ST. PAUL, Minn. – Tonia Aslakson and her wife B live a hectic life. They have three children, two jobs and one very familiar problem.
They pay way too much for their cell phone bill.
"This particular bill this month is $439.60,” said Tonia. "I mean it's like a really nice car payment, but we don’t have a really nice car.
"It's just a lot of money to spend,” added B.
Many people can relate. And it turns out, experts say they’re probably overpaying.
How Much Should We Pay?
"Nobody should be paying $400 for their wireless plan. That’s just outrageous,” said Sascha Segan, lead analyst for mobile devices at PCMag.com.
He said you can find a lot of great deals right now because carriers are in the middle of a price war.
Segan said for a single line people shouldn’t be paying more than $70 a month right now. For a multi-line plan the payment should be no more than $200. Of course there are exceptions to every rule.
So what plans are the best? How much data do you really need? And should you buy your phone or lease it? The answers to those questions are complicated.
"It's like health insurance. It's really hard to understand or to break it down,” said B.
Segan said it’s made to be complicated.
"The carriers do this on purpose to prevent you from shopping around,” he said.
That's where Segan comes in. He's done the shopping and the testing already. He first suggests to make sure the phone plan you want has good coverage where you live and work. Sounds obvious, but he said not everyone does that.
"For a single line we really like the Verizon 5 gig $50 single line plan,” he said.
The $50 single line is a great buy because of Verizon's reliable network he said.
"For the multi-line plan, the T-Mobile four lines for $160 including taxes and fees deal really is terrific,” he added.
He said T-Mobile's family plan is probably the best, especially when you consider they include taxes and fees in the upfront costs.
That hasn't stopped other carriers like Verizon from trying to keep customers from jumping ship by recently offering unlimited data plans. A recent New York Times article reports the best plan for a family of four is Verizon’s unlimited data plan for $180. And for a single line user, AT&T’s three gigabyte plan for $60 a month.
How Much Data Do You Need?
There is such a thing as too much data.
"Look at your old bills to see how much data you actually use. Because yes, you can buy too much data and then be wasting money,” he said.
Okay, so you have the plan. You know how much data you need. Should you buy or lease your phone? It depends.
Buy or Lease
"You’ll always pay less in the long run if you buy your phone up front,” he said.
That's assuming you plan to sell the phone at some point. But if you like to upgrade frequently -- leasing he said is your best option.
"Because in those cases you turn in your phone to the carrier, essentially selling it back to the carrier in exchange for a new phone,” he added.
Back at the Aslaksons they were surprised to hear they could save so much money.
“Absolutely. I'm shocked,” said B.
Shocking but doable said experts if you know what to look for.
One final tip, Segan tells customers not to forget about the cheaper brands like Boost or MetroPCS because they’re owned and operated by the big carriers. You get the same network just with fewer options.