When Talk Is Cheap: Ways to Save Money On Your Phone Bill

Overpriced data packages and pay-by-the-minute cell phone service can cost the average family a pretty penny.  In fact, the Utility Consumers’ Action Network, a San Diego consumer advocacy group, reported that the average cell phone user pays $3.02 a minute.  Customers paying for “anytime minutes” only use a third of the time allotted to them by their service providers.  If that wasn’t alarming enough, the majority of land line owners pay 10 cents per minute or more with 20% of people paying more than 50 cents per minute and 10% paying more than $1.  Once tacked onto your bill with taxes and fees, these expenses can be far more than your budget can handle.  Whoever said talk was cheap never received a higher-than-usual cell phone or landline bill in the mail.

There are a couple of ways to get around this.  Here are some quick ideas for lowering your phone bill this year:

  • Get the most basic cell phone package that there is. A pre-paid cell phone plan eliminates the element of surprise.  There are no hidden charges, no contracts, and no added expense.  $9.99 a month gets you 50 minutes a month with Tracfone (http://www.tracfone.com).  For $25.00 a month, Virgin Mobile (http://www.virginmobileusa.com) offers 300 minutes and unlimited access to text, email, data, and web.  This option gives you plenty of opportunity to keep in touch with your personal and professional contacts.
  • Consider switching to Skype or Google Talk.  “In addition to sharing voice and video chats with your contacts from computer to computer, you can also place and receive phone calls to any landline or mobile phone number in Gmail for free,” with Google Talk (http://www.google.com/talk/).  International calls require additional credits but the price per minute is significantly less expensive than other providers.  Skype (http://www.skype.com) offers a similar package.  Computer to computer calls are free.  Phone calls to landlines and mobile phones can be made only after credits are purchased.  Unlimited phone calls in North America costs $7.99 a month while worldwide calls to 40 countries costs $13.99 a month.
  • Buy the magicJack and get access to free local and long distance, directory assistance, caller ID, call waiting, and voice mail. Simply purchase the magicJack (http://www.magicjack.com) online or through a retail store and plug it into your device.  Once it feels secure, plug the magicJack into the USB port on your computer and follow the screen so you can register the device.  Once that step has been completed, pick up your phone and make a test call.  It’s as easy as that!  The magicJack costs $39.95 and it comes with one free year of service.  Each additional year costs $19.95 which amounts to 11 cents a day.  That is a far cry from $3.02 a minute statistic that we reported above.
  • See if you qualify for a Safelink Wireless phone.  “Safelink Wireless (http://www.safelinkwireless.com) is a government supported program that provides a free cell phone and airtime each month for income-eligible customers.”  The exact benefits a person receives depends on the state that they live in. Generally speaking, individuals qualify if they participate in a public assistance program such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), National Free School Lunch, Federal Housing/Section 8 Assistance.  If you do not receive any of these public assistance programs, you may also qualify based on total household gross monthly income.

There is no sense in paying more than you have to for phone service.  In fact, there are plenty of options available to you if you’re willing to do some research before making a full-blown commitment to a company like AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile.  By avoiding contracts and evaluating the amount of minutes being used in your household, you can trim the fat and pay for what you use not what a cell phone or home phone provider expects you to use.  This amounts to hundreds of dollars worth of savings each year which can be used in other ways by you and your family members.

Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle

My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.

4 comments
GeraldACavender
GeraldACavender

I got magicjack installed and it's saving me hundreds. A good and inexpensive way to call friends and families in a different state.

jaycedaniels
jaycedaniels

If you have a laptop, there no need for you to buy a smartphone. There are a lot of applications online that you can use for free, yes just like Skype. MagicJack is also amazing. Have you guys tried it? Just get the basic text and talk for your phone without all the data package.

video chat phone
video chat phone

All people want to save money on their phone bills. All people looking for some cheap calling n texting plans. First of all management is must  before using any mobile phone services. Post provide some good and nice ways to save money..

PFULMTL
PFULMTL

I've been with Virgin Mobile for about 10 years now since high school. I have tried so many times to get people to convert over but no one listens. I explain all the details and they go "what? wow" but none have switched over.

I have the LG Rumor Touch (about $225) and it has been the best phone they have made so far I think. I am on the $25/month plan and having unlimited internet, text, and 300 minutes is the best plan they have made so far. I used to be on the $10/month unlimited text plan before this phone came out.

It makes no sense to pay $60-80 a month to use all those features and apps. The LG rumor has even saved my butt by having a Google Maps app that saved me from getting lost on a trip.

Callie
Callie

If you actually live without a landline, then I say go for it. Right now, in my home, I have two cell phones and a landline - one phone is strictly for work and the other for play. Once my job started providing me with a business phone, I figured it was silly to keep paying so much for a personal cell phone for the ocassional call on the weekend. I'm not much of a talker at all with my cell phone, never was, so I'm not someone who needs a huge plan - I had a 450 minute plan with ATT and I never even came clost to using half of it. I did the research, as the article suggests, and I found the cheapest deal with the best minutes for me was Tracfone. So refreshing to have a credit check and activation fees when I just want a phone and keeping it under $50 with phone and minutes was awesome.

Bernz
Bernz

I use both Skype and Gtalk myself and I really love both of them. This year my wife and I will be buying the magic jack to communicate with our outsourcing team. And one of the things we are considering doing this year is to drop our land line.