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How to cut your mobile bill in 2009

If 2009 is about saving money, then you have to look at your mobile expenditure as a matter of urgency. If you're not on the best tariff, then you need to change it

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to cut back on your spending, then an area you need to look at is your mobile-phone bill -- owning a mobile can be very expensive. Here's our guide to getting the best value for money.

Are you on the right tariff?

Some mobile-phone offers look better than they really are. Depending on your personal preferences, you might not be on the best tariff for your needs, so you need to figure out what you're actually using your phone for by calling up your current operator and asking how many minutes, texts and megabytes of data you use on average every month.

Once you've figured that out, then you need to scour the Web for the best available offer. Of course, you can only move to a new deal if your current contract has expired. If you're fed up with long contracts, then a monthly rolling contract is always a good option.

Monthly rolling contracts are usually offered with SIM-only deals, such as O2's Simplicity offer. You only need to give the network 30 days' warning before leaving. That means, if you see a better deal, you don't have to wait for a whole year before you can sign up to it.

If you're completely fed up of paying for a monthly contract, though, and your mobile usage isn't that high, then getting a pay-as-you-go SIM is the most sensible option. There are currently many good pay-as-you-go deals; some even offer free text messages and voice calls if you top up your phone every month by a certain amount.

Do you really need a new phone?

If you're not going to ask for a new phone, then many networks will offer you cashback if you sign a new contract. Instead of getting a brand new Nokia when it's time to renew your contract, you could get £100 taken off your bill, for example. Make sure to ask.

Are you calling expensive numbers?

Check your bill for rogue numbers that end up costing you tonnes, such as 0800 numbers and anything else that isn't part of your free minutes. Pay particular attention when calling international numbers or using your phone abroad, as roaming costs tend to be very expensive.

If you must make international calls using your mobile, then we recommend using a calling card, such as Lycamobile, specifically for mobile usage, or services such as Jajah web. You sign up for a Jajah account and then select the destination country and type in the number you want to call. It then connects your mobile phone or landline to the person you're calling via VoIP, but charges you pennies instead of pounds.

As for using your phone when abroad, we find it's usually best to buy a SIM card in the country you're staying in and use that, or, if your phone has Wi-Fi, use a service such as Truphone.

Other money-saving tips and tricks

The obvious tip is to not make as many calls or send as many texts, but there is also a Morse code-style system developed by the Spanish that's simple but effective. It's called 'toque', which means touch. Tell your friends that one ring means 'yes' and two means 'no' -- if someone texts you a question, you can answer them by ringing the corresponding number of times.

Since it costs nothing to ring someone if they don't pick up, the call is free from your side and only the questioner pays for the text.