This article is brought to you by RadioShack.
Cell phone plans are notoriously complicated. Between monthly charges, data fees, text message limits, and the thousands of applications available for smart phones, it is easy to get confused. That's why I prefer no-contract wireless plans. A great deal of decisions are eliminated.
No-contract wireless plans, such as those available at RadioShack, require no long-term commitments. You pay for service on a month-to-month basis, with no obligation to renew.
I avoided no-contract wireless plans for a long time because there weren't many options. Now you can obtain them from most of the major cell phone carriers, as well as a few dedicated providers. Some have several plans to choose from, depending on your cell phone usage habits.
I use a prepaid cell phone provider that offers unlimited minutes, text messages, and data usage. That way I can talk to my clients, text them, and send them documents without worrying about overages. If you don't talk much but prefer to text, you might be able to save money by subscribing to a plan that limits minutes but offers unlimited texts.
If at any point I find I am unsatisfied with my no-contract wireless plan, I can cancel and switch to someone else. I didn't have that option when I signed a contract.
The problem with a one- or two-year contract is that you don't get to try out the phone or the service before you commit. Maybe the wireless provider doesn't have much coverage in your neck of the woods. If you've signed a contract, you're stuck with either substandard service or with a hefty cancellation fee.
Because I chose an unlimited prepaid wireless plan, I don't have to worry about how many text messages I send or how many minutes I spend on the phone. My bill is the same every single month, which is a big bonus when calculating a budget.
It is true that, when you use a no-contract wireless cell phone carrier, you don't get a free or heavily discounted phone. The up-front expense can be intimidating.
However, with my former plan, I was paying $135 per month for two cell phone lines. Now, after switching to prepaid, I pay $92 per month. The smart phones my wife and I purchased cost $235 together, which means it took less than six months to even up on the cost. Now we save money each month, and before we didn't get unlimited texting, talking, or data.
Making the Switch
There are dozens of different cell phone carriers, both contract and prepaid, so it is impossible to know if a no-contract wireless plan is appropriate for your situation without crunching the numbers. Figure out how much you spend on your current cell phone plan, then compare it to prepaid wireless plans in your area.
Consider your experience with your current provider in addition to the cost of the phone. We chose our prepaid carrier based on a referral from a friend, so it always helps to talk to people you know. Find out what plans they have and whether they are satisfied.
And remember to evaluate several different options. The more you know about the available choices, the better your chances of making an economical decision.