Many times people suggest eliminating cell phones as a way to find more wiggle room in the budget. Often the response is something like “I can’t; I have a contract.” You may have a contract, but that does not mean that cell phones are necessities that cannot be eliminated from your spending. It means that you may have to go through more effort or pay a fee to get out of the contract, or get creative to reduce the expense despite the contract.

Chances are if you call up and asked to be released from your contract that they will tell you that you can’t. But read your contract carefully to see what the exact terms are.

Has there been a change in the terms of service that you did not agree to? If so, you should be able to cancel. Is service spotty or non-existent in your area? You may be able to cancel for that reason. Are you allowed to cancel by paying an early termination fee? While no one wants to pay $150 or so to cancel an agreement, that’s better than paying $80 per month for the next 9 months. They may also allow you to spread out the termination fee over time, especially if the reason you want to cancel is because you cannot afford the phone.

Your individual circumstances might come into play as well. When my mom went on hospice care, she certainly did not need her cell phone. She needed the money each month instead to pay for her care. I called her provider to cancel, and they told me that I couldn’t. But they did allow me to place her phone on an extended hold instead. Basically they extended the contract, with an indefinite delay in the middle where she did not have to pay. So companies may work with you if you explain.

A final alternative is to see if you can switch your plan to the cheapest one offered. Just keep asking, “what else could I do to lower my bill?”. Just be sure that switching your plan does not extend your contract, unless it is so inexpensive that it’s still cost-effective to do so.

The point is to get creative, and realize that you probably do have more room for changing this aspect of your budget than you might initially believe.