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5 clever ways to immediately lower your cellphone bill

5 clever ways to immediately lower your cellphone bill
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I'm sure that you've noticed how expensive it is to purchase a new smartphone these days. Especially if you're looking to get the latest and greatest models.

If you've been paying attention, you know that to get your hands on Apple's iPhone X with 256GB it will run you $1,149. Yikes!

Samsung's Galaxy S9+ isn't much cheaper. For the 256GB model, you'll have to shell out nearly $950. (Psst! Read this article all the way to the end and I'll tell you how to win one of these super gadgets for free.)

As you know, most mobile providers have stopped offering free or highly-discounted phones when your contract is up every couple years. Instead, they allow you to distribute payments for your new gadget over a period of time, typically 24 or 30 months.

Gadget payments are then added to your monthly service bill, which means you can expect a pretty hefty bill each month. Think about how expensive it would be if you have a family of four and everyone has a device payment on top of the monthly service bill. Yikes!

That's why you need to know these five useful ways to lower your cellphone bill.

1. Check out the secret carriers

I'm talking about a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). These are wireless communication service providers that do not own the wireless network infrastructure over which it provides service to its customers.

MVNO companies operate "virtually" on another carrier's network. That means they lease cell coverage and data bandwidth from the big four carriers - AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon - and resell it to their customers.

Many MVNO companies offer cheaper plans than what you will find with the big four providers. Here are a few of the most popular options:

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile customers are actually using Sprint's nationwide 4G LTE network and has just one plan to choose from. It has no annual contract, and no hidden fees.

The "Innercircle" plan by Virgin Mobile costs $50 per month for one line and comes with unlimited talk, text and 4G LTE data. You can add mobile hotspot for $10 per month, phone insurance for $7 per month, and international calling for $5 per month.

StraightTalk Wireless

StraightTalk Wireless uses all of the big four providers' networks. It has several plans to choose from.

With one line, it's $35 per month and you get unlimited talk, text, and 2GB of data. If you want to bump your data up to 10GB, that plan costs $45 per month. Its unlimited data plan will run you $55 per month.

Boost Mobile

Boost Mobile uses Sprint's network and has 99 percent nationwide coverage with voice roaming. There are a few plans to choose from.

If you have one line, it costs $35 per month for unlimited talk and text and comes with 3GB of data. For $50 per month, your data is unlimited and comes with 8 Gigs of hotspot. And if you want to stream HD video up to 1080p it costs $60 per month, which comes with unlimited talk, text and data plus 20 Gigs of hotspot.

2. Use Wi-Fi whenever you can

Mobile providers sometimes offer unlimited data plans. However, many people choose to sign up for less expensive plans that have capped data amounts each month.

If you're on a capped data plan, you really need to be careful to not go over your limit. That's because your provider will charge you extra for the extra data. This could end up being a hefty fee depending on the amount of data used.

Even if you're on an unlimited data plan, if you use a certain amount in a given month, your provider might slow down your connection. No one likes surfing online with snail-like speeds.

Here's the solution: Make sure to connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible. Especially when you're at home and work, the places you trust most. When connected to Wi-Fi, you won't be using that precious data and you'll be able to keep your monthly bill to a minimum.

Note: If you're ever connecting to public Wi-Fi, make sure to use a VPN to protect your sensitive information. Click here to learn about and download the VPN we recommend, FREEDOME, from our sponsor F-Secure.

3. Make sure you are not paying for insurance and any extras

One way to cut back on your cellphone bill is to not add insurance on your gadget. Think about how much you're actually paying for it over the course of a year.

A $12-per-month insurance plan would cost $144 for the year. If you have a family of four and insurance on each device, that would add up to $575 for the year.

Now think about the phone you've purchased. Was it so expensive that you wouldn't be able to replace it without insurance? If so, you've probably gone over your budget and spent too much on the gadget.

It's always a good idea to live within our means. That way we can save money up front by purchasing a reasonably priced phone and can save even more money by not having to pay for insurance. It's a win-win.

Don't feel like you're missing out on a quality phone just because you didn't go with the thousand-dollar high-end device. There are actually some lower-priced gadgets out there that have all the important features you'll need, you just have to look for them.

Also, scan your next cellphone bill to see everything that you're paying for. You might be surprised by what you find. Anything that you don't need, like enhanced voicemail or roadside assistance, should be canceled.

Those savings will add up over the course of a year.

4. Set up data overage alerts

If you don't have an unlimited data plan and go over the allowed amount, you're going to have to pay overage fees. This can add up really quickly.

One way to avoid overages, on top of our Wi-Fi suggestion we spoke of earlier, is to set up an overage alert with your provider. All the major providers have an overage alert feature that is really simple to set up. You just need to log into your account and search for overage alerts to find out how to set it up with your particular carrier.

If you don't have unlimited talk and text plans, you can set up alerts for those also. Once you've set up the alert, you will receive automatic text and email alerts from your provider when you hit 75 percent of your monthly allowances for voice, messaging or data.

5. Go to a prepaid plan and check for discounts

Prepaid and no-contract providers often get great reception and many people like their flexible service. You can avoid credit checks and hefty fees, and you can switch off the service whenever you want. Companies like metroPCS and Cricket Wireless have reasonably priced monthly plans that won't break the bank.

For example, metroPCS offers a no-annual-contract plan for $30 per month that gives you unlimited talk and text and 2GB of data at up to 4G LTE speeds. If you need more data, you can pay $40 per month for unlimited talk and text and 5GB of data.

Its unlimited data plan costs $50 per month, and for unlimited data plus 10GB of hotspot, it will run you $60 per month. All of these plan prices include taxes and regulatory fees, so you won't pay more than what the plan calls for up front.

Cricket Wireless plans are similarly priced. It costs $30 per month for unlimited talk and text with 2GB of high-speed data. For 5GB of data, the monthly plan costs $40 and for unlimited talk, text and data it costs $55 per month ($50 per month if you sign up for auto pay).

If you decide to go with a no-contract provider, make sure to ask about discounts. Most of them offer multi-line discounts, so you would pay even less if you add your entire family to your plan.

Bonus: Have you heard of Google's Project Fi?

Google's Project Fi is a great way to save on your monthly cellphone bill. It has a Bill Protection feature built in to every Project Fi plan that lets you pay for unlimited data when you need it without having to pay for it when you don't.

How it works is, you pay $20 per month for unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texts, Wi-Fi tethering to use your phone as a hotspot, and access to cellular coverage in over 170 countries. You can also add up to five more people to your plan for an additional $15 per month, per person.

Data costs $10 per GB you've used until Bill Protection kicks in for your plan. After that, your data is free for the rest of the billing cycle. For example, a one-person plan has a maximum data cost of $60 for 6GB. A two-person plan has a maximum data cost of $100, three-people plans have a max data cost of $120, four-people plans have a max data cost of $160 and so on.

So if you're an individual, that means in the months when you need 8GB of data, you'll automatically get unlimited data for $60. But in months when you only need 2GB of data, you'll only pay for the 2GB that you've actually used. So your data cost would be $20, making your total bill $40, which includes the talk and text portion.

It's extremely flexible and affordable for those who don't use tons of data every month. Click here to learn more about Project Fi.

Now that you know how to save some money on your monthly cellphone bills, why not try and save more by winning a top-of-the-line smartphone? Keep reading for contest details.

Win your choice of an iPhone X or a Galaxy S9

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Click here to enter for your chance to win your choice of smartphone.

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