Let’s face it – we all love a deal. Whether it’s a discount, a sale or just a good old-fashioned bargain, the feeling of saving a little money is sweet.
But with the cost-of-living crisis ongoing, and the price of almost everything going up – groceries, fuel, energy, you name it – those happy little bargain feelings have become less of a special occasion and more of an everyday necessity.
Now, we know the latest mobiles and tech aren’t exactly pocket change purchases at the best of times, but like it or not, most of us need our mobiles to get by. From the simple act of staying in touch with our loved ones to managing our money, shopping and even relaxing with a game or TV binge, we can’t really live without them these days.
So, if you find that your contract is up, your mobile has totally died on you, or your budget is struggling to stretch to a new plan, upgrade, or data boost (for all that comfort TV you’re watching), then we have a couple of suggestions to make.
And you never know, we might actually help you save a few pennies and steal a deal in the process.
1. Get Yourself a Budget-Friendly Mobile.
It sounds like an obvious solution. If your mobile has finally given up, been dropped or flushed one too many times, or just conked out for no apparent reason… you’ve got to replace it.
Luckily, the mighty mobile gods have smiled upon us – because plenty of the big brands have fantastic budget options available for you to buy outright at a surprisingly good price, or get on contract for a small monthly amount.
Google Pixel 6a
The Pixel 6a is one of the newest releases from Google, and it’s cheaper than you might think – but what’s particularly great is that spending less doesn’t mean getting less.
The 6a has the same processing power as the flagship Pixel 6 that was released back in October, using Google’s very own Tensor chip to make sure this model is just as fast as its predecessor. This, plus the decent 6GB of RAM and 128GB onboard storage makes for a pretty good start, don’t you think?
Though the screen is smaller than the flagship at 6.1-inches, the display is still nicely protected with Gorilla Glass 3 and features an under-screen fingerprint reader to keep your data secure. The camera specs aren’t quite up to the standards of the Pixel 6 either, but since Google are well known for their great cameras, the 12.2MP main camera holds up fantastically thanks to support from the 12MP ultra-wide sensor, 8MP front camera and some oh-so-clever software – even in low light.
Coming in at £399 to buy SIM free, or £25 a month on O2*, you can’t go wrong, really.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
If you love Android but don’t fancy going with Google, then the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G is a snazzy alternative, particularly as a budget phone offering up a nice camera for budding photographers.
First released in March 2022, Samsung has pulled back on the premium pricing to offer a mobile that still has seriously good specs and is still only £399 to buy SIM free, OR £20 a month on O2*. Featuring an Exynos 5nm chipset, 5000mAh battery, quad-camera system and under-display fingerprint scanner, this mobile has a lot going for it.
A little larger than the Pixel 6a, the A53 has a 6.5-inch screen and is water and dust-resistant with Gorilla Glass 5 on the front. Though the front display isn’t quite as fancy as some other Samsung models, it’s still bright and bold with a 120Hz refresh rate that makes it feel like a more expensive model than it actually is.
The A53’s camera is surprisingly good for a budget model, too, with a 64MP main cam, 12MP ultra-wide sensor, 5MP macro lens and a 5MP depth sensor. Combined, this creates a huge amount of flexibility for photographers and is great for filmmakers as well. And that’s not to mention the 32MP front-facing camera for your selfies.
All in all, it’s a good value model to choose when you’re trying to keep an eye on the purse strings.
Apple iPhone SE
We’re not going to get into the Apple vs. Android debate right now, but needless to say, if you’re an Apple fan, you’re probably pretty reluctant to shift to Android for the sake of £20. Which is the difference in price between this beauty and the Pixel 6a and Galaxy A53.
Coming in at £419 or £24 a month on Three*, this is the latest in Apple’s SE series and has a bit of a retro feel to it thanks to a design that mimics the iPhone 8 from way back in 2017. However, that doesn’t mean the specs aren’t ultra-modern – they are.
Featuring the same A15 Bionic chipset that’s used in the iPhone 13, this mobile has a lot of power behind it – which makes it a great choice for just about anything from filming videos to serious action gaming. That said, the screen is small by modern standards at just 4.7-inches, so you might not see as much as you’d like.
The SE is nicely durable thanks to the super tough glass front and back, and water-resistant, with the touch ID you’re familiar with. However, in comparison to the A53, the camera here isn’t quite pulling its weight, with a single 12MP main cam, and 7MP front cam – they’ll get the job done, but you could get more for your money if taking pics is your thing.
There’s a lot to like about the Honor 50, from its £349.99 price tag (or £21 a month on Vodafone* and the lowest on our list) to its 6.57-inch OLED display (the biggest on our list).
Featuring a Snapdragon 778G chipset, this is a great one for gamers who want a mobile that runs smoothly with minimal lag – and that’s what you get, with a 120Hz refresh rate and 5G connectivity.
The Honor 50 is pretty good battery-wise, too, with a 4300mAh battery that takes less than an hour to fully charge – however, there are a few drawbacks in areas we’ve come to take for granted with modern mobiles, as this phone doesn’t feature any kind of water or dust resistance. And in terms of design, its shiny back casing is a bit too prone to fingerprints and smears.
On the other hand, the camera specs aren’t half bad: with a 108MP main camera, support from an 8MP wide lens and two further 2MP offerings, you can get a decent shot with the Honor 50. Even from the front, thanks to the 32MP selfie cam.
2. Consider Buying a Refurbished Mobile.
Not keen on the specs of a budget mobile? Well, we’ve still got a few more ideas up our sleeve, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the option of buying a refurb.
Refurbished mobiles are ideal if you want a higher-end mobile but don’t want to pay the price for a brand new one. And refurbished doesn’t mean “less” or “damaged” either – every refurbished mobile we offer is in Grade A condition, and some of them have barely been used.
Most importantly, you’ll get the specs and features of the mobile handsets you love, with a minimum of 80% battery capacity that makes each model almost as good as new. And each refurb comes with a 12-month supplier warranty, and a charging cable (unlike many brand-new models these days).
Just like with new models, you can choose a refurb on contract, as an upgrade, or as a SIM Free one-off purchase. They’re just a bit more affordable.
3. Contract Ending? Switch to SIM only.
If your current contract is almost up and you’re happy enough with the handset you’ve got, there’s no rule that says you have to get a new one – as much as a shiny new toy is always nice, it’s not always feasible during a cost-of-living crisis.
Switching to a SIM only plan can be a great way to get all the data, minutes and texts you could possibly need without breaking the bank. In fact, you might find you can get more data for your money if you take a look at some of the plans we have available.
4. Trade in Your Old Mobile.
Now, this is one you might not have thought about – how about trading in your old mobile, for cash?
Whether you want to trade in your most recent mobile for a new one, or have a few older models in a junk drawer, trading in is a great way to make a bit of money. And you can either put that dosh towards a new mobile, save it, or spend it. Either way, it’s a little something extra that you might not have realised you could get.
There are quite a few places you can trade in your old mobile, both on the high street and online. We did some digging for you to see who’s offering the best deals, and we spotted Ka-Ching as the best option.
Though they’re a relatively new trade-in brand, Ka-Ching goes above and beyond to make sure you get the most for your mobile, offering a Price Beat Promise that vows to beat any other offer from competitors by at least £1. Plus, they’ll come and collect your mobile with free shipping, so you don’t have to get out of your slippers if you don’t fancy it.
The nice part about trading in is the little happy moment you get from knowing you’re doing your bit for the environment – because that’s exactly what happens. Your old phone might get spruced up, checked out and sold on as a refurbished model to another happy owner (which is some good karma right there), or it’ll be responsibly recycled. Either way, you can tick off your good deed for the day.
5. Switch to Free App Alternatives.
When you’re trying to save a couple of quid, it can be easy to overlook the small things. Sure, no one wants to cancel their Netflix subscription (even when they keep increasing the price), because it’s the only way to stay on top of the latest TV shows. The same goes for Disney+, Amazon Prime and NOW TV – but there are some subscriptions you can save on.
Take a look at your mobile. Whether it’s a quick flick through your App store or Play store, there are probably a couple of subscriptions you pay for monthly or annually that you barely remember signing up for.
What you might not have noticed is that almost all these apps have a free version – or there’s an alternative app that does almost the same job. For influencers and photographers, take a look at free versions of Afterlight, Facetune, Lightroom, VSCO and more. Health nuts can consider trying free versions of Noom, MyFitnessPal, Lifesum, FatSecret and all the rest of them…The same goes for mobile gamers (though we’re not going to go into every one of the games you might be playing).
Yes, you might have to sit through some terrible ads with the free version or adjust to a few limits on features. But there’s a reason people say that the pounds look after themselves when you take care of the pennies. These services quickly add up, and it’s all about cutting the little costs here and there, right?
6. Start Using a Budget Management App.
Speaking of apps, you’ve probably already heard about the rise in popularity of budget management apps, but for those of you that haven’t, here’s our take.
These are apps that sync up with your bank account and take a long hard look at your finances (the kind that would make most of us squirm). In terms of what they do, it can vary from app to app. Some of them are chatty AI bots that warn you when you’re about to hit your budget. Others set up reminders and limits on outgoings, to make sure you’ve got enough in your account for your payments. And some even invest on your behalf.
However, with the current cost-of-living crisis in full swing and likely to get worse (more’s the pity), we wanted to have a look and see which of these apps are free on Apple and Android. Here are the two we found to be most well-rated:
One of the most popular options, Mint already has 25 million users and has been designed to help you track your cash, manage payments, and most importantly, improve your spending habits.
Like most free apps, it’s inevitably going to pop up a couple of ads now and again, but that’s more than palatable for an app that does so much. You have the option to sync your bank accounts with the app or add in your transactions manually – but either way, it means you can see all of your accounts in one place, and keep track of your spending from every angle.
It automatically organises your spending totals (which can be a little scary to see), tracks your monthly bills, sends you payment reminders, and tracks investments - as well as provides educational resources to help you work out what you can afford.
And don’t worry – Mint protects your data with features like Verisign security scanning, multi-factor authentication, and touch ID.
While Mint is fantastic, Zeta offers something more as it’s been designed specifically for couples – but doesn’t require you to have joint finances.
What’s smart about it is the way it allows you to sync your accounts to track your spending, manage your joint bills and even see your joint net worth. Just like Mint, it also lets you create budgets, and track spending, and has helpful extras like the ability to set up joint finance goals with shared controls.
It’s up to you whether you sync your accounts or add in your data manually, but either way, you can still receive bill reminders and nudges to stay focused on your financial goals. There’s also a handy online magazine that discusses topics around money and relationships, to help you learn more about your finances in the modern age.
7. Set a Spend Cap.
You might see it referred to as a spend cap, a data cap or a bill cap – but they’re all essentially the same thing: a way of controlling your spending.
When you use more than your contract’s allowance of data, make calls to premium numbers, or use your data abroad without a roaming plan, you can quickly rack up charges without even realising you’re doing it. But if you add a spend cap, you can put a limit on how high those extra charges can get, and you’ll be prevented from overspending.
For example, if you normally pay £35 a month for your mobile contract, you can set a £10 spend cap that means you’ll never end up with a bill that’s higher than £45. This is because your network won’t allow you to spend more than £10 over your normal contract amount in a single month.
A spend cap doesn’t have to be a set amount, either. You can set a spend cap of as much or as little as you like – including £0. Doing this will prevent you from being charged for premium rate calls and texts, international calls, picture messages and more – and you can amend your spend cap as you please.
Plus, if you’re about the reach the limit on your spend cap, your network will usually let you know about it. Yes, you won’t be able to make premium calls or do any of the other things the spend cap applies to – but you can still use Wi-Fi instead of going over your data limit, and your normal contract texts and minutes still apply.
So, there it is – our take on how to save money on your mobile and our recommendations for a few simple ways to save. Hopefully, we mentioned something that can help you cut back on your mobile bill or make a bit of cash. But at the end of the day - only you know what you’re willing to change, and what you’re not. You’ve just got to go for it.
*Tariff plan prices are accurate at the time of writing.