How to talk and text for less

Suffocating In Your Pricey Cell Phone Contract?

by Megan Nye


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Are you suffering under the weight of your cell phone bill? According to data collected by the Pew Research Center, 95% of U.S. adults own a cell phone. At the same time, Aaron Smith, Associate Director of Research at Pew, has some sobering news. Smith reports that "nearly half (48%) of smartphone-dependent Americans have had to cancel or shut off their cell phone service for a period of time, because the cost of maintaining that service was a financial hardship."

However, if you think there's nothing you can do about that painfully large chunk of change each month, think again.

Tap Into Your Other Devices

What's better than costly cell phone fees? Free communication. Stop racking up pricey minutes and data costs on your cell and flip on your computer or tablet.

Want to call for free? Sign up for a phone number through Google Voice and make no-cost calls from the U.S. and Canada to anyone in the U.S. directly through your computer. (Plug in an inexpensive headset if you don't relish the idea of shouting into your monitor.) You can also forward Google Voice calls directly to the land line or mobile phone of your choice.

Give Skype a good look too. Download the application to your device and enjoy free talking or video messaging through Skype-to-Skype communication. If you want to use your Skype connection to ring someone's phone, you'll pay a low per-minute rate.

Looking to send a text message or picture message to a friend's phone without incurring cell fees? It's easy. All you need is an email account, your buddy's number, and the name of his service provider. If, for instance, your pal uses AT&T for service, send a text message to his 10-digit number @txt.att.net. If you want to relay a photo or video, send that message to his 10-digit number @mms.att.net.

Pay As You Go

If you crave for freedom from a contract or you're tired of paying for minutes you never use, consider prepaid (or pay-as-you-go) phone service.

Every major carrier has at least a few of these flavors of plans available, and they're often highly customizable. T-Mobile, for example, offers monthly, weekly, and daily no-contract plans and even a $3/month plan for people who almost never pull out their phones. Verizon meanwhile throws in all the bells and whistles by marketing a $30/month, no-contract plan with unlimited talk, text, and data.

Look beyond just the big-name cell service providers to find more great pay-as-you-go options. PC Mag recently bestowed its Readers' Choice award for mobile carriers on Consumer Cellular and Republic Wireless, both of which focus on no-contract, prepaid monthly plans. (Consumer Cellular uses AT&T's network while Republic uses Sprint's, so you're getting great network coverage with both of these choices.)

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Bundle Up

Whether your family swears by contract plans or loves the freedom of prepaid service, you're sure to find package deals and bundles that promise big savings.

Sprint advertises family contract plans that let you share data. Customers choose the data limits that work for them, anywhere from 6 GB to 40 GB. TMobile sells its own four-person plan that boasts unlimited talk, text, and data usage for $160 (fees included).

If you opt for an AT&T pay-as-you-go plan that doesn't include unlimited messaging or data, you can prepay for those features at a discount instead of paying per message or per kilobyte later. For instance, choose to add 200 messages to your plan for $4.99/month instead of paying $0.20 for each text you shoot off and $0.25 for each media message you send.

Verizon's contract plans offer similar savings by letting you pick unlimited messaging, a set messaging allowance, or a pay-per-message billing style. It's up to you.

In today's cellular world, there's an option for everyone's style of phone usage and everyone's budget. Combine resources with your spouse and kids to cash in on a family plan. Go rogue and enjoy the savings of a prepaid cell. Tap into the extensive calling, texting, and video messaging applications that let you keep in touch with friends for free. Give your current calling plan a close look and see how you can customize the perfect, wallet-friendly service for you.


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