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Smart cellphone use = savings.

In Canada, 52 per cent of Grade 7 students have their own cellphone. By Grade 11, it’s a whopping 85 per cent.

With the average monthly cellphone bill hitting $86 (with data), the cost of your teen’s habit of talking, texting and surfing can definitely add up. If you’re the one footing the bill, and the monthly charges have been gradually — or not so gradually — increasing, the following 6 tips may help cut costs:

  1. Put a cap on data: Be sure to talk to your teen about their limits and establish clear rules. Track data together through your service provider either online or through an app (for example, MyBell Mobile app or My Rogers app), and set restrictions on the device itself (on an iPhone*, you can disable everything from in-app purchases to inappropriate sites). 
  1. Consider a prepaid or no-contract cellphone plan: Many carriers offer prepaid plans that are both low cost and low commitment. Of course, these plans may not offer fancy phones and all the same bells and whistles as a contract. To compare prepaid plans from multiple carriers in Canada — according to talk-time minutes, data restrictions and general plan features — visit Compare Cellular.
  2. Or put your teen on a shared plan: WhistleOut’s cost comparison tool can help you gauge the cost of a family vs. an individual plan to determine if it’d be cheaper to get your teen separate phone service — or include all family members in the same package. According to WhistleOut, family and shared plans account for half of the Canadian cellphone market.
  3. Make sure they’re smart surfers: Confirm your teen’s phone is set to make use of Wi-Fi when available, so you aren’t charged for data needlessly. Also, if your teens are travelling out of network or out of country — such as a study abroad trip — ensure they turn off roaming, or you may be hit with significant data charges. Most importantly, teach your teen how to use the Internet safely. The RCMP offers some helpful tips and resources.
  4. Look out for “free” apps that have fees and offers within: Just because an app is free to download doesn’t mean your teen is in the clear. Music and gaming apps, for example, may ask you to input a credit or pay a fee once the app is in use. Especially if you have younger cellphone users, explain how this works (it’s not magic money) and use parental controls to monitor what they’re up to.
  5. Ask your teen to pay all or part of the bill: You can also decrease your costs and offer your teen a lesson on cellphone use and fees by splitting the bill. This will help motivate your teen to track their data usage and make sure they don’t go overboard on their texting, surfing and video-watching. If they happen to incur extra charges, consider having them pay the extras, like one mom in this story.

For more tips on getting your child ready to handle the responsibility of owning a cellphone, check out the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s Your Teen’s First Cell Phone article.

*iPhone is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

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