By Christina X Wood
Apple is pelting us right now with a marketing assault designed to create an irresistible urge to buy a new iPhone. Samsung, too, has just released some wildly tempting new phones and a marketing frenzy designed to whip Android fans into a buying impulse. And it’s working. Even though this is happening at a time when most of us are eyeing at our monthly budget for places to cut, one in three people in a recent survey planned to buy a new iPhone anyway.
Sure, I get it. Your cell phone is your lifeline. That rectangle is always in your hand or within reach. It’s your most valuable possession. You don’t want an underpowered one. Most of us think it’s worth going into debt for.
You know what’s not worth going into debt for, though? A cell phone plan – often one of our largest monthly expenditures – bloated with services you don’t need or use and a level of service that’s overpriced or unnecessary.
So why not reduce the price of you cell phone plan by enough money to pay for that new phone you want? You are probably paying way too much anyway. Unsurprisingly 36 percent of Americans plan to reduce the cost of their cell phone as a result of the pandemic.
To the other 64 percent, I say this: Can we talk? If you bought a phone and a plan at the same time and have never taken an hour to assess your cell phone plan, this will be easy. I’m sure you can save money. In fact, even if you think you’ve scaled your bill down to the bone, I’ll bet I have some tips that you haven’t thought of.
You can finance the new iPhone 12 Pro for $42 a month. Can we shave that much off your cell plan?
Let’s find out!
Do a deep dive on your phone plan
Cell phone service providers change the cost structure and offerings of their plans constantly. You can change yours whenever you like. But you have to take the time to do it. I find it pays to log on, look at the offerings, and compare them to what I’m paying every few months. You can even switch carriers if you find a deal that’s worth it. Porting your phone number to a plan with better options is a bit of a hassle but it can usually be done with no interruption in service.
But, by far, if you have a plan with one of the big service providers, the easiest way to save money, sometimes quite a lot of it, is to do a deep dive on your plan. I recently saved $60 a month simply by going to AT&T and seeing what the current offerings were like. There was one that was $60 a month cheaper than I was paying for a plan with four lines on it. All I had to do was give up a streaming service I never used. Otherwise nothing about my service changed. I added an iPhone SE and a new line to my plan at the same time. My monthly bill down. While you are there, pour over the services you are paying for. Is there anything you can shed, didn’t know you had, or no longer want to pay for? It might be only $5 or $10 a month but it all adds up.
Share a family plan
If you are going it alone on a cell phone plan, find some people you trust, call yourselves a cell phone family, and share the costs. Plan prices vary wildly but a new cell phone plan for one person is around $70 per month. A new phone plan for five or more people is $30 a month each. If you know four or five people you trust enough to pay their bill, you can all save a lot of money by sharing a plan. You could even set up a Paypal money pool to automate the collection of monthly fees and the payment to your service provider.
Hack a phone plan that runs on WiFi
If you spend most of your time within reach of a WiFi connection and already own your phone (or buy it unlocked from Apple, Samsung, Google, Amazon, Gazelle, or lots of other places), you might not miss your cell phone plan as much as you imagine you will.
If you are willing to get a bit nerdy and sacrifice luxuries like tethering a laptop to your phone in a café, watching movies in the car, and streaming music while you walk around, you can save a lot of money.
- For texting, use a messaging app that works on Wi-Fi. Consider Google Messages, iMessage, Snapchat, or WhatsApp. But there are many others.)
- For phone calls, turn on Wi-Fi calling on your phone and use a phone number that operates without a phone. These numbers are often free or quite cheap. Check out Google Voice, Skype, OpenPhone, or a similar service. These services send all your phone calls over a data connection. As long as you phone is logged onto Wi-Fi, that’s your data connection. If you aren’t on WiFi, calls will go to voicemail.
Get an ultra-cheap phone plan
If going plan-free is financially tempting but you want your phone to connect when you leave the house, too, there are quite a few cheap options outside the big phone carriers. There are a host of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that lease lines from the big carriers and sell low-cost plans, bare bones options, and pay-for-what-you-use services. You could add this to your WiFi plan for a lot less than a full-service phone plan and still make calls from the car, use your phone’s navigation occasionally, and send and receive texts while you aren’t on WiFi.
At Ting, for example, a single phone line is $6 a month. If you never use it to place calls or send texts, you pay nothing more. If you never use mobile data, you pay nothing more for that. If you do use it, you only pay for what you use, which if you really are almost always on a WiFi connection could be just a few dollars a month. Google Fi offers a pay-as-you-go plan as well. Or check out the low-cost plans at Cricket, Mint, Boost Mobile, or Metro PCS.
Did you save enough money to get a new iPhone or pay your power bill? I did. And I did it without slipping into debt or paying interest. So that iPhone came to my family guilt free.