Budgeting: Lowering your phone bill

Data Usage Costs

Data usage is the biggest expense for any phone bill. The more you become aware of what uses data; the more you can avoid using data. Android users can monitor data usage by going into Settings > [Under Wireless & Networks] Data usage. With an iPhone, you can go into your service providers app and monitor your over all data usage as you go.

As you browse day to day, think about what apps you are using and how you are using them. Scrolling through Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram that auto loads pictures and videos can eat through your data very quickly. The simple act of clicking a link to a YouTube video results in an almost immediate consumption of data. Streaming services download, or buffer, the video in order from start to finish, and the first several seconds of video are buffered first to ensure there is no delay or interruption once the viewer presses play, but every single byte of every video is consumed in the form of data.

Personally, I do not look at social media during the day and I am not a fan of watching videos on my phone. I found that deleting the social media apps had a domino effect on my phone usage. Not having those apps broke the need to look at my phone all the time and saved me money on my phone bill (and extended my battery life). The amount of time and focus that is gained from removing these social media apps is astonishing and the peace of mind gained is priceless. All things considered, these habits helped me lower my data usage significantly allowing me to save money. Would I rather spend $20 more a month to allow myself ‘time wasting video freedom’ or use it for dinner with my significant other?

If you are not ready to delete the apps then pick a time of day and only look at social media during those times. Toilet time? Eating lunch alone? Catching up on all of your friends posts for the day will not take very much time. It really doesn’t warrant your constant attention and is an addiction that will take time to break. Friends and family will appreciate hot having you checking your phone. Turning off your notifications can help to curb that itch.

Knowing how much data your browsing habits consume, is the start of understanding where you can cut your usage. When you look at the data usage of friends and family, a strong majority of their data is from video streaming services, followed by music, then social media.

  • 5 min of 720p HD YouTube video: 60 MB (0.06GB)
  • 3 min of music: 4.5 MB (0.0045 GB)
  • Picture: 2 MB (0.002GB)

Looking at the hard numbers, it becomes clear how quickly your data can be wasted with video alone. For heavy video users, it is not hard to see how 85% of your monthly 20 GB can be used. 30 mins a day for 30 days is 20 GB of data.

Prioritize getting a phone with large storage so you can download more things and avoid streaming. Do NOT get less than 64 GB of storage on your mobile device. The more you download the less you stream.

  1. Use Wifi when available
  2. Download YouTube/Netflix/Amazon videos on Wifi in the morning (Requires YouTube Red/Google Play Subscription)
  3. Download whole music play lists on your favorite music streaming service.
  4. Know which services your provider allows you to use apps without consuming data.

If you have low data usage (under 6GB per month) you can look into Google Fi. The service requires a Google phone right now (Nexus or Pixel). My data usage is around 0.3 GB a month and my bills range from $25-27 per month. $20 for unlimited talk/text plus $10 per GB of data usage. Any unused data get refunded allowing your phone bill to be as low as possible. When you reach over 6GB of usage ($80 Google Fi bill) other phone carriers data will be cheaper. There are many discount phone services that use big company cell towers to provide the same range of service at a much lower cost. Shop around and see what is available in your area that fits your needs.

Phone Handset Costs

Get a decent medium range phone that will last at least three years. You don’t need a new $1000 dollar phone; however, do not settle for the $200 dollar “I can only afford this today” phone. Get a refurbished version of last years hot phone and save yourself a couple hundred. The more you save on the phone, the easier it is to pay out right so you do not have to sign a contract. This will cut around $20 off your monthly bill and give you the freedom to jump from service provider to service provider as plans change and rates get cheaper.

Hopefully this knowledge can be used to lower your phone bill. Not everyone has wifi at work but the more you minimize your data usage, the lower your phone bill can be.

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