Taming Runaway Cell Phone Expenses

By: Christine Peppler

Although most of us would be hopelessly lost without our cell phones, capping the costs associated with their use is something most of us resolve to do with some regularity. Quick text messages, surfing the web, listening to voice mail, offers to download favorite tunes, ringtones, games, and cool screen savers are just a few of the things that lure us into escalating costs beyond the typical talk time charges.

In a world filled with features offering convenience, personalization, and great entertainment, it's important to discover and capitalize on those few services which can actually help hold down the cost of our cell phone addiction.

International calls on the cheap

For those with business or loved ones outside of the country there is a service that allows users to make international calls for the cost of a typical domestic long distance call.

Futurephone.com allows users to access a domestic long distance line to connect to an access gateway number from which they can then call any of a growing list of countries without any additional charge. Once connected the user simply dials 011, the country code, and then the number they wish to reach. Simple. For those with unlimited nationwide long distance calling, the service makes international calling virtually free.

The service works using a cell phone or any other type of phone. It requires no sign up or commitment and, in fact, they don't take any information from users making it entirely risk free.

Free voice mail while it lasts

YouMail.com provides cell phone users voice mail functions such as listening to messages from any phone or via the web, message forwarding via e-mail, disconnecting from unwanted callers, and the ability to create unique voice greetings for anyone who calls. For those who want the flexibility to record that cool message for their friends, the romantic or naughty greeting for their sweetie, and the smooth, professional introduction for work contacts this service may be the answer.

YouMail is compatible with Verizon, Cingular, and T-Mobile but may expand in the future. To use the application, the latest version of Java is needed.

The best news however is that it's free: at least for as long as there are Beta accounts available.

Affordable Directory Assistance

Although 1-800-Free-411 won't eliminate the talk time charges for directory assistance calls it will allow users to skip the $1.50-$2.00 charge for connecting to the service. By simply dialing the toll free number, users can access nationwide directory assistance without signing up or committing to any purchases. 1-800-Free-411 is sponsored by advertisers which means in turn that those using it may need to listen to a single 15 second promotional ad during their call, but the service indicates that the length of the call is no longer than any traditional directory assistance call.

Text Messaging Options

In the US, text messaging can cost around 10 cents to send and 2 cents to receive messages. Texting is convenient in many instances and some cell phone plans make it more affordable than others so shopping around can be wise. There are numerous services offered for texting beyond what cellular providers offer.

AOL and Yahoo both offer services. Online businesses such as textmessage.cc and onlinetextmessage.com offer users the ability to send messages without charge leaving only the fee for those receiving messages. In these instances, messages are sent from an internet connected PC.

Another option allows users to send messages from their cell phone or PC to people anywhere in the world who have a GSM/GPRS Java enabled phone. The service, i-text.it is ad supported thus users are not charged for messages but instead receive paid advertisements when using the service. To get started, users must register and download the i-text.it application but those receiving the messages do not have to be users of the service. As with any of the text messaging options, there would still be any data rate charges from the cellular provider for accessing their GPRS connection; usually no more than a penny.

Certainly for those who use text messaging a great deal, a trial of any of these services might help in discovering which option helps to limit the cost of their texting habit.

There are critical factors that consumers need to consider when signing up for cell phone services to help hold down costs. Careful selection of the most cost effective plan to match usage, monitoring and assuring minutes are not exceeded, and avoiding services that offer downloads "with a catch" are sure money savers but being a bit more adventurous in seeking out services that offer more cost efficient calling can also help in taming runaway cell phone expenses.

Cell Phones
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