4 cellphone hacks that can save you major money

It's Time to Pay Less for Monthly Services

Are you putting a chunk of your paycheck towards your cellphone service? Many people are. According to a 2014 study by Cowen and Company, the average bill for customers of three major providers (Verizon, AT&T and Sprint) was over $140, except for T-Mobile, which came in at $120.

Even so, who wants to pay almost $1,700 per year for their cellphone service? If you haven't stopped to think about how much you're spending on your phone, that total may shock you. You could go on a fairly nice vacation with that money, or make a huge dent in your debt.

The good news is there are ways around paying a large bill. Let's take a look at four different cellphone hacks that can save you major money.

1. Switch Your Service Provider

The most drastic change in your bill will likely come from switching your cellphone service provider. There are many different alternatives out there besides the big four that have made huge strides in their offerings over the past few years.

Your biggest savings may be in the form of shifting to a "pay as you go" contract. Start by reviewing how many minutes and how much data you use each month to see if those "buffet" plans are even worth it. It may make sense to shift to a "pay as you go" contract if you are using significantly fewer minutes than you expected.

There has been quite a bit of innovation in the cellphone business and if you haven't shopped around lately, you might not have even heard about them.

The first is the use of Wi-Fi instead of a cell network for service. Providers like Republic Wireless have phones that will default to using Wi-Fi if a signal exists, like in your own home, which won't cost you any minutes or data. The technology will even shift from cell service to Wi-Fi when you enter an area where you have Wi-Fi service, with no disruption.

There are many other choices out there if you find yourself dissatisfied with how much you're paying your current provider. Just as you shop around with your insurance providers, you can (and should) shop around for your cellphone provider.

Remember, you may have to pay an upfront deposit with some carriers if you don't have a good credit score. You can see where you stand by viewing your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.

2. Negotiate With Your Current Service Provider

Maybe you don't want to deal with the hassle of switching your service provider. It can be a little time consuming to check out all the providers, plans and phones out there.

The easiest step you can take to lower your cellphone bill right now is to call up your service provider and ask if there's anything they can do for you price-wise.

Are you serious about switching providers if you can't get a lower rate? Arm yourself with alternatives and then tell them that, but be polite about it. Demanding a different, less expensive plan isn't likely to get you anywhere... but asking politely may do the trick.

Sometimes, customer service agents are able to give you a bit of a break. They might be able to lower your monthly payment by $5 to $10. Other times, they may have their hands tied. It may be worth calling back to negotiate with someone else, but don't spend too much of your time on this step.

3. Downgrade

If negotiating didn't work, ask your service provider if there are any other plan options available to you. You can also do a bit of research on your own.

Do you know how much data you're using each month? You could be paying for more "plan" than you need. Maybe you're on Wi-Fi a lot, and barely use a gig of data each month. Make sure you're on the lowest data plan offered.

Or maybe you use a lot of data, but you didn't know until now. Analyze which apps are using the most data, and change how often they retrieve data. If you can get by with your email being fetched every 30 to 60 minutes instead of every minute, you'll save on data usage. Switch over to using Wi-Fi whenever possible, too.

4. When Switching, Do the Math

To put this all together: Don't just take the numbers at face value when considering a switch. You need to crunch them to make sure everything works out in your favor.

Are you taking the early termination fees (ETF) into account? Some providers may offer to pay this fee for new customers, but, even if a new plan doesn't, you could still come out ahead if you're able to pay much less per month.

For example, maybe you're currently paying $90 per month and your ETF is $150, and you're looking at a plan where you can bring your own phone over and pay $30 per month.

Over the year, you're paying $1,080 for your current service, and you'll pay $360 for your new service. The $150 ETF is worth paying in that case.

Saving money on your cellphone bill is extremely simple. You just need to know the other options available to you, and you have to be willing to shop around and negotiate. Focus on how much you could be saving if you cut your bill in half, and try one of these methods today.

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4 cellphone hacks that can save you major money

Dog-sitting, babysitting, or house-sitting

These jobs are always in high demand, and the best part: you can name your price and create your own schedule! Post an ad on craigslist, or use your friends' and family's connections to get your name out there. 

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Rent out your space 

List your apartment on Airbnb or another rental site, and make some easy cash by staying at a friends and renting out your place for the weekend.

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Share your space

Just as you can rent out your full apartment or house, you can also post a free room (or even just your couch!) on sites like Craigslist or Airbnb. This way you can split your living expenses -- and maybe even make a new friend!

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Sell your body parts

Now here's a weird one: Donate your hair, breast milk, or even plasma for a profit. According to Grifols, if you're healthy and weigh above 110 pounds, you can earn up to $200 a month donating your plasma to life-saving medicine. 

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Sign up to participate in medical tests and clinical trials. 

Universities constantly need volunteers to test new medicines and treatments -- and because the pool of willing participants is limited, there is typically a large compensation for being a guinea pig. 

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Participate in a focus group

Companies and organizations will pay you to join a focus group. These can be conducted in person, online, or via phone. You will most likely be reimbursed in cash or gift cards -- plus, you often get to test out fun new products! 

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Take online surveys

Similar to focus groups, you can get paid to give your time and insights on an online questionairre. Plus, you can do this from the comfort of your couch. 

Photo via Getty

Bank on your sperm

Although we don't necessarily recommend this option, there is a very high demand for healthy sperm donors. Keep in mind some of the obvious drawbacks, but sperm donation is non-invasive and highly compensated. 

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Crowdfund your dreams

Crowdfunding allows you to raise monetary contributions from a large group of people who want to support your venture. Post your project or idea on a crowdfund site, like GoFundMe.com, and see the cash pile up.

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Become a tutor

If you're qualified, post an ad online or on a community board to tutor children on their school courses or for the upcoming SATs.

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Get a part-time job

Capitalize your free time (on the weekends or after work hours) by working a part-time job. A bartender, waiter, or Uber driver are all great options for an additional source of income -- and great tips! 

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Resell tickets

Take this suggestion at your own risk: If you're staying within legal limits, buy tickets low and sell high as an effective way to source additional money. (Just make sure to check your state and local laws first!)

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You can sell anything on the internet these days... including your companionship! Get paid to go on a platonic outing for a few hours and enjoy your afternoon with a new friend. 

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Rent out your parking spot

Make sure to check with your landlord first, but if you have the option to park your own car further away, lend or share your parking space or driveway for the hour, day, or even month! 

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Keep a coin jar 

This one takes patience before a big pay out, but keep a spare jar or drawer for loose change that you usually toss anyway. It will keep it all in one place -- and those quarters do add up! 

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Make something to sell 

If you have a knack for arts & crafts, create jewelry or other handmade gifts to sell on sites filled with other thrifty vendors like Etsy

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Sell items online

This effective strategy requires low effort with a high return. Post photos of your used or non-used items on sites like eBay or Craigslist, and let the bidding begin! 

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Have a yard sale

Sell clutter you've been meaning to get rid of right in your front yard. This simple tactic is convenient, and guarantees a wad of cash right to your pocket.  

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Return past purchases

This tip may seem obvious, but is often overlooked: Take your recently-purchased items that are laying around back to the store for either store credit or a full refund. 

Recycle scrap metal and cans

Collect cans and scrap metal out your own garbage, basement, and street and bring to your local recycler to exchange your findings for money.  

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More from Credit.com:
The Lifetime Cost of Debt Calculator
A Simple Checklist to Get Out of Debt
The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards in America

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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