Sunday, 21 August 2011

The phone bill saving guide

We all love to save a bit of money where we can and lets be honest we don't really enjoy handing over money to large corporations like Vodafone, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Although we almost all own a phone (and if you've come to this blog odds are you do own a phone) we don't always get the most value for our money, simply because we don't know how. That's not to say customers are ignorant but they simply aren't all equal. For example a mother of 3 in her 40's (lets take my mother for example) doesn't know how to use things like Skype (via Wi-Fi) for free video calls, using BBM (or Whatsapp) for free messaging or that to send pictures we don't need to use the expensive MMS service.

To break down the money saving methods we'll look at each particular item one by one starting with calls.

Most contracts and monthly deals currently entitle the users to a set allowance of minutes often between 50 minutes and 750 minutes (though some much larger deals are available) whilst PAYG (Pay As You Go) customers often have to pay by the minute. If you go over your allowance you'll be hit hard by charges so finding ways to cut down your minutes is invaluable to some...chatterboxes.
If you and your friends both have Wi-Fi accessibility you can make calls via Skype from one phone to another (as long as you are both on Skype) for free, in fact you can make video calls using Skype for free via Wi-Fi. As well as Skype however there is a number of similar "VOIP" (Voice Over Internet Protocol) applications that allow you to do the same sort of thing.

Alternatively, if you have free texts you can save money by using those texts to have the conversation. Whilst it's not as "personal" as a call it's cheaper and you'll also find yourself saying what you mean rather than making small talk just for the sake of it. In times of of prudence all savings are worth it even if you do seem slightly less "personal" than you would like.

Texts are a funny thing as most contracts now give an "unlimited" amount (typically 3000 a month under a fair usage policy) though for those who do still pay for their texts they may find themselves running through their credit swiftly. What you need to do if you're a big texts is look around, if your paying for every text you send (as you would in a normal PAYG deal) and you send a lot of them look at getting more value. For example Giffgaff currently have a PAYG "goody bag" where you pay £5 for unlimited texts in a month.

Alternatively if you have Wi-Fi or free 3G/mobile internet you might be better off using something like BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) if you're wanting to text fellow Blackberry owners or alternatively use a system like E-buddy to send Instant Massages to a friend or another application like Whatsapp to send free messages to someone else with the system. Basically what you need to do here is find an direct alternative to texting, and although it's not always the easiest thing to do it can be a huge money saver, especially if you can get the apps to run via Wi-Fi.

Media Messages
Unless you get media messages (MMS) as part of your contract they can be stupidly expensive at around 35p per picture, what doesn't help is when phones, notably the Samsung Galaxy S2, automatically turn long texts into MMS messages, though these charges can be avoided rather easily, especially if you have 3G or Wi-Fi. Instead of sending a picture by MMS for example you can E-mail the person the picture straight from your phone for free!

Data Use
Data use is a tricky one as it's really a growing market. What was once something rather limited with only a handful of users has become...a huge thing. For older mobile internet users they may remember that the service was slow, clumsy and relatively substandard. What we have now is a major part of the phone industry that sees apps for every purposes, TV and Radio streamed live across the data networks and things like maps and guidance systems using it. So we don't want to go over our allowances here (typically 500MB though there are some unlimited offers out there).
The best way, especially at home, is to use Wi-Fi for your mobile connection, though as well as your home connection remember a lot of restaurants and hotels also have Wi-Fi available to customers. One of the huge ones in the UK is the "Cloud" Wi-Fi system which is available in McDonald's as well as a huge number of other establishments. Make the most of these in public, even if it involves sitting outside of a McDonald's to try and get a map.
As well as using free internet make the most of your internet by using things like "mobile" sites or turning pictures off (if you're using a browser like Opera Mini). If you play a lot of ad served games (think Angry Birds on Android) turn off your data connection and it will stop the adverts and save you money!

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