Honey, I Shrunk The Mobile Phone Bill

Category: Mobile

For many households, the mobile phone bill is one of the major expenses in the monthly budget. The average smartphone bill is about $80 per month, and it can go much higher if you have a family plan with some unnecessary bells and whistles. But I've got some tips for paring down that bill and keeping it under control. Read on to learn how to save on your monthly mobile phone bill...

TIPS: Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill

Did you know, you don't have to get your mobile phone service from one of the "Big Three" cellular companies? My first tip is to consider getting your cellular service from a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), instead of directly from Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile. MVNOs buy service in bulk from these carriers; often, they pass on to customers savings of up to 50%. It’s exactly the same network, just re-branded and re-sold.

Some of the more popular MVNOs include Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Cricket Wireless, H20 Wireless, MetroPCS, Net10, Republic Wireless, Straight Talk, Tello, Ting, Tracfone and Walmart Family Plan. You can find a much longer list of MVNOs, with links to their websites at BestMVNO.com

Over the years, I've learned that lots of AskBob readers love Consumer Cellular, which I wrote about in my article Can You Fall in Love With a Phone Company?. I've also reviewed Ting, Tello, and Republic Wireless. You'll need to pick one that's compatible with your phone, your usage patterns, and one that has a good signal where you use it most often.

Save money on your mobile phone bill

Next, buy your phone with one lump sum of hard-saved cash, if you possibly can. Avoid finance charges hidden in those “easy monthly payments” advertised by phone sellers. It’s hard to determine who offers the best deal on a given phone because offers are constantly being changed and their complex terms are all different. Just shop around and compare plans and prices carefully.

You might think your local Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile store is the best place to go when looking for a new phone. But it might be the worst, in terms of the price tag. Some good places to shop for bargains on the latest smartphones include your local Best Buy, Staples, Costco, and WalMart stores. Amazon and Wirefly are two online phone sellers that offer excellent deals. These third-party resellers can access your AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon account and make any changes necessary. You can also find mobile phones on eBay or Swappa, and activate them via your mobile provider's website. I've bought two phones on Swappa, and was happy with both transactions.

Don’t throw your old phone into the junk drawer when you get a new one. You’re probably not going to use it again. Instead, trade it in for cash or credit on a new phone, or sell it to a third-party phone refurbisher or broker. Gazelle and others are large trading sites that pay more money for used phones than carriers do. See my article HOWTO: Sell Your Cell Phone (or Other Gadget) Be sure to do a factory reset on your phone before selling it, to erase all personal data that you may have on it.

More Money-Saving Tips for Mobile Phones

Maybe you don't need a new phone. Every mall seems to have at least one "phone fixit" kiosk where you can get a cracked screen or a broken charging port replaced for much less than the cost of a new phone. My wife's Samsung Galaxy would no longer charge after getting wet, but the phone was otherwise functional. Even a used model was more than we wanted to spend, but a guy in the mall replaced the charging port for $45 in 15 minutes. Replacing a screen typically costs around $80-$100, but you can buy do-it-yourself kits for much less.

Consider a family plan even if you do not have a family, strictly speaking. Just as many cash-strapped Millennials are sharing houses, many more share cell phone service plans as “families.” Friends on family plans can save up to 60% versus buying individual service plans.

Check for discounts offered by your provider. Verizon has monthly discounts for corporate, government and education employees, as well as service members and veterans. AT&T discounts are also available through employers, schools, and associations. Your benefits or HR department would be a good place to ask. If you're a senior, call your provider and ask about discounts too!

Tweaking your data plan can make a big difference in your monthly bill. Most users do not come close to using up their gigabytes. Some cell plans let you roll unused bytes into the next month’s allotment. If you're on a family plan, and you're getting whacked with overages, a larger or "unlimited" plan may save you money.

Shop around for the extras. Power cables, batteries, protective cases, earbuds, and other accessories should be bought at Walmart or online, never in a dedicated brick-and-mortar store operated by your mobile carrier. Prices there are grossly inflated.

And finally, you probably shouldn't buy device insurance. I've written about the scam of electronics insurance. Short story: like all insurance policeis, they are rigged in the seller's favor. Some of these plans cost as much as $40 a month, and they don't even guarantee that they will replace your broken phone with the same model. A few years back, I fried my brand-new Motorola Z3, (see Oops! I Dropped My Phone AGAIN) and broke the screen on the used replacement phone I bought. But I don't regret not having device insurance. Over the long run, I think I'll still come out ahead.

What’s your favorite way to save money on phones every month, or when buying or selling a phone? Share this article with friends, and then post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Honey, I Shrunk The Mobile Phone Bill"

Posted by:

Art F
15 Feb 2022

I love Tello! My cell phone service costs me $6 per month, and includes unlimited calls and texts, and 100 GB of data usage. (Bigger data limits are available at modest additional cost.) Their website offers some good deals on new or refurbished phones that are compatible with their network.

Posted by:

15 Feb 2022

The best deal that I've found on an unlimited plan is Visible. Their 4-person Party Pay plan amounts to $25 per month (includes all taxes and fees). And because it is a Verizon-owned company, the coverage is quite good. I'm not a fan of Verizon, in general. But this lower-cost offering is the best I've come across, so far.

Posted by:

Rollie Littlewood
15 Feb 2022

The biggest factor in how large our bill is is how much of our calling is done over WiFi vs. cellular. There are no per-minute charges for us when using WiFi, which I can always do when I am at home or in a hotel.

Posted by:

15 Feb 2022

Depending on how much data you want, Comcast/Xfinity is free if you are one of their cable subscribers. (I don't know if the other cable companies have similar deals.) You only pay for data usage. $15/mo for 1 gig, $30/mo for 3 gig and so on. So if you hardly use any data it is a good deal. But the data rates can get pretty expensive if you use a lot. They also offer unlimited data plans that are competitive. MVNOs are probably cheaper if you use a lot of data. Xfinity uses the Verizon network for phone. And they try to get you to use their WIFI hot spots instead of cellular data.

Posted by:

15 Feb 2022

Another reliable place to get a refurbished phone is decluttr.com. If it's determined that the phone's battery level is under 80%, they put in a new one. A 1-year warranty is also included, although it's a defects in workmanship deal. They also buy used phones.

Mint Mobile is also a good MVNO - if you're in a T-Mobile coverage area. Also, to get the best price, you need to pre-pay for a year in advance. Currently, the cheapest plan includes unlimited talk and texts with 4GB of data for $15 per month.

Posted by:

Art F
15 Feb 2022

Sorry, Tello is great, but my memory isn't and I overstated what is included in the $6 monthly deal I have. It is unlimited texts, 100 minutes of calling, and 500 MB of data. Still a great deal for my usage requirements. There's no contract, and you can change your plan at any time to fit your requirements. They use T-Mobile's network.

Posted by:

Gary in SEWisconsin
15 Feb 2022

For people with simple needs: One word - Tracfone. I've used TF since day one. Less than $7 /month. Backmarket.com has great prices on refurbished/used phones!

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
15 Feb 2022

I am a retiree living on a limited fixed income, so I qualify for the U.S. Federal Government's LifeLine plan. During the pandemic, I get unlimited free talk, text, and data as well as a free phone that is O.K. for calls and texts, but not much else. Last year, after the U.S. Federal Government sent out those Stimulus checks, one of the things I did with that money was to buy a Samsung Galaxy A21s smartphone because it has the best specifications at comparable pricing of all the phones I researched, and it is compatible with my provider's supported phone-type (GSM). It has 128 GB internal storage, 4 GB RAM, and an octa-core CPU (I do not remember which one). It can multi-task and is fast enough that I do not get frustrated waiting for things to process.

My current service provider is Q-Link, because they have fairly good coverage where I live. I know because I have tried several. If anyone who reads this is a senior citizen, living on a limited fixed income as I do, if you have not investigated the Federal Government's LifeLine program, you should do so. Here is a link to the program where you can determine if you qualify:


I hope this helps someone,


Posted by:

Emily Booth
15 Feb 2022

I've been very happy w/ Tracfone. Tracfone, however, was bought by Verizon. They dropped most of their low-end plans. Customer service isn't all that great, either. Their problem solving is limited & can be frustrating. But I recently bought an iPhone 2020SE for less than $200 & have a plan that costs $20 mo.

Posted by:

16 Feb 2022

Many VISA cards offer free device insurance if you pay your bill with their card.

It won't cover everything but does offer some valuable free cover.

Check with your card provider and see if you can get this free limited benefit.

Posted by:

16 Feb 2022

Here goes- Cricket AT&T MVNO. 2021 Moto one 5G phone for FREE! And HBOMAX included free. Just subscribe to 2? months of their Unlimited plan @ $60/month. I found that you had to keep the unlimited plan for 3 months if you wanted to switch to a cheaper plan. That's a 5G phone and unlimited service. But only 15Gigs of Hotspot. When I took that offer on it was $29 for the phone. Which is fast. Has 4? cameras including a macro camera and light bar! 128 gigs internal storage. Octa-core processor, (not the hackable processor) 4Gigs of memory. And fingerprint security and time/temperature/battery charge readout without unlocking the phone. $29 for the phone seemed like a great deal. But not as good as FREE!

Posted by:

16 Feb 2022

Oh- the price for the Cricket plan was for 1 phone line. $55/month after 2 months if you're using Autopay.

Posted by:

Jim Seiler
21 Feb 2022

Hi Bob,
With all the talk today about streaming v. satellite v. cable, I think it would be helpful to have an article on this(these) subjects. Most people I've talked to don't seem to have much of a clue about streaming, which now seems to be the trend. I've been using satellite for over 20 yrs, and it was generally satisfactory, but with some of the newer things only available via streaming, I'm considering going to mostly streaming. It's a particularly good time for me because I'm moving into a new house that doesn't have anyting right now. Be very interested in hearing what you think.


Posted by:

23 Feb 2022

I tell you now, Facebook is more dead than the desktop.
What about hardcore gamers?

Posted by:

25 Feb 2022

I have had em all and by and far 'Visible' is the best. I live in a part of Wisconsin (check the maps, WI is the WOrST for reception in the wilderness areas) and I have ALWAYS had problems with reception at my farm. With Visible (Verizon) I can get and make calls INSIDE the house and barn. I CANNOT do this with others at this spot.
The 'Party Pay' is a GREAT deal as it is only $25 per phone per month. NO, yes, NO hidden fees. YOUR ONLY COST is $25 per month. This includes UNLIMITED Calls (Mex and Canada Inclusive), UNLIMITED data and text. WHERE can you get that?? ALSO, you can buy a phone from them and there is ABSOLUTELY no fees or finance charges with them through Affirm. Affirm is their 'go-to' for finance and they also allow you to shop other place with NO finance charges if you pay them off with in a certain time payment.
IF, and that is a BIG IF....somebody can offer me a better plan than that, I'm all ears,,,,,,,,,but I doubt it!!

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