Whether you’re coming to the end of your contract, looking for a new budget-friendly phone, or just trying to cut some of the costs on that monthly cell phone bill, we’re here to help.
Cell phone technology has made a lot of progress over the last decade, from Phablets to iPads, but with that progress comes an enormous increase in the prices of handsets and their associated running costs. To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of our top 12 best budget tips to prove to you that it is possible to save money on the costs which come with owning a cell phone.
If you don’t have a phone yet or need some options check out our best budget camera phone guide for some of the latest options available in 2020!
Top 12 Tips to Save You Money on Your Cell Phone Costs
1. Avoid contracts
Cell phone companies make a ton of money through tying their customers into contracts. These contracts can be lengthy, often two or even three years long and, should you want to cancel your contract or switch service provider, you’ll be faced with a huge cancellation fee.
To avoid getting into this situation, it’s a good idea to buy the cell phone you want outright and find a 30-day rolling contract. This Sim card-only deal means that you’ll be free to leave with only a month’s notice. When it comes to buying a phone upfront, we would suggest finding yourself an ‘unlocked’ cell phone. Having an unlocked phone means that you’ll be able to use it with any cell phone carrier, removing the chance of you getting stuck in a contract which offers less benefits for a higher cost than comparable plans.
By looking online you’ll find a whole range of discounted, older phone models which are unlocked and won’t leave you tied up in long-running, expensive contracts. Make sure to read up on each model’s user reviews and, of course, only purchase from reputable sellers.
2. Stay away from payment plans
Perhaps the easiest way to save money is to avoid payment plans. A payment plan incorporates the cost of your brand-new cell phone into your bill on a recurring, monthly basis. More often than not, these plans will drastically increase the cost of the phone and leave you spending far more money on your cell per month than it’s truly worth.
Have you ever been in the position where you lose or break your phone, and then find yourself having to keep paying the remaining balance off over several months? As with our first tip, we’d definitely recommend paying for your phone outright – you’ll be saving yourself a lot of money by steering clear of having the cost of a brand-new phone rolled into your monthly cell phone bill.
3. Only pay for what you use
Cutting out what you don’t use is another quick way to save money. Have a look through the breakdown of your cell phone bill and decide if you need everything you’re paying for. Do you really need that unlimited talk, that unlimited data, that emergency roadside assistance? If not, it’s a good idea to switch plans and save on your monthly bill. Some carriers will offer a prepaid cell phone plan while others will require you only pay for what you use, look into your options so that you don’t end up paying for features you’re not going to use.
4. Keep your cell phone for longer
It sounds like an obvious tip but wait until your cell really needs replacing before you start looking at upgrading it to a new phone. You see it time and time again – people eagerly awaiting the next new smartphone model and trading up after only a year or so with their current model. Upgrades will lock you into another lengthy contract and, as a cell phone is built to last over 2 years, it’s unlikely it truly needs replacing.
To make your phone last longer to get the best value for your money, there are three key things you can get into the habit of doing.
1. First of all, don’t skip those updates. Not only are they quick to install, but they’ll improve the performance of your device so that it continues running quickly and smoothly. Most phones will offer automatic updates, so check in the Settings and select this option.
2. Taking care of your battery from the day you purchase it will improve the life-span of your cell. You don’t want to be draining your battery on a regular basis as it’ll impact on how well it holds charge in the future. You should also avoid having your device in places where it could overheat. Simply put, looking after your battery will help it to keep holding its charge for years.
3. Another way to increase your cell phone’s lifespan is to get it a good quality case and screen protector. You’ll want to look for a case that is durable and drop-resistant and a screen protector that is strong enough to absorb impact and prevent the phone’s screen from getting scratched up.
5. Change or remove the insurance
Most cell phone carriers offer a range of protection plans. More often than not, the least expensive, standard insurance option will provide you with enough coverage for situations where your phone is lost, stolen, or damaged.
If you’re on a premium insurance plan, it might be worth switching to a basic plan to save a few dollars on your cell phone bill per month. There’s also the option to remove the cell phone insurance entirely, something which could save between $80 to $180 per year, depending on your current plan.
If you’re unsure about going without insurance, you can always set aside a few extra dollars each month so that you can pay for a replacement phone if something did happen to it.
6. Restrict background data use
Background data use is the consumption of internet data by apps that you aren’t actively using. Applications will use your data in the background to give you real-time updates such as messages and social media notifications. When you restrict your data, apps won’t be able to use it up when you’re not using them. Instead, they’ll only use an internet connection when the app is actually open.
You’ll usually be able to reduce your data use by going to Settings and scrolling to the Data Usage section. Here you’ll be able to select which applications you want to restrict data on and disable it. You can also toggle some applications to minimize their data consumption. Many applications, including the most popular ones like YouTube and Instagram, have options within their settings to save on data too so it’s worth taking a look.
7. Connect to Wi-Fi when you can
It’s a good idea to stay connected to Wi-Fi when you have access to it, especially when you’re at home or in the office. If you’re out and about and don’t have Wi-Fi access, avoid downloading large files and streaming media as they’ll rapidly drain your data.
To avoid any additional fees for using up too much data, it’s a good idea to set up an alert on your phone so that you stay within your monthly data limit. You can do this by visiting Settings, then going to the Data Usage section where you’ll find the option to create a data use warning in line with your phone’s data plan.
8. Opt for autopay or a paperless cell phone bill
Depending on your service provider, by having your bill taken out of your account automatically each month you might be able to save around $5 to $10 on your bill. Some wireless carriers will apply these discounts per line, so if you have a family of four you would be able to save $20 on your monthly bill by opting for autopay.
A number of phone service carriers have begun encouraging their customers to receive their phone bills paperless and, as an incentive, will reduce the cost of the overall cell phone bill per month. Contact your provider to see if you could save money by changing the way you pay and receive your phone bills each month.
9. Make use of discounts
You may qualify for a discount on your phone and its service without even having realized it. Students, current and former service members, and employees of specific companies are all likely to be eligible for a discount. It’s worth popping into your provider’s store or calling up your carrier and finding out what they offer. Depending on your employment, you might also be able to see if your workplace offers its employees any form of reimbursement on your cell phone bill for using your device for work emails and calls.
Signing up for a family plan is another great way to get a discounted deal on how much you’re paying per month on your cell phone bill. Cell phone bills are likely to be taking a big chunk out of your family’s budget every month so going on a family plan could save you a considerable amount of money. Most carriers will offer shared phone plans that are designed for all family members to get in on.
10. Negotiate on price
When you go in store, speak with a salesperson to see if you’re able to get the activation fee or upgrade fee waived. If you’ve been their customer for a long period of time it’s likely that you’ll be able to save some money as a loyalty discount. Similarly, if you find a better offer from a competitor, ask your current provider whether it’s something they’d be able to match. There isn’t much to lose by seeing if you’re able to save some money, especially when it means they’ll be keeping a paying customer on for the next few years.
11. Switch service providers
If you’re still not saving enough money using our first ten tips, then it might be worth switching carriers. Take a look around and see what you can get for your budget. Keep an eye out for pricing per month, cell phone plans, data plans and caps, and, of course, coverage to make sure that you’re getting everything you need.
If you’re worried about losing your current phone number and all the hassle that comes with letting your contacts know your new details then you’ll be relieved to know that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prevents your current provider from refusing to let you keep your original number. Just make sure that your new carrier is happy to keep your number as it is and you’ll be able to keep on using the same one.
As a bonus tip, smaller carriers are more likely to offer better value for money deals, so shop around. Most of these carriers use the same cellular towers as larger, more well-known companies so you won’t even be compromising on cell phone service. Do your research and ensure you read user reviews to gain a good, reliable insight.
12. Add up the total annual cost of your cell phone bill
As we mentioned earlier, owning and running a phone is rarely going to be cheap and most people do already know that. However, the actual annual price is a bit of an unknown. Confusing contracts, hidden fees, and insurance plans might leave you in the dark about how much you’re actually spending on your phone bill.
Take some time to add up the cost of the phone itself plus the monthly payments you’ll be expected to make to see just how much you’ll be paying on an annual basis. From there, you can get a good idea of exactly how much you have been spending each year, how those costs fit into your budget, and where changes could be made to reduce the cost of your cell phone bill. Refer back to our third tip on only paying for what you really need; cutting out that unlimited talk and that unlimited data could make a world of difference to your phone bill per month.