As technology continues to advance, Americans are using their mobile phones a lot more often—and they are paying a pretty penny for it.
The majority of all cellphone owners carry a smartphone device, according to reports, and in 2012, the Labor Department reported spending on phone services rose more than 4%-- the fastest rate since 2005.
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Cell phone bills can easily eat up a big portion of your budget—but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five ways to reduce your monthly payments without sacrificing the user experience.
1. Know Your Plan
Many consumers are so enamored with the latest smartphone offering hitting the market that they give little thought to the plan they are signing up for to get the device. But being an informed customer before signing on the dotted line can bring substantial savings.
According Mike Pugh, vice president of marketing at communications company j2 Global, consumers can save an average of $350 per line by simply finding the best-fitting contract that meets their usage needs and following the terms. “Make sure you do your research a few months before your contract is up and find the best phone plan that fits your budget,” he says.
2. Use Wi-Fi Whenever Possible
Going above your data limit will incur some hefty penalties, which is why Omar Abhari, senior vice president of GIV Mobile, recommends using Wi-Fi whenever possible.
“Finding public Wi-Fi hot spots can be worth the hunt to prevent the overuse of cell phone data,” says Abhari. “Some apps on smart phones automatically revert to the phone network when a Wi-Fi connection is lost, which can quickly consume any monthly cellular data plan.” He suggests checking to see if apps have the choice to be used on only Wi-Fi and select that option. Keep in mind that using public Wii-Fi is not without risk. Never do anything personal like banking or check your email on an open network or you risk having your information compromised.
3. Use Free Texting Apps
Texting is a convenient way to communicate, but it can also be a costly. There are a slew of free apps available that let you chat or text via Wi-Fi or 4G connectivity, instead of using your mobile phone provider’s monthly text allotment.
According to Pugh, if you tend to text with the same people each month have everyone download the same app to save money. Even if you are the recipient of a text and not the sender it’s still going to cost you. According to Abhari depending on the cell phone plan it can be as much as 20 cents a text. To reduce the amount of texts you receive, he says to turn off social media and/or notification text alerts.
4. Choose a Bare Bones Plan
Mobile phone plans tend to come with all sorts of extras that may make your life easier, but they can be hard on your bank account. Experts recommend reviewing your bill for unnecessary services and have them removed.
“Review your plan and figure out how many minutes and how much data you’re actually using. Do you really need unlimited? If not, downgrade,” says Pugh. You can download free apps that can help your track your data usage and warn you when you are nearing your limit.
5. Know how to Negotiate a Better Rate
No one mobile carrier has a lock on the consumer market, which means they are all competing for your business—giving you some negotiation power.
“Pull together at least three of your past bills and highlight rising cost concerns from unexpected fees to taxes,” says Pugh. “Then, call customer service and ask for a better deal.”
He says it costs companies more to lose customers than to negotiate so it’s worthwhile to make the call.
It’s also a good idea to pay attention to commercials when it comes to negotiating. For instance, some carriers will offer specific incentives to switch, which could bring savings.
“Cell phone companies most likely will have retention departments for the purpose of offering perks, deals and additional discounts,” says Pugh.