Your cell phone bill can be an expensive charge each and every month. It’s certainly never going to go down or go away on its own, barring a miracle or desperation on the part of a service provider. While you cannot get rid of a cell phone bill entirely (unless you get rid of your cell phone or start your own cell phone service, neither of which are likely), you can reduce the amount you pay each month if you are willing to put in a bit of preparation and effort.
Many people don’t know this, thinking they are locked in and that there is no way out. While canceling your service contract or abruptly switching providers can have a negative impact or cost you more than it’s worth, they are not your only options. There are ways around those charges in some cases. We want you to save money where possible so you can spend it elsewhere when needed, and you might be able to save hundreds of dollars each year on your bill.
To do just that, here are ten of the best ways to start working towards lowering your cell phone bill, in no particular order:
1. Reconsider Your Data Use
While cell service has a cost to it, the real moneymaker for many cellular service providers is data plans, which can be very expensive at the highest levels. Many people will pay for unlimited data or an exorbitant plan. This might be the right thing to do for professionals on the go, larger families that would share data, and other people.
Yet, you might not be one of these people. Even if you consider yourself one of these people, you might never use the amount of data you signed up for anyway. We recommend you go into your cell phone records (or on your service provider’s website) and check your data usage for the past six months or a year. Does it come even close to your limit? It only takes a couple of minutes to check, and if not, you might be able to lower your plan and save money in the process.
If you are on the line, you might want to consider some ways to reduce your data usage. Some ways to do this are:
· Connect your smartphone to WiFi when possible and safe. If you are at home, this is perfectly fine, and you should always be doing it (there is a good chance the connection will be faster anyway.) You can also see what networks are in places like your coffee shop or library. However, try not to use WiFi for anything that involves sensitive information, and use a VPN or your data plan for banking and sensitive email work.
· Consider what you are watching or doing on your data plan. Heavy streaming at high resolutions can quickly eat through a plan. Pre-downloading your content might be a better idea, especially if you know you will be waiting in places.
· There might be a low data mode on your phone model or some of the apps you use. Turning them on might slow down the usage of data over time.
There are quite a few ways, but overall, just think carefully about what you use and set up the right habits for yourself.
2. Consider Automated Payments
You probably will not save too much on your bill in this way, but with some providers, you might be able to get a slight discount if you set up payments to occur automatically. As long as you regularly have enough credit or money in your bank account, it makes perfect sense, as you would be paying it regardless. You will still want to check your statements for things such as hidden fees and discrepancies.
Additionally, if you do not have unlimited data and might have a massive spike in the data you use, an automatic payment might drain your account for overage fees. You will still need to pay it regardless, but preparation and knowledge are essential in managing your finances.
Another way to slightly lower your bill is to consider going with paperless billing if you are not already. You might be able to save a dollar or two a month this way and do something nice for the environment. In today’s digital age, there is practically no disadvantage to doing so (if you want records, you can save them to your computer after accessing them online).
3. Check for Discounts
When you sign up for your plan or go to renew it, there might be opportunities to get a discount or a limited-time offer on your cell phone plan or, more likely, your cell phone itself. This will perhaps depend on the model you go for and often requires renewing your contract, so we strongly recommend reading everything over. If you are planning on staying with them anyway, however, there is little to lose.
You might also be able to get a decent discount either through your employer or an organization you belong to. It might only be for a specific provider or a particular type of service, but if you are lucky, you might find one of the providers you have shortlisted anyway, and you can save a good deal of money with little extra effort.
Finally, if you are talking with someone when you are renewing your contract or making any changes, ask about any discounts. It cannot hurt, and the sales agent or whoever you are talking to might set you up with a deal. A quick search before you renew might also tell you what you can possibly get from your service provider at the moment.
4. Cut Out What You Don’t Use
Are there service and extra features on your phone service plan that you do not use? How much do they cost you? If you are getting insurance of some sort (that you will not use even if something happens), access to streaming services you do not use, or something else, cutting those extra costs can trim your cell phone bill as well as keep things simpler for yourself. It might even spur you to go through all your statements and start canceling the services you no longer use.
When you are checking these services, make sure that you can cut them without penalty (whether that is a fee or the fact that you’ll still need to pay regardless). You might need to time it right or make a note for yourself for several months in the future, but do not keep losing money by complacency or forgetting. Also, if some services or features charge you annually for their use, make sure that you cancel them ahead of time or make a note for when the appropriate time to do so would be.
5. Get on a Group or Family Plan
While the cost of someone on a single-person plan can reach three digits per month, people on a group plan can pay less than $50 per month for service. Additionally, some family plans have some of the best offers available in terms of extra benefits, potential phone upgrades, and more. Cell phone carriers want people to stick together, perhaps so they will be less likely to leave.
Note that you do not necessarily have to be family members to be on their family plan. As long as you trust them enough, you and several close friends not already on a plan can work together and sign up for one. You may need to coordinate billing and services added, but unlimited plans and careful tracking can save several of you a lot of collective money. You will also likely be able to add more people as you go along if there are people still on other contracts or with other providers for the moment.
As for which family plan to go with, that is something you and your friends and family will have to decide.
6. Buy Your Phone Separately or on Sale
While you might get an offer from your provider to get a phone, and some of the deals on offer can be pretty competitive (especially for older models), you are still likely paying full price if you are getting the newest model or close to it. This might make perfect sense if you want to hold onto the phone for a few years and use it frequently.
However, if you look at other vendors, you may be able to get a better deal or a phone on sale if you are willing to pay the full price up-front (or put it on a credit card). However, we would not recommend that you get a used phone, or even necessarily a refurbished phone. The potential technical difficulties can hit you at a bad time, and even if you use a warranty, you are still without a phone for some time, which in today’s world is a significant inconvenience. If you cannot verify the complete history of the phone, move on.
How useful this will be depends on the time of year, potential sales, what retailers might want to clear out, and other factors, but when you need to get a new phone or want to upgrade, checking out every retailer (at least online) is worth a bit of your time.
7. Make Your Phone Last Longer
In this case, we are not talking about battery life, but instead are talking about just how long your phone lasts without breaking or having a significant problem. A new phone cost can be between $500-$1000, which rivals many computers and can easily cost as much as your phone plan itself if you decide to go on installments. Making your phone last longer is a straightforward way to make sure that you do not have to increase your phone bill with a phone payment plan every single month or deal with the expense of a new phone.
Some ways of increasing the lifespan of your phone include:
- Use a phone case and screen protector (they often come together). The best models will depend on the phone, but do not pick a cheap knock-off you cannot trust to protect your phone. You should invest a bit of money into it. You can also probably customize the appearance to your liking in the process and keep the look fresh over the years. We recommend getting this the second you get a new phone or now if you do not already have one.
- Make sure to not take your phone into dangerous environments where it might incur water damage or is more liable to fall and break. If you want to take pictures, you might want to get a dedicated (and much cheaper) camera for that.
- Often the main problems with a phone involve the battery, the charging port, or the screen, and in all cases, they might be replaceable for a fee that is far less than the cost of a new phone. If something is damaged, then either check the warranty on your device if there is one or see if there is a place nearby that can make the appropriate repairs.
- Make sure to keep your phone safe from a software perspective and avoid downloading suspicious apps or files that may contain malware.
- Pick out a sturdy phone to begin with, and try to pick out a good model. Some might be defective or not built to last.
There are, of course, other ways to make your phone last longer, and they might vary by model, and their effectiveness will not be the same in all cases. We recommend reading forums and the manual for your device to check for common problems or points of weakness. You might be able to counteract them.
8. Contact Your Provider and Ask
If there was nothing else available in terms of getting a lower rate on your cell phone bill, just calling up your provider and asking for a discount can be effective. This is especially effective if you are near the end of your current service plan and would consider switching providers anyway. Service providers want to retain your business, and they might be willing to take a cut to make sure that you are with them for the long haul.
As mentioned, there is a decent amount of competition in any given area, and service providers know that they are unlikely to get a second chance at someone’s business. Play this to your advantage, but make sure you are willing to follow through if you are thinking of leaving your current provider. You will not be the first one to call about this, so do not be rude and do not make hostile demands; simply state your case and your interest.
9. Consider Switching Plans or Bundling Services
If you do not like your plan or think you are paying too much for it, but are generally happy with your service provider, then perhaps a different plan with the same provider would work. Whether you are not using as many lines as you thought you would, the data plan is too much, or you do not need so much of another aspect of your service, downgrading your plan can save you money, though sometimes not as much as you would like (downgrading does not always scale well).
Alternatively, perhaps the simplest way to switch plans is to sign up with a bundle for other services. This is most common with internet service providers and cable companies, but more cellular providers now offer additional services. Getting a deal like this can save you money with all three services, provided you would be happy with them in the first place. While your bill will technically be larger each month, you will be getting more for less, and you might be able to save on your television and internet bill as well. Just be careful that such a dramatic change for your household will not cause too much inconvenience.
10. Go with a Different Service Provider
If you do not think you will get anywhere with your current provider, why not consider a different one? There are usually two to three other options in any given area in the United States, and while they might not all be equal in all areas of service, switching might make sense along several lines.
There are plenty of sites (including this one) that can help you compare all of your options, and taking some quick notes and realizing your priorities can be just the push you need to switch providers. You will likely be able to keep your number, and you might be able to keep your phone depending on how you got it (another reason we recommend buying your phone separately). You may also get a new low introductory rate, and your new provider might buy out your contract, which means you will not have to pay any penalties.
Where to Start
Going through all the above can be quite a bit, but you do not need to do everything at once. Start with the method above that you think will get you the most traction, or start working on some of the longer-term methods now (setting some calendar dates can help). Just putting in a little bit of work every week can help you make a significant amount of progress, or simply dealing with what you think you can every time you get a phone bill (this can be a great motivator). Remember that this is a long-term process.
Outside of this, you may wish to simply go with these tips from easiest to most complicated or as they come up naturally in your life. While this can save you a decent amount of money, it should not be something you derail your life over.
We understand that cell phone bills can be expensive, and trying to change that can seem daunting, but a lot can be done. Work on a little bit each day or set up a few hours to go over everything, and you will find that you might be able to save a few hundred dollars each year or at least get better service for what you are paying. Looking into the matter can’t possibly hurt, so get out there and see what you can do!