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One of the all time best ways to save money is to save money on your cell phone bill. With a family of four, our cell phone plan now costs us close to $200 a month, including data and texting packages. The cost has gotten out of hand, so I've been in search of ways to lower our cell phone bill. Here are some of the tips and tricks I've found.

Save Money on Cell Phones and Plans

1. Stay Under Your Minutes: Nothing drives me more crazy then to see a big fat charge on my cell phone bill because we went over our minutes. If this is an habitual problem, you’ll want to either change cell phone plans or cut your talk time. One great tool to help monitor your usage is OverMyMinutes, a free tool that sends you a text message or e-mail when you are about to run over your limit.

2. Use Prepaid Cell Service: Prepaid cell phones are becoming more and more popular as prices come down. As the name suggests, you pay for a certain amount of minutes with no contract to sign. Most of the major cell phone carriers now offer prepaid cell phone options. You can also find great deals on prepaid phones from Republic Wireless.

3. Reconsider Insurance: Shelling out several hundred dollars for a new phone if you break you current one is no fun, but do you really need to insure a $200 to $500 item? Insurance should be for those things we can’t afford to replace (e.g., home, auto, health, and life).

4. Employee Discounts: My company recently began offering a discount on AT&T Wireless service. Since that’s what I use for my iPhone and the cell phones my wife and children use, it saved us some money. Check with your employer to see what discounts they offer.

5. Play the Switcharoo: If you have a cell phone break before your contract expires, you could end up paying the full price of a replacement phone. If you have multiple cell phones with the same carrier, however, there may be a better option. If one of your cell phones has been under contract long enough to qualify for a discounted cell phone, “replace” the phone for that line. You’ll need to extend your contract, but you’ll get the phone at a discount. You can then use the SIM card for your broken phone in the new phone. Been there, done that.

6. Reduce your Data Plan: The days of unlimited data are all but gone. Now the key is to have a data plan that covers your needs, but no more. We were paying too much for a data plan we didn’t need. We cut back to a lower plan and saved $20 a month.

7. Re-negotiate: When an existing contract expires, always renegotiate for a better deal. The prices of cell phone contracts tend to go down over time for the same service. So make sure you take advantage of current deals when your contract is up.

8. Ringtones? Really?: I suppose if the Ringtone is important to you, by all means spend the dough to get what you want. But I’d save the money and put it to better use.

9. Unlimited Plans—Think Twice: While an unlimited plan (whether for phone or texting) relieves you of the burden of worrying about your minutes, many people don’t take full advantage of these costly programs. Examine your cell phone usage to see if you can get by with a less expensive plan.

10. Shop Online: Almost all cell phone carriers offer discounts when you shop for cell phones and plans online. We’ve put together a list of discounts and promo codes for some of the major carriers and providers:

11. Never Cancel a Cell Phone Contract Again: When you cancel a cell phone contract, you can get hit with some outrageous fees. Fortunately, there are a couple of websites that can save you a bundle if you need out of a contract. Basically, these sites help bring together folks who want out of a contract with those looking for a cell phone contract. If you need to get out of a cell phone contract or are looking for a good deal and want to help out somebody in a bind, check out CellSwapper or CellTradeUSA.

12. Texting–A Parent’s Nightmare: When I was a kid, there was no way to talk with friends while at home but to use the one telephone we had in the house. If I was on the phone, my parents knew (usually because they were yelling at me to get off the phone). Today, kids have cell phones with texting, not to mention e-mail and Facebook. Anyway, the key is to either control texting (good luck) or go with an unlimited plan. The unlimited plan will obviously cost more, but it may be a much better deal than having your child (or spouse) blow by the texting limit.

13. Combine Plans: As you add new lines to the same plan, the price goes down. For a while, we had two different cell phone plans, and we saved a bundle by combining them.

14. Avoid Calling 411: Directory assistance can be really expensive with cell phones, and it’s unnecessary. Instead, try 800-FREE-411, 800-411-METRO or 800-GOOG-411, all of which give you listings for free.

15. Use FireFox Plug-Ins To Track Time: Each of the major cell phone carriers have Firefox plugins to help you track your minutes. It’s an easy way to keep from going over your limit. You can check out these time-saving plugins here.

If you know of other ways to cut your cellular bill, leave a comment and let us know.

Next Up: 95 Painless Ways to Save Money

Author Bio

Total Articles: 1081
Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Article comments

Kimberly says:

Great article with lots of great tips. I actually did most of them last year when I decided to finally move away from AT&T to the more affordable prepaid market. I did research, compared, and ultimately went with Net10 because of their .10 a minute slogan that I had to test out for myself – and being without a contract sounded pretty sweet as well. Luckily, Net10 ended up being a great choice that has helped me save more than $65 a month with their pay-as-you go minutes – prefect for the low level cell user. I’ve had such a positive experience that I purchased a $29 Motorolla phone and minutes card for my grandmother and with a few minor tech bumps, she is really happy with the phone. The calling network is very dependable and while I wish the phone selection was larger, its very affordable and no contract drama. I will say prepaid really isn’t for everyone, but I think Net10 is a great choice for a back-up phone or someone who really needs to save and still have quality service.

DR says:

Kimberly, thanks for sharing your experience with Net10. The more research I do, the more positive things I hear about prepaid cell phones.

JackK says:

Hey Kim, I too have Net10, but I went with their unlimited plan, it’s such a good deal. And I agree, very dependable coverage. My favorite thing though is the no contract drama. I’m never as stressed at the end of the month knowing I won’t get hit with unexpected fees.

Chris says:

I’ve been using the prepaid service myself. Neither my wife nor I use a cell phone all that often, so this was a perfect choice for us. We went with T-Mobile. We usually get our minutes for about 8.9 cents. Normally it is 10 cents, but we look for coupon codes before buying. We’ve been getting the 1 year plan with 1000 minutes. That works out to about 80 minutes a month. Just right for us 🙂

Hank says:

You talked about employee discounts….I went years under a cell phone contract before I realized that most of the carriers (including mine) offer a military discount!

Neil says:

“Unlimited Plans—Think Twice: While an unlimited plan (whether for phone or texting) relieves you of the burden of worrying about your minutes, most people don’t take full advantage of these costly programs. Examine your cell phone usage to see if you can get by with a less expensive plan”…

a couple months ago my wife and I changed our cell phone plans from an unlimited texting plan with unlimited hours to another plan. We came to the conclusion after looking at our cell phone usage. that we were using less than half of the minutes in our plan. We probably cut $20 off.

CowboyFan10 says:

Awesome article – NOBODY likes monthly cell phone bills. As Kimberly mentioned, Net10 is a great alternative. It is an awesome prepaid service in my experience and is a real money-saver. You can’t beat 10 cents/minute – including long distance calls! I can keep in touch with my family and friends for an awesome low price. I reccommend it to everyone trying to save money the smart way AND get an awesome deal in the process.

VAN says:

What about the coverage area on Net10 or T-Mobile?

Daniel says:

I’m not sure I agree with most of your comments in the article. Personally, I sell cell phones for a living (and yes I use integrity).
Considering I work for a locally owned store, why would you promote taking away business from smaller venues in order to shop online and hurt us little guys?

CassieS says:

I like this article! Great advice – some of which I’m already following. I use prepaid phones only now, especially since it seems that the prepaid companies are much more competitive and hungry for business. A good thing for consumers!
Like Kimberly I use NET10, an excellent carrier with some of the lowest rates but with zero BS. No overages, no hidden fees, they don’t even have those daily charges that some of the other carriers charge.
Oh, and @VAN they have excellent coverage. I think it has something to do with the fact that they use more than one network. I’m not sure about this, but what I do know is that my phone seems to work just about anywhere.

FreddieZ says:

Hey Cassie- I too use Net10, and agree that it’s a great plan. Like trainer and Eric, I have the unlimited plan as well and think it’s the best deal out there right now.
But what I wanted to say, was that I think Net10’s coverage is so great because when you sign up with them, they ask you for your zipcode. Then, based on where you live, you are set up with whatever network they collaborate with in your area that will offer you the best, most complete coverage. Genius, right? So for me I am covered by AT&T’s network, but if Verizon is stronger in your region then you’d use their towers.
And thanks for the great article, DR.

Pat says:

If you are going far afield (travelling overseas, going on a cruise or even backpacking in the great outdoors), turn your phone off and keep it off. Most roaming rates are a pricey $2.49 per minute. And, some carriers like T-Mobile will even charge you $4.99 even if you don’t pick up the call and the call gets forwarded to your voicemail.

Karen Haller says:

I bought a Straight Talk phone from Walmart for $39.99 & buy a monthly card for $45.00 that has unlimited talk, text, web, & free 411. (They also have a $30.00 card that lets you have 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, some web, & I think some 411 calls). I love it : ) The phones range I think from $29.00-129.00. Great value.

Mike says:

These are all great tips . Tip #2, using a prepaid service is a great idea! I switched to tracfone and has saved a ton of money every month. I got a great camera phone for a low price and best of all there was no contract and no monthly fees!

Joe says:

These are all great tips for saving money. I switched to a prepaid service, Tracfone. For a $20.00 airtime card I get 60 mins airtime. Tracfone gives me the safety and security of a wireless phone without the problems of a contract and monthly fees. I am super happy with my decision.

Chad says:

Great tips! We think you have touched on some great points here on how to reduce cell phone cost. It is amazing how many people overpay for their services or simply spend more than they should because they are not on the right plan. Our site offers a quick cell phone audit at no cost. We will allow your readers to get a free savings evaluation on their cell phone bills. We were just written up in Family Circle Magazine as a great way for people to reduce cell phone cost. Again you did a very good job giving your readers suggestions on how to reduce cell phone cost. Keep up the great work! Thanks

SavingsGuy says:

@Karen – Thanks for the info on Straight Talk. That’s one that I hadn’t heard of.
I’m using Prepaid Mobile Services from Cricket right now. I’m getting unlimited talk and text for $35/monthly.

DamianMG says:

This is a great article, and it helped me a lot while doing my research to switch. Saving money is a hot topic now and cellphone bills is an area where savings are possible. I swtiche to net10 unlimited and pay only $50 a month now, from a contract where I used to pay an average of 105 a month. That’s a whole electric bill paid right there with my savings.

trainer812 says:

As a busy professional, always looking for ways to trim the expenses. As anyone reading this article knows, a lot of us spend way more than we need on cell phones. Have not been comfortable with switching to a prepaid phone, but the more I read, it really sounds like it’s a way to save on that expense. Use the extensively, so an unlimited plan would be perfect for my usage. Of those that I’ve looked into, NET10 seems to offer the best package…phone, plans, pricing, and coverage. At $50 for 30 days of service, this would save my business more than double that each month. Next step…make the switch!

Eric Sharp says:

The best part about NET10 is not having to worry about overage charges every month. When I was with my contract carrier, some months I would go over on my text messages or minutes and I would always have to pay extra fees to cover them. But now that I get to pay $50 for an unlimited plan, I can’t go over.

MarieB says:

Thanks DR for the helpful article! And @Karen- I also have a straight talk plan! I wanted to pay less but not have to cut back on how much I use my phone, so straight talk’s unlimited plan was the perfect solution. Now I don’t have to worry about staying under my minutes or how I’ll feel when the bill arrives each month. (I like that little added bonus). Also, I’ve never dropped a call with them. They also have an auto-refill option- super convenient!

CJ says:

@ MarieB- I am glad to know that you are so happy with your straight talk phone. My friends keep talking about how much they like it and how the unlimited plan for only $45 a month has saved them so much money. I am going to have to go check it out.

luvmyyoga says:

Both of the plans mentioned are good. But one of the things that makes NET10 so attractive is the ability to switch from a monthly unlimited plan to a pay as you go without penalty. This is good if your usage needs ever change, so you aren’t ever stuck. There’s no reason to pay for more than you need. Just so you know, you can’t make international calls using the unlimited plan. Some people aren’t aware and this could be an issue for them. All in all though, they do offer flexibility and simplicity.

Lucy says:

The best way to lower your bill, bar none, is to actually do away with contract carriers and go prepaid – it seriously is the best way to get rid of those fees that can really drive a bill up. It really depends though on your usage what company you should go with because some of the better price deals are for lower minute users. For the bigger users, I totally recommend Straight Talk prepaid on the Verizon network – its sold at Walmart so easy to find and $45 unlimited service.

SamJp says:

All plans metioned here are pretty good, but when dealing with prepaid you have to make sure you get all you pay for. the only way to get that is if you get a prepaid service that s unlimited, making sure you pay a fix rate, like straight talk, you pay only $45 a month for unlimited, and they even offer smart phones and the plan covers unlimited data.

Rich says:

I’m not sure if they are widely availlable yet in the US but here in the UK SIM only deals are a good way to cut your bill – at the end of your contract you move to a new contract on anew SIM card but keep your old phone and number. The contracts are cheaper as you’re not covering the cost of a new hansdet.

Bob says:

If you are a mobile user whether you have an old phone or you are out of contract then SIM only deals is great option. You save hunderds over a course of a year as you are not paying for the handset that is typically incuded with a contract phone.

P.H. says:

You, Sir, are a GURU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Again, I have commented on one other article you authored, and MY–again–based on the knowledge that I had prior to reading your article (things I remembered from years ago–that your article recalled–but had sense forgotten) confirms that you, Sir, are INDEED a GURU and you KNOW (I think based on research, customer comments, etc but MAINLY your own prior experiences–makes you VERY beneficial to us P.H.’s (Poor House–folk!)

Thanks I see myself recommending your site in the future after more great articles like this one! Thanks to God Almighty Jesus for blessing us with your knowledge!

P.H. says:

did Net10 send people to write reviews here? Oh well, still great advice (even if the commentary is suspiciously a bit thick sounding)

Celine says:

Thanks for sharing these very practical tips! It’s really disturbing to see a high cell phone bill this is why I have decided to go prepaid. With this, I can control my cell phone expenses very well. It’s a guaranteed way of lowering cell phone expenses.

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Jon says:

In the UK, SIM only contracts are a great way to reduce your phone bill. You keep your existing phone and number and get a new SIM card on its own. The contracts are much cheaper as you’re not paying the cost of a new hansdet.

Emily says:

We use pre-paid, and for emergencies only. Our home is a magicJack, for which I must say you get what you pay for, but it does the job.

Jonathan says:

Staying under your minutes is essential to keep your bill down, and it’s so easy to do if you regularly check your online bill to monitor your usage. Great ideas for saving money I love reading articles like this

Rob says:

I’ve carried a $20 tracfone (with the double-minute feature) for two years and can get by with a $20 60-min card purchase every three months (so the phone number doesn’t expire) even though I started out with a 1-year card. Having to buy new airtime to keep the same phone number is a hassle since I have more than 1,000 minutes accumulated already. If you don’t care about your number changing to a new one, you don’t have to renew every 90 days with Tracfone. FYI

Nick McDonald says:

Great article.
In my opinion, I think parents can monitor their teenager’s texting, so long as:

1.) The parents paint a picture of why the family is trying to save money.

2.) The parents are footing the bill.

3.) The parents help demonstrate older, more personal styles of communication to their teenager.

4.) Parents are realistic about the fact that in the modern world, texting, facebook, and twitter are essential to developing friendships, and even careers.


Jack Mc Brien says:

Try US celluliar, no contract, two phones, shared 750 min with text for $55 per mo. Jack

Kevin Beck says:

After 6 years with AT&T, we were able to get a discount on our family plan. We have three lines on the plan, and we pay $10/line per month. It all came from negotiating with them, and they offered those terms without hassle. And this is unlimited minutes, but no data.

joel fernandes says:

thats definitely gotta be the most elaborate and useful set of smart spending options to keep the cell phone under check.Its something we take for granted and never realise how much its sucking us dry.Prepaid cards are a better option for sure and its the only real check we have to control how much the phone guzzles

Nate Boike says:

Look into minute optimizer. It offers a “hands off” solution to saving money on cell and data without any upfront costs. According to their website, they only make money if they save you money.

Michael Bell says:

The biggest money saver is moving the billing address to a state with zero to no sales tax on top of the cell phone bill. Oregon for example has no cell service % tax. Just change the billing address to a family member or a friend in a low cell phone tax state.

Jeff says:

This is a very good point especially for a company with a lot of lines. Here is a great list of sales tax on cell phones per state! We get a lot of people comming to look at this!



Alizawill says:

The problem with increase in bills is that plans and promotions is that they expires and prices goes up.(They count on that so you forget and pay more over time)

I am calling my service provider (AT&T) every year or so once my promotion ends and request to lower the price mentioning I will move to different provider! – They usually lower my price for few more months or come up with new promotion for year!

Usually I forget to renew myself but by using Remindme2save.com it keeps sending me reminders when promotion going to expire and I renew:

Thundermane says:

Thank you so much for posting this it helped me a lot 😛 :D.

Alec Heesacker says:

My Verizon Phone Bill is $20 more expensive than yours, 40 Dollar Bill.
Wish that I could go cheaper by switching
pre-paid phone contracts, because I have only $400+ left.