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8 Ways to Save Money with a Cheap Cell Phone Plan

By Jason Steele

blackberry phone handThe price of cell phone plans has been out of control for a long time. In fact, it is not uncommon for people to pay over $100 a month to their provider.

That is an astonishing amount of money that can even eclipse other utility bills, such as electricity and heating costs.

In my family, we pay an average of about $20 per phone per month for our plan with a major provider. Here are several tricks to help you reduce your monthly cell phone costs.

Tips for Getting a Cheap Mobile Phone Plan

1. Negotiate
Mobile phone service is a highly competitive market. While customer service representatives do not have the power to create their own monthly service plans, they are empowered to waive connection fees and to offer other kinds of incentives, such as rebates.

Before committing to a plan, examine all the possible costs and fees. Any upfront costs for equipment or start-up fees can potentially be waived if you ask. If your current cell phone contract is coming up for renewal, you’re especially well-positioned to get a great bargain on a new phone or a new plan. Just explain to the customer service representative in the store or on the phone that you’re shopping around and trying to decide what service you’d like to have after your contract expires.

2. Shop Multiple Channels
Once you have selected a provider, there are several different ways to purchase a plan. You can go to an authorized retailer, you can visit one of the company’s own retail locations, you can call them, or you can shop online.

I have had the best success shopping via a live customer service web chat. For some reason, those representatives were able to offer me higher rebates than other representatives from the other channels. Best of all, I was able to copy the entire text of the chat in the event that my rebates never materialized.

3. Get a Family Plan
With most providers, the  cost of adding an additional line is a fraction of the cost of the first line. You don’t need to take a DNA test to qualify for a family plan, any consenting adult will do. Feel free to go in on a family plan with friends in order to reduce your costs.

Best of all, you will be able to call the members of your family plan without using up your minutes. Just make sure that you can count on the friend or family member to meet payment obligations that you all agree to in advance.

4. Ask for a Corporate or Group Discount
Every wireless provider has an extensive list of companies, groups, and government agencies that they offer discounts to. If you are not sure if you belong to one, discuss it with your provider. Ask them to list the organizations that are eligible in the event that you or someone on your plan is a member. Don’t worry if you left your ID card at home as the provider will not usually ask for proof of membership beyond your statement that you qualify.

cell phone bill pen
5. Go for Minimal Minutes
With so many options for inexpensive home phone service, you really should not be using your cell phone around the house. Getting out of that habit allows you to reduce the number of minutes on your plan, saving you money every month.

6. Cut Back on Features
Mobile Internet is great, but I am shocked by how much it costs each month. Besides, I have constant access to the Internet at home and in my office. Although I am sure that a smartphone is in my future some day, I have been able to go without one for some time now. I don’t write text messages and don’t even get me started on ring tones and downloadable games.

Before you conclude that I must be Amish, consider the fact that I am actually an information technology professional. If I can do without these costly features, so can you. If you have children, ask your provider to block text messages, so they cannot be charged to your account. Your kids won’t be tempted to use text messaging, and you can avoid unexpected charges and fees.

7. Never Buy Accessories from Your Provider
Mobile phone companies are happy to give you all the discounts and rebates they can, knowing that you are unlikely to walk out without buying an expensive Bluetooth headset or a protective cover. Their profit margins on these items are enormous, but you don’t have to buy your accessories from them. Accessories including extra chargers and spare batteries are available on eBay for little more than the cost of shipping.

8. Consider a Prepaid Phone Plan
If you don’t rely on your cell phone for all of your phone conversations, or if you don’t talk a lot on the phone, a prepaid mobile phone can also be a good option. These phones have a set amount of minutes per month, and when you run out of minutes, you can purchase more.

Final Word

Getting a good deal on a cell phone plan is really just a game. By understanding all of the different ways that you can save money on your plan, you can contact your provider armed with all of the necessary information you need to receive the best possible deal.

Did you get the deal of the century on your cell phone plan? Or are you stuck with a phone you hate, and an expensive mobile phone contract that doesn’t expire for another year?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Jason Steele
Jason has been writing about personal finance, travel, and other topics on blogs across the Internet. When he is not writing, he has a career in information technology and is also a commercially rated pilot. Jason lives in Colorado with his wife and young daughter where he enjoys parenting, cycling, and other extreme sports.

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  • Kira

    Cell phone insurance can be a good deal if your phone is expensive. My boyfriend just bought a phone that to replace would cost $500 – so paying $6 a month in case he drops it down a stairwell is well worth it.

    Also, I would argue that it is now a necessity for many people. I haven’t had a real land-line phone since living in the college dorms, and have relied solely on my cell phone for years. If you are job-hunting or running a business, it can cost you in a serious way if you can’t be reached.

  • not given

    US cellular has free incoming calls and texts. I can use Google Voice to make calls from my computer that don’t count against my minutes, first it calls my cell (free incoming) and as soon as I answer, it calls the number I want to contact. You can use that to make free long distance calls the same way with your landline if you still have one. I don’t have texting on my plan so they would cost 25¢ each for outgoing. I can text for free through Google Voice from my computer as long as it isn’t one of those short numbers.

    • David Bakke

      Hey there

      I’ve heard a lot about Google Voice and I really need to check them out.

      Thanks for the quality input!!!

  • http://consumercellularreviews.net J Rogerson

    The biggest tip I can give with no contract cell phone plans is to religiously watch your usage alerts. You can save a lot of money if you just don’t go over your minutes with some of the smaller companies…

    • David Bakke

      J

      That’s a great additional tip…

      Thanks for commenting

  • gary

    re: cell phone insurance

    A TOTAL WASTE OF $$. 1. approx 1/100 of 1 % of cell phone users lose or destroy their phone. 2. your replacement phone will most likely be a refurbished model , that’s DIFFERENT from the one you own(ed). READ YOUR INSURANCE POLICY. The replacement phone can be any type of similar phone, and doesn’t have to be new. 3. The insurance company is a 3rd party company, and every single one has numerous consumer complaints.

    google for cell phone insurance reviews – you’ll find it’s a bad deal. just as Consumer Reports always tells you to avoid the extended warranty purchase, do the same here.

  • http://www.moneycrashers.com David

    Gary

    Great input–you have improved the overall quality of the article. Your input is much appreciated.

    David

  • Fawn

    I am looking into going to prepaid because I hear it can be a lot cheaper. Has anyone on Money Crashers used Straight Talk? The phones look like good quality and they have a smart phone too. I like the idea of going without a contract. Would love feedback from others who have gone this route.

    • Dorothy

      I did have Straight Talk, and it was ok, butI live in the country and had NO SERVICE at home.
      As a reporter, I work out of town quite a bit so I have to have unlimited to check on my kids and the sitter… SO I switched to BOOST MOBILE (got this one at Radio Shack)
      Same deal $50.00 for unlimited everything..good phone…and I get great seivce everywhere.. I did keep the Straight Talk, just went for the less minutes [lan and gave it to my teenager..All in all I am saving about $10.00 a month over the family plane I had with TMOBILE, and get more for my money.
      Hope this helps!

    • dee

      I have had a straight talk phone for 2 yrs or more and never have any dropped calls,Actually verizon is the service it uses,cant get any better than that and it cost 45$ a month

  • Beastly

    dopey article by dopey reader. 3rd grader could have written this better u incapoop!

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