Eight in 10 cell-phone owners either pay for service they don't use or rack up regular and excessive overage charges and, on average, they could save 22% a month or more than $400 a year without altering their calling habits, according to Tom Pepe, CEO of Validas, which advises small businesses and individuals how to pick the right cell-phone plan. Multiply that figure by the number of people in your family plan and you could be talking about way more than $1,000 a year. "The big problem is the invoice," Pepe says. "You just can't understand it." That makes choosing the right plan difficult. Meanwhile, plans offered by Sprint, Verizon and others are constantly changing, as are your family's calling, texting and downloading habits. So cutting your cell bill is like trying to hit a moving target frustrating and seemingly impossible. For a small fee, you can get a full checkup and recommendations at fixmycellbill.com, a Validas website.
If you want to figure this out on your own start with an unlimited plan because the cost of minutes not included in your monthly package can quickly overwhelm the additional cost of a larger package. Monitor your bill closely for three months; scale back to a cheaper plan when you have a firm grasp on the minutes and services you really need. Overage charges are the single biggest bill buster; make sure you have enough prime-time minutes. Other simple ways to cut: consider switching to a prepaid (no monthly fee) calling plan if you are an occasional user, use your land line when at home to conserve prime-time cell minutes and stop downloading games and ringtones.