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Watch Those Cell Phone Fees-Or Pay Nothing at All

Cell phone by the Suss Man

I always swore I'd never buy a cell phone. It's not so much a financial issue. I understand that  cell phones are becoming increasingly economical, and many folks are abandoning their land lines and using a cell exclusively.

However, a study by the Utility Consumers' Action Network found that actual costs incurred by 700 cell users surveyed averaged more than $3 per minute when factoring in unused minutes, service contracts and other fees. Ouch! More on that in a bit.

My decision is more of a lifestyle choice. I don't like talking on the phone, so why would I want to inject more of it into my life? Some people feel differently.

Apparently, we've lost our ability to make a decision without first consulting someone via cell. 

Last November when I went to vote, a young lady in line ahead of me was talking on her cell. The poll worker told her she couldn't use her phone in the voting booth. She became agitated, and eventually blurted out, "But, but, will I know who to vote for?!"

I'm particularly concerned about the safety hazards of cell phones and driving. A recent study by the National Safety Council found that cell phones contribute to roughly 25 percent of all auto accidents.

So here's my big news: I just got my very first cell phone-and didn't pay a dime. A friend retiring one of his offered it to me. He said the phone works fine; I would just need to renew the service contract. "Not a chance," I told him. I did it the  Ultimate Cheapskate way.

You see, under FCC regulations, ANY cell phone must allow you to call 911 in an emergency...whether or not there's a service contract. If you only want a cell for bona fide emergencies, you can get peace of mind for free.

If you use your cell for more than 911 calls, it pays to be a smart consumer. Just do us all a favor: put your phone away when you go to the voting booth-and especially when you're behind the wheel.

See more savings tips from AARP, including 99 Great Ways to Save, plus other frugal food for thought from Ultimate Cheapskate Jeff Yeager

Photo by  The Suss-Man via Flickr Creative Commons

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