could get a break in your rate. You’ll likely first talk to someone in customer service. If you don’t make any progress, ask to be transferred to the cancellation department. You’ll really be transferred to the customer retention department where you can negotiate with someone who actually has the power to modify your plan. Don’t worry, they won’t cancel your plan without you giving the okay.
If you use less than 300 minutes a month, prepaid can be an economical choice. Virgin Mobile is a well-known provider who offers such plans and most major providers such as AT&T offer them too. Just Google “prepaid cell phone plans” and you’ll find a lot of options to explore. Prepaid plans are a great idea for family members who don’t use a cell phone much or would like to have one for emergency purposes. They can also be great for children who need to learn to manage their time on the phone.
If you often make international calls and have an app-capable smartphone, download the Skype app (iPhone and Android). You can talk Skype to Skype for free. Most hotels have free WiFi so this is a great option versus burning your cell phone minutes, incurring roaming charges or special international rates. Set on using your mobile phone? If so, check with your carrier before leaving the country and find out what type of coverage they have in your destination. See if they can put you on a special plan for the period of time you’ll be traveling to insure you get a better rate and coverage. We made the mistake of paying big bucks while vacationing in Mexico. We could have avoided this by calling AT&T before leaving the country or by using Skype.
Comparison sites such as BillShrink.com can help you save some money on your cell phone bill by shopping around and comparing prices. They leverage your usage history to help you evaluate if you need to opt for a cheaper plan or shop elsewhere for your service. Most are free to use. All you have to do is tell them about your usage and they search all the combinations to find you savings. The service not only helps you find the right cell phone plan, but you can also compare TV service, credit cards, savings and CD’s and locate the cheapest gas stations.
Same Plan as Family and Friends
Many providers will allow you to call certain designated numbers without them counting against your minutes. It saves you money if you can get the most frequent people you call on the same service. For example, we have parents that live in other states. Both sets of parents were considering a new cell phone service and we asked them to consider AT&T (where we have our iPhone plan). They signed up with AT&T and now we call our family members anytime without impacting our minutes. This allows us to use get a cheaper plan because most of our minutes are spent talking to family. Owning a cell phone doesn’t have to bust your budget each month. As you can see, there are plenty of ways to save money. Overall, find the plan that works best for your situation and know your needs before signing up.
If you liked these 10 ways to save money on your cell phone bill, you can get 15 more by signing up for Jason’s free financial fitness email newsletter at OneMoneyDesign.com. You can also like him on Facebook or follow him on twitter at @onemoneydesign.
(Photo courtesy of Johan Larsson)