Lower your smartphone, cellphone, home phone and gadget 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 smartphone, 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

Tired of your smartphone bills, cellphone bills, and home phone bills going up every year?

We spoke with a number of people on the downtown streets who said 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 Cellphone 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," Ryan Potter of Verizon Wireless said.

He 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.

Only downside, it doesn't work with many home alarms. So check with your alarm company first.

Family Shared Data Plans

Option No. 2: a family shared data plans for around $140 a month.

They can save up to $50 a month if multiple people in your home have smartphone 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 cellphones. In fact, if you have one smartphone and three "dumb" cellphones, your bill will probably go up with the family plan.

Prepaid Can Save

In that case, consider option No. 3: a prepaid cellphone, ideal if you have teens with their own phones, or any who is not on a smartphone.

That can save $30 a month, and best: The kids can't run up your bill.

John Winstel of Cincinnati Bell and Kroger iWireless said, "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."

Which leads to option No. 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 for as low as $20 a month.

Look Over Bills, Trim Fat

Finally, look over your bills: If you have a smartphone, 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 cellphone plan.

It says many people have services like parental controls, enhanced voicemail, paper bills, and AT&T Navigator:  Add them up and 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.

As always, don't waste your money.

Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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