Can you believe I once had a cell phone bill that totaled $2,173.44?
Now be honest. What’s going through your mind?
“How the heck did he rack up that big of a cell phone bill in one month?”
“Does he have 5 teenagers that text constantly?”
“Was he roaming in Buffalo while letting someone listen to a Bon Jovi concert?”
“Did AT&T/Verizon/Sprint/T-Mobile put the decimal point in the wrong place?”
Actually, it’s none of these.
Well, the Bon Jovi story happened, but that was over ten years ago, and the bill was only $300. 🙂
The $2,173.44 figure represents the amount my cell phone company used to charge me on an annual basis for three lines.
Why would you care what my cell phone costs?
Well, I imagine it’s pretty close to what you pay too.
According to J.D. Power & Associates, the average family’s monthly wireless bill was $149.07 in 2013, up 36% from 2010.
If you compare that to the most recent U.S. median household income levels ($51,000), you can reasonably estimate that over 3.5% of the average American family’s income goes toward their cell phone plan.
That’s a sizable chunk of a household budget for something that wasn’t really around 20 years ago.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Reducing Your Current Cell Phone Bill
Reducing your cell phone bill can be tricky. Usually, the biggest obstacle is your contract.
You see, when you bought that shiny new iPhone 27 or Samsung Galaxy S whatever at a reduced price, the cell phone company wasn’t doing you a favor. They were just conveniently committing you to a new two-year contract.
They wanted to make sure they’d be able to suck another $4,000+ from you over that time period. No wonder they were eager to give you the phone for free.
Now if you’re under contract, it’s easy to break it. But unfortunately, it’ll cost you. How much? Sometimes it can be in excess of $300 per line.
But if you’re still under contract, all is not lost.
It doesn’t hurt to call your provider to ask for a lower rate. They don’t have to give you one, but maybe there’s a new plan that wasn’t around when you signed up.
Or, maybe you’re not using as much data as you were when you originally signed up. You could have them reduce your data plan which may save you money.
Even if you’re out of contract, you may still be stuck in a tough spot.
How? Well, recently the major cell phone companies lowered the prices for their plans and did away with contracts.
Sounds great, right? Wrong.
In order to lower their plan prices and remove contracts, they shifted the full cost of the cell phone to the consumer.
So if you want a new iPhone, you have to pay the full price of $769.
Now, they’ll conveniently allow you to pay for that phone over time, but after they add that to your bill, it will be right back up to where it was when there were contracts.
It was all a shell game.
If you wanted to leave that carrier, you’d have to pay the remaining balance due on the cell phone. In my opinion, that’s just like a cancellation fee.
If you’re lucky enough to be out of contract, you should highly consider shopping around.
Even if you’re still under contract or owe money on a cell phone, you should still compare the cost of getting away from that carrier and getting on a lower cost plan.
Have you noticed an abundance of commercials for cell phone providers lately?
They’re shoveling out the marketing dollars because there’s a lot of competition. That’s good for you.
Many small providers are creeping in on the market share and it’s making the big companies nervous.
How to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
As I just mentioned, many smaller cell phone carriers are starting to compete with the big guns.
Over the past few years, I’ve been testing out two of them and have had a wonderful experience. I’ve also saved a TON of money!
Let me introduce you to them.
Republic Wireless offers no-contract, unlimited talk-and-text cell phones plans starting at $15/month.
Yep. You read that right. Starting at $15 a month.
Want data too? Well, it’s only $5 per GB.
So, let’s say you’re looking for a plan unlimited talk and text plan with 4 GB of data. With Republic Wireless, that plan will be $35 per month plus taxes and fees. That’s crazy!
They’re able to offer such low prices because they focus on using WiFi at home and other places you frequent before cell towers.
That saves a ton of money because you’re not pinging the towers. Republic Wireless then passes those savings to you.
So you might be asking, “What if I go outside? Won’t I drop my call?”
Well, if you’re on a call and step outside your house, you seamlessly switch from your WiFi to the T-Mobile network of towers.
Even if you’re traveling in an area that doesn’t have either of those options, you can roam on other carriers. You wouldn’t be able to use data if roaming, but you’d be able to use the phone in case of emergency.
Personally, if I focus on using free WiFi when available, I’ve found the 1GB plan ($20/mo) to be more than enough.
When we were all still on Republic Wireless, we reduced our annual cell phone bill from $2,173 to under $800. That’s a huge saving and we still had three lines!
So what’s the catch?
The only catch is that you need to buy your phone outright, and the iPhone isn’t one of them.
Now that the shock has worn off, let’s move on.
They have over 10 top of the line phones available ranging in price from $79 to over $599. As your financial coach, I certainly recommend purchasing it with cash. 🙂
If you think that’s a steep price for a phone, consider this: if you still have your old phone from your previous carrier, you can just sell it. Pop it on Craigslist or eBay and use the money to offset the cost of the new phone purchase.
Google Project Fi
A few months ago, my wife and I left Republic Wireless to give Google Project Fi a try.
In all honesty, there wasn’t anything wrong with our service at Republic Wireless. I just wanted to try Project Fi so I could provide an honest review.
So far, we’ve been impressed.
Project Fi is pretty simple to understand.
You pay $20 for unlimited talk and text. You then pay for 1GB of data at $10. If you go over the 1GB of data, Google will automatically add more data for you at $10 per GB.
If you want to add lines, you can do it for $15 plus the data.
So if you had two lines, you’d pay $55 plus taxes and fees. Not too shabby!
But here’s the cool part.
If you don’t use all of your data, Google will credit your account for the cost of the data you didn’t use!
Since we try really hard to only use Wi-Fi when using our phones, we’ve gotten some big credits to date.
So again, what’s the catch?
Well, just like Republic Wireless you need to purchase your phone outright and Project Fi only has three phones available.
The phones are great quality and receive updates from Google much faster than if you were on a separate carrier.
Personally, we bought the Nexus 5X at $249 (which is no longer available) and have been very happy. They even offer 0% financing for 24 months with good credit.
Google’s Project Fi is a great option if you’re looking for something that’s low cost with great service. I highly recommend it!
(P.S. The Project Fi link above is a personal referral link. If you use it and purchase service, you’ll get a $20 credit on your statement. I will too. However, this will only apply to the first 10 individuals that get service through that link.)
There are many other low-cost carriers available, but I can’t speak for them as I haven’t used anything outside of what I’ve already mentioned.
If you’d like to see other options, I recommend looking at the phones and carriers available through Amazon.
Keep Reducing Those Major Expenses!
I’ve previously explained why it’s a good idea to focus on reducing your major expenses before moving on to strategies like cutting coupons.
Your cell phone bill fits into the “major expense” category.
How long will it take you to switch providers? You’ll probably invest a couple of hours, but it will be well worth it financially.
Before reading this article, you may have thought of your cell phone as “just another bill.” However, I challenge you to look at all of your expenses over a 12-month period to give yourself a little shock therapy.
Expenses that you may have thought were ordinary may end up looking expensive.
Start reducing them today!