Are you paying too much? Slash your phone bill

Halve mobile phone contract

Let's be real, as a student you can’t live without your phone. It’s probably always within reaching distance, and the thought of not having it on you for an hour fills you with dread. But the reality is you are probably massively overpaying for the calls, texts and data you use (or don’t).

If you are spending more than £12 on your phone, you’re probably wasting cash. You can’t think of your mobile bill as a monthly cost - that’s a dangerous game to play. You need to check what your last bill was and multiply it by 12 to get your annual spend.

Why do you need to spend more than £12 a month?

So sure, you use a load of data, and you talk quite a bit (who’s texting though?!), but packages exist with unlimited minutes, texts and a load of data for £12/mth - so why are you paying more? For example, Virgin Media has unlimited minutes and texts, and a decent 2GB (you’re going to want to get free WiFi whenever possible though).

If you do need unlimited data (and texts, minutes), you can get that for £20 with Giffgaff. We know people people who don’t have broadband, and just tether at home.

Are you using too much/not enough data?

With contracts, the aim is to perfectly match inclusive minutes, texts & data to your usage. Underuse tend to mean you’re over paying on the monthly fee, but leave yourself a bit of a buffer for months when you’re using your phone a lot. Overuse usually means you’re paying too much for extra minutes/texts/data.

Contact your provider and find out exactly what you are using. If you never come close to reaching your allowance, you should downgrade. If you are always going over (and being charged a fortune), you should consider getting a more expensive (or different) package which will give you more minutes or data.

Top SIM only deals - if you don’t need a new handset

If you’re happy with your handset, the best deals often come from switching SIM. You can only do this if your handset isn’t locked to a particular network. If it is, and the new Sim is on another network, you’ll have to get it unlocked, which you can usually do for free or £20.

How to unlock your phone

Unlocking a phone if often necessary when your phone is locked to another service provider. Some phones can be unlocked for free, and others may need to be unlocked by an expert.

Ofcom has a table with all the costs of unlocking for each network and the average time it takes (we’ve summed up the big ones below).

  • Three - free to unlock
  • Virgin Mobile - £15
  • O2 - £15 (takes 7 days to unlock)
  • Tesco Mobile - £20
  • Vodafone - £19.99 (takes 24 hours to unlock)
  • EE (inc. Orange & T Mobile) - £8.99

Before you pay out for anything, make sure you check out Giffgaff’s Unlockapedia, which can help you unlock your mobile phone with a free unlock code.

Don’t want to switch? Haggle

If you’re near or beyond your contract’s end you’re wielding a powerful weapon...loyalty.

Tell them you want to stay, but the deal isn’t good enough. Ask them what they can do. If it’s still not good enough, ask to speak to ‘disconnections’ or ‘retentions’ as it’s their job is to keep you. They have far more discretion to give you stronger deals.

If you hate the idea of going in ‘big’ and asking for a discount, you can just call up your provider and ask for your PAC code. Andy from the blog Be Clever With Your Cash, told us how he got his Three 30 day SIM cut from £20 to £12 a month, just by calling up and asking for his PAC code. Asking for a PAC code tells the provider that you are going to leave, and that you are serious.

Want a pay as you go phone?

Ok - hold up. Pay as you go phones aren't what they used to be. You don’t need to run to the corner shop to get a card so you can text back your mate. They are a decent (and easy) alternative to locking yourself into a contract. And remember, just because you have a pay as you go plan, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on data bundles or add-ons for extra texts and minutes.

Ideally, as a student, it is preferable to get a pay as you go phone, rather than get tied down to a contract, which could result in you paying too much for a package of minutes, texts and data that you don't need, and you don’t get the stress of monthly bills.

With a pay as you go phone, you are able to cap your spending (or you won't be able to afford to top up), which is great if you are short of cash and you can’t run over your allotted traffic, because once your credit has gone, its gone! No hefty charges for you!

Apply for a mobile contract, even SIM-only and most providers will look at your credit score. If it’s poor, you could be rejected. Unlike many other providers, Giffgaff doesn’t credit check you, so you can get its 30 day, month long PAYG goody bags which include:

£5 per month

  • 100 + extra UK minutes
  • 300 UK texts
  • 100 MB UK Data
  • Free to giffgaff numbers

£7.50 per month

  • 250 UK minutes
  • Unlimited UK texts
  • 500 MB UK data
  • Free to giffgaff numbers

£10 per month

  • 500 UK minutes
  • Unlimited UK texts
  • 1 GB UK data
  • Free to giffgaff numbers

£12 per month

  • 500 UK minutes
  • Unlimited UK texts
  • 2 GB UK data
  • Free to giffgaff numbers

£15 per month

  • 1,000 UK minutes
  • Unlimited UK texts
  • 4 GB UK data
  • Free to giffgaff numbers

£18 per month

  • 2,000 UK minutes
  • Unlimited UK texts
  • 6 GB UK data
  • Free to giffgaff numbers

£20 per month

  • Unlimited UK minutes
  • Unlimited UK texts
  • Always On UK data
  • Free to giffgaff numbers

For true PAYG, Three is the best, it’s only 3p a minute, 2p a text and 1p per MB of data. The days of paying 12p a text are in the past (luckily).

Use free wi-fi

It's all about the free wi-fi, you know, because it's free. Don't use up all your data allowance, and wait until you’ve got wi-fi to do things that eat up data, like watching YouTube videos or updating your apps.

Even if you’ve got 4G, a decent home wi-fi signal will usually be faster and more reliable. If you’re out, plenty of shops, cafes, restaurant, libararies, buses, uni have free wifi.