5 Ways to Save on Smartphone Ownership

David Bakke is a contributor for the blog, Money Crashers Personal Finance, where he writes tips for saving money, utilizing the best technology, and protecting your investments.

Smartphones are quickly becoming ubiquitous. Half of all Americans currently own one, and while constant contact is convenient, its cost can be high. If your traditional cell phone plan cost $40 per month, but your smartphone data plan costs $80, that’s an extra $480 you’re paying over the course of the year – and that doesn’t take into account the initial cost of the device. With the high price of staying connected, it’s worth your while to investigate ways to save.

1. Save on the Phone Itself
There are plenty of ways to purchase your smartphone on the cheap or even for free. You just have to do a little research. Websites such as FatWallet.com and Overstock.com send deals and discounts for a wide variety of items straight to your inbox – cheap smartphones among them. Deal of the day websites like Groupon and LivingSocial occasionally offer discounted smartphones as well.

2. Forego an Unlimited Plan
The average American household uses less than 2GB each month for data, according to Billshrink.com. Yet many are paying for close to 8GB. That adds up to a lot of money. If you use your smartphone a lot, that’s one thing. But if you don’t, try to find a cheaper plan. Track your data usage for a few months and compare it to less expensive data plan options.

3. Be Careful When Downloading Apps
Apple apps cost an average of $1.50 a piece. That’s not a lot of money, but it can quickly add up if you download with abandon. If you see an app you’d like, search online to see if a similar app is available for free. If you prefer the apps you need to pay for, limit the ones you download to those you’ll really use. There are a number of convenient and cost-saving apps that are well worth the $1.50, but not if you don’t make use of them. You can also find coupon codes for popular apps on websites like RetailMeNot and AppAppeal.

4. Think Twice About Insurance
Cell phone insurance can give you security and peace of mind from knowing that if something happens to your device, you’re covered. However, some folks may prefer to save the monthly or upfront expense instead and put it towards a new device in the event of an accident. When evaluating the benefits of insuring your smartphone, analyze what it would cost to carry insurance for one year and weigh that cost against buying a new device. Keep in mind that if you got your phone for free or at a reduced price because you signed a long-term contract, the cost to replace it will likely be much higher than what you paid. You’ll also want to protect your investment and prevent damage by applying a scratch-proof film such as invisibleSHIELD.

5. Limit Child Access
If you have children, you need to be especially cautious with your app purchases. Developers release countless apps for kids, many of which are free, but many also come with “in-app” purchase options. In-app purchases appeal to kids because they can unlock new levels, acquire game upgrades, or get their hands on a new virtual character – and they don’t have to pay for it, you do. To protect yourself, turn off the in-app purchase feature and set ground rules with your kids to prevent an unexpected bill at the end of the month.

Final Thoughts
Smart smartphone ownership is mostly about identifying your needs and usage habits and not paying for needs you don’t have. And while it’s very convenient to have the world at your fingertips, just remember that all it takes is one touch to purchase many things in that world. Therefore, it’s prudent to treat your smartphone with the same care that you do your wallet. Before buying anything, make sure it makes sense, and don’t leave your phone in easy reach of children or others who could use it to your disadvantage.

What are you doing to save on your monthly smartphone bill?