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In these lean times, it helps to save a penny or two, never more so than on a cell phone plan. With the popularity of smartphones reaching an all-time high, the prices of plans are also going up and up, as the companies recognize a cash-cow when they see one.
So we need to find some ways to trim the fat, and make our bills look a bit more attractive. And who better to advise you than a tight-fisted Scotsman allergic to spending money?
Call Them Up & Ask For a Better Deal
So here’s the first strategy. Call up your cell phone company and ask them outright for a better deal. I often find that begging helps, and if that doesn’t work, getting mean is a good second option. At first they are going to refuse your request for a discount, which is where you say one of the two following statements (or both, if necessary) :
- I have been a loyal customer of yours for a very long time so I would like to see how grateful you are.
- Well then, I guess I will have to start shopping around your competitors for a better offer.
Once you bring up number two, there is a good possibility that they may throw you a bone to stay. But if not, it’s time to move onto the second option.
Be Prepared To Change Providers & Look For Better Deals
I know, it’s a hassle, and in all likelihood, you will lose your phone number as it was issued by the company you have vowed to leave. Plus, if you have your number on business cards, flyers, the side of your van, etc, then having to get all that redone would be enough to make a tight-fisted Scotsman weep.
But if your current company really is shafting you with your trousers on, it may be a good option to shop around. There are lots of cell phone companies these days, each vying for your custom by offering all kinds of bribes and incentives to cross to the Dark Side. One company offered me 50 Euros for every person I persuaded to sign up for a plan. Now that’s what I call temptation.
Assuming you either failed to get a better deal or you need to stay with the current company (say due to the number issue), let’s start looking at some wallet-friendly options to get that bill down.
Use Skype For All Calls (Especially International Calls)
Skype. The name that has become a standard curse word for all cell phone executives everywhere. It was Skype that forced the cell phone companies to lower their pricing, as everyone was hopping on the VOIP client to get extremely cheap or free calls. And who could blame them? One cent to call the other side of the world!
Download Skype on your phone, and encourage your callers with Skype ID’s to call you through the app. For those without a Skype ID, it would be a good investment to pay the $50 a year for a Skype number. This would be especially good if you have friends and family in another country, as you can get a Skype number in many countries around the world. When someone in that country calls you, you and they only pay the local rate, regardless of where you are in the world.
Try and Get Your Family & Friends On The Same Network For Free Calls
Did you know that you can quite often phone people for free, if they are on the same network as you? Your small print may vary, but there’s a good chance your company does this.
For example, I am with O2, and when I found out that I could make free calls to any other number on the O2 network, I got everybody switched over so fast their heads were spinning. I thought I was clever getting unlimited free calls, but now my wife has realized she can nag me all day while she is at work. Major fail.
Consider Using a Pre-Paid Phone, Instead Of a Contract-Based One
This likely won’t work if you are after a smartphone, as I haven’t heard of a single company that offers pre-paid smartphones. In my expensive experience, smartphones come with a contract handcuffed to it.
But if you don’t want or need a smartphone, then avoid contracts like the plague and get onto a pre-paid plan. True, it’s annoying that you constantly have to watch you don’t run out of credit, but think of all the money you would save not being tied down and whipped senseless by a smartphone contract? Looking at it that way, I would check my credit every hour on the hour.
Use Wi-Fi, Not Cell Phone Company’s Network Internet
The phone company is going to charge you extra for your data plan. That’s a given. My company cheekily put my data plan to 4GB and started charging me 15 Euros a month ($16.40). When I got angry and told them to put it down to 2GB, suddenly my data plan bill went down to 8 Euros a month ($8.75).
The point being, the phone company’s prices for their Internet connection are not cheap, and some enterprising employees (such as the one who raised my plan, and was given a third nostril) are going to try it on with you. So constantly make sure your data plan hasn’t changed, and if it has (and it’s O2 Germany), tell them the third nostril ripper sent you.
Always use Wi-Fi whenever you can. There are many places where you can find free Wi-Fi (or use your own Wi-Fi router in your home). Grab an over-priced coffee from Starbucks and use their free Wi-Fi. Just be mindful of the risks of using public Wi-Fi.
Install an Internet Browser Which Doesn’t Chew Up Your Bandwidth
Your data plan is always going to have limits (even if it claims not to). So you need to find ways to stay within your data plan allocation for the whole month.
The best way I’ve found is simply to use a browser, which reduces the amount of data downloaded, when you visit a webpage. The two browsers which I know of, that does this, are Google Chrome, and Opera.
Simply visit your phone’s settings to switch it on. It will take a while for it to really get going, but over time you will start to see some pretty big savings.
Use WhatsApp, Skype, iMessage, or Facebook Messenger, Instead Of Regular SMS
When everybody started using Skype for calls, the phone companies turned to SMS as their financial saviour. But then some upstarts came along to rain on that parade.
If you have a data plan, you should not be using normal SMS via your phone company. Why pay for texting when you can send messages through your data plan? Some may argue that it isn’t really SMS, more like instant messaging. But it doesn’t really matter what you call it. You send a message, the other person gets it, they send a reply back. Sounds enough like SMS to me.
The one I can’t recommend highly enough is WhatsApp. It is absolutely brilliant and I do 98% of my messaging through the app. The remaining 2% is split between Skype, iMessage (only for Mac and iOS users), and Facebook Messenger. All great and solid apps. But WhatsApp is the King for me.
Don’t Accept Needless Extras Such as Voicemail & Roadside Assistance
When I owned a cell phone back in the UK 15 years ago, I had free voicemail, and it was great. So when I moved here to Germany, I was shocked when I was asked to pay for voicemail. I promptly had it switched off (after I recovered from the heart attack). I also had a wide range of other features switched off, which I didn’t need, but they tried to push on me. A “special number” to call Roadside Assistance? Er no, we’ll use the normal members number, if we have to.
Look at your bill and see what pork is being added to your balance. Then get rid of it. Remember, you are strong, you are the consumer warrior. If all else fails, crying always helps.
Say No To Buying Insurance
When I was reading an article somewhere, a sentence jumped out at me. It simply stated:
“If you feel you need insurance for your phone, then it means you don’t have the money to replace the phone if anything should go wrong with it. Therefore you are living outside your means, which means you shouldn’t buy it”.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
So, My Fearless Price Gougers, How Did You Do?
After writing this whole article, I am now expecting you to go out there, declare war on the cell phone companies, and demand you get a fair deal. Tell me how you got on in the comments below.