Thursday, October 19th, 2017

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Ask YOUNG MONEY: How can I find the best cell phone plan?


I noticed that you have an article on the Net about what cell phone wireless plan works best for you. It’s hard for me to try to figure out which plan to get because where I live there are no towers for cell phones.

Anyhow, I just thought that I would let you all know so maybe you can help me out. Thanks for listening!


Dear Brina,

The first question you should be asking yourself is "Do you really need a cell phone?" Cell phones are becoming expensive status symbols rather than being used practically by most consumers.

There are still plenty of pay phones around, and friends with cell phones in a real emergency. Remember also, in an emergency, a charged cell phone is supposed to connect to 911 whether the caller has a cellular service agreement or not.  If you do feel you need to have a phone, be sure to sign the shortest contract you can possibly sign and never go into debt for cellular service.

It is important to try to determine what type of cell phone user you will be. We all start with good intentions of only using the phone in emergencies or just calling to check in at home once in a while, but it seems difficult to avoid using the phone more than we originally plan. Even with the best intentions, it is hard to avoid others calling you with the latest gossip once you start to give out your new number.

But, as a new user, unless you have specific business uses for your phone, you should start with a modest service plan and sign no more than a one-year commitment. After the first year, you will be able to review your phone use habits and needs, and can then enroll in a cellular plan that is more suited to your usage patterns.

Some service providers allow you to change calling plans before your initial commitment is up. There might be a fee charged to change service plans, so be sure to clarify any costs prior to making changes before a contract ends.

Competition in the industry has helped keep costs fairly stable. On average, a cellular user with basic needs should be able to find a good plan that offers 400 to 600 anytime minutes per month, unlimited free weekends and night minutes, free long distance calling and free roaming for about $39.95 per month.

The monthly price may include many features such as Voice Mail, Caller ID, Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, 411 Information service, etc. Options like text messaging, e-mail, picture messaging and Internet access are generally available at extra per minute and per message costs that will vary between service providers.

If you mainly use your cell phone during the free call periods at night and on weekends, then try signing up for a plan with less "anytime" minutes included, which should reduce your monthly base price.

Your knowledge of what is included and what is an extra charge will go a long way toward helping you find the best deal for the money.

Good luck and keep us posted.

Mike Schiano

Mike Schiano, The Debt Buster, received a bachelors degree in Political Science from the University of Central Florida in 1987 and earned the prestigious Certified Professional Manager designation in 2000. Since 1992 he has been involved in bringing personal finance education to families across America through his work with various companies. His radio show can heard via the Web at InchargeRadio.com.

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