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How to Afford a Smartphone on a College Student Budget

Sep 23, 2013 • Wendy Nelson • Saving & Spending
Having the latest phone doesn't need to blow your college student budget.

Having the latest phone doesn’t need to blow your college student budget.

Do you need to balance giving your college student the cell phone he or she wants against keeping your student on a budget? Don’t worry, there are ways to afford a smartphone on a college student budget.

My oldest daughter made a convincing case for having a smartphone before she started college. On campus, the need for a smartphone would be minimal because she has a laptop computer and there are numerous computer labs around campus. Off campus would be another story if she needed to look up directions or phone numbers. Of course, getting my daughter a smartphone was going to mean a larger phone bill, but I decided the added cost was worth the extra peace of mind.

There are several ways to minimize cost in order to afford a smartphone on a college student budget.

Evaluate your student’s usage to make sure you aren’t paying too much for features he or she doesn’t need. College students seem to text on campus the most because it’s quick and easy when they want to meet up or make plans, so it is usually worth it to go with an unlimited texting option.

Students may occasionally need to use talk time to call professors or employers or order a late night pizza, but don’t dismiss the need for adequate talk time minutes when your student wants to call home!

As far as data goes, two megabytes of data per month has been more than enough to meet my daughter’s needs. Most of her campus offers free wifi, so she can point to that network when she’s on campus to save her cell phone plan megabytes.

Keep your student on the family plan. It’s usually less expensive to stick with a family plan unless you’re getting a prepaid individual plan. In our case, it was only an extra $30 per month to upgrade her current phone to a smartphone, making the total monthly charge for her line $40, compared to $90 per month to get what she wanted on an individual plan.

Investigate prepaid plans. If you don’t want to keep your college student on your family cell phone plan, take a look at prepaid plans. There are several prepaid plan carriers that allow auto-debit from a checking account. These plans can go as low as $30 per month. The talk time is usually limited, but many offer unlimited texting and data.

Check for student discounts. Most carriers offer employee discounts and many extend these to college students, as well. Check with the individual carriers to see what they offer and have your student look for any notices around campus promoting discounted cell phone plans.

When I researched all the options, I found that it was possible to afford a smartphone on a college student budget. Yes, it was more expensive than a basic phone, but it made me feel better knowing my daughter had access to whatever she needed on the go.

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