Cell phones can be an expensive addiction, but knowing how to maximize those minutes and avoid unnecessary fees can save you hundreds of dollars on your bill. Plus, there won't be any "surprises" on your statement at the end of the month.
ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, sent FF 8 tips to help consumers cut costs, whether shopping for a new contract or want to stick with your current plan:
1. Go easy on the minutes. Do a little cost-benefit analysis on your bills and figure out how many voice minutes you’ve used in the past six months and how many minutes were left over. You might save with a plan that has fewer included minutes, provided it offers the same free talk-time benefits.
2. Maximize family-plan calling. Got a multiline family plan? Call your spouse and kids on the family-plan cell phone instead of their landline home or work phones.
3. Use freebies to the max. If your carrier offers unlimited free minutes to designated calling-list phone numbers, register your most-called numbers but be sure to make the most of this money-saving feature by limiting your list to landlines and cell numbers outside your network.
4. Bundle up those texts. The cost of text messaging adds up quickly if you’re paying à la carte at 15 to 20 cents a pop. If you’re a busy texter, think about a package of 200 to 1,500 messages per month for $5 to $15.
5. Don’t be afraid to complain. If you’re on the hook for an unusually gigantic bill, call customer service before you fork over hundreds of dollars in extra fees. Your carrier might cut you a break.
6. Get a data plan. E-mailing, Web surfing, and other types of data can really chew up your budget if you pay per megabyte. An “all inclusive” plan with unlimited Web and messaging on a smart phone should cost $10 to $60 per month.
7. Shop around or hire someone to do it for you. You can “hire” a service like those at www.billshrink.com (free) or www.myvalidas.com (at least $5) to sift through the major plans for you, factoring in your usage and other data, then recommend available phones with various plans and costs.
8. Avoid big termination fees. Make sure that you’re going to be happy with your cell plan because early termination fees can run as high as $350 per phone line. If you do choose to switch to a new carrier, be sure to give the phone and service a good test drive during the 15- to 30-day trial period, when you can quit and move your number to another carrier without penalty.
***Fabulously Frugal is headed out of the country tonight (to Egypt and Jordan!) and won't be returning until February 24. We'll do our best to post some tips from abroad but we have a feeling the pyramids might be a little bit distracting.***