It’s challenging to imagine modern life without that rectangle of tech wizardry most of us carry around in our pocket. Still, your monthly cell phone bill can feel like a smack in the face.
The average monthly cell phone bill in the U.S. was $144 in 2021, up from $127 the year before. The average price of a phone itself rose from $402 in 2016 to $557 in 2021. Taxes and fees have also been rising.
Fortunately, you can take steps to hang up on high prices for your mobile device. Here are some tips.
Hold Off On Buying That New Phone
We all like shiny new things with the latest features. But if you’re trying to save bucks, ask yourself if your existing phone is doing a good enough job for you.
Shop for Older or Stripped-Down Models
The latest, top-of-the-line phone could take you into the four figures. But you might find a cheaper version of that new phone without some non-essential bells and whistles. And older phone models—ones that still have plenty of useful features—are often available at discounts, as are refurbished phones. Check your wireless carrier’s website for bargains.
Find a Lower-Cost Wireless Carrier
The biggest carriers, like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T, are full-service companies that have their own cell networks and offer many extras. But alternative service providers can cost less, including “mobile virtual network operators” (MVNOs). They don’t have their own networks but use signals from the big carriers, and they often offer cheaper plans, sometimes prepaid. There are lots of MVNOs, including Cricket, Mint Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Metro by T-Mobile, Boost Mobile, Google Fi, Ting Mobile, Tello, and Twigby.
Consider a Limited-Data Plan
Big carriers these days emphasize unlimited-data plans. If you stream a lot of music and movies or upload your videos using your cell signal, you probably need an unlimited plan. Generally, they do cost more than a plan with data thresholds. On the other hand, if you use your phone mostly for calls, texting, and checking websites occasionally, consider a limited-data plan. First, check your level of past data use to decide on the right plan for you. And if you go with a limited data plan, try to rely on Wi-Fi networks while streaming instead of cell data whenever possible.
Set Up Autopay
Check with your wireless company; it may offer you a discount if you authorize them to withdraw your payments automatically from your bank account. And that way you won’t forget to pay.
Fish for Status Discounts
Your carrier may cut you a break based on your employer or if you’re a student, teacher, senior, or in the military. Also, check at work to see if your company offers a cell phone stipend to employees who use their phones for work.
A family phone plan with multiple lines might save everyone some money. The per-line cost often is lower with each additional line.
Check the Perks
Some wireless plans offer you free access to video and music streaming channels and other goodies that you might otherwise be paying for.
Review Your Statement
Take a close look at your monthly bill from time to time to see if there are services you’re paying for that you can live without.
Scale Back on Your Insurance
Wireless carriers are happy to charge you extra for various levels of protection. The more protection it has, the more it costs. These coverage plans might come with deductibles that may not make them worth the price. Consider making do with basic insurance on your phone. If it’s an older device, you may be able to skip coverage altogether.
A Move May Save You Money
According to the Tax Foundation, a typical household with four phones on a share plan will pay almost $300 a year in taxes, fees, and government surcharges. Those extra charges are based on your state, and they’re more than twice as high in some states than in others. As of 2021, the lowest phone taxes are in Idaho, Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Virginia, while the highest are in Illinois, Arkansas, Washington, Nebraska, and New York, the Tax Foundation says. If you’re moving from a high-tax state to a low-tax state, update your service address on your carrier’s website, and you could save on taxes.
Try one of these tips to potentially save big bucks on your cell phone bill!