Who would have believed 25 years ago that the smartphone would be as commonly found in your pocket as wearing shoes each day on your feet? I know I never dreamed of being accessible 24/7 by phone and have the data resources available at my fingertips to settle a bar bet, compare prices while out shopping, or find my way home when driving and lost. But we live in a world where technology is king, and to support that king, we have to pay our dollars in tribute. It’s not really much of a choice whether or not to have a phone, but mostly a necessity these days. That’s why you have to do your due diligence to find the best affordable deal for you and your family.
Here’s my simple list of how to be smart about smartphone plans:
Compare the Offerings
Negotiate the Prices
Remember that buying phone services is like buying and negotiating other services (like cable television). The providers are spending a fortune competing with each other to get you on their plan (just watch TV for 20 minutes and count the number of mobile commercials you see), so they want you badly. Call customer service and tell them you want their plan but you don’t want to spend the prices you’ve seen advertised. Keep trying with the major (and minor!) players and tell them you’ve spoken with their competitor, but wanted to hear what they can do as well.
Ask for discounts if you’re an employee of a large or even a small business. There are numerous discounts provided for people if they ask. We had a discount with Verizon Wireless for years when my wife worked at a major Fortune 500 company (17% off the monthly bill). Even students can get a discount if you ask and provide evidence that you are a full timer.
If you already are a good customer, your chances are great that they will offer you a special deal like free extra minutes each month or discounted rates on data and texts. Don’t accept “no”, and ask to speak to someone who can give you what you want. Retention operators are instructed to keep you if you are within reason rather than lose you to a competitor.
It’s fairly common to get a package that includes a phone with a deal on minutes/data/texts and have the provider hold your prices for one or two years. It may sound like the best deal when you sign up, but make sure you read all the fine print. Prices are constantly changing and deals may in fact lock you into a price that’s about to drop. Having a contract may actually give you a higher price for a long time. Buying your phone with you plan can cost more than buying it separately or using your current phone with the plan (if possible). Check around before you agree.
Don’t Buy Phone Insurance
Basically, it isn’t a good deal. There are so many rules and requirements about how you are covered and when and what, that while you may get back your money, it’s just not worth it. There are options to buying insurance that are basically free! If you have auto insurance roadside assistance, it may be covered under your existing plan (or for a very small fee) and many credit cards will cover your phone for free if you pay your monthly bill with their online direct payment plans. I have my Wells Fargo credit card doing that for my phone.
Analyze Your Usage and Adjust Your Plan
Most users never use their monthly allocations of minutes/texts and data. They just have too much and it’s too costly. Take a look at your recent bills (4-6 months’ worth if possible) and calculate what you’re really using. Also consider ways to reduce your usage, by avoiding data hogs like video streams, video calls, streaming music, or uploading video, or saving them for when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.
Be Part of the Family
Most companies advertise “family plans”, but what you may not know is that you often don’t have to be related to use them. As long as you can trust the person to pay their share each month, share the services with them and you will definitely save money. (Some plans even allow for separate billing to avoid that whole issue.) My family shares a plan and saves about $35 on two lines every month. The savings can be even greater if you have a large family.
Seniors Can Save Even More
There are many plans that specialize in the senior market. Defined as 50+ years old in most cases, they offer plans with lesser minutes/data/texts that are for the light or moderate user. My personal pick is Consumer Cellular which not only offers great prices, but gives an extra 5% off for AARP members. You can add extra lines and share to save even more every month.
Take a few minutes out of your day and check out the ways to save. Most people spend too much on smartphone plans and just accept it as the cost of modern convenience. But for smart shoppers, the cost doesn’t have to be so costly.
What have you done to lower your smartphone plan costs?
Image courtesy of adamr on freedigitalphotos.net (with changes)