Slice down that absurd cell-phone bill with these simple money-saving tips

How to lower your cell phone bill
The cost of owning and operating a smartphone is high, particularly in the United States, where monthly bills topping $80 are not unusual. If you don’t shop around and do your research to find the best deals, then you’re paying more than you really need to pay. We’re going to run through some of the ways you might be able to reduce that monthly bill without significantly changing the way you use your smartphone. Let’s see if we can save you some money.

Check your plan and usage

The first thing to do is to look at the plan you are on very carefully. What is your allowance for calls, texts, and data each month? How much of that allowance are you actually using? The vast majority of people don’t come close to consuming what they’re entitled to use. The average smartphone user will need around 1GB per month.

How good is the coverage in your area? Are you paying for a 4G contract when you only get 3G at your home? Are you paying extra for features like visual voicemail or ringback tones? These are all good questions to ask yourself.

Most people are over paying for smartphone service.

If you want to check out your usage, log into your account or use your carrier’s app. They all offer a breakdown of what you are actually using each month. Calculate what you think you really need in terms of texts, call minutes, and data each month and write it down. Now you can start to comparison shop and check where the cheapest service is available. For some people, especially light users, a prepaid deal will make the best financial sense.

Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) can also offer some great deals, though you’ll have to provide your own smartphone or buy one at full price. They contract piggyback off of the major carrier networks and often resell service at much lower rates. For example, Ting (which uses Sprint’s network) revealed in July that an average customer was paying $26 per month and using 314MB of data, 365 texts, and 250 minutes of voice calls.

Call your carrier if you find that you’re not coming close to using your allowance and ask them to change your plan. You may even be able to change it yourself through your online account. Just make sure you do your homework first so you know what you need and how much it should cost. And watch out for the terms and conditions. You need to make sure that the changes you make don’t commit you to a new two-year contract term.

Saving money on data

Carriers used to offer unlimited data and meter call minutes and texts, but since we started consuming more data they’ve switched this arrangement around. Data is the most likely unnecessary cost you are incurring and there are two major ways to avoid paying so much for it:

1. Use Wi-Fi everywhere you can

You’ll spend the bulk of your day at home or in the office and both places should have Wi-Fi networks. It’s also possible to find hotspots when you are out and about. Check WeFi for a map of free hotspots. It also has Android and iOS apps that will connect you automatically. Carriers and Internet service providers also offer free hotspots, so make sure you’re taking advantage.

2. Never exceed your data allowance

On Android you can go to Settings > Data usage to track your data usage and set a limit for the month. On iOS you’ll find the stats in Settings > Cellular, but you’ll have to keep an eye on it and remember to reset it at the beginning of each month. Some carriers also offer alerts when you hit a certain percentage of your data.

You can find more tips for saving money of data in our guide on how to reduce your data usage.

Saving money on calls and texts

If you have an iPhone then you’ll find that iMessage and FaceTime can both be used over Wi-Fi networks, giving you a way to make calls and send texts that doesn’t require you to use any of your allowance. Apple has also introduced Wi-Fi calling in iOS 8, but a lot of the carriers are dragging their heels about supporting it. That’s great if the person you’re texting or calling also has an iPhone.

If you want an alternative solution that works with other platforms like Android then you should check out one of the top VoIP or messenger apps. There’s Skype, Talkatone, Tango, WhatsApp, BBM, Facebook Messenger … the list goes on and on. The problem is that you’ll need the people you’re contacting to have the app installed too.

If you’re a heavy smartphone user you might think you need an expensive service plan, but if you work to substitute Wi-Fi where you can, you’ll find that’s rarely the case.

Do you need insurance?

It can be sensible to get smartphone insurance, but it’s very easy to get ripped off. If you read the terms and conditions then you’ll often be surprised to find how limited the coverage is. You should also calculate the cost of the insurance over the lifetime of the device. Is it really worth it? Accepting smartphone insurance through your carrier will rarely offer the best value for your money.

You may already be covered or be able to get a better deal from your existing insurer. Check whether phone insurance is offered as part of your bank account (it’s quite common in the U.K.). See if your home or auto insurance provider offers smartphone insurance. They’ll usually offer discounts if you bundle coverage.

If you really do need insurance, always do a proper comparison. Make sure it covers you for the things you are most worried about. Most insurers will not pay out if you lose your smartphone or it’s stolen after you left it unattended. Accidental damage might have an excess amount that you have to pay. Don’t make any assumptions. Read the fine print.

Employment, affiliation, and student discounts

Some companies have deals with the carriers that include discounts for employees. If you’re a student it may be possible to pay less. If you work in the military or with the government, then you may find you’re entitled to a discount. You’ll have to check your eligibility and register to get the discount. Check with your carrier about how to do it, but most of them have a webpage with further details, for example here’s the Verizon one.

Most people are over paying for smartphone service. Carriers won’t highlight that fact, so it’s worth checking to see if you could save some money.

If you have any other good tips then post a comment and share them.

Social Media

Google will begin shutting down the classic Hangouts app in October

Google confirmed that it will begin retiring the classic Google Hangouts app in October. The company will start by pushing users to move to the new Google Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet.
Deals

Looking for an affordable robot vacuum? Save $127 on the iRobot Roomba 690

The Roomba 690 is probably the most affordable Roomba robot vacuums. It has all the smart features you need to keep your space clean for hundreds of dollars less. Amazon is now discounting this handy robot vacuum even more with a $127…
Mobile

How to jailbreak your iPhone on iOS 12: A beginner’s guide

The latest jailbreaking tools for iOS 12 make freeing your iOS device easier than ever. This guide will teach you how to jailbreak your iPhone or iPad, and explain what jailbreaking will do for you.
Photography

From DIY to AAA, here's how to take a passport photo in 6 different ways

If you're applying for a passport or renewing one, you need to submit a photo in your official application. There are strict guidelines, but fortunately, it's something you can do at home. Here's how to take a passport photo.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Computing

Breeze through security with these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags

Getting through airport security is a drag, but your laptop bag shouldn’t be. Thankfully, these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags will get you and your gear to your destination with ease.
Smart Home

Starbucks coffee delivery lands in 6 more cities via Uber Eats

Starbucks is in the process of expanding its coffee delivery service far beyond Miami. Available via the Uber Eats app, the service has just launched in San Francisco, with five additional cities joining in the coming weeks.
Mobile

How to make a contact group on an iPhone

There's no obvious way to crate contact groups on your iPhone, but you can do it through iCloud or you can install a third-party app to help. We explain both methods as we explore how to make a contact group on an iPhone.
Mobile

Xiaomi shows how its folding smartphone will look, and you’re going to love it

Xiaomi is the latest manufacturer to show off a folding smartphone prototype. The unnamed phone has a different design than others we've seen, adopting a double fold where the sides of the screen fold over the back of the device.
Mobile

These patent images may show the new Moto Razr folding phone

The Motorola Razr V3 is one of the world's most iconic phones, and it could be making a stylistic return in the form of a foldable Motorola smartphone -- but it may cost around $1,500. Is the nostalgia worth it?
Mobile

HMD Global confirms which Nokia phones will definitely receive Android Pie

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Mobile

AT&T and Rush System are using 5G to create the 'hospital of the future'

Ready to experience a radical transformation in mobile communication? AT&T is launching mobile 5G in cities across the country over the next few months. Here's everything you need to know about the AT&T 5G rollout.
Mobile

Here's how (and why) to use safe mode with an Android phone

When you have an issue with your phone, safe mode can help you determine whether a third-party app is to blame. If you’re wondering how to access it, or how to turn the feature off in Android, then you have come to the right place.
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.