In today’s budget-conscious world, keeping an eye on routine expenses has become as commonplace as morning coffee. Amid the usual suspects of monthly outgoings, the cell phone bill quietly takes its slice of the financial pie. As of June 2023, CNBC reported that JD Power indicates the average monthly expense for a cellphone plan stands at $144.
It may not be as eye-watering as the gas bill, nor as variable as grocery costs, but it’s a steady player in the monthly budget league. With a variety of carriers rolling out competitive packages like bakers do morning pastries, a review of the average cell phone bill per month might reveal whether your current cellular deal is a sweet one or if it’s leaving a bitter taste in your wallet.
How much should my phone bill be?
The cost of your cell phone bill can vary depending on how much coverage you need, the number of lines you have, the type of cell phone you have, whether you’re leasing or financing your phones, your international calling options, and whether you carry insurance on your cell phones.
Do you want the latest and greatest iPhone? Do you actually need unlimited data? How many people need to be on your plan? Are you someone who worries about breaking your phone screen often? These are all questions that factor into what your cell phone bill should be.
Keeping a detailed record of your monthly phone-related expenses is crucial. Track usage patterns, scrutinize additional charges, and consider utilizing budgeting apps to manage and analyze your spending. This proactive approach ensures financial awareness, helping you stay within budget and make informed decisions to optimize your cell phone costs.
PRO TIP! With the Moneylion app you can track your spending (like your cell phone bill) with weekly reports, insights and smart tools that help you monitor your total financial health in one place.
It’s possible to cut cell phone costs by doing things like using a smaller carrier, reducing the amount of data your plan provides per month, holding off on upgrading your phone, and using a credit card with rewards for paying monthly phone bills.
All in all, your cell phone bill should reflect your everyday lifestyle and needs as well as the needs of your family. You can reduce your cell phone bill without necessarily getting the cheapest cell phone service, but a reduction in cost may come with a trade-off.
Cheapest cell phone service
The cheapest cell phone service may come with a trade-off you’re not willing to make, such as horrible coverage or slow data. Cheap is not always better, but there are solid economic options with well-known and high-quality nationwide carriers.
How much is a typical phone bill?
The three major U.S. carriers have similar phone plans and coverage. The following table shows different pricing for these carriers for one line.
For each carrier, the least expensive 5G plan was selected. Keep in mind, the cost represented below does not include taxes and fees. Nor does the cost reflect the cost of financing a phone, insuring the phone, or additional add-ons you may elect to include on your plan.
|Average Cost Per One Line
|AT&T Value Plus Plan
|$50 per month
|$70 per month
|$60 per month
What can make your cell phone bill go up?
Carriers typically discount the cost per line when you add more lines to a plan or when you go with a family plan option.
Multiple factors contribute to your cell phone bill. To avoid unnecessary fees, it’s important to know what you are actually paying for.
Unlimited data plans
Unlimited data plans are the most popular plans people sign up for and are the main plans that carriers advertise on their websites. Because of this, as well as the emergence of 5G, more data is traveling across networks than ever before.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified this. In fact, a report done by NPD Connected Intelligence showed that cellular data usage increased 75% year over year. The rate of mobile hotspot usage also increased to a record high of 30%.
To figure out how much data you actually need, you can start by checking out how much data you are currently using. The typical cell phone consumer is said to use about 3 GB to 5 GB per month. A good portion of increased data usage is the result of using social media apps, video conferencing, and mobile gaming.
Ask yourself: Do you really need to use all of that data on a daily basis? The average person has around 40 apps installed on their phone, and this number can be much higher for teenagers and children. In fact, adding kids to the family plan is a new tech milestone that Americans as a society have achieved in the last decade.
You do not use data when you are connected to Wi-Fi. You should set your phone to automatically connect to your home’s Wi-Fi, or the Wi-Fi in your office, to reduce the amount of data you use. If you can limit how much data you use, you can select a plan that restricts your high-speed data and rely on Wi-Fi to browse the internet, engage on social media, and enjoy the apps you love to spend time on.
Number of devices
If you visit any of the main three carriers’ websites and look at their plans, you’ll notice they usually put the price point of a plan that includes four lines at the forefront.
It can be hard to find pricing for individual plans. This sometimes leaves people wondering why their plan seems to be so expensive when the one advertised was so much less. This is because the number of devices, or lines, that your plan has directly correlates to how much money you spend.
Your device model
Each year or every other year, a new model of your phone is typically launched, inviting you to upgrade. Many folks take the bait and choose to finance new phones, typically shelling out $30 to $40 per month. For instance, AT&T charges $30.56 per month for 36 months to snag an iPhone 15 Pro with 256 GB.
Now, here’s the kicker. Every time a snazzy new model rolls out, many are tempted to upgrade, even if they haven’t paid off their current phone yet. So, by the time you’ve paid off your phone, a newer model is already winking at you from the store shelves. It’s like a merry-go-round of payments, where you’re always paying for a phone, but the finish line keeps moving.
This merry-go-round keeps your cell phone bill plump each month. If you’re dreaming of trimming that bill, you might want to hit pause on upgrading your phone every time a new model comes a-calling. Another savvy move? Consider taking out a personal loan to buy the phone outright, which could slice your monthly bill. Or, explore buying a second-hand or refurbished model. These options could help you hop off the upgrade merry-go-round and keep a little extra cash in your pocket each month.
Insurance for your phone is another product that many find necessary — but insurance can add around $10 to $15 per line per month.
Keep in mind that there is a limit to the number of times you can file a claim per year, and it’s usually much less than one time per month. This limit can also be determined by how many lines you have on your insurance plan.
A deductible is also paid when you file a claim when you have a broken screen or you need to completely replace your phone. The deductible price is dependent on your device type, location, and plan, and each carrier has a maximum value you are able to claim.
If you are someone who frequently needs repairs or has a history of losing or breaking your phone, insurance can definitely pay off. Otherwise, it might make sense to just invest in a really good phone case. A water- and shatter-resistant case can cost you $40 to $100. But that’s a one-time fee, and if you do not constantly upgrade your phone, the investment made into a phone case will last you a long time.
The cost of your insurance and the deductible you may need to pay if you ever file a claim may not be worth it.
Most people use the expensive services of the big three carriers, but other low-cost carriers that actually use the bigger carriers’ networks for their wireless coverage could also work.
It is possible to use a more economical carrier and save money each month when compared to partnering with T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T. An economic carrier may not have as many cell towers as one of the big three giants, which could ultimately result in less coverage.
In addition, not all low-cost carriers will provide you with service or coverage in rural areas. One feature you’d probably want to evaluate before moving to a cheaper carrier is the quality of its customer service.
It might be a good idea to ask friends and family members in your area which service they use to get a first-hand perspective on a carrier’s customer service, reliability, and network.
How to manage cell phone expenses
A good first step to reigning in those bills is understanding where the money goes. Yes, it’s all in the details. And with phones practically glued to your hands nowadays, what better way to track those expenses than with the device itself?
Use monitoring apps
You can download plenty of smartphone apps designed to monitor data usage and track spending. These little digital watchdogs sit quietly on your phone, keeping tabs on your data munching and dollar dispatches. They’ll give you a nudge when you’re nearing your data limit or when your spending is mimicking a rocket launch. The beauty of these apps is they offer a clear lens through which you can view your cell phone usage and expenses, making it easier to spot where you can cut back.
Set a budget
With a clearer picture of your cell phone expenses, it’s time to set a budget. It’s about drawing a line in the sand that your expenses shouldn’t cross. Start by allocating a specific amount for your monthly cell phone bill, and stick to it like peanut butter to bread. Remember, emergencies have a knack for popping up unannounced, like that time you dropped your phone in the toilet. When such misadventures occur, having a budget will be your financial lifebuoy. If an unexpected expense comes knocking, consider options like a 0% APR cash advance to tide you over.
A budget isn’t just about preparing for the rainy days; it’s about ensuring you’re not left out in the cold when the storm hits.
Choose the plan that’s best for you
For the data-hungry, an unlimited data plan is like an all-you-can-eat buffet, always there no matter the appetite. It offers a cushion of comfort knowing that whether you find yourself lost in the wilderness or simply lost in a YouTube rabbit hole, your trusty cell phone won’t suddenly go on a data diet.
On the flip side, there are the digital nibblers, those who venture into the app world with a lighter step. Perhaps they’ve mastered the art of Wi-Fi hopping or have a lifestyle that doesn’t demand constant connectivity. For them, a leaner data plan fits the bill. When it comes to insurance, they might prefer to brave the elements with just a sturdy phone case as their shield, betting on a protective shell over monthly premiums.
Now, the marketplace is a smorgasbord of cell phone plans and carriers, each with its own offerings.
Plenty of cell phone plans and carriers are out there. You should take some time to figure out exactly what you need (how many lines, how much data per month, and what phone you want), and find the carrier that will provide you with the best coverage at the lowest cost.
Imagine trimming your bill by half leading to a neat little pile of savings by year’s end. It’s all about tuning your cell phone plan to your lifestyle and budget, making way for a lighter cell phone bill and perhaps, a heavier wallet.
PRO TIP! The only money app you need with personalized tools, tips, and offers to control every money moment in your life.
How much is an average iPhone bill per month?
The average iPhone bill per month can vary widely based on the carrier, the plan chosen, and the model of iPhone.
Why do cell phone bills fluctuate?
Cell phone bills can dance to different tunes each month due to a variety of factors. Overage charges from exceeding data limits, international or roaming charges, and one-time fees like upgrade or activation fees can spike the bill. Promotional discounts coming to an end or adding new lines or services can also change the monthly total. It’s a good practice to review the bill each month to understand all the charges and ensure there are no surprises.
How much is too high for a phone bill?
The threshold for a phone bill being too high is subjective and hinges on individual financial circumstances and the value you place on the services received. However, if a phone bill starts mimicking a car payment or if it’s causing financial strain, it might be tiptoeing into too-high territory.