Five ways to save on cell phone plans

By Sijun Li

Face time. Status updates. Tweets. Games. Emails. Pictures. Videos. Calculator. Credit card swipes. GPS. Music player. Online Shopping. Personal assistant. The list goes on and on and on.

What can’t you do on your cell phone these days?

As technology advances, so do the endless possibilities of owning a cellular device. Having a cell phone has become such a necessity for everyday routines that consumers are willing to pay an arm and leg for their contract data plans.

There are so many different fees associated with owning a cell phone. Let’s consider the usual fixed amount of minutes, texting and gigabytes for a standard phone (not to mention the fees for going over the data usage), and don’t forget the activation fee, cost of the phone and monthly or yearly warranties – it adds up!

In 2011, U.S. consumers paid, in total, at least one billion dollars per month more then they needed to on their wireless services, according to GSM Nation, a wireless service company. The company also noted that consumers pay up to $1,500 per year on their wireless bills.

“When people receive their wireless bill, they often feel that they are overpaying but feel helpless, they are not aware that they have options,” said Ahmed Khattak, CEO of GSM Nation.

Although we may not be too willing to give up our beloved cell phones, there are different strategies we can implement to lower our phone bills.

Here are some of MissMoneyBee’s frugal experts’ and Khattak’s tips to help consumers save as much as $1,000 on their annual cell phone expenses:

1. Avoid Contracts. While two-year contracts can help with a discounted phone, the 24 monthly bills aren’t going to be pretty.  Instead, buy a contract-free phone to save as much as $1,000 over the life of the contract. Khattak says that in the long run, insurance plans on contract free phones are the same. Monthly plans on contract free services are almost always much cheaper than comparable plans on contract.

2. Unlimited Monthly Plans.  Don’t worry about going over your minutes or limiting your internet usage. Remember that there are other companies in the cell phone biz that provide the same type of coverage and services for a lot cheaper.  The major phone companies can charge more than $100 per month, while other companies like Simple Mobile, Boost Mobile and h2O wireless can give you the same services for $40-$60 a month. Khattak explains that the companies such as the aforementioned ones actually use the network and wireless infrastructure owned by the four large carriers—Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint, so the coverage is just as reliable.

3. Compare Before You Buy. There are so many different cell phone providers out there that it’s important to get what you need for the best price. For non-contract plans, there’s an easy-to-use comparison tool for people to see how much they can save per month versus a regular two-year contract. GSM Nation offers one on their website, www.gsmnation.com/savings-calculator.

4. Non- Apple Products.  Khattak says that Apple products are the crème-de-le-crème, but their marketing success has actually created an opportunity for consumers.  There are other amazing phones in the market that go for much lower such as Android and Blackberry phones.  These phones have different capabilities that Apple doesn’t have, such as customizable home screens and a top-of-the-notch operating system.

5. Online Communities. If you’re looking at a specific phone or plan, consumers should visit online digital communities such as GSM Nation, Engadget and Gismodo to see product reviews, forums and feedback from experts. That way, you can see if the plan or phone you had in mind is worth what you’re paying for.