written by Erin Huffstetler, originally posted on about.com
Simple Ways to Cut the Cost of Owning a Cell Phone
Does your monthly cell phone bill send you into shock? It doesn’t have to. Here are fourteen ways to save money on your cell phone bill.
Make Your Calls for Free
Get more mileage out of your minutes by making free calls whenever you can. Viber, Skype Mobile and Textfree are all free apps that allow you to call anyone else who has the app for free.
Track Your Talk Time
Do you go over your minutes each month? Then, it’s time to start tracking your talk time. Sign up with overmyminutes.com, (a free service) and you’ll receive an e-mail or text message to let you know when you’re about to run out of minutes.
Use the Same Plan as Friends and Family
Many cell phone service providers offer free in-network calls or allow you to choose a small group of in-network friends and family that you can call for free. So, get all of your most-called people on one plan, and you could save big.
Don’t Use Your Cell Phone for Toll-Free Calls
Toll-free calls aren’t free when you make them from a cell phone; so save your 1-800 calls for times when you access to a landline. After all, being put on hold is painful enough when you aren’t paying for it by the minute.
Don’t Use 4-1-1
Dial 4-1-1 from a cell phone, and it could cost you $1 or more. Crazy! Fortunately, you can skip the charge and still get the information that you need by calling 1-800-GOOG-411, a free 4-1-1 service provided by Google.
Another free 4-1-1 number to try:
Move all of your services – cell phone, cable/ satellite, Internet and home phone to one provider, and you’re likely to be rewarded with a bundled service discount.
If you only use your cell phone for occasional calls, a prepaid plan may be the cheapest service option for you. Shop around, and you could spend as little as $20 every three months. Now that’s a deal!
Pick a Plan that Matches Your Talk Times
Do you make a lot of calls in the early evenings? On the weekends? Mid-day? Examine your phone habits; then, pick a plan that best matches them.
Switch to Unlimited Texting
Text messages can cost 10-cents a piece (or more) to send and receive. Youch! If you do a lot of text messaging, a plan with unlimited text messages is definitely the way to go.
Use a Free Texting Service
Or go one better, and switch to free texting. Heywire and Textfree are two free apps that allow you to send texts and pictures for free.
Ditch the Extras
Phone replacement insurance, road side assistance, GPS, ringtone downloads, games, premium voicemail, data plans – there are lots of cell phone extras to choose from, but in the end they all do the same thing: add to your monthly cell bill. Stick to the basics, and you’ll receive a more basic bill.
Be Realistic About Your Phone Use
When choosing a phone plan, people generally do one of two things: choose too small of a plan or choose too big of a plan. Be realistic about how often you’ll use your phone, and you’ll avoid paying more than you need to for service.
Pick a Plan with Rollover Minutes
If you’ve determined that a minute-based plan is best for you, choose one that allows you to rollover unused minutes from month to month. After all, you’ve paid for those minutes, so you should get to keep them.
Minimize Your Data Useage
If you don’t have an unlimited data plan, it pays to watch your usage. Start by downloading, Onavo’s free apps to track your usage and compress data. Then, turn off your mobile data connection, so apps can’t connect (and drain your bandwidth) without your realizing it. If you’re really serious about minimzing your bill, only turn your data connection back on when free wi-fi isn’t available.
For specific instructions on how to turn off the mobile data on your phone, just Google “how to turn off mobile data connection” and the type of phone that you have.
Snag an Employee Discount
If you or someone in your family works for a large company with a cell plan, you could be eligible for a discount on your personal line(s).
Grab a Senior Discount
Over the age of 55? Then, you may be eligible for a senior plan.
Tip: Ask your provider if they have a senior discount. Often times it’s just unadvertised.
Cell phone companies try to lure you into a two-year contract with the promise of a free phone, but did you know that they’ll also charge you more per month than the people who buy their own phones? It’s true. Increase your bargaining power (and maintain your ability to switch providers), by buying your own phone whenever you need a replacement.
Switch to a Local-Only Plan
If you don’t use your cell phone to make long distance calls (and you don’t use it to make calls when you travel), shop around for a local-only plan. They’ll be considerably cheaper (and more tailored to your needs).
Only Use Your Phone for Emergencies
Did you know that you can use a cell phone to dial 9-1-1, even when it’s not connected to a service plan? It’s true. Just make sure cellular 9-1-1 service is available in your area, and you can keep a cell phone on hand for emergencies without having to foot a monthly bill.
Rely on Your Landline More
Local calls on a landline? Free. Local calls on a cell phone? Not so free. Try to make more of your local calls from your home phone, and you’ll spend less for your phone time.
Block Third Party Charges
If you aren’t in the habit of purchasing games, apps and ringtones for your phone, consider having all third party charges blocked. This will prevent shady companies from tacking fradulent charges onto your bill – a nasty practice known as cramming.
Need to allow third party charges to be able to do everything you want to with your phone? Just be sure to go over your bill carefully each month. If there are ever any charges that you don’t understand, call your provider up and ask about them. They’ll happily remove any charges that don’t belong.
Ask for a Better Deal
One thing you can be sure of: Your service provider doesn’t want to lose you to the competition. So, ask for a better deal, and you’ll probably get it.
[end of article]