Of the various household bills that most of us pay monthly, the phone bill can be one of the trickiest, with no obvious way to cut costs. Due to the popular features, people have come to rely on, such as caller ID, direct-dial long-distance, voicemail, and others, when it comes time to eliminate the extras, it can be difficult to do so without greatly inconveniencing yourself. However, there are a few tips and tricks to reduce your bill, whether it is for a home line or cellular.
For a home line, there will always be a base price that everyone needs to pay. If you are looking at major cost-cutting measures, you may even want to change to another provider, keeping in mind that you may be subject to start-up or other fees. Eliminating extras is usually the best way to go:
Caller ID – Check with your provider about “package” features, if they have any – you may be able to choose two or three for a set price, or receive caller ID free with your voicemail subscription, etc. If you cannot reduce the cost in any way when it comes down to it, is it really necessary to have caller ID? (Particularly if you have voicemail or an answering machine!) Do you ever feel the need to screen your calls? How much are you being charged monthly? You must weigh the benefits against the cost.
Voicemail – Again, this may be cheaper if in combination with other features. Better yet, purchase an answering machine, which serves the exact same purpose with no monthly cost.
Long distance – Domestic long distance within the States is becoming cheaper and cheaper, and there is no longer any need to pay high per-minute prices or even wait until after a certain time each day. There are many long distance providers who want your business – don’t feel confined to your current provider just because they give you local service! Look into “dial-around” long distance and calling cards for international calls, and find yourself some cheap per-minute long distance service that doesn’t charge a monthly fee.
Other Features – Conference calling, last-number-called, dial-up Internet and other aspects may also raise your bill. Unfortunately, the only way to control costs on the one-time-use feature is simply to not use them. Dial-up Internet can be reduced by shopping around; you may be able to “bundle” it for a cheaper price with your phone or cable, or even obtain faster and more efficient service for the same price. If you have a second line for your dialup, a change to a cheap cable Internet service is definitely the way to go.
Alternately, you may want to consider switching to “voice over IP,” also known as VoIP – placing calls through your Internet connection. This can save you a lot of money on long-distance, but it is best to carefully consider such a service change before making it. Check locally to find out if VoIP is available in your area, and weigh the costs against what you are currently paying.
Reducing the cost of a cell phone is a less-difficult but daunting task, due to the many pay-per-use services. In the case of a cell phone, it may be more optimal to ADD services rather than subtract. For example, if you use the Internet browser on your cell or send many text messages, the addition of a browser or text package is a great way to limit your monthly usage of these features while controlling the cost.
Similarly, long-distance, roaming, data services, picture/video messaging and the basic caller ID/voicemail services can often be bought in combination with one another. Choose the ones that are most important to you – such as discarding either call display or voicemail, if you have both – and sort the others so you are consciously setting usage limits each month. For example,
if you send 250 pay-per-use text messages per month, you may want to add a 200-message package, to control your sending as well as reduce the base cost of each message. Long-distance will always be pricey on cellular networks, especially for international calls, so if you have a need for it, add a package or switch to your home phone.
Over usage and roaming are the most expensive aspects for a cell phone. Keep an eye on your minute usage and upgrade your price plans if need be, keeping an eye out for deals. Often, promotional price plans will surface around the holidays and in the first quarter of the year, so if you can find one that more than suits your needs for a lower price, do not delay in switching over. Roaming charges are also high, so contact your provider for the per-minute rate if you are planning to travel anytime soon.
Phone services are expensive enough without unnecessary charges piling up! Fortunately, your monthly cost almost certainly can be lowered by keeping your eyes open for deals and by carefully watching your invoices. By being well-educated on your costs and charges, you can have a predictable, low-to-moderate bill every month.