Here at Fiscal Fitness, we like to provide you tons of inspiration and motivation to help you take control of your finances. But we also like to get practical. Today we’re getting practical about your cell phone bill.
It’s not uncommon for people to spend upwards of $200 per month on their cell phone bill. These little devices are tied to almost every facet of our lives, so it makes sense that we’d want the best plan with the most coverage and the least restrictions. However, not all plans and not all circumstances are created equal. As is with most budget expenses, the amount you should spend depends on the life you live and your priorities.
Here are a couple of ways to help you think about how your phone bill stacks up to your needs.
Data and Usage
When was the last time you looked at your phone bill and analyzed your usage? Did you choose an unlimited plan because you were afraid of racking up extra fees for going over on your data? If so, it’s worth taking a look at your data usage. Ideally, you want to look at your phone’s usage over the past 6 months to get a realistic idea of how much data you need. Are you actually using all that data you’re paying for?
If your data usage routinely falls below the data allotted in a lower costing plan, you might want to consider downgrading to a less expensive plan. Even if you go over your data one month or two out of the year, it might still be worth it. Be willing to pay extra for more data in the random months you need it vs paying for unlimited data every month that you’re not using.
And if you’re still nervous about getting hit with a huge bill, create alerts on your phone every time you use a gig or two of data, that way you’ll have a clearer understanding of your usage throughout the month. If data usage is a constant issue, wifi is your best friend. Connect with wifi whenever possible to lessen your chances of going over your data.
Friends & Family Plans
Sharing a phone plan is a great way to save money on your monthly phone bill. But it can also be a recipe for data overage if no one is paying attention.
We hate to single out teens, but they are the biggest data users out there. Our advice:
- Set screen time controls on any kids devices along with parental controls. Know how much data your kids are using in real time. Don’t wait to be surprised by your monthly bill.
- If you have a device that doesn’t need to be on a plan, take it off. For example, if your kid has an iPad but they only ever use it at home, set it up to work on wifi only and remove it from your plan.
If you’re a young adult, and still live with your parents or have a roommate, consider going in on a family plan together. Everyone usually saves money on a family plan so this can be a win-win. Just be clear about who pays what and when to avoid any confusion or missed payments down the road.
If you bought your device new from your carrier, you likely have no option but to purchase insurance with it. However, if you can, consider canceling your insurance after the first year. Given how quickly new models of phones are rolled out, a new phone can depreciate in value pretty quickly. At some point, it makes sense to cancel your insurance to save the monthly fee (as well as the deductible you’d pay to use the insurance anyway). It’s worth it just to pay for a replacement phone should you need one.
Finally, if you do upgrade phones, don’t toss your old one. Unless it’s a Nokia circa 2003, you can use it for the just-in-case scenarios, like your phone dying. Which we hope it never does. Because as we said at the start of this post, our lives are tied up in our phones, and replacing them is never easy. And it’s usually not cheap.