Close to half of all Americans enjoy the benefits of a smartphone, but many fail to consider the increased costs to maintain it. While a traditional cell phone could cost as little as $20 per month, a family of four nowadays can easily pay close to $200 per month for data alone.
1. Save on the hardware. The best things in life are free, and the same goes for smartphones—if you know where to look. Check out websites like FatWallet or DealCatcher, which post coupons and discounts on devices and services. But be patient: You may have to comb through a lot of deals before you find the right one.
2. Save on the plan. Ask yourself if you really need that unlimited data plan. The average smartphone holder uses only 256MB of data per month, but many end up paying for plans of 10GB or larger. Whether or not you're part of a shared plan, review your usage to get a general picture of your monthly data consumption and make adjustments to your plan accordingly. As with any purchase, don’t pay for something you won't use.
3. Be prudent with apps. Individual apps are generally inexpensive, but they can add up in a hurry, especially if your child has access to a smartphone. Many game apps for kids are free to download but loaded with "in-game apps" that require payment for upgrades. Exercise some restraint and either block your kids from purchasing or make sure they know not to download anything that costs money without your permission.
4. Reduce data-using behaviors. Checking your email or Facebook account 30 times a day is convenient and entertaining, but is it worth the price? For some people email can usually wait until they get home to be checked on their WiFi, and it's unlikely a person’s Facebook friends are going to mind waiting a few hours for that status update. Some carriers charge as much as $15 for each GB you run over, so be as sparing with your usage as possible.
5. Rethink the insurance. Generally, the cost to replace a lost or stolen device is higher than the cumulative cost of maintaining an insurance plan. Do the research; you may find it makes more financial sense to go without an insurance plan. If so, be sure to buy a good protective case and handle your smartphone carefully – that's probably the best insurance plan you can have (and it’s free).
Final thoughts. Whether you have student loan debt, credit card bills, or you're saving for your child's college education, every dollar counts. Cut down on the costs of smartphone ownership and put those savings to a good cause.
What ways can you think of to save on a smartphone?
David Bakke is a writer for the popular personal finance blog, MoneyCrashers.com. He frequently delves into various money-saving topics including smart shopping, the cost of technology, and whether or not cell phone insurance is worth the money.