Cutting a king-sized cell-phone bill for my princess

Brian J. O'Connor
Detroit News Finance Editor

My wife, the long-suffering Mrs. Funny Money, is all thumbs. And I mean that entirely as a compliment.

She and I grew up in the '70s, when a girl's fondest hope wasn't for the latest iPhone but for a Princess telephone. Preferably in pink and with a dedicated land line for her bedroom only. With the advent of cell phones and text messaging, we've been left behind, because asking people over 40 to send a text message is like asking them to run a marathon on their thumbs. It's easier — and usually faster — for us to simply drive over and talk to you.

But then our friends gave their kids cell phones, started texting and turned their new-found thumb-savvy on us. Then our babysitters were only available by text. I finally knew it was time to accept texting when those whipper-snappers at work texted me for everything, including asking me to move my walker off the charging cord for their iPhones.

Finding savings under her thumb

Which brings me to Mrs. Funny Money and her prodigious digits. Since we rarely texted, our cell phone plans don't include texts. And now she's texting like mad, at 20 cents a pop. When a recent bill showed up with nearly $40 of added text charges, I knew it was time for a change.

Even if you already have unlimited text messaging as part of your calling plan, there's a lesson here: Don't take any recurring bill for granted. Especially when it comes to phones, cable, Internet access, insurance, financial services and anything else that's competitive. As I describe in my book, you can find big, easy savings in these spending categories with just a little research and you won't give up a single thing.

The savings from taking a little time to go over each bill, eliminate unneeded features and add-ons, and research cheaper options can pay off with hundreds of dollars in saving every year. Repeat the process with a few more bills, and you can save thousands.

A lower bill for her highness

In my case, switching to a plan that includes text messaging doesn't save a whole lot on the actual service — just $18.32 according to the comparison feature on Verizon's website. But a call to customer service confirmed that the new account also won't include the $31.50 I've been paying in a monthly "account charge," which I guess buys me the privilege of paying for all the rest of it.

The total savings would average more than $41 a month from January to July, which adds up to $496 a year. We'll get unlimited voice and text usage, and a comfortable amount of padding beyond our usual monthly data usage, to avoid overage charges. We won't give up anything important, and the savings will allow me to add damage and loss insurance for Mrs. Funny Money's pricey new smartphone.

It's not the Princess telephone she always wanted as a girl, though it is pink, of course. And I like to think any phone she uses is fit for a princess.

Brian O'Connor is author of the award-winning book, "The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed

Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese."

(313) 222-2145

Twitter: @BrianOCTweet