How to Choose a Family Cell Phone Plan

Even the little ones have cell phones these days.
Even the little ones have cell phones these days.
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Just about everyone today has a cell phone -- even young children -- and many parents actually like it that way. It gives them a way to keep in touch with their offspring, and since many cell phones have GPS, it can even give them the power of knowing where their kids are at all times. The problem is that supplying everyone in the house with a cell phone becomes costly. Is there a way to save on your family's cell phone bill?

Most cell phone companies offer family cell phone plans. These plans provide a discount when you sign up everyone in your family with a cell phone to the same account. Each plan has its pros and cons, of course, so it's important to compare plans and service providers to ensure you're getting the best deal for your family's needs.

Most family plans -- or shared plans -- let a group of people (usually, but not necessarily, living at the same address) share a monthly allotment of minutes, with each member having his or her own phone and phone number, and all charges going to one combined bill. Members can call each other for free. That's the basic idea. However, you need to take into account things like texting, national and international roaming, and data usage. For example, if you don't buy the right texting option, and you have a text-happy teen, you could end up paying a very pretty penny for overages. So you need to correctly estimate your usage (we advise overestimating -- you can change your plan later), and keep tabs on your group's usage online (a feature all major carriers offer).

On the next page, we'll talk about different cell phone companies and the family/group plans they offer.