Choose a lousy plan because you're blinded by an offer for a sleek new phone, and you'll find yourself in a financial sinkhole. Instead go to online comparison sites such as myrateplan.com or letstalk.com to shop for the deal that best fits your phone habits. Be strategic. Exceeding your monthly minute plan by just one hour can add an extra $21 a month to your bill. That's $252 a year. Estimate how many minutes you need, then add at least 10 percent.
If you make only local calls, don't bother with a national plan. That could save more than 25 percent off your monthly bill. Ask friends how they like their carriers; some companies have awful coverage in certain neighborhoods. Avoid roaming charges—fees applied to calls when you travel outside your home market. If you make regular trips to a few cities, check to see whether the plan will provide coverage for those areas; T-Mobile, Cingular and AT&T offer national plans that include all calls in the United States.
And read the
fine print: Is that phone free because you're agreeing to stay in the plan for
at least two years or pay a $150 to $200 early-termination fee? Suddenly, that
free phone doesn't seem so free, does it? —Suze Orman
Are you drowning in credit card debt? If you can't afford the minimum payments on your credit card bills, don't just let the debt pile up. Follow financial expert David Bach's roadmap to get back on solid financial footing once and for all.