Five Money-Saving Tips HOW TO CUT COSTS WITHOUT CHANGING CARRIERS
1 HOLD THE ROAM Many service plans charge extra for analog roaming or for digital roaming outside your specified region. If your phone has the capability, try setting it to digital roam only, or setting it to alert you when it moves into analog territory. You could save yourself from some ugly charges.
2 DO THE MATH Bill compiling isn't an exact science, so it pays to check for errors. If you find a mistake, or even if you think you've found one, call and be firm. If you stick to the matter at hand (and don't raise your voice), you'll probably get a break.
3 MIND YOUR MINUTES If you're not using all your minutes, see if you can get a cheaper plan. If you know you need more minutes, say, for a summer vacation, switch your plan in advance. As long as you don't mind renewing your contract every time, you may be able to switch as often as you like. Here's a secret: ask for the cancellation department; it often offers the best deals.
4 UPDATE YOUR PHONE If you're not happy with the performance of your aging phone, don't buy a new one right away. See if you can get a free software update. If it works--and that isn't guaranteed--your phone will access more cell towers and probably give you better reception.
5 DROP YOUR PLAN If you need your phone only for road emergencies, you may want to drop to a pre-paid refillable calling card or cancel your plan altogether. Calling cards, which expire on a fixed date, are sold in less expensive blocks of minutes. Phones without service can usually still get through to 911.
HIGH-TECH PHONES AT A GLANCE
SONY ERICSSON T68i Comes with GPRS data capability, color screen, Bluetooth wireless and multimedia messaging motorola i95cl A full-color phone that can run Nextel's Java-based business tools and games
VERIZON WIRELESS Z-800 One of the first so-called BREW phones, built to handle video games, photo albums and map-based navigation
MOTOROLA V70 Makes a fashion statement with its "switchblade" cover and white-on-black display. More than just a pretty face, it also delivers high-speed data
SAMSUNG SPH-a500 Packs a lot into its compact space-age clamshell; in addition to a color screen and Java programs, it carries a GPS chip (so that it can be used as an emergency locator beacon)
SIEMENS S46 An extra-versatile "world phone"; it can roam most of the world's networks, from Europe's GSM to the old TDMA networks still operating in the U.S.