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Cellphone spending: Recession proof?

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SALT LAKE CITY — Consumer data shows people are spending increasing amounts of money on their cellphone bills. As people looked for ways to save money during the recession, few chose to give up their cellphone.

A new federal study says spending for phone service went up more than 4 percent last year.

Economists say this is indicative of consumer priorities, as people cut back on nearly every other household expense. In fact, some families pay more for their phone bill than they do on their car payment.

"It's a priority. You have to have it," said California cellphone customer Marisa Vallbona. She pays nearly $300 per month to stay connected to her public relations firm and family.

"I have to be constantly connected -- connected to my kids, connected to my clients, connected to my parents, connected to my siblings. It's so important," she said.

It's not just the phone that's costing people. Financial adviser David Elhoff pointed out every additional feature to a smart phone is an opportunity to spend money.

"It's a computer, it's a camera, it's a video camera, it's a radio, it's a music machine, it's a TV," he said. "It's data that's costing the money these days. It isn't the phone; it's the data that's being transferred."

Vallbona said, "I think people shop around for the best smart phone. I don't think they shop for the best data plan." She scans her bill from time to time looking for ways to cut back.

Experts say there are ways to do that.

  • Make sure you only pay for what you need.
  • Don't sign up for unlimited talk, text or data if you don't need it (although some carriers don't give you many options when it comes to talk and text plans).
  • Keep track of your habits and try to pay accordingly.
  • Keep a close eye on your usage. Overages can be costly.

Also, Elhoff suggests calling your carrier for help in finding ways to pay only for what you really need. "They're very helpful if you call them," he said.

Contributing: Kristen Gosling, KNSD

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