One thing many of us can’t live without is our mobile phone. Whether you’re in business or just a social user, with the invention of smartphones, it seems everyone is constantly texting, talking, or checking their social network updates. But the ability to keep in touch wherever you are comes at a price – sometimes quite a hefty one. This article looks at how to reign in that mobile bill and reduce any unnecessary spending.
First things first, it is important to find out if you’re making the most of your existing package. It is claimed a large proportion of mobile users aren’t taking full advantage of their free call, text and data allocation. In many cases, they would be more suited to a cheaper deal.
Pay as you go
One method to reduce mobile costs is to get a “pay as you go” deal. Usually, you can purchase these either as a combined handset and SIM package, or opt for a “SIM only” deal and put the SIM into an existing phone. The advantage is there are no contracts to sign, so you have complete freedom to change package whenever you like. Additionally, since credit is paid for upfront, the amount of usage is restricted and you’ll never go over budget. However, a major disadvantage of PAYG is the lack of choice in terms of handsets and deals. Contracted phones also let you continue making calls after your “free” minutes are used up, and this could prove very useful in an emergency. Likewise, if you take advantage of the free minutes and texts associated with contracted deals, it may prove more cost effective (especially for power users) in the long run. Having said that, for occasional users, PAYG is often the best option to take.
SIM only deals
If you have been signed to an 18-month or even 24-month contract deal, or you’ve decided PAYG offers are too restrictive, a SIM only deal may be a good compromise. They are usually run on 1-month or 12-month contracts, depending on the network, and offer goodies such as free call minutes, texts and data allowances. They differ from standard contract deals since you only pay for the privilege of using the SIM, and you needn’t purchase a handset. Although you may decide to purchase a new phone independently of the deal, this is not necessary. Many people use an existing mobile phone to save money. The end result is monthly payments are significantly reduced.
Take advantage of bundles
Mobile providers often tempt customers with a variety of bundles and deals, either when adding new credit (in the case of PAYG), or as part of a monthly contract deal, including free SMS, Internet data, and so on. It is important to take advantage of these wherever possible. As mentioned previously, if you’re not currently using the majority of your freebies, you may be on the wrong package. Therefore, ensure you’re making the most of allowances and if you’re not, negotiate a new deal with your provider, or look into switching networks.
Opt for a cheaper handset
Do you really need that brand new smartphone? Are you sure? They can be quite expensive once insurance and other extras are added. It may be time to consider if you’re going to use all the gadgets available on such devices. If you just need to call and text (and maybe use the Web now and then), far cheaper alternatives are available. It is possible to pick up a fairly cheap Android-driven smartphone for under £100 and it will provide all the apps and functionality you need. Of course, if your needs are even more basic, most major supermarkets and mobile outlets provide budget handsets that are perfect for texting and calling. Remember: the latest handsets don’t stay new for long. There’s always something new in the pipeline, and if you wait it out, you could pick up a great deal on last year’s must-have device!
Most mobile deals will allocate a certain amount of data transfer free of charge, but excessive usage can result in hefty charges. We recommend you get familiar with how much data you’re using and keep a close eye on the transfer. For casual Facebook/Twitter use and some e-mail, 500MB/month data transfer is usually more than adequate. But for users who like to watch videos and streaming media, costs can quickly rack up. The same applies to sending picture messages as well – some networks charge for this, usually per picture. To prevent unnecessary charges, try to use wireless access points when possible (as opposed to your 3G or 4G data). Data monitoring applications can be a useful tool, so try downloading a few. If you do get stung, switching off data altogether is a good idea. It’s also worthwhile to be careful when travelling abroad since roaming charges often apply.
Some networks provide a ‘magic number’ service to customers, which means you can call a nominated number either at a discounted rate, or free of charge for a certain length of time. Often available on contract deals, and some PAYG ones as well, they can be ideal if you tend to call one or two people on a regular basis. It is certainly worth checking to see if your network offers this or any other similar service.
Barter for a lower deal
This is often possible towards the end of an existing contract, where the network will likely get in touch to try and secure a contract extension. Most networks have a Retentions department that dish out discounts to keep customers on board. If you think your network isn’t treating you with the respect you deserve, it’s time to let them know and get a better deal. If you’re still not happy, moving networks is one possibility, but this is not automatically the best option. Often negotiating a deal with your current provider can result in greater rewards. As always, it is best to research pricing and packages across the board to ensure value for money.