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6 Ways to Lower the Cost of Owning a Smartphone

By Jacqueline Curtis

save money on your smartphone planI upgraded to an iPhone a little more than a year ago – I ditched my ancient flip-phone and couldn’t believe the difference. Now you’d be hard-pressed to find me without my iPhone securely in-hand. I’m addicted to social networking, surfing the Internet, checking my email, and playing Words With Friends just about every waking hour of the day.

The tradeoff? I pay dearly for those privileges. Sure, my smartphone can tell me the temperature in Beijing, but it also costs me about $100 bucks a month to pay for my pricey unlimited plan.

When I first got my iPhone, I went a little app crazy. Angry Birds? Of course! Completely necessary schedule planner? Why not? E-books? Download them all! It wasn’t until I saw the first charges on my credit card that I snapped back to reality and realized that I needed to rein in my spending on my cell phone plan.

How to Save Money on Your Smartphone Costs

Most of the costs associated with owning a smartphone are tiny fees. It’s not a big deal to spend $0.99 on pretend food for my virtual pet giraffe, Gina, right? But it’s these small costs and overage fees that really start to add up and make owning a smartphone expensive.

Once I realized how much I was overspending, I sought out every way I could to help lower my massive phone and iTunes bills. Here are some of the best tips I uncovered:

1. Turn Off In-App Purchases
I have two kids who love to play with my phone. To them, it’s a total entertainment device, with games, movies, and books. But since many apps allow you to buy coins and bonuses directly within the app, I’d receive my iTunes statement and wonder who spent $5 on Cover Orange credits.

I finally got wise and switched off the ability to make in-app purchases (check in your settings). Furthermore, my iTunes credit card expired in December and I haven’t yet renewed it. Therefore, I look for free apps more often, rather than impulsively making $0.99 purchases.

2. Download Free Versions
I love playing Words With Friends and Draw Something as much as anyone. But I don’t want the purchase of little games to add up on my credit card.

Always check to see if free versions of the games you want are available – often, you’ll find that a version with fewer features or supplemental advertisements is available. It’s a little annoying to tap out of ads in the middle of a game, but it’s worth it to not spend on a game that you’ll probably be bored of in a few weeks.

get more enjoyment out of your smartphone with an affordable plan

3. Reduce Your Plan
There are many ways to save money on your cell phone plan, and unless you’re a complete junkie like me, you may not actually need the unlimited data option.

Check your usage statistics on your phone. You might find that you’re only using a fraction of the data that you’re actually paying for. If you think you have the willpower, downgrade your data plan and then work to stay within your limit. It will shave a ton of money off of your bill each month, and you’ll stop paying for data that you don’t use.

4. Grab Text and Voice Apps
Thinking about calling your cousin in Turkey or your sister in Canada? Don’t eat up both minutes and incur long distance costs. The same goes for texting – sending international and out-of-network messages can add up, especially if you don’t have unlimited texting.

Fortunately, apps like Viber, Whatsapp, and Skype allow you to use your phone’s Wi-Fi capabilities to send free texts and make free calls without worrying about added fees.

5. Use Wi-Fi More
Finding free Wi-Fi is awesome, especially if you have a limited data plan. The second you connect to Wi-Fi, you unburden your cellphone network, enjoy faster speeds, and can surf all you want for free. Be sure to sign into public Wi-Fi when it’s available – just don’t do anything private, like check your online banking until you have a secure connection elsewhere. Using Wi-Fi means you’re not paying for data, which means it’s perfect when you want to stream a video or download a couple of new songs on your phone.

6. Skip Purchasing Insurance
If you’re using a cell phone insurance policy that costs about $14 per month, you could be paying for a service you don’t actually need. Instead of opting for insurance, just sock some extra money away to pay for repairs – a broken screen or speaker issue is completely repairable. Plus, most smartphones come with a one-year warranty that covers both hardware and software malfunctions.

After a year of saving up money in lieu of insurance, you’ll probably have enough to pay for any needed repairs after warranty, and enough to eventually spring for a new phone.

Final Word

If you’re thinking about buying a smartphone, you should know that they don’t come cheap. But your love of video games and texting shouldn’t land you in the poorhouse. Be smart about the way you use your smartphone and the bottom line can become more manageable.

What other tips can you suggest to save money on a smartphone?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Jacqueline Curtis
Jacqueline Curtis is an experienced style expert, and she focuses on getting high fashion on a tight budget. She writes for several online publications, including her own fashion blog, How Not to Dress Like a Mom, and specializes in fashion, finance, health and fitness, and parenting. Jae grew up in Toronto, Canada, but now resides in Utah with her husband, two kids, and prized shoe collection.

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  • http://yourlifeforless.com/ Ryan

    Hey Jacqueline, thanks for the tips. It seems like cell phone bills are creeping up every year, but there are things we can do to keep the costs down. I love your tip about using wifi – I’m OCD about making sure I’m on wifi if I’m in range. Another way to save is to consider a no-contract provider. They often have plans for $45 or $50 that include unlimited talk, text and data.

  • Debhuegel

    I went from a basic flip phone to an android about six months ago and love it. I pay $55 a month for a no contract phone with Virgin Mobile. Unlimited data, text and voice. It’s not an iPhone but the next best thing and the cost is great.

  • MoneySmartGuides

    I analyzed my text/data/phone usage and adjusted my plan accordingly. The text and data plans I have aren’t offered any longer, but I was grandfathered in. I recently looked to creating a family plan with my girlfriend, but it turns out it isn’t worth it because I would lose the grandfathered text and data plans and my bill would be higher.

  • Jennifer Lee

    Great article and tips, Jacqueline! Regarding #2- I love using appshopper to find out when games and other apps that usually cost money become free! It’s so useful!

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