Cell phone bills are on the rise, but here's how to shrink them.

Cell phone bills are on the rise, but here’s how to shrink them.

It’s not clear whether we needed our nation’s top economists studying this issue, but a new government report proves what most of us can surmise after glancing over at our kids: cell phone spending has drastically increased over the past seven years. We managed to spend some 53 percent more on wireless service, even though prices for that service dropped by 10 percent over the same time, according to economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Average yearly expenses per person rose from $608 to $963 in the past seven years but that doesn’t tell the whole story. No way. Mostly because that average includes the cell phone spending of really old people, who apparently have yet to find the joy in texting people across the table as opposed to making the great effort of speaking to them. So they spend the least each year on phone use.

Really, when it comes to yearly cell phone expenses, it’s worth comparing ourselves to people in the same income brackets. The top 20 percent of the country – income-wise, anyway – spends about $1,500 a year on cell phone use. While the lowest earning group spends $445 a year. Looking at things by age, it’s us – people ages 35 to 54 – who spend the most. About $1250.

To help us, Consumer Reports has published a great piece, with some Real Mom advice thrown in.

  1. Don’t sign a contract. Sure, that free fancy phone is tempting – not to mention its built-in justification for treating yourself or your kids (“It was free …”) But truth is, prices for monthly service drops at the speed of cell technological advances, so we’re better off selecting an installment plan and using the phone well after it’s paid off, says Consumer Reports.
  2.  Don’t overlook small carriers, says Consumer Reports. The watchdog found that the happiest customers were using Consumer Cellular, Net 10, and Republic Wireless.
  3. Remember, our kids are typically only willing to exercise their vocal chords when we’re trying to concentrate, meaning it’s data, not voice calls, they use. This rule is critical: Instagram, Snapchat and whatever else they might invent before I can in two minutes hit “publish” can only be used in hotspots. Connect to wireless or look up and take in your physical surroundings.
  4. Take phones away when it’s time to sleep or do homework. Sure, they’ll at some point announce an academic emergency – homework or group project related – that requires a phone call. And that’s fine, but at least you can keep track.
  5. Watching video streams, uploading video, and streaming music eat up data, says Consumer reports. I, for one, will implement the No Video Rule, effective immediately.