By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When you think about the bills you pay every month, your cellphone is likely near the top of the heap. Now that two-year contracts are obsolete, there are ways for families and individuals to save. That is, if you’re willing to shop around. WCCO found ways to cut the cost by zeroing in on what you really use.

These days, cell phones are a must for many families.

“Basic communication, somethings wrong at school, I can get a hold of them or they can get a hold of me,” dad Dave Mechtel said.

The Mechtels have five phones on their plan, for their immediate family and grandma. All those lines add up.

“It’s one of those things you don’t really think about it until every month when you pay it, you’re like ‘oh my gosh, we have to pay this,’” mom Katie Mechtel said.

The senior electronics editor at Consumer Reports did the work for families and found ways to save. Mike Gikas said it’s important to start with what you really use.

“Right now the big money is with data plans. A family of four should spend between $150 to $200, depending on how much data they use,” Gikas said.

According to Gikas the majority of consumers stick to the big 4 carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. T-Mobile fared the best in their comparison in price, service and customer satisfaction. Four lines with unlimited talk, text and data comes in at $160.

If you’re looking to really cut costs, Gikas said there are surefire ways to do that and get great service, whether you’re an individual or on a family plan.

“If they’re willing to take a chance we’ve identified a number of carriers that can help you save a lot of money. Providers like ting, republic wireless or some of the smaller providers. What happens with these smaller providers is they offer more opportunities for you to trim your bill,” Gikas said.

Those providers allow the customer to pay for what they use. So if you don’t talk or text much or are constantly connected to Wi-Fi, this option could be right for you.

“You can get a plan for as little as $6 a month,” Gikas said.

Additionally smaller carriers like Boost Mobile, Metro PCS and Cricket Wireless piggyback on the big four networks and deliver lower prices.

“Their prices are better, they’re customers love them better and they think they’re service is better,” Gikas said.

Looking at all the available plans online can be time consuming and confusing. So websites like My Rate Plan and Whistle Out allow customers to comparison shop based on family size, data usage and whether you lease or buy your phone.

The Mechtels plugged in their information and found lower cost plans with the same service and that they could get more for their money with their current provider

“I feel like we should call them since we’ve been customers since 1996 since we should have the unlimited option on data,” Katie Mechtel said.

Gikas said providers rarely notify existing customers if they start offering the same service for less. So it’s important to check what’s available in your network.


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