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It’s no secret that cell phone bills are out-of-this-world expensive. J.D. Power reports the average monthly bill will set you back $157.(1) After your monthly housing, grocery and utility costs, it might just be the next priciest item in your entire budget.
But are there actual ways you can lower your cell phone bill? We’re surrounded with a million different cellular providers and too many plans to count. It can be overwhelming when you try to decipher all the options just to save money on your cell phone bill. But guess what—it is possible!
If you’re tired of paying a small fortune every month to have cell phone service, try these 10 tips to lower your cell phone bill.
10 Tips to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
1. Use Wi-Fi When You Can
Try to stay on a Wi-Fi connection whenever it’s available—especially at home or work. And if you don’t have Wi-Fi access when you’re on the go, be smart about it! Don’t download or stream any movies, podcasts or music unless you’re on Wi-Fi.
Data overages can add up quickly, and some providers charge you as much as $15 the instant you go over! Make sure you stay within your monthly limit by only using 4G/LTE when you need it. Some carriers will send you a warning when you’re nearing your limit. Sign up for the alerts!
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2. Limit Your Background Data Use
Even if you don’t use 4G/LTE service when you’re out and about, your apps might still be using it in the background! Sneaky, we know.
Go into your settings and look over the Cellular Data Usage and Background App Refresh of each app and turn off the ones you don’t really use. Making this quick flip means you’ll know they aren’t running in the background and draining your data (and your battery) while you’re minding your own business.
Need to bring up your Starbucks app while you’re waiting in line? No big deal. You can switch back on specific apps cellular data anytime you want.
3. Cut the Insurance
Let’s say you pay about $11 a month for phone insurance. That adds up to an extra $132 a year you’re shelling out just in case something happens to your phone. Instead, set aside a few extra dollars a month so you can pay for a replacement phone if you ever need one.
If you feel like you truly “need” insurance for your cell phone, stop and ask yourself this question: Have I bought a phone I can’t actually afford? If you don’t have the cash on hand to replace your phone if something happens to it, your phone is too expensive for your budget.
4. Sign Up for Automated Payments or Paperless Billing
This probably won’t save you a huge amount of money. But if you could save $5 a month just for having your bill automatically deducted from your account or going paperless, why wouldn’t you?
5. Employer Discount
Another thing to find out is if your work offers team members a corporate discount. It’s worth a shot to see if they reimburse you for using your phone for work (email, calls, etc.). And if you’re using your phone for a home business or side hustle, you might be able to deduct some of your cost when tax time rolls around.
6. Buy No-Contract Phones
Cell phone companies know how to make money. Lots and lots of money. One way they do that is through contracts. To buy a phone through them, you’ll usually have to sign a two-year contract to use their network. And then they’ll hit you with a ridiculous cancellation charge if you dare attempt to switch carriers.
So, what do you do instead? Buy no-contract, gently used phones. These phones are labeled “unlocked” and can take a SIM card. Ask around and look online for older phone models to purchase at a discounted price. No, you won’t get the hottest or newest smartphone this way, but you can get a really good smartphone without locking yourself into one expensive company for years to come.
7. Keep Your Phone Longer
Which leads us to the next tip here—hang on to that phone as long as you can!
Does your “old” phone make calls just fine? Great. Keep it a little longer. Don’t get tempted by the latest and greatest shiny cell phone on the market. A phone is a phone.
And steer clear of rolling the cost of a brand-new phone into your wireless bill. You’d just be making payments on a new phone (yeah, that counts as debt) all while it hikes up your phone bill even more. No thanks! Keeping your old (perfectly fine) phone can save you plenty of money in the long run.
8. Cut Out the Stuff You Don’t Use
Take a look at your monthly bill. This might seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t look at the breakdown of their cell phone bill. Don’t continue to pay for things you never use like too many minutes, unlimited data, emergency roadside assistance, 411 and “enhanced voicemail.”
Decide if you really need everything you’re paying for. If not, it could be time to switch your plan. If you don’t talk on your phone a lot, you might be able to downgrade to a plan with fewer minutes, or one with less data if you never come close to reaching the limit.
Some carriers even offer prepaid plans or allow you to pay for only what you use. See if either of those options could reduce your costs. Look into all the possibilities out there!
9. Negotiate a Better Price
When you’re in the market for a new phone, don’t just assume you have to pay the sticker price. Go to the store and talk with a salesperson to see if you can get the activation or upgrade fee waived. If you’ve been a customer for a long time, be sure to bring that up to see if you can score a loyalty discount.
And if you find a great offer from a competitor, ask your current provider if they can match it. Use whatever leverage you have, including fees—or lack of fees—from competitors. It never hurts to ask for a better deal. Competition with other carriers is stiff, so they might just agree! But if they won’t negotiate, move on to point 10.
10. Switch Carriers
So, you’ve tried everything else. We saved the best (and most drastic) for last: It’s time to switch your service provider! Shop around and see who can give you what you need for the price that fits your budget. You’ll probably discover a better deal at one of the smaller, lesser-known carriers. Most of them have some link to the “big guys” and use their cellular towers for your phone signal anyway. So chances are, you’re still going to get pretty great coverage—but at a fraction of the cost.
Just make sure you do your research. Ask around. Read reviews. And don’t sign up with a lousy carrier.
Bonus Tip on How to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
Add up all the long-term costs before you buy. If you’re shopping carriers, you should add up the cost of the phone plus the cost of the service for the year. That puts the total amount in your face instead of just the month-to-month payments.
Remember, your budget is all about the numbers! If you can lower your cell phone bill and make it a smaller part of your budget, you’ll have more money on hand to hit your goals each month—whether that’s throwing more at your debt or saving for your future.
Cutting back on your cell phone bill is just one of the many things you can do to free up some extra cash in your budget. For more great ways to take control of your money, check out Dave’s nine-lesson course, Financial Peace University!