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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cutting Your Cell Phone Bill - #2
Cut the Minutes

Many cell phone users are afraid of getting too few minutes, and end up with many more minutes a month than they need. If you have had a cell phone for several months you should be able to look over past bills, and determine how many minutes you actually need. Cutting the anytime minutes will cut your cost. In keeping with the first Cutting Your Cell Phone Bill post, I'll be comparing family plans.


AT&T, Nextel/Sprint, and Verizon Wireless have the following family rate plans:
  • 700 Minutes: 69.99 (9.99 each additional line); .45 for each additional minute
  • 1400 Minutes: 89.99 (9.99 each additional line); .40 for each additional minute
  • 2100 Minutes: 109.99 (9.99 each additional line); .35 for each additional minutes
  • 3000 Minutes: 149.99 (9.99 each additional line); .25 for each additional minute
  • There are other higher plans. Sprint/Nextel has a different method of calculating additional minutes - if you go over every block of 30 minutes is $5, up to 300 additional minutes, and then .20/minute.
Alltel has similar rate plans, but more minutes at each price level. Click here to see Alltel's family rate plans. With all of these companies, the plans now being sold include free nights and weekends and free mobile-to-mobile calling.

With the high cost of additional minutes, you can't afford to be going over your monthly allotment. But if you generally use 600 minutes per month, and are paying for 1400, you could cut your bill, saving $240 a year!

I'm a AT&T customer, and I am very glad to have rollover minutes. Rollover minutes make it possible to have a much smaller minute package. We have our 5 lines on 550 shared minutes per month. We currently have over 1,000 rollover minutes. Some months we go over, and use up those rollover minutes. Other months we go under, and build rollover minutes. If you have an AT&T account, use this system to your advantage. You can change plans as often as you like, without extending your contract. Anytime you switch, though, you can only keep the number of rollover minutes that are alloted per month in the plan you are switching to. SO....let's assume you generally use about 1,000 minutes per month. You have several options:
  1. Get the 700 minute plan, and pay the extra minutes, adding up to about $204.99 per month. $2,459.88 per year.
  2. Get the 1400 minute plan, and pay $89.99 per month, building your rollover minutes that you will never use. $1,079.88 per year.
  3. Most people go with option 2 without considering option 3! This is a little more complicated. Switch back and forth between the 700 and 1400 minute plans, using your rollover minutes. Below is a possible scenario for the 1,000 minute user. The cost will average $78.56 per month. $959.88 per year. It's a little more trouble, but I believe it is worth saving $120 per year!
  • Go with the 1400 minute plan for one month, you will build 400 rollover minutes.
  • Switch to the 700 minute plan for one month (leaving 100 rollover minutes).
  • Switch to the 1400 minute plan for a month, adding 400 rollover minutes (to make 500).
  • Switch to the 700 minute plan, using your rollover minutes for a month (leaving 200).
  • Switch to the 1400 minute plan for a month, adding 400 rollover minutes (to make 600).
  • Switch to the 700 minute plan, using your rollover minutes for two months (leaving 0).
  • Start over
Due to the rollover minute option, I believe AT&T to have the best plan options. If you have AT&T, utilize those rollover minutes to save you money! And no matter who your carrier is, be sure you have a large enough package that you won't be spending hundreds of dollars for extra minutes, but a small enough package that you aren't paying for many many minutes a year that you never use.

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All Cell Phone Frugality Posts in this Series: Cell Phone Insurance: Is It REALLY Worth It?; Cutting Your Cell Phone Bill #1: Multiple Lines; Cutting Your Cell Phone Bill #2: Cutting the Minutes; Cutting Your Cell Phone Bill #3: Cut the Frills; Cutting Your Cell Phone Bill #4: TMTM - Too Many Text Messages; More Cell Phone Frugality
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