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As the economy hits home, plenty of us are scaling back on eating out, buying cars and even cutting back on groceries. But there’s an easier way to save, and all you have to do is check your cellphone bill.

If you use less than 200 minutes a month, you can find big savings by switching to a prepaid service such as Virgin Mobile, Tracfone or AT&T’s GoPhone, just to name a few. On average, prepaid phones cost 10 to 20 cents per minute and you pay only for the minutes used. Plus, prepaid phones retail for about the same price as traditional cellphones and have just as many features. The biggest savings come because you avoid many of the fees and taxes that bump up your bill by 30 or 40 percent on traditional contract-based plans, says Sam Simon, founder and chairman of the Telecommunications Research and Action Center. So, if you are a nontalker who doesn’t use a lot of minutes each month, prepaid might be the way to go.

For more savings, consider scaling down or canceling your landline phone; many cellphone plans offer similar features, such as unlimited long distance, caller ID and voice mail. At the very least, drop the frills and switch your landline to a limited-use plan, which can cost as little as $8 to $10 a month.

No matter which route you take, make sure your plan fits your needs and that you aren’t overspending on unused options. For instance, do you really use as many minutes as you’re paying for each month? If not, consider a smaller plan. Do you need text messaging? Most carriers charge for this service, so if you don’t use the service, have texting blocked from your phone. If you do text a lot, consider an unlimited plan.

Michelle Diament is a freelance writer based in Memphis.

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