man on cellphone

5 ways to cut your data and airtime bill

Posted  July 25, 2017

Use these tips to make sure you’re getting the best value for your data spend - and slashing your monthly costs.

The average South African household spends a whopping R3 509 a month on staying in touch via landline, mobile phone, and internet. Given that our data is among the most expensive in the world, how can you cut your communication costs? Try these great tips and tricks.

1. Select the network with the cheapest data bundles for your usage patternsOut-of-bundle data costs (this means using contract or pay-as-you-go airtime as data) are extremely expensive. When you are using data, it should always be at in-bundle rates. But not all bundles are created equal.

Compare the cost of 1GB of data

  • Vodacom: R149
  • Cell C: R149
  • MTN: R160
  • Telkom: R99 

While Telkom is generally the cheapest for data bundles, this is not always the case – for example, Cell C is the cheapest in the 50MB data bracket. So it’s best to consider the exact amount of data you use in a month, and then identify the cheapest provider for your needs.



2. Always use AlwaysOn, or other free wifi providersIf you have to use a load of data – for example to upload your holiday snaps to Instagram or check out the latest Game of Thrones trailer, wait until you’re somewhere where someone else will pay for your uploads and downloads.

AlwaysOn offers limited free wifi at many South African malls, so register an account with them and log in as soon as you hit the shops.

Many restaurants and coffee shops also offer free wifi these days, but you usually have to pay for food or drinks to get the code, so don’t save on data while splurging on refreshments. Only use this option if you were planning to meet a friend for drinks anyway!

3. Stop your apps from eating your dataSocial media and other forms of communication are the biggest data users on your phone. Change the settings on your data-hogging apps so that push notifications are blocked. This means that you won’t automatically receive updates or messages - you have to go into the app to receive them.

On Android, go into Application Manager then tap on Downloaded – your apps will appear. Then click on each app and untick the Show Notifications box.

On iPhone, go into your Settings app, tap Notifications Centre on the left-hand side of your screen, swipe until you see a list of your apps, tap each app, and under notifications, tap on None.

You can also turn off autoplaying and autodownloading of videos on Facebook and Instagram to save your data.

All of this has the added bonus of extending your battery life as well.

4. Turn off your mobile data You can simply turn off your mobile data unless you need to use it. Of course, you can just turn it on again, but the extra step makes you pause and consider whether you really need to scroll down in your Facebook feed at a red traffic light.

Bear in mind that apps like WhatsApp won’t work with data off, so make sure your closest friends and family know how to get hold of you if they need to.

5. Don’t forget about airtime While data makes up the majority of South Africans’ cell phone bills, it’s worth paying attention to the costs of airtime as well. If you are on a contract, make sure that your contract matches your usage. Get a package with the right number of airtime minutes and free SMSes to support your average use. Your service provider should be able to help you work this out.

If you are on pay-as-you-go, minimise your call time as much as possible. Remember that calling friends on the same network as you costs less, so if you have multiple phones, always make a call from the most cost-effective one – and call landlines from your landline, if you have one.

And if you are in a wifi zone, use Skype or WhatsApp Call to keep your costs down.

Commit to keeping your savings lowData and airtime cost a lot of money – but they have become essential in our day-to-day lives. Use these tips to try to cut your bill. And hopefully, as time goes on, data costs will continue to fall.

Check out some more tips here.

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