student life

7 tips for students who want to keep their mobile phone costs down

mobile phone
Written by Nigel Simpkins

If you’re a student and looking after yourself, mobile phone costs can take up a significant portion of your budget. The good news is that if you’re overpaying, it’s usually because of something you’re doing wrong. This also means that you can do something starting today to rectify the situation. There are many tricks that you can use to reduce your mobile phone consumption or monthly bills, and some could take you only a few minutes. Here are a few tips for students who want to keep their mobile phone costs down.

Reconsider Unlimited Minutes

Do you really need unlimited text, minutes, or data? You should assess how you use your services because there’s a very strong chance that you can get by with a plan with capped minutes. You have plans out there that will give you anywhere from 500 minutes to 1000 minutes every month. In a world where fewer people are talking and more people are texting and using apps, unlimited minutes is something very few people need, so it’s worth looking into changing your plan.

Consider SIM-Only Deals

Contrary to what some people may think, SIM-only deals are not worse than contract plans and many offer great deals. So, we would suggest that you compare SIM only deals and see what’s out there. 

Carriers like Lebara have some of the best deals you’ll find anywhere. You can compare SIM only deals from Lebara and see which one would work the best for you. They have an entry-level deal that will give you 1000 minutes in the UK, 100 minutes worldwide, and 2GB for only £5. This is on a one-month contract too, so you’re free to go whenever you want.

This is one thing that makes SIM-only deals so great for people on a limited budget. Since you can switch whenever you want, you can choose from all the plans that are available and see if there’s something better out there. All you have to do is switch the SIM and you’re good to go.

Another great thing about SIM-only plans is that you can use whichever phone you want. This could be your grandma’s phone, a phone you found online, or one that you got at a discount in a local shop. There is no need for you to spend over £500 on a phone that you will have to replace after a few years. This brings us to our next point.

Ditch the iPhone

We know that iPhones are the ‘in’ thing, but it’s usually more about the name and status symbol than anything else. If you have the latest iPhone, chances are you aren’t using it anywhere near its full capacity. You are wasting money on features that you don’t need, like an uber-powerful processor and cameras you don’t even use.

So, we would suggest that you consider looking at budget phones and committing the blasphemous act of going for an Android. There are tons of great phones out there that you can find for £200 or less and the quality will be nearly indistinguishable. 

Sometimes, these phones will have almost the same specs as more expensive phones, but will not have the same finish. The glass might not be as strong, the display slightly less crisp, or the construction will have more plastic and less metal. None of these things should be deal-breakers, however. If you’re embarrassed about taking a Xiaomi out of your pocket, but don’t know how you’re going to pay for gas and electricity, you need to reassess your priorities. 

Buy a Used Phone

We would also suggest that you start looking at used phones if you’re strapped for cash. This is a great option if you wanted to go for a SIM-only deal for instance, but didn’t want to overpay.

One of the best places to find high-quality unlocked phones at a low price is eBay. The great thing about eBay is that you can instantly check if the seller is reputable, and you’d be surprised at the type of deals you can find there. 

Pawnbrokers are another great place to find quality phones for less. Most will either offer to unlock the phone or it will already be unlocked. The nice part about buying a phone from a pawnbroker is that they will usually offer some sort of warranty on the phone.

One thing we would not recommend, however, would be to buy the phone from classified ads. Only do so if it’s a store that can give you a guarantee. Otherwise, you have no idea what you’re getting. Not only could the phone be faulty, but a lot of the phones you’ll find online are stolen. Your best option is to go with a retailer or a reputable seller.

Forget Phone Insurance

Another benefit of buying a cheap phone is that you don’t need to worry about paying for insurance. But even if you have a mid-range model, phone insurance is very rarely worth it. The monthly cost of insurance is likely to exceed what you paid for the phone by the time it needs a repair. Most of your troubles could be avoided by buying a case anyway, so why not do that instead? Since most damage comes from either collisions or water damage, get yourself a strong, waterproof case and you should be good to go.


Not enough people haggle prices with their service providers, but many would be surprised at the type of deals that they could get. Carriers will go above and beyond to make sure they keep your business, so it’s always worth a try. Call your provider and ask for a discount. Plans change all the time and tend to go down, so you might be able to switch to a better plan. There might also be a special promotion running that you weren’t aware of.

Companies have retention departments that are there to make sure that clients don’t leave. So, you need to make them feel the pressure and talk about what the competition is doing. Try to air out all the grievances you have with them too and don’t be afraid to lay it on thick. This is what will push them to work harder not only to keep you, but to maintain their reputation.

Keep Your Data Usage in Check

Many of us misuse our data plans, and if you have ready access to Wi-Fi, you shouldn’t have to pay much for data. Try to find free connection spots around the city and use your campus’s free Wi-Fi if possible. Download any media you want to listen to in advance using your home’s Wi-Fi. You can also pre-load your laptop with media that you’ll be able to transfer to your phone whenever you want.

Another way that people end up overusing their data is because they let apps run in the background. You should check your phone’s settings and look at data usage. This will give you a list of the apps using your data and restrict access if needed. You should also make sure that you turn off automatic updates and set them to only load if you have Wi-Fi access.

So, if you were worried about your monthly mobile costs, these tips should help you. The most important thing is being aware of your options, and don’t overpay for the latest shiny new toy.