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Are you paying too much for cellular phone service? Review these 10 tips to see whether you can cut your cellular phone bill.
There are lots of ways to trim your budget. You might consider eliminating your cellular phone. But perhaps you can still keep the convenience of cellular phone service if you lower your monthly bill.
1. Analyze your rate plan – The rate plan that met all of your needs two years ago might be more expensive and inadequate compared to the most recent offers. You should do a rate plan analysis at least once every six months to make sure you've got the cellular plan that provides the most cost-effective service for you. Even if you have a one- or two-year contract that prevents you from immediately switching to another company, you still might find a better service plan with your current provider. Cellular service providers frequently offer special deals at the end of the year (Christmas time) and before school starts in September.
2. Talk less, save more – When calling from a cellular phone, don't be afraid of sounding like a New Yorker — cut to the chase! (If you are a New Yorker, you don't have anything to worry about.) You called for a specific reason: Ask your question, get your answer, and then get off the phone. Avoid the "How are you doing? How was your weekend?" chitchat. Also, never say "okay" when someone says, "do you mind holding?"
3. Call later not sooner – If you are about to make a cellular phone call, ask yourself: "Can it wait?" Most cellular plans have free night and weekend minutes. Use them.
4. Send a text message – Writing a message via text usually forces you to be concise. Text messaging (also referred to as SMS for Short Message Service) is usually more expensive than making a one-minute call. But how many of us can really finish a call in less than a minute, especially when billing time starts with the ring and waiting for the connection to happen? You can probably write in one $0.15 text message what might take 3 to 5 minutes of cell phone time. On the other hand, you'd better think before you type: in the dark jungle of cellular service plans, whether several text messages per month will be cheaper than voice calls is difficult to figure out. See the ConsumerAffairs.com article Text Messaging Charges Surprise Cell Phone Users.
5. Text less – Many people don't think about the charge to send or receive a text message. Text messaging usually costs at least $.15 per message, unless your plan includes it for "free" with a higher monthly rate. If you send five text messages per day and receive five text replies, by the end of the month you have added $45 to your cell phone bill.
6. Forget the 411 – If you dial 411 for telephone directory information on a cell phone, it can cost you around $2 or more for the call. Try a cheaper alternative — find a phone book, check the Internet, or use one of the free directory assistance services. For a description of these services, see the New York Times article The 411 on Directory Assistance.
7. Don't answer – Some calls you want to take; some you don't. Remember that in the United States, most cellular plans charge you for incoming calls. Caller ID lets you see who is calling so you can decide whether to answer the phone. If you are somewhere that is close to a landline phone, you can return the call immediately by landline.
8. Check your voicemail from a landline phone – Most cellular carriers do not charge airtime when someone leaves a voicemail message for you (but remember that they do charge if you use the cell phone to retrieve the messages). Have you ever wondered why your phone beeps and flashes text when you have a new voicemail message? It's because the provider hopes you will use the cell phone to retrieve the message right away. You can reduce your bill significantly by retrieving your messages from a landline phone.
9. Use prepaid cellular service – If you really don't use a cell phone very often, or your economic situation is fluctuating so that you don't have $50 per month to pay a cell phone bill, why not buy a cell phone from a provider that offers a pay-as-you-go service. For example, if your cell phone usage is less than 150 minutes per month, a prepaid service can cost around $25 or less per month. There are some prepaid service providers who sell airtime by the minute, without an additional monthly fee. That would be a very inexpensive choice (probably less than $10 per month) for someone whose monthly cell phone usage is less than 30 minutes. You can buy prepaid cell phone minutes by getting phone cards at retail stores, or on the Internet, or by calling your service provider.
10. Turn your phone off – Every cellular phone has a power button. You can turn the phone off, if you want. In fact, there are some places you should turn your phone off…the board meeting, the Broadway show, the restaurant, the movie theater, to name a few. Those short "I'll have to call you back" conversations add up. In the event that you just have to know if someone is calling you, you can put your phone in silent or vibrate mode, and you can check the caller ID to see who called, even if you don't actually answer it.
Want more information? If you are still not sure whether you want or need cellular phone service, read the Consumer-Action.org article Choosing a Wireless Service Provider, as well as the related articles in our Knowledge Center Library.
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