How to get the best deal on your mobile phone contract

Last Modified 16th of February 2021

While mobile phones certainly seem to be getting better, they do also seem to be getting more expensive; at least at the top end of the market, where some phones are worth £500 or more.

At the same time, phone service providers are now requiring contracts that are longer than ever before – you will generally struggle to find a phone contract for less than 2 years if you want a free phone with it.

So if you’re going to be tied in, you had better be sure that you are getting the best deal before you sign on the dotted line…

Picking the right phone

The first thing to consider when getting a new contract is what phone you want to get. It is easy to be pulled in by just asking what’s on offer – but buying an expensive contract on a whim in order to get a phone you don’t really need isn’t smart.

If you want to be frugal the easiest way to save money is to look for the cheapest contract you can find and get the ‘best’ phone you can have for free on that contract. Remember that you will be paying this contract for 24 months, so if you pay an extra £10 a month for a nicer phone you are actually paying an extra £240!

Picking the right plan

Remember, the ‘free’ phone you are offered has to be paid for throughout the contract. For our purposes the phone is secondary. Think about how you use your phone, how many calls do you make, when do you make them and who do you call?

Unlimited data is often tempting, but the reality is that few people ever come close to using their data allowance anyway. Also consider magic numbers – if most of your calls are to the same few people you might not need as many minutes as you thought.

Compare monthly contracts

Once you know exactly what you need, look for the cheapest contract you can find that fulfills those requirements. Don’t worry if it doesn’t include the phone you want, just find out which is the best free phone available.

Now look into monthly, sim only contracts where you don’t get a free phone and work out what one of those would cost you per month. Ask yourself “If I take out the contract and sell my phone, what’s the effective cost of the contract?”


Contract – £15 per month for 24 months
Phone sells for £100
Total cost of contract = (15 x 24) – 100 = £260 or £10.83 per month

So if you can get the same allowance of minutes on SIM only for £10 a month, that is actually the cheaper option and you are not tied in for 2 years either.

This is actually one of the best ways to choose a mobile phone contract because it means that you have to pay the upfront cost of the phone and as a result you may be inclined to buy a cheaper phone. It also means that you are free to get a new phone whenever you want – just sell your phone and buy a newer model. How much will you love that shiny new phone in a year’s time when you are still tied in for another year?


Finally, don’t forget that you can negotiate! If you only ask for a cheap phone that’s what you’ll get. When it comes time to renew, see what else is on the market and try phoning up your provider and telling them that you have found a better deal elsewhere.

The mobile phone market is very competitive and you might be surprised how much they will fight to keep your custom!