When looking for ways to save, consider rethinking your phone bills. The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants offers the following advice on how to become a savvy consumer when it comes to budgeting your phone service.
There are two considerations to explore that could add up to significant annual savings: (1) reevaluating your landline phone bill; and (2) taking a closer look at your cell phone bill and the options and rebates your carrier offers.
If your household has a traditional landline provided by an incumbent local exchange carrier (IECL), your numbers are dwindling. According to recent statistics, 41 percent of Americans live in households that have no telephone landlines, only cell phones. Not surprising, this number correlates directly with age—the younger the household, the more likely that a landline is not on the premises.
Those who maintain a telephone landline do have good reasons: landlines have a strong reputation of reliable service; IECLs are not affected by power outages, which is an issue in areas susceptible to storms interrupting electrical service; nor are they dependent on Internet connectivity. So, how can you keep that service and cut your monthly budget?
The most common consideration when looking to reduce your expense is the bundling offered by Internet providers that combine phone, television and Internet. There are two other options that are not as obvious:
Keep the landline, but get rid of all the features. If you rarely use the “house phone,” consider a “measured service” option with a standard monthly fee and a per-call charge.
Introduce a wireless home phone. For a monthly fee and free shipping of hardware, you can keep the existing inside phone hardware and port the phone number to your current cellphone provider. You may need to sign a multiyear contract for this option. Check with your wireless provider to find out the charges for this service and compare them with your monthly landline phone bill. You may be surprised by the savings.
Cell Phone Tips and Tricks
Take a close look at your cell phone bill. Are you using all the services you are purchasing? For instance, in today’s wireless environment, do you still need the same data plan that you purchased five years ago? Do you regularly find yourself with excess data at the end of each month? It may be time to cut that number for some savings.
Visit your provider’s website and look at the costs of a data plan downgrade. You may need to dig deep. Look into the customer forums to see what savings gems you can uncover. You may find that if you extend your contract you get a free gigabyte of data. If your plan is on the cusp between two data options, this may help you seal the deal for the lower gigabyte deal.
Another savings option is to skip the phone upgrade. If you’re eligible for an upgrade, but your phone is working fine, some cell phone carriers offer a loyalty bonus plan. If you don’t upgrade your phone when an upgrade is due, you may qualify for a monthly discount until you decide to upgrade.
Be a Smart Consumer
It takes time and patience to work your way through the various phone options and identify what fits your needs. Before you start, be sure to have a few months’ bills nearby for reference, take good notes from websites and phone conversations with customer retention specialists, and once you identify the savings make a plan to adjust your budget to meet your household goals.
Consult Your Local CPA
Want more budget-saving ideas? Turn to your local CPA. He or she can offer practical advice to help you make smart financial choices.
If you don’t have a CPA, you can easily locate one online using the NJCPA’s free, online Find-A-CPA service. Just go to findacpa.org, and in a few clicks you can locate a highly qualified professional who can assist you.
To find more information on various personal financial matters, visit the NJCPA’s public service website at MoneyMattersNJ.com. While visiting, you can subscribe to Your Money Matters, the NJCPA's free, monthly email newsletter to receive valuable personal financial planning advice throughout the year.
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Editors Note: Money Management is a weekly column on personal finance distributed by the NJCPA