It’s been a long time and coming but we’ve finally reached the point where we have to talk about cell phones and our technological overlords who own the companies who shower them upon us. Whether you love them or hate them, these services appear to be here to stay. But with cell phone bills constantly on the rise, we’re all going to need to optimize the way we handle our phones and the earth-shattering plans that come attached to them so we can free up more cash for our late night Sonic slushie runs. That being said, let’s jump right in:
Optimization #1: Choosing Your Overlord
If you’ve got a cell phone, you’re going to require an overlord, er, I mean, service provider. So why not make sure that you’re getting the best one at the lowest price point? No, this isn’t a commercial for a specific carrier and no, I’m not going to drop any affiliate links.
Depending on your area, you may be able to find a carrier who can offer better service at a lower price. In order to find out, you can use sites such as opensignal.com (not an affiliate link – just a really useful website) that show you signal strength by each of the biggest carriers. Check it out and see if the one you thought was best is actually on top and compare their prices to some of the others to see if you could move your service to save some cash.
For smaller cities, this could be a relatively small search but for larger ones, you could really save some big cash. While smaller and less populated areas are less likely to have big competition, highly populated areas are more likely to have better service overall and therefore more opportunity for savings on other networks. Take a look for yourself and see what you find.
Optimization #2: Contract Avoidance
Starting to feel like you’re stuck in a bad marriage with your cell phone provider? You’re not alone. Contracts are required by a large number of carriers for a reason. Where other sectors can feel an immediate hit when they provide a terrible service, cell phone providers can avoid that mess and instead keep you locked in until your two years are up. And by the time it’s finally run its course, you might have already come to terms with their shortfalls.
Try to find a carrier that offers phones without a contract to give yourself the mobility you need if you end up choosing one who doesn’t live up to the hype. Or, better yet, simply buy an unlocked phone (phones that will only require a new SIM when they switch to a new network) online for cheap ahead of time to make sure they can’t convince you to do otherwise when you show up in store. The flexibility of service is the key here. By retaining your mobility, you can hold the power when it comes time to either continue with their service or walk away if they’ve let you down.
Optimization #3: Deals and Leverage
Ever notice how every big carrier seems to be offering incentives to bring on new customers or steal them from others? You can use this to your advantage when you’re looking to get the best deal. Where one cell phone provider may not be the long-term best choice, you could use them as a temporary provider in order to get the best entry point.
For example, if one is offering a buy-one-phone-get-one-free, you could purchase the phone and sell the second one to effectively obtain a free phone. Or, if you are being offered a free tablet with the phone purchase, you could sell the tablet to offset your new phone price. You get the idea.
Just make sure that you don’t have to agree to a contract in order to cash in on these deals. Odds are, most will require you to obtain the two-year plan to obtain the deal but you can find some that will offer it regardless. It all depends on how hungry your providers are in the area and how willing you are to find them.
Optimization #4: Family is Family
Like they always say in the Fast and the Furious movies, family is everything. If you’re not looking around at family members when you’re looking to get a new phone or needing to replace an old one, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Odds are, you’ve got someone in your family or your adopted family (your friends) that has a phone addiction. You know the person I’m talking about – the guy or girl who always has the latest and greatest in their hands at all times.
When that person starts going gaga over a new one that’s about to launch, talk to them about you either taking their old phone or buying it off them for a better price than the store is going to give them on trade in. Odds are, the store is only going to give them a small discount if they trade in their old phone. If you swoop in and grab their previous model, you’ll be offering them a better offset toward their new one, or in the best case scenario, you’ll be getting a free one from a family member who apparently is made out of gold if they can afford to constantly upgrade to the newest/greatest model.
Optimization #5: Hipster Phone
Remember how cool having a Razr flip phone was when they first came out? You could relive that moment if you purchase older phones for a cheaper price. Phones like the Razr are still available online and so are other hot models from the ages. And the best part is that due to the hipster culture, no one will know if you still listen to vinyl music and sport old phones as a fashion statement or if you’re just saving money. It’s a win-win!
Optimization #6: Unbreakable
It’s not just the title for an awesome movie with Bruce Willis. If you play your cards right and invest in some quality protection for it, you can make sure your phone lasts you much longer than your current two-year contract (results may vary). Simply take some of your free cash and buy a case for your phone that’s resistant to cracks, drops, fire, water, giant insects from hell, and other accidents and you could easily extend the life of your phone for years. Just ask my mom – at one point she was using a phone she’d had for I think over six or seven years (I’ll give you her number if you ask nicely) (not really though; she’d probably kill me if I did that).
Additionally, on your next phone purchase, make sure you spend money on a model that is built to last. If you buy one that’s too cheap (you know the ones I’m talking about), the tech on it will simply break down and you’ll end up spending double when you have to replace it sooner. Focus on quality and protect it so it lasts.
Optimization #7: Wifi Guru
Do you have any idea how many free wifi hotspots there are now? They’re practically throwing free wifi at you in almost every mainstream store in America these days. And with that kind of free bandwidth, you can be sure to use a heck of a lot less while you’re out and about. With less data use comes a cheaper data plan requirement each month. Just make sure not to use any unsecured ones (your phone will typically warn you if you’re about to log onto one of these and if you plan to use one, make sure you’ve got a shield application installed). That’s a good way to get your identity stolen. Yikes!
And with that, we’ve reached the end of the article. Go forth and optimize! And don’t forget to tune in next week at the same bear-time on the same bear-channel. Take care everyone and have a great week.