By Sabah Karimi
We all love our cellphones, but that monthly bill can be a killer. Basic unlimited monthly plans cost anywhere from $40 to $60 per month depending on the carrier, but most smartphone users pay much more for the privilege of a data plan, text messaging and services like caller ID. Factor in taxes and surcharges, and you could pay upward of $90 a month.
However, there are many ways to reduce that cellphone bill and save hundreds of dollars per year. Here are seven ways to slash your cellphone bill.
1. Audit your bill regularly. Even though it’s convenient to set up auto-pay for your monthly cellphone bill, it’s always a good idea to review your statements and make sure you’re not paying for services you don’t really need. If you aren’t using up all your minutes each month on a regular basis, switch to a plan that better fits your needs to save some money. Look at your monthly usage reports closely to determine how much of the data plan and text messaging service you are using. If you’re not even close to your total minutes for the month, talk to your cellphone provider about alternative options.
2. Think about the real value of insurance. If you buy a brand new phone, the cellphone company representative will likely suggest you buy insurance. Insurance can cost anywhere from $10 to $15 or more per month depending on the phone and carrier. While it may be a good idea to have insurance for the phone for the first six to 12 months, the value of the phone will decrease significantly within a year and you may end up replacing it with an upgraded version anyway. Consider canceling insurance coverage as the phone gets older.
3. Consider month-to-month carriers. Long contracts can often lock you into outdated equipment and expensive terms. Some consumers shy away from the smaller carriers, fearing that smaller companies may have coverage problems. However, many smaller carriers uses the same network as the bigger carriers. For example, Cricket Wireless and Virgin Mobile use the Sprint network for many of their calling plans.
4. Stop paying for text messaging services. Consider using apps like TextMe, HeyWire and Textfree that allow you to send and receive pictures and texts using any Wi-Fi connection completely free of charge. If you're paying an extra fee for a texting package or upgrading your phone plan just so you can have unlimited text messaging options, look into a free app instead to save money.
5. Adopt a Skype habit. Many newer smartphones have front-facing cameras which make Skype video chatting more convenient, and the service is free when used with a Wi-Fi network to connect with another Skype user. Get into the habit of using Skype to make calls from your desktop and smartphone so you don't have to pay for the call.
6. Stop using 411. You will end up paying at least $1.50 per connection when you dial 411. Get more comfortable using your Web-enabled smartphone to track down information about local businesses and search for a phone number. The same information you would get from dialing 411 is available free of charge, and many smartphones now give you the option to just tap the phone number within the online search result to place your call within seconds.
7. Explore family plans. Consider signing up for a family plan in which you can share minutes and data packages. This can be especially valuable when some family members only need a cellphone for the occasional call or emergencies, while others are heavy cellphone users. Review usage habits of all family members, and compare prices of individual and family plans for any potential cost savings.