Like any rational consumer, the last thing I want to do is overpay at the register. And that goes double for expensive items like smartphones.
Unfortunately, many of us end up paying way more than we need to for our portable Candy Crush machines. Worse still, some of the things we do to save money — by skimping on things like protection plans and service agreements — can end up costing us in the long run.
There are plenty of ways you can waste money on your smartphone or the stuff that goes with it. But these are the five biggest.
1. Not buying your phone outright
Most of us are accustomed to going to our carrier’s store, forking over $200 for a new phone, and signing a new two-year contract. That’s just the way it’s always worked. Lately, there’s also been the option to eschew that $200 up-front cost in favor of equal monthly payments over two years.
But there’s actually a better option than either of those: buying your phone outright. Yes, coming face-to-face with a bill for $650 might seem worse than paying $200 or a monthly fee. But those other payment schemes had some hidden costs that made them bad deals.
For one thing, opting for a two-year service agreement has meant locking yourself in with that carrier. Want to break your contract? You’ll have to fork over an early termination fee.
By paying outright for your phone, you open up the option of buying pre-paid, month-to-month data plans from companies like Cricket Wireless or Boost Mobile (which operate on AT&T and Sprint’s networks, respectively).
A two-year plan from AT&T for a 16GB iPhone 6s with 2GB of data per month will cost you — depending on how you configure it — from $1,924 over those two years.
Cricket Wireless — which, again, runs on AT&T’s network and should offer comparable service — will cost you just $1,620 over two years for 2.5GB of data per month and that includes the cost of the phone. Those are some serious savings.
2. Paying too much for cables
So your dog thought your phone’s charging cable was just a really stringy chew toy. No worries, you’ll just go to the manufacturer’s website and buy a new one. And while you’re at it, be sure to flush some cash down the toilet, because that’s essentially what you’re doing if you buy a replacement charger from your smartphone manufacturer.
Take Apple’s Lightning cable, for example. Buy the cord from Apple and you’ll end up forking over $30. Check out Amazon, and you can find cable certified by Apple for just $10. The only difference between the two is that you’ll spend too much on one and save with the other.
3. Paying too much for international roaming
When you travel overseas, you can bring back memories of a once-in-a-lifetime experience and stories you’ll be telling your grandchildren years from now. You can also bring back an enormous bill for the data, text messaging, and call-time you used while traveling.
The reason? When you travel overseas with your standard wireless plan, your carrier can — and will — bill you at insanely inflated rates.
Even if you sign up for your carrier’s international travel plan, you’ll likely pay too much. Verizon, for example, charges $25 per month per device for its Monthly International Travel Pricing service. That plan lets you pay $1.79 per minute for voice calls, $0.50 for every text message you send, and $0.05 for every text you receive, while limiting you to just 100MB of data.