Talking tech since 2003

If you own a smartphone, you’re now in the majority as 81% of American adults own one (out of the 96% of Americans who own a cellphone of any kind), according to the Pew Research Center. However, with new models continually entering the marketplace and a non-stop barrage of TV and online advertising urging you to get the latest and greatest device, it can be all too easy to let your smartphone costs get out of control.

By taking a step back and surveying the market, you can find that there are plenty of ways to save more cash on your mobile device. If you want to reduce the cost of your smartphone and data plan, read on for six helpful tips.

6 ways to reduce your cell phone and data costs

1. Buy an older model phone

Even if your carrier offers an annual upgrade program, forego the urge to get the newest device and opt instead for a model a few generations back. Depending on the model you buy, you can save several hundred dollars. Here are a couple of examples:

The Samsung Galaxy Fold can cost as much as $1,980. The Galaxy S10e, however, costs about $450—that’s nearly an 80% difference. iPhones are the same way. An iPhone XR with a 6.1-inch screen costs as low as $599; the iPhone 11 Pro Max costs as much as $1,449. Additionally, the newest iPhone SE (without a trade-in) starts at $399. Sure, the prices vary based on storage capacity and other bells and whistles, but the point remains—buying older models is a great way to save money. Not only that, most older models are more than capable of performing every function you need. Forget about the Joneses and keep up with those monthly bills instead.

2. Take advantage of trade-in programs

Finding a smartphone for free is difficult, and you should be wary of any website that offers one, but you can certainly take advantage of trade-in programs to find what you need at a discount. For instance, if you have an older iPhone, you can trade it in for an iPhone SE for as little as $229. Samsung offers as much as $250 or more off for trading-in an old phone. Best Buy, the electronics retail giant, also offers trade-ins, though the trade-in value depends on the specific product. Websites like Gazelle offer to buy and sell unlocked phones.

In today’s market, there’s no shortage of places you can go to find an excellent trade-in deal.

3. Save on apps

Nothing is really free, and that also applies to apps. Sure, you can download a free version, but you will likely be asked to make in-app purchases—making that “free” app suddenly very pricey. Always look for free versions first and keep close watch over what you and your kids spend (Set restrictions if you have to. An example of an effective way to avoid your kids making unwanted purchases on free apps is to set up Face ID for in-app purchases on the iPhone). Then, look for gift cards to the app store. For instance, Best Buy, Office Depot and Office Max, Amazon, and the like offer gift cards. And don’t be too quick to jump when you see a 10% discount. Wait until you see a more substantial offer, such as a $50 gift card on sale for $40, before you pull the trigger.

4. Reconsider the insurance

There are certain situations in which insurance or an extended warranty make sense, but not necessarily for your smartphone. If you tend to be clumsy with your devices, a child has access to them, or if you simply want peace of mind, smartphone insurance is a good idea. I know I have dropped, broken, and cracked many a smartphone. No matter how much older I get my inner klutz will never die, so I usually opt for insurance as long as it is fairly priced.

In most other instances, it may not make financial sense. Weigh the cost of your premium against the likelihood of having to make a claim and the expense of replacing the device. When it comes to insurance, it always pays to do some evaluation before signing on the dotted line.

5. Protect your device

There are many ways to protect your smartphone. First, invest in a high-quality protective cover like an Otterbox—look on Amazon for the most extensive selection. Then, look into ways to protect your software. For example, create a password that’s hard to decipher and activate the remote swipe or fingerprint feature found on most devices. That way, if you lose your smartphone, or if it gets stolen, your personal information will be protected.

6. Choose the right data plan

If you currently own a smartphone, look at your data usage over the past three months and tailor the plan to fit your needs. Taking a three-month approach provides a clear look at average usage, especially if you use your device as a personal hotspot, watch videos, or play games using data.

If you need help estimating your usage, go to the website of your preferred carrier, where you can likely find a usage calculator. Input your data estimates and choose a plan based on those results. After a few months, see if you can drop down to a plan that costs less.

Final thoughts

Consumers spend an average of $80 per month on smartphone bills, according to data published in a Fox Business report. The same report notes it costs about $12,600 to own a smartphone over 10 years when you consider variables like phone upgrade and data. It’s no wonder customers want to cut costs.

The good news is that there are several easy ways to save, including those discussed above. Taking these steps will lead you down the road to smartphone savings. Lastly, if you are a veteran and are looking to save money on your cell phone plan the people at Money Saving Pro have some great advice for specific military savings.

What other ways do you know of to save on choosing and owning a smartphone?

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