Looking to save money? Trim the cellphone bill

Woman using her cell phone

These days, the cellphone bill is just as important as paying for water, heat, electricity and the cost of living. It may seem trivial to group a phone in with those important expenses, but it makes sense, given how smartphones have become a staple of everyday life, whether you're a professional, a parent or enjoying retirement.

Firstly, smartphones help individuals communicate through talk or messaging. That's one part of the expense. The remaining features, such as meeting reminders or digital newspapers, can help everyone stay connected and have a wealth of information just a few taps away.

But it's accessing that information that often gets people in trouble. In order to use your phone, you need a plan with a carrier, and because customers have been moving away minutes and text messaging, carriers focus on providing data, which is arguably most important.

Data is limited and currently one of the most expensive parts of a monthly plan from any of the major carriers. Depending on your usage, you may find yourself wasting money on a monthly basis. The money you save on your cellphone bill can instead be reinvested in an emergency savings account.

Here are a few ways to cut your bill if you're struggling for ways to do so:

Compare and contrast
In the U.S., there are four major carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. A majority of the population has a plan with the big two - AT&T and Verizon. The other two are smaller and still offer good service, but they're also cheaper.

This has created competition within the market and each carrier has a variety of options you should explore, Time Money recommended [1]. Even better, two-year contracts are a thing of the past and most customers are on a month-to-month deal. You won't have to pay a large amount of money for breaking a contract.

Take advantage of this and compare plans to find the best deal. There will be some trade-offs, such as total coverage area, so you'll want to carefully research everything. For example, you may find it difficult to get a signal when you're traveling through a rural area.

Change your usage
Currently, most smartphone owners probably find most of their usage is a result of data exhaustion. All text messaging is free, and voice calls are few and far in between for many. But just because you find yourself always browsing social media or checking your email doesn't mean you need to be paying large sums for data.

Instead, consider changing your browsing habits, Bankrate advised [2]. Each carrier allows you to monitor your data usage. If you find that, on average, you only use two gigabytes of data every month, there's no reason you should be paying for an unlimited plan.

Try to ensure that whenever you're on your device, you're connected to wireless Internet. This also includes downloading music onto your device for offline playback so you aren't streaming and consuming data.

"Lowering your bill can net you hundreds of dollars in savings."

Go prepaid
Carriers also offer prepaid plans that give you a defined number of minutes and data. Some are as cheap as $30 a month, depending on the size of the plan. These can be a viable alternative if you want to spend less, but still want the service of a large national carrier.

Smartphones are here to stay, and for many, they are an irreplaceable part of life. To lower your bill, shop around, compare plans and examine your data-usage habits. You may find that you are actually paying more money for a plan than you actually need.

[1]. 4 Cellphone Hacks That Can Save You Major Money

[2]. 5 simple ways to save with a cheaper smartphone plan

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