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By Anum Yoon / Len Penzo dot Com
September 15, 2015

Smartphones are ubiquitous these days, but they aren’t always cheap to use. A typical plan-based contract could set you back $100 a month or even more. Plus, since many of those agreements span across years, you’re stuck if it turns out you don’t get the type of coverage you expect or don’t require as many minutes and data as originally anticipated. And I’m sure you’ve all shelled out a pretty penny to get your hands on those smart phones — I know I did.

I recently came across statistics that showed the price range of an iPhone from around the world. When I read that buying a single iPhone in Indonesia equated to 39.3% of the country’s median yearly income, I promised myself I would never complain about having to buy such an expensive “necessity.”

So if you can’t give up your smartphone and must find a way to justify its cost, find a sensible and more effective way to reduce your smartphone bill. Pay-as-you-go and prepaid options are well worth checking out.

Get More Control Over What You Buy

Smartphone contracts typically have pre-set amounts of minutes, data and texts included with them. Figuring out which contract is best for you is often a gamble, and the pitch of a salesperson who’s trying to get you to commit to a long-term plan doesn’t help.

He or she might ultimately try and convince you it’s useful to get a pricey plan that has several gigabytes of data included, even if you think you’ll only use the Internet on your phone rarely, if at all.

On the other hand, with a prepaid smartphone, you’ll usually have the choice to buy usage privileges for your phone as needed. If you end up using more minutes than expected during a given month, just add to the balance.

Choose a Prepaid Plan So It’s Easier to Budget

When prepaid plans became popular several years ago, they were mostly marketed to people who were not likely to pass the credit checks that were required before they could enter into contracts. However, demand has evolved, and people are exploring the possibility of prepaid solutions because they don’t want to deal with unpleasant and unexpected extra charges contract providers often try to tack onto a bill.

Read Next: These Are the Best Cellphone Plans of 2015

Some providers, such as Virgin Mobile, are taking the unconventional route and making every plan free from contractual obligations. Prepaid plans are extremely helpful if you’re very frugal or if you just want to more easily maintain a household budget.

You can generally pick from a range of plans that give you set services for flat rates. For example, you might get a plan that includes call minutes, text messages and 4G data for $45 a month. Or you may decide it’s wiser to take a $25 per month plan that just includes text messages and data, with the option of paying for minutes as you use them, if needed.

Read Next: The Trick to Getting a Really Good Cell Phone for Less

Knowing with certainty how much your smartphone bill will be each month should offer a great relief, especially if you’re trying to keep costs down.

Enjoy More Flexibility

There’s also a prepaid smartphone company called Ting with an interesting pricing system that’s different from flat-rate bills. It may be very advantageous if your usage varies greatly from month to month.

Basically, data, minutes and texts are all billed separately, but the company keeps track of how much you use across all your devices each month. After adding up the total, Ting places you into a pricing tier that matches your usage, and that’s the amount you’ll pay. The coverage you get is based on Sprint’s network.

Furthermore, you can decide whether to buy a new phone that’s compatible with Ting, or see if the one you’re currently using will suffice. Many inactive Sprint phones work with Ting if they aren’t Blackberry and iPhone models. Some users have creatively purchased phones from places like Craigslist and eBay for very inexpensive prices, and they have used those devices with Ting’s service.

Make Your Decision

Before taking the leap into contract-free smartphone service, make sure to do adequate research about what the coverage is like where you live. It’s also useful to read general reviews from people who have tried particular services to see if they’re happy about the service received or if they have any regrets.

In contrast to the flashy approach to advertising that’s used by many of the leading contract-based providers of smartphone services, promotional efforts of prepaid smartphone companies often seem muted. Even so, people who are willing to dig deeper and look at alternatives usually find it’s easier than they expected to slash smartphone spending.

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