Back in the day before smart phones (when dinosaurs still roamed the earth), I signed up for my first cell phone. I was pretty sure I needed 1000 minutes a month. And of course, I needed to add on the free nights and weekends. And a bunch of extras that I don’t even remember. Anyway, the plan I walked out with was going to run me $75 a month! For a single phone line! Granted, cell phone plans may have been a little more expensive back then. But $75 was still way more than I needed to be paying. I don’t think I ever used over 500 minutes in any given month, and most of those fell under the free nights and weekend and free mobile to mobile.
Purging the Deadweight
When you’re trying to trim up your budget, the first things to look for are deadweight things you’re paying for that you don’t even use. Trimming these kinds of things frees up room in your budget without affecting your lifestyle at all. Your approach to phone bills should be no different. If you’re paying for service that you’re not using, call up and cancel! Even if you have to pay early termination fees, you’ll almost always save more by just cancelling.
Deadweight doesn’t just exist as extras on your phone plan- for many people it can also simply exist as extra phone plans. If you’ve got a home phone and a cell phone, consider whether your life would really change if you ditched the home phone. Two thirds of millenials have figured out that they don’t need a land line. My guess is that almost everybody else would also be just fine without it. And don’t buy the ‘save-by-bundling’ gimmick that cable companies sell you. If you actually use and want all the bundles services, the bundle makes sense. But saving on a service that you don’t use isn’t saving.
Shopping around is another great way to save a lot without sacrificing much or any. The major cell phone companies have been changing up their plan offerings a lot lately. So even if your current company had the best plan for you two years ago, there may be a better one somewhere else now. Since your savings from shopping around won’t be quite as big from cancelling altogether, you should mind your termination fees here. The best time to shop around is after you’ve completed a contract. If you’re in the middle of a contract, a new provider may pay your termination fee, but by going this route you’re limiting your options.
It’s All in the Family
If you’re on a single line plan, consider finding family members, co workers or friends to share a plan with. You can usually score significant discounts by bundling lines. Of course, this requires a certain degree of good faith all around. There’s usually a primary account member who is responsible for the bill. The primary account member needs to be able to trust that the other members will pay their fair share of the bill. The other members need to be able to trust the primary member to pay the whole bill to the company on time (and not abscond with the money). You also often share a data allowance, so you need to all agree to not be data hogs. If you can find a good group of people, this can be a win-win situation all around.
Shop Outside the Box
When you’re shopping around, shop beyond the big 4 or 5 carriers. There are lots of smaller carriers that ‘rent’ airtime from the major networks and then resell it as their own plans. Since these alternative carriers avoid many of the costs that the big carriers carry, their plans are often much cheaper. For the most part, you get the same service as you would on the major carriers. These carriers rarely maintain their own brick and mortar stores, however, so all their customer service is done via web and phone (often to Indian call centers). Whistleout is a great place to compare all the carries out there and find the best one for you. Most of the alternative plans are no-contract. So if you end up not liking a plan, you’re not tied down for two years.
Consider Sacrificing Service
In addition to cutting the deadweight and shopping around, you may decide that you’re also comfortable with sacrificing some service. My wife and I both have cell phones. We also have internet at home. Since I spend most of my time either at home or out with her, I’m considering dropping my plan and using free VOIP service such as Google Voice while I’m at home. If dropping a line isn’t for you, you could consider lowering your data allowance or eliminating one smartphone plan entirely. Or perhaps you can hang on to your current model of cell phone for a little longer.
Deciding whether you want to make sacrifices to your phone service, and if so, what sacrifices you want to make are completely up to you and depends largely on what your budget looks like and what your goals are. But there’s a good chance that if you do make a change, it won’t take long for you to get used to it. Before long you may be wondering why you ever paid for the service. And if you do miss a service, you can always add it back on.
How I Cut My Phone Bill in Half
So my original cell phone bill was $75/month with an over-bloated, single-line plan on a major carrier. I now pay $30/month. I didn’t trim it overnight, since it took me some trial and error, some discovering new services, and some learning about my actual usage.
A year after first getting my phone, I returned to the cell store, trimmed up my plan, and walked out with a $55/month plan. Some time later, my wife’s grandparents were complaining about their bill and it dawned on us that we could all save by bundling the plans. My portion of the bill dropped to $30/month. But by this time, smartphones were starting to become more common. I kinda really wanted a smartphone, but was too cheap to increase my cell bill by too much, and at the time, a data plan with my major carrier would have run about $60/month. So I stuck with my dumb phone for a little while. But then I found out about these ‘alternate carriers’. After trying a few different carriers, we now have smartphones on a Total Wireless family plan for $30/mo each.
So without making any sacrifices, I’ve more than halved my original bill. And if we were to sacrifice a line, we’d be paying even less. Of course, your results will vary, I’m sure almost anyone can find at least some savings out there.