With smartphone plans sometimes costing upwards of $100 nowadays, and more fee increases likely on the way, it can become almost unaffordable to have one of these swanky phones. We may be coming out of the recession, but anyone who’s looked at car insurance rates, movie ticket prices or smartphone plans can see that inflation is on the rampage. That means that, in the near future, we’re going to be paying more and more for the things we enjoy at low prices now. Looking for ways to keep your expenses low while maximizing the use of your phone? The following guide can help you save money on this small luxury.

Free Texting Apps

Why pay for a texting bundle if you have internet service and can simply send messages for free? One such app that allows users to send messages absolutely free of charge (even the app is free) is Kik. Not only is it one of the highest-rated texting apps, it also works on Android and iPhone platforms and allows its users to send picture messages too. This alone could save you upwards of $20 per month, depending on your host company’s pricing scale and whether or not they allow you to do away with texting.

Skype

Free calling too? If you have a two-way camera—as seen on the latest models of the iPhone 4 and 4S for example—then you can use the free Skype app to video call or simply call friends and family. If you want to make international calls, then you can either buy credits to call landlines from your computer ($10 worth goes a long way, averaging less than two cents per minute) or purchase a monthly calling plan, which is $13.99 for unlimited international calls per month. With the free Skype app, all of this is possible (and cheaper than a regular carrier).

Remember Wifi!

Even if you’re paying the $30+ per month in your plan for 2GB (or more) of mobile data service, it’d be wise to switch to wifi from your 3G or 4G service whenever possible. This could potentially allow you to cut back on the amount of data you need each month, or at bare minimum, prevent any added charges for going over your limit.

Pay-As-You-Go Plan

If your monthly usage of texting or calling minutes varies greatly, then you may want to consider purchasing a pay-as-you-go plan instead. This cost-effective option works well for those who don’t want to be stuck with a 2-year contract (as required by major cell phone companies such as AT&T and Verizon) but still want to have regular service. Virgin Mobile is one company that offers such a service: for a $30 per month flat fee, you get 1500 minutes and 1500 messages and 30MB of web access. No hassling with contracts (or termination fees, which cost well into the hundreds of dollars if you’re unhappy with Verizon or AT&T); just basic cell phone service at a low cost.

Owning a cell phone is pricey, but it doesn’t have to cost as much as some people are currently paying with their carriers. Following the tips above can help lower your bills without giving up any necessities such as unlimited texting or international calling.

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This article is by Kelly Kehoe, who blogs on money management and frugal living ideas of all sorts.