Tips for Saving Money on Your Cell Phone
Presented by Stacy L. Long, CFP®, AIF®
These days, pretty much everyone has a cell phone—some people even have two! As cell phones get faster and smarter, new product launches can rival the fan frenzy of Beatlemania, and it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement.
Because the initial cost and ongoing monthly expenses can be substantial, make sure you don’t get so carried away that you overpay for your phone. Whether you’re looking for the hottest new toy or just want to cut back on your monthly costs, there are plenty of ways to trim the overall cost of your cell phone. Follow these simple tips to save money and stay connected:
Evaluate your needs
- Look closely at your monthly usage. If you only use 200 minutes of voice per month and are paying for more, you should downgrade your voice plan. Conversely, if you regularly use more than your allotted texts, it may be cheaper to upgrade your texting plan and avoid the overage charges.
- Review rollover packages. If you use more voice minutes during certain times of the year, the right rollover plan can save you money. You can pay for the average month, not the high-usage month, by rolling unused minutes from the slow months to the busier ones.
- Do you really need an Internet plan or a data plan? Be honest with yourself. If you don’t travel much and spend your days at a computer, how much do you need a phone to check your e-mail? Or if you have a phone with a small screen, how much will you actually use it to browse the Internet?
- Is a smartphone right for you? Do you need a phone that surfs the Internet or checks your e-mail throughout the day, or do you just need one that makes it easy to text? Don’t buy a phone just because it’s popular. If you’re looking to save money, there are lots of cool phones that can meet your needs without emptying your pockets.
Avoid costly calls
- Toll-free 800 calls are not free on cell phones. You will be charged for calls to 800 numbers made from your cell phone.
- Calling 411 will cost you money. You can be charged up to $1 per call for using 411 directory assistance and being connected to the number you requested.
- Use free online directory services. If you have a data plan—or access to a computer—use an online directory service like www.411.com or www.whitepages.com to find a number.
- How necessary are ringtones, software, video streaming, games, and other downloads? Although these items can add to your experience, they aren’t necessary for the phone’s functionality, so think twice before purchasing them.
- Only buy the accessories you really need. Add-ons like phone cases, car chargers, and other accessories can tack on unnecessary costs.
Stay up to date on new offers
- Shop around. Carriers buy phones in bulk from manufacturers like Apple and Nokia and then offer them at reduced costs in exchange for customer contracts. The carriers may price their offers very differently, so be sure you know what you want in advance and shop around till you find the best deal.
- Check out different contract terms. Contract prices change according to length of commitment, so signing a longer contract may save you money in the long run.
- Timing can be everything! When a new model is first released, it can be much more expensive than it will be a few months later; coincidentally, the old model will likely become cheaper, and it may have everything you really need.
- Make sure the plan you’ve always had is still the plan you need. Although many cell phone users keep the same plan for more than five years, the prices of these plans change frequently. Your carrier will not retroactively change the price you pay, so be sure to check the contract price before you renew.
Consider pay-as-you-go plans
- Pay separately for minutes and texting. With a pay-as-you-go phone, you purchase a phone and pay separately for only as many minutes or texts as you think you’ll use. Keep in mind that these phones become expensive with heavy usage because the per-minute price is higher than it would be with a more traditional contractual plan.
- Budget control. Pay-as-you-go phones help you control how much money you spend and are a great option for light users or people who only want a phone for emergencies.
The customer is always right
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a better deal. If you feel like you are paying too much, call your carrier. Many cell phone companies offer special customer-retention deals if they think you might leave the company.
Being aware of how much you spend on anything is a good idea. And with cell phones, it’s easy to check your bill every month to ensure that the charges are correct and that you need all the services you’re paying for. Be realistic. We can get so caught up in the excitement surrounding the latest gadget that we forget to look at what we really need our phone to do. Even if you just make a few seemingly small changes to your monthly cell phone usage, you can save yourself a good deal over time.
Stacy Long is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM Practitioner practicing at NTrust Wealth Management, 780 Lynnhaven Parkway, Suite 190, Virginia Beach, VA 23452. She offers securities and advisory services as a Registered Representative and Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, a member firm of FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. She can be reached at 757 301 8520 or at Stacy@ntrustwm.com
© 2012 Commonwealth Financial Network®