I heard on the radio the other day that a cell phone in 1989, which they said was the size of a brick (and probably the weight of one too!), cost $700 to buy. Back then, only business executives had cell phones. However, technology has exploded, and the price has gone down significantly. Within the last 15 years, cell phones have become a way of life and more than 80% of adults have one (Pew Internet). While you may love the convenience of the cell phone, you may not love the expense of your monthly bill.
However, there are several things you can do to reduce the cost of your cell phone bill.
Check into employer discounts. Many employers offer cell phone discounts for their employees’ personal cell phones. These discounts can range from 8 to 23%. My husband’s employer offers 5 different carriers to choose from and discounts ranging from 15 to 23% depending on the carrier you choose. If you are just buying a cell phone or your current contract is up, shopping first with carriers who offer a discount through your employer can save you a significant amount of money annually. The only drawback is that you may not have as many carriers to choose from.
Choose a plan that fits your (realistic) needs. Do you text infrequently? If so, there is probably no need to get unlimited texting. However, if you or someone else in the family is texting non-stop and you are paying per text, you will likely save by going to an unlimited texting plan. Determine your precise needs, and don’t pay for services you don’t use or use infrequently.
Consider going to a prepaid phone. With more and more people switching to smartphones, a prepaid phone can seem like a relic from the past. However, if you aren’t a frequent cell phone user, a prepaid phone may be just what you need. You will likely pay $10 to $20 or sometimes even less a month. My mom has a prepaid phone and just carries it with her in case of emergencies. She pays less than $50 annually for her phone.
Choose a family plan. If you have children in the home and would like them to have cell phones, your best bet for saving might be to choose a family plan. You will pay more overall than an individual plan, but you will save quite a bit versus having 3 or 4 individual plans. When signing up for a family plan, again, be realistic. Most carriers offer multiple types of family plans which can differ by $50 or more from the most basic family plan. Do you need all of the bells and whistles or can you be more conservative?
Americans love their cell phones, and they do certainly make life more convenient. However, there is no reason to overspend. A few simple changes can help you maintain a reasonable monthly cell phone payment while still enjoying the convenience of a cell phone as a way to keep in touch with family and friends when you are on the go.
What other strategies would you recommend to save money on cell phones?