20 unusual ways to save money: Combine cell phone plans


Sharing cell phone minutes using a family plan can make having lots of minutes far more economical than buying plans individually

All the major cell phone providers offer these plans with several permutations. LetsTalk.com (http://www.letstalk.com/plans/shop.htm) will help sort them out.

Generally, the best deals can be found online, but the in-store salespeople can sometimes bend the rules or offer discounts that aren't obvious elsewhere.

My husband and I, who live in Detroit, and his 84-year-old mother, who lives in New Jersey, share a plan that gives us 700 daytime minutes and unlimited minutes nights after 6 p.m. and weekends. Including taxes, it's about $84 per month – or $28 a piece.

None of us are big cell phone users and we aren't bothered by having to be careful how much we use the phone on weekdays. If we were voracious talkers, there are all-you-can-eat plans that offer unlimited talk and text messaging for about $65 a month per person.

A few things to keep in mind:

• Choosing the same provider that many other friends and family use can take pressure off the per-minute usage because mobile-to-mobile calls on the same network are free.
• Asking to have everybody's contract start at the same time makes it easier to end the contract without facing lingering and potentially expensive commitments.
• Setting up auto-pay on the account will sometimes result in a small discount.
• If you intend to collect from all the participants, it's wise to appoint one "banker" and set up the payment rules, including how charges for overages will be handled.
• A good question to ask the salesperson as you contemplate this expensive commitment is: "What can you do persuade me that this is the right deal?" You never know what the answer will be. Big discounts on desirable phones is one possibility.

Originally published