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How to save money on your phone

How to save money on your phone A phone is hard to do without - but it can be a big expense, too. Follow these tips to keep the cost down.

What do you need?

Go into a phone shop without planning ahead and you might walk out with the latest high-end phone (and a hefty bill) whether you need it or not. Think carefully about what you need from your phone, and compare different options online.

Make sure you read reviews and, if possible, try using the phone in person: just comparing the features the manufacturer lists can be misleading.

Buy outright or pay monthly?

Getting a contract that comes with a 'free' phone can be an appealing option - but of course, the phone isn't really free. You'll be paying for it with a higher monthly charge – and you'll normally end up paying more overall than it costs to buy the phone up-front. You'll also be limited by the selection of phones that the network offers on contract, so you might end up with a more expensive phone than you need. The main advantage of getting a phone through a contract is that you don't have to pay the full cost of the phone up-front. You will, however, often have to pay in monthly instalments. Think carefully about whether this is the right option for you before you buy.

Don't forget to check the cost of second-hand and refurbished phones: you may be able to get a better deal, and a second-hand phone that was expensive to buy new can sometimes be higher-quality than a brand new, lower-priced phone.

A phone you buy outright is also less likely to be locked to a specific network, giving you more flexibility to switch to a different provider if a better deal comes along.

Pay-as-you-go or contract?

There isn't as much difference as there used to be between the deals you can get on pay-as-you-go and on a contract. Many networks will let you pay for a bundle of calls, texts and data on a pay-as-you-go deal, and there are lots of 30-day rolling contract deals that mean you aren't locked in long-term like you would be on a conventional contract.

You might be able to get a better deal on a longer contract if you’re happy t to be tied to one network for one to two years. A contract might seem good value now, but it won’t necessarily beat deals in the future..

Choosing a package

Getting the right package is very important. Choose poorly, and you'll either pay more for going over your monthly allowance, or end up paying for calls, texts and data that you aren't even using. Before choosing a contract think about which features of a phone you use most. For example, if you hardly ever make phone calls but you send a lot of texts, you might want to choose a contract with a package that gives you far more texts than minutes.

If you travel a lot it’s worth finding out about the ‘roaming’ rates charged by your network, and whether any international minutes and texts are included in your package.  You should also ask about ‘international’ rates if you plan on using your phone to call or text friends and family abroad.

Most importantly, research how good network coverage is in the area you’ll use your phone most.  Some networks offer much better signal in particular regions than others. It’s worth noting that different companies may use the same network – for instance, Tesco Mobile and giffgaff both use the O2 network – but charge different rates for the same reception.

If you're on a contract, it's normally easier to ‘upgrade’ a more expensive tariff than ‘downgrade’ to a cheaper one. Ask a package provider if either option is possible before signing a contract.  If it is and you’re not sure which tariff to go for, pick the cheaper option. You might find that you use your phone less than you’d anticipated, and by keeping a close eye on your usage you’ll be able to know whether to ‘upgrade’ or ‘downgrade’ your package  in future months.

Last but not least, always make sure that you compare deals across different providers. Some providers may offer cheaper deals than others, give you a different amount of  calls, texts and data, or offer a rewarding loyalty scheme. It’s always worth shopping around. If after shopping around you decide you want to stay with your network provider, try haggling for a better deal when your contract’s up for renewal. If your family or friends are on a particular network, it’s also worth exploring if communication between you all will be cheaper if you join that network. For instance, some networks will let you call or text other numbers on that network for free.

Keeping your bill down

Once you've found the best deal for you, there's more you can do to keep your costs down:

  • Keep an eye on your usage: you can end up spending a lot of money if you run out of minutes, texts or data, and are charged for going over your allowance. This is especially important for mobile internet, since it can be hard to tell how much data an app is using unless you monitor it. . Most providers will let you set up data usage alerts and check how much data is being used by each app running. Ask your provider about the best way to keep track of your allowance to avoid being charged for exceeding it.
  • Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts, can help you to avoid going over your monthly calls and texts allowance. However, making voice or video calls using mobile internet can use up a lot of your phone data, so only use these apps when you’re using WiFi or you’re sure  you won’t need that data later on..
  • If you need to call a business, check that the number is included in your calls allowance: some numbers, such as 0845 numbers, might not be. Services like SayNoTo0870 can help you to find cheaper ways to call the same number. .

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