The following content is created in partnership with Comcast. It does not reflect the work or opinions of the NBC Connecticut editorial staff. Visit Comcast to learn more about its Xfinity Mobile service.
Sure, your first cell phone—or better yet, your first smartphone—was pricey. But look at all it gave you: You could talk, email, text, web-surf, take photos, turn off your porchlights, find a prom date, hunt ghosts (yes, there’s an app for that) and more . . . from anywhere.
There’s an inconvenient truth, though: Once in the mobile realm, you need to keep spending to stay there: You have to buy replacement phones every couple of years; those phones come with phone bills; not all apps are free. Going mobile, it turns out, is a lifelong investment.
There are economies to find, though, in everything from buying to using phones. Here are five ways to save:
Buy refurbished: You can purchase a cell phone for a considerably less-exorbitant price than a new one. It’s possible to even save hundreds.
A refurbished phone, as opposed to a used one, means it’s been returned by a previous consumer, then undergoes factory renovation (and repairs, if necessary). A certified refurbished phone means the manufacturer guarantees the phone to be as good as new and can even come with one-year warranty. And good news: 82 percent of refurbished-phone buyers surveyed by Consumer Reports said they were highly satisfied with their purchase.
Don’t go big with gigs (unless you need to): Cell phones come with different amounts of data storage. And the more storage, the bigger the price tag. But how many gigabytes do you really need, especially these days when so much content lives in the cloud?
Here’s a quick rule of thumb: If you use your phone mostly to talk, email, and surf the Web, you can go with a smaller amount of storage (32 gigabytes, for example). If you take photos every so often and download the occasional song, you’ll want to go for a phone with more storage (say, 64 gigabytes). And if you’re a mega-photographer maxing out your megapixels while listening to your 30,000-song collection, go for big storage (256 gigabytes or more).
Look at the data: The data plan you choose from your mobile provider indicates how much content you can download from the internet via your cellular connection. If you spend little time on the Web and download little music or video, you can go for a smaller data plan. If, on the other hand, you spend your days in the park streaming movies on your phone, you may need an unlimited data plan.
When choosing your data plan, try to estimate how much content you’ll be downloading. One way to do this: Look at your previous cell phone bills to see how much data you use on average. If it’s considerably less than your plan allows, you may want to downgrade.
And keep in mind: The content you download while you’re on WiFi is free—meaning you’re not using any of your provider’s data allotment. The more time you spend on WiFi, the less cellular data you need.
Go for the free apps: What fun would cell phones be without screen after screen of apps? Some of those apps may cost you; others are free. Given that you don’t always get what you pay for (or that the best things in life are free), you’ll naturally want to look for the free apps first, assuming they do the job. So before downloading, do a little research: You can’t go wrong by Googling something like “best cell phone app for ____.” If the free apps get good reviews, get those. (Of course, today’s free app can become tomorrow’s subscription app, but that’s another story.)
Keep your phone longer: In terms of technology, mobile phones have reached a bit of a plateau: The annual improvements at this point are incremental. Each year, the newest model may be a tiny bit faster and take slightly better pictures. Otherwise, the differences are negligible. So consider keeping your phone longer. Keep in mind, though: The longer you keep your phone, the less you’ll get on a trade-in when the time finally comes to buy new.
One other way to save: Choose a cell-phone service provider that gives you more for less. Visit Xfinity Mobile to learn how you can save.