For most of us, cell phone and landline costs can be quite a pricey little item on our budget sheet each month. Every now and then I come across a blog post suggesting that we ditch either the landline or the cell phone, or in some cases even both, in order to cut costs. I wish I could do without at least one of those but I’m just not that brave! I need a cell phone when I’m out and about and the most cost effective way of having internet at home is through an ADSL connection, and we need a landline for that (fibre is still way, way too expensive per month here). So, what are we to do if we want to save on our monthly phone bills?
To start off with, I wouldn’t pay for a cell phone contract each month. I now wish I didn’t have a contract and I wasn’t tied down to a monthly subscription payment but I am, and have been for several years. There’s always that upgrade after your two-year contract is up, and there’s always a new cell phone, a better cell phone, and so the cycle of cell phone contracts continues. While I can get out of this cell phone contract, I would have to pay the outstanding amount for my phone and there would be other charges involved as well as penalties for cancelling the contract, which all comes to quite an amount that I would have to fork out. And I just cannot afford to do that at the moment. Unfortunately, I last upgraded my phone at a point in my life when I didn’t quite think of a cell phone contract as a form of debt (which I do now) so I still have a number of months to go before my contract comes to an end.
But I can still quite clearly remember a time when I had a cell phone, paid for in cash, and a pre-paid contract and I was just fine. I didn’t have the flashiest of cell phones but the one I had served its purpose, and it served it well. So at what point did I decide I was going to get a cell phone contract and why did I decide to do it? If truth be told, I probably wanted a ‘nice’ cell phone. The problem was, I knew I could not afford to pay for it in cash but I figured I could afford the monthly payments. Big mistake, and one that so often gets us into all sorts of debt. Instead of focussing on whether or not we can afford the monthly payments we should rather ask ourselves if we can afford to buy an item for cash, and if the answer is no, then that is our answer – no to the item, and no to the monthly payments either.
So now the only way I can save on my monthly bill is to be extra careful about my cell phone usage. I make calls sparingly and I don’t go overboard with the data either, which I know can be quite a feat especially with smart phones that seem to gobble the data (and battery) at an unbelievably alarming rate sometimes. I use Whatsapp to send messages instead of sending regular text messages (SMS). I make calls on Whatsapp too but only if I’m connected to a Wi-Fi network and the person I’m calling is as well so there are no data or call charges – it’s basically ‘free’. Having Wi-Fi connections at home and at work certainly helps to keep my mobile data usage in check.
I also have a monthly limit of R100.00 over and above my monthly cell phone subscription plan which does help to keep me focussed on how much I spend each month. If you’ve read my post When Murphy comes knocking on your door you’ll know that I’ve had money deducted from that amount by a WASP service (without my knowledge or consent) several times this year, and this amount
has not yet been refunded to me has now been refunded to me (very pleased about that!). I learnt, however, after a great deal of researching online, that this kind of fraud has happened to a lot of other people in South Africa. While I have thought of setting my voluntary call limit to an absolute zero in order to prevent any other service charging me fraudulently in the future, I just can’t bring myself to do it, in case my monthly minutes run out and I need to make a call in an emergency. So that will have to stay the same for now.
Our landline contract is a little bit easier to handle. It is a month-to-month contract which is absolutely perfect: if we ever need to cancel the subscription at a month’s notice we will be able to do that. The plan that we are on suits us just fine too – we know at what time during the day we can make free landline to landline calls and we make full use of that, without racking up additional charges (yes, I know, we do think about that…). And If I have to dial a cell phone number from home I prefer to use my cell phone as those calls are part of my monthly subscription plan. As long as I don’t exceed a certain number of minutes, I won’t be charged extra.
What do you do to save on your monthly phone bills? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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