DALLAS -- Buying a new phone used to be easy. But just like the phones, times have changed. Until recently, the two-year contract/free phone model was the standard. Those contracts have given way to installment plans, forcing you to pay for the total cost of the phone.
Now, the most effective strategy is likely the simplest: get a cheaper phone. A cheaper phone means a cheaper bill, so make sure you shop around for the best deals.
Another solution: just keep your old phone once it's paid off. The device charge will be removed from your bill, which means more money in your pocket.
You can also look into buying unlocked phones direct from the manufacturer, that way you can find the best phone plan from all those carriers competing for your business.
But for those of you who just have to get that new phone... AT&T offers upgrade plans at 12, 18 and 24-month intervals via AT&T Next.
T-Mobile has a program called Jump! which lets customers upgrade to any new phone as long as they've paid at least half the price of their old phone. Only catch? It’s an extra $10 a month.
Sprint has a similar system for getting a new phone called early upgrade which is also an extra $10 a month.
Verizon still offers free or subsidized phones, but once you change to monthly device payments, you're not allowed to go back.
So, go out and get that new plan with confidence. A new age of phone shopping is calling you.