Brenda Schmitt, ISU Extension Family Finance Specialist Schmitt@iastate.edu 641-512-0650 Mobile phone contracts can last between 12 months and two years. As you near the end of your contract, your existing network will try hard to keep you as a customer, while rivals will want to steal your business. You will begin to get offers to upgrade making this is a good time to get the newest model without paying the difference. This is also a good time to negotiate a cheaper contract. Read up on what the competitors offer and which is best. The lowest monthly price may not provide the cheapest overall cost for a contract. Getting a cell phone as part of a low cost monthly package might require an upfront payment to cover the cost of the phone. One of the best ways to save money on your cell phone contract is to choose a deal that does not include a free phone. That "free" phone is actually paid for through a higher monthly cell service bill. Keeping your existing phone and choosing a SIM only offer to pair with it can drastically reduce your monthly bill without cutting down on the free calls, text and web surfing. SIM only offers involve using your existing phone with the addition of a card from the cell phone carrier that allows your phone to work on their network. In the past, leaving your current contract early was rarely worth it because of the extreme fees charged. Recent law suits deemed these fees to be too high because their only purpose was to discourage customers from leaving the company – they were not fees for actual costs incurred. As a result, many providers are lowering their fees for broken contracts. As you shop around for a new contract, you may want to find a company that has a lower fee for breaking a contract. Another way to avoid the fees that come with breaking a contract is to test-drive a new cell phone plan. Most companies allow this. Another choice may be pre-paid plans, which may provide you with the flexibility and freedom you want to help you budget and possibly save money.