The average household in America spends over $1,000 a year on cell phone service, and the average individual monthly bill is over $80. That's no small chunk of change. To keep your monthly cell phone costs down, you'll want to consider multiple possible tactics and strategies.
Before you can really start shopping around for the best ways to cut down on your monthly cell phone bill, you must first review your specific needs. Get a good handle on your usage habits so you have a much better idea about how many minutes or how much data you really use each month. Go over your bills from the past few months. Decide whether you need all the extras and add-ons you may have thought were a good idea, but you never actually use.
Find Those Discounts
Many carriers often offer discounts when you opt for paperless billing or automatic payment ("autopay"). If you have more than one mobile device in your household, family plans are definitely worth considering too, as they can lower your per-device monthly cost.
Consider an Alternative Carrier
If you want to save money on your cell phone bill, it pays to look beyond the big nationwide providers. They may be the best-known names in the business, but they are not the only players in the game. Republic Wireless combines 4G LTE with Wi-Fi to reduce monthly costs; Google's Project Fi taps into three 4G LTE networks and offers flexible monthly plans; and FreedomPop even has a $0 basic plan. The prepaid services from Walmart can be a great value too.
Buy an Unlocked Phone
Monthly financing for the hottest new flagship smartphone can sound appealing, but those monthly installment payments can get very expensive, very quickly. Instead, you can save a lot of money by opting for a cheaper unlocked cell phone, especially if you take the no contract route so you can jump ship to another provider at any time. There are some very cheap cell phones that'll do the job just fine and, depending on your circumstances, you might consider skipping phone insurance too.
Download Content for Offline Enjoyment
The more data you have in your cell phone plan, the more you'll need to pay each month. If you can lower your monthly usage patterns as they relate to wireless data, you can then downgrade to a cheaper plan too. Just be aware overage charges can be really painful, so you'll want to leave yourself with some wiggle room. To reduce your usage, instead of streaming, download your music from Google Play Music and download TV shows and movies on Netflix ahead of time, while you are still connected to your Wi-Fi network at home.
Use Wi-Fi Calling
Similar to the strategy of downloading content for offline listening and viewing, you can also take advantage of Wi-Fi calling if your carrier supports it. This will reduce the number of minutes you'll need each month. If you are connected to Wi-Fi at home or at work, you may also opt to communicate less with traditional talk and text. Instead, use web-based services like Skype, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Viber, and WeChat. Many of these offer voice calling and video calling.
Avoid Roaming Charges
Want to use your phone while traveling abroad? Be sure to plan ahead to avoid the very expensive roaming charges. While carriers sometimes offer travel packs like Verizon TravelPass, it's usually cheaper to get a local SIM with local service when visiting a foreign country. If you don't need constant connectivity and can rely on public Wi-Fi on the go, you may consider utilizing Internet apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to stay connected for free.
Renegotiate Your Plan Regularly
The cell phone plans you see listed online or in-store are not necessarily the only ones available to you. If you've been a customer in good standing for some period, you may be eligible for retention plans. Sometimes also called loyalty plans, retention plans are only available to existing customers and are used as a tactic to keep you as a customer.
Call into customer service and ask what they can do for you. Be systematic when comparing cell phone plans and come prepared with what some other competitors are currently offering.
A Smaller Cell Phone Bill
While saving money is certainly appealing, remember the cheapest phone plan isn't necessarily the best one for you. Poor coverage, massive overages, and lack of service can quickly negate any savings you may have. Instead, it's about finding the best value for your money while still satisfying everything you need out of your cell phone.