Don't Waste Your Money: Lower phone and gadget bills

(Toledo News Now) - Family plans were supposed to save us money on our phone bills, but they don't seem to be helping much as monthly bills push toward $200 for many families. If you have a house full of phones and gadgets, there are some new ways to reduce those bills.

Have you checked what you pay for all your phones and gadgets these days? Those new "family plans" may make it easier for everyone in the family to have a smart phone, but they can send your monthly bill into the hundreds.

So we have some new ways to cut all those bills for next year.

$200 - $300 For Many Families

Are you tired of your smart phone, cell phone, and home phone bills going up every year?

Many people say they easily pay more than $200 a month for their wireless plan. Toss in a landline, and it's $300.

To try to cut those costs, Jim Alexander is one of many people now switching to the newest way to cut those bills: Verizon's Home Connect service.

"I think it's great because we are saving about $27 a month," Alexander said.

He and his wife, Deb, now use a little Verizon Wireless box for their home phones.

Home Phone And Cell Phone Merging
Unlike Magic Jack and other VOIP devices that use an Internet connection - and won't work in a power failure - this uses the cell network, and has a two-day battery backup built in. It then connects to all the phones in your house, just like a landline.

"It's $20 a month and it's a flat cost. Unlimited local and long distance calls, caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding," said Ryan Potter of Verizon Wireless.

Potter says you can save at least $30 a month, possibly more, with the Home Connect unit.

Verizon is now offering this in most of the country, while AT&T has its own version in select markets, where it doesn't compete with AT&T landline service.

The only downside is it doesn't work with many home alarms. So check with your alarm company first.

Family Shared Data Plans

Option number 2 is a family shared data plan for around $140 a month. They can save up to $50 a month if multiple people in your home have a smart phone or tablet on the network.

But here's the downside and a caution: Family shared data won't save if most of your family's phones are regular cell phones. In fact, if you have one smart phone and three "dumb" cell phones, your bill will probably go up with the family plan.

Prepaid Can Save

In that case, consider option number 3: a prepaid cell phone, which is ideal if you have teens with their own phones, or any who are not on a smart phone. That can save $30 a month, and the best part is the kids can't run up your bill. 

"That's the great thing about prepaid: You don't have to worry about going over. There's no hidden fees or anything like that. You pay for what you get," explained John Winstel of Cincinnati Bell iWireless.

Which leads to option number 4: If you have a standard phone and don't want to be on the family shared data plan, consider non-mainstream carriers. Plans like AAA's cell phone plan, which still offer voice and text plans, can be as low as $20 a month.

Look Over Bills, Trim Fat

Finally, look over your bills. If you have a smart phone, chances are you are paying for more voice than you need these days.

Reduce your voice and text minutes, and save as much as $25 a month. PC World magazine calls this "trimming the fat" from your cell phone plan. The magazine says many people have services, like parental controls, enhanced voicemail, paper bills, AT&T Navigator, and when they're all added up, it's another $30 a month.

So when you get a few days off this holiday season, go over those phone bills and drop extras you don't need. That way you don't waste your money.

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