Claire Nottage | June 23rd, 2022

How to save money on your mobile phone

With prices rising in every area of life at the moment, many of us are looking for ways to cut costs. Smartphones are without doubt now pretty much an essential in life, but, just as with your weekly shop or your car insurance, there are ways to save on your monthly outgoings when it comes to your trusty mobile.

Mobile phone with a piggy bank

Depending on how much you want to save, there are a whole lot of ways you can reduce the cost of your mobile phone, in terms of the handset itself, your usage and your contract. In this guide we offer you a selection of hints and tips to help reduce your monthly outgoings, since, as the slogan goes, every little helps.

1. Don’t upgrade your current phone

Everyone loves a new phone, fresh and shiny out of the box. However, a new phone will inevitably come with a greater cost and if you’re looking to save money on your mobile phone, a good starting point is to at least not increase your monthly costs. The latest mobile phones are forever creeping up in price, with some of the latest flagship models now costing £1000 or more.

Although you may like the idea of a better camera or a faster processor or greater storage capacity, when it comes down to it, the basic functions offered by a mobile phone have not changed for several years now. If you just want to get online, make calls and send messages, even an old iPhone 6 will do the job. Fancy biometric security and the ability to create avatars are nice to have, but after the initial novelty has worn off, there is little real difference between the functionality offered by a brand new smartphone and one that is a good few years old.

So before you leap at the latest handsets as soon as they are released, maybe consider keeping hold of your current handset for a while longer.

2. Get a SIM-only deal

Unless you are still in your initial contract period, it’s worth taking a look at how much you spend on data, texts and calls each month. There’s every chance that you are paying for more data than you need, and, in spite of the fact that unlimited data deals are increasingly becoming the norm with most big providers, there are still plenty of cheaper, smaller data plans out there, especially from the likes of ASDA Mobile, Lebara, Plusnet and Smarty.

How to choose a SIM only deal

If you tend to spend most of your day connected to wi-fi – either at work or at home – you’ll be surprised at how little data you probably need. Log on to your existing mobile provider’s app and you will be able to see how much data you use in a month. This will then give you a clear idea of how much you really need. The average person in the UK uses 5GB of data a month, although this will vary according to individual requirements. Put simply, if you are away from wi-fi a lot of the time, you will need more data than someone who is connected to wi-fi most of the day. Also, if you do a lot of video or audio streaming when you are not connected to wi-fi, you will need a bigger data allowance than someone who just browses, for example.

Compare SIM only deals

3. Use free wi-fi whenever you can

As well as making sure you are connected to your home or work wi-fi whenever possible, there are also a number of wi-fi hotspots you can use when you are out and about. BT has five million wi-fi hotspots, in shopping centres, coffee shops, hotels and restaurants. If you are already a BT mobile customer (or if you have BT broadband at home), you are entitled to connect to these hotspots for free, saving you even more on data usage. Simply go into your wi-fi settings and key in your BT ID and password. You can then request that your phone automatically joins any BT wifi hotspot in future.

If you aren’t a BT customer and occasionally have the need for more mobile data than usual, you can choose to pay for access to BT wi-fi for a limited period. One day’s access costs £7.99.

Sky customers can take advantage of free wi-fi with The Cloud, Sky’s own network of wi-fi hotspots. Virgin Media offers free wi-fi to its customers – you can check exactly where by using the Virgin Media Connect app. O2 also offers free wi-fi hotspots to its customers in various locations around the UK.In addition, most venues, from restaurants and cafes to campsites and hotels, now offer their own free wi-fi to customers, so make sure you take advantage whenever you can in order to keep your own data usage low.

4. Consider a refurbished phone

If you really want – or need – a new phone, it might be worth looking at getting a refurbished model rather than signing up for a two-year contract on an expensive new one. The refurbished phone market is booming, and there are several companies that specialise in selling phones that have been thoroughly checked, repaired and wiped for the secondhand market. Always buy from a reputable retailer - there are a number online including Music Magpie and Envirophone, but you could also consider buying one from a mobile network, such as O2 or EE, or, for the ultimate reassurance, from the manufacturer themselves.

In many cases, a refurbished phone is a nearly new handset that has been returned within the 14-day period by a customer who has changed their mind. This means it is likely to be in immaculate condition, but you will save around £100 on the original price. If phones are not of this Grade A standard, they will be given a lower grade. A Grade B phone will maybe have one small mark on it, a Grade C phone a few more marks and so on. A refurbished phone bought from a trustworthy seller will also have a 12-month warranty with it, so if you do run into any problems, you are covered.

Compare refurbished phones

5. Choose a cheaper brand of phone

Although Samsung and Apple regularly compete to be top dog when it comes to the latest in mobile technology, there are a lot of other manufacturers that make excellent smartphones but don’t have the kudos of the bigger names. And, as you might expect, they also don’t carry the same price tag. Look at names such as Xiaomi, Oppo, Nokia and Motorola, all of which sell budget smartphones for around £200 or less.

Frequently asked questions

How much data do I need for my phone?

This will depend entirely on how much data you use. Check your mobile provider’s app to see how much data you are using at the moment – this will give you a good idea of how much you need.

Where can I buy a refurbished phone?

You can get a refurbished phone directly from a manufacturer, such as Apple, from a mobile network, such as EE, O2 or Vodafone, or from a specialist retailer online or on the high street.

What do I do if I can’t pay my mobile bill?

Always speak to your provider as soon as possible if you are struggling to pay. They may be able to spread your repayments over a longer period to help you repay what you owe.

Who offers the cheapest mobile data plans?

Providers such as Lebara, Asda, Smarty and Plusnet all offer affordable data deals, but for the latest cheap deals, visit our comparison page.