Many of us pick a cell phone plan without giving it much serious thought. Maybe we pick the same carrier we’ve always had or the same amount of data we’ve always bought.
But is it really the best plan based on your typical usage? Is there any way you can lower it?
The average cell phone bill per month for an American is around $70, but it can be as much as $127 per month for some. $70 a month is $840 a year! Imagine what else you could buy with that $840.
It may feel unavoidable. What are you going to do, give up your cell phone? Of course not. But you’re far from stuck paying a small fortune for your phone.
The good news is that with a few simple steps, you can cut that bill significantly.
A lot of the time, we find ourselves overpaying for our cell phones, but it doesn’t need to be that way.
Below, you’ll see some handy tips on how to reduce your cell phone bill each month. You’ll also see a few simple scripts to negotiate your cell phone bill.
1. Use autopay
One of the easiest, low-effort ways to save a few dollars off your bill each month, is to sign up for automatic payments. If your monthly costs don’t vary and they are already factored into your budget, then there’s pretty much no reason not to sign up for autopay.
If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ll know that we’re big fans of automating your finances and this is a great example of that.
Autopay is a simple way to ensure that your cell phone bill is paid on time each month, without you even thinking about it. That plus the autopay discounts mean it’s an absolute no-brainer.
Verizon, for example, offers between $5 to $10 a month discounts for customers who sign up for Auto Pay and paperless billing. Plenty of other carriers offer similar discounts.
2. Rethink your cell phone insurance
Many cell phone plan providers offer insurance on top of your monthly payments, but the truth is a lot of this is just bloat.
They might throw in extended warranties and 24/7 tech support on top of basic insurance. But a lot of it isn’t totally necessary.
You’ve got two options here – look for alternatives or cancel your insurance. Obviously, the cheaper one is to just forgo insurance entirely. But it all depends on your appetite for risk. Canceling your insurance is always a bit risky, especially if you have a brand new phone.
If you’d rather keep some protection, you can find an alternative. Try looking for another third-party insurer to cover your phone rather than sticking with the one the cell phone carrier offers.
This means you’ll hand-pick the insurance you actually need rather than get left with all the unnecessary extras that bloat your monthly bill.
3. Use wi-fi wherever possible
An incredibly simple way to cut your cell phone plan is to get a cheaper data package. Of course, no one wants to be without the internet for more than five minutes, but you don’t always need to rely on data to satisfy your TikTok fix.
There’s free Wi-Fi now in more places than ever before. Whenever you visit coffee shops, bars, restaurants, public spaces, hotels, and so on, you can often access the Wi-Fi there for free. Friendly places often have a little sign-up displaying the password, but if not, don’t be afraid to ask.
If you’re out and about a lot and can get into this habit, you will greatly reduce the amount of data you need to buy each month.
4. Consider a family plan
If you’re looking to reduce your cell phone payments as a family, consider looking at family shared plans. Some providers will give you a discount if you all sign up together as a family. What this usually means is sharing data allowances between multiple cell phones.
It’s certainly not for everyone. But as long as everyone remembers to use Wi-Fi wherever possible, this will be less of a problem than you might think. It can’t hurt to try it out and see how you all get on.
5. Set a reminder to revisit your plan
When you go to buy a new cell phone, set a three-month check-in reminder to go back and check your usage. If you sign up for an unlimited everything plan, after three months, you can see whether you really need that plan based on your usage.
You should also know that, according to a survey by J.D. Power and Associates, “people who text message, e-mail, and download files on mobile phones spend $14 a month more than people who don’t.”
So, ask yourself, do you really need all that stuff? Could you try going a couple of months without it?
It pays to look at your actual usage and switch to a plan that better fits your needs. If you’re only using 150 text messages, you can probably downgrade to the “200 text messages/month” plan.
More often than not, you’ll find that you don’t need everything in your plan and can cut back to save money. In fact, you can do this with multiple usage-based services like streaming services, subscriptions, and apps.
As you get used to the new limit, add a calendar reminder to check in on the 15th of each month and make sure you’re not wildly over for the first few months.
6. Look out for discounts
Who doesn’t love a good discount?
Did you know that some cell phone companies offer discounts to certain people like students or service members? And yet, they don’t always advertise it…surprise surprise.
So if you’re a student, government employee, or a service member, you could be eligible for some discounts on your cell phone plan. You might have been with the same carrier for years and not even know you could get a discount unless you ask.
All you need to do is research your current provider or call them up to ask if you qualify for any discounts. You may need to verify your identity and status to receive the discount. But all it will take is a few minutes to find out. It can’t hurt to ask. You’ve got zero to lose.
7. Get a no-contract phone or switch to a prepaid plan
Contracts for cell phones can be a convenient way to pay for a new phone and your minutes/texts/data plan in one go. But, there are a few downsides to this. One is that you end up paying more than the phone is worth over the total contract. Another is that you’re then stuck in a contract and it’s harder to get out of it.
The solution: skip the contracts and get a prepaid plan/no-contract phone instead.
For your next phone, consider getting an older model or a refurbished phone and pay for the handset outright. Even paying for it on a 0% interest credit card is probably better than signing up for a carrier’s payment plan.
Then you can opt for a SIM-only, prepaid plan which is almost always cheaper.
If you want lower costs, more flexibility, and no contract bogging you down, switching to a prepaid carrier is a great move.
Prepaid services allow you to purchase the data and airtime you want one month at a time. If you don’t want to buy any one month, you’re free to skip it and renew it like normal a month later. This kind of flexibility is a great alternative to contracts where you pay the same each month for the same service.
Many of the big providers including T-Mobile, AT&T, Boost Mobile, and more offer prepaid plans that bundle minutes, texts, and data together in a lower-cost package.
8. Cut whatever you don’t need
A lot of people don’t look very closely at their cell phone bills so they often overpay for stuff they never use.
That’s why you should spend a few minutes digging out a bill that breaks these costs down. You might find that you’re paying for minutes you never use, unlimited data you don’t need, insurance, or other little add-ons.
There’s a good chance that you don’t use up your allowance every month. So do you really need that unlimited plan? Probably not. Instead, rethink your current plan and see if there’s a lower-priced one you can switch to.
Don’t get caught up in the “maybe I’ll need it next month” mentality. Go through a few months of your usage and compare it to what you’re paying for. Have you ever really needed more airtime?
9. Limit background data usage
Did you know that some apps on your phone run silently in the background, sucking up all your data? Most people aren’t aware that their data is slowly decreasing day by day thanks to these annoying little settings.
The good news is that you can usually turn this in your settings menu. You can switch the settings on things like email, automatic updates, or Spotify if you download music, to only use the internet if connected to Wi-Fi.
That means you can cut down your data usage significantly and downgrade your data plan to save some extra cash.
10. Resist the urge to upgrade
Everyone loves a shiny, brand-new phone in their pocket. But often, it’s completely unnecessary. Unless your cell phone has completely died or simply does not do what you need it to do, consider keeping hold of it a little while longer.
Yeah, it’s not as exciting, but it’s also a whole lot cheaper. Getting as much use out of your cell phone as possible can help you keep the costs down each month, and in the long run. Not chasing the latest upgrade can result in some serious savings.
11. Negotiate the price
Think you can’t negotiate your cell phone bill? Think again!
Cell phone companies are eager to keep you as a customer, and even have special retention teams to stop you from leaving.
Why? One simple reason. It costs them way more to acquire new customers than it does to keep customers.
So what do you do? Tell them you’re thinking of leaving.
The best way to do this is to do a bit of research to back you up first. Look at alternative providers and make a note of how much their plans cost, what you get for your money, and any other benefits.
Next, you need to call your current cell phone company.
Remember, be nice and polite but also firm. Ask them if they have any better plans to offer you. To make it easier, you can follow this script:
You: “Hi, I was looking at my plan and it’s getting pretty expensive. Could you tell me what other plans you have that would save me money?”
Them: Blah blah same plans as on the website blah blah
You: “What about any plans not listed on the website?”
Them: No, what we have is listed on the website. Plus, you’re on a contract and have an early cancellation fee of $XXX
You: “Well, I understand that, but I’d be saving $XXX even with that cancellation fee. Look, you know times are tough so I’m thinking of switching to [COMPETITOR COMPANY]. They offer a plan at $X per month and you get XYZ with them. Unless there are any other plans you have…? No? Ok, can you switch me to your cancellation department, please?”
After this, you’ll likely get transferred to their customer retention department. This is where they keep the secret deals to try and get you to stick around.
Talk to the customer retention department
Once you get transferred to this department, you just need to ask for the same thing. It’s a great point to whip out your competitive intel on other companies.
Tell them that X company is offering the same thing for $10 less a month and how much that’ll save you per year.
Try out this line:
You: “Listen, you know times are tough and I’m looking for a better deal to stick with you guys. I’d like to remain a customer, so what can you do to offer me this plan for less money?”
The great thing about this line is that it’s open-ended. You don’t want to ask a question that prompts a yes or no response like “can you give me a cheaper plan?” The answer will almost always be no.
What will really back you up here is if you’ve been a customer for years. They will value you more if you’re a long-standing customer rather than someone who jumps around providers every year. So, if that’s the case, use that on your phone call too.
They will generally offer you a better or cheaper plan and then you can benefit from saving a few dollars each month. If they don’t offer anything better, you know where to go next.
One final thing: People get scared that if they go to the cancellation department and try to negotiate, they’ll get their account canceled without really wanting to do that.
There are two things to remember about negotiating your wireless bill: (1) You have a MUCH stronger position if you’re actually willing to walk away and switch to another plan, and (2) your account will never get canceled until you say the final word.
You can negotiate for 3 hours and walk away if you want.
Use this technique on virtually any subscription you’re paying. Businesses want to keep customers and are willing to negotiate — but since most people don’t, they’re leaving money on the table.
12. Switch carriers
Sometimes you can try everything to get your cell phone plan down but nothing works. There’s only one thing for it, switching carriers.
As a loyal customer, you should be able to get a better deal if you follow the negotiation scripts above. But if that doesn’t work, there’s nothing wrong with picking another carrier with a lower phone bill.
All you have to do is cancel your current one and switch over. In some cases, there’s a cancellation fee to pay so you might have to do some calculations to check you’ll be saving money if you switch. If so, go for it!
Be more conscious with your cell phone plan
As you can see, there are so many opportunities to shave a few dollars off your cell phone bill. The first step is to become more conscious of the money you’re spending each month. And then assess whether you really need to be spending that much.
In most cases, unless you’re a super busy CEO taking phone calls all day, you probably don’t need unlimited airtime. With so much free Wi-Fi in the world, you may need less data than you think each month.
Your cell phone plan is just one of many pesky bills that you can cut down in a bid to save more money. Many of the tips above also work well with other expenses such as streaming subscriptions or even energy bills.
For better control over your money and ways to make it go further, check out the Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance. Simply put your email in the box below and grab the free resource.