It’s important to stay in touch with friends and family back home when you’re away at college, but if you’re studying at a distance this can really add up. Cable, internet, and phone bills can make up a good chunk of a cash-strapped student’s budget. Here are a few ways to slash your communication costs.

1. Join a family plan.

Do you run up your phone bill every month talking to your family? If you’re not already on one, joining a family phone plan can cut costs significantly. Adding an extra phone line to an existing plan costs far less than taking out a new contract, and results in savings for all parties involved. If you don’t want to do this with your family members, you could split a plan with your roommates or friends. Another bonus is that if your friends and family members sharing the plan are who you spend most of your minutes talking to, they’ll be in-network.

2. Compare providers carefully and bundle your services.

The first order of business if your contract is rolling or about to expire is to call your provider and threaten to switch providers. They may come back with a better rate or discount for you. In any case, compare plans carefully to find one that’s the best fit and price. A good way to save is to bundle your services. If you pay for cable, internet, and phone services from the same provider, you’ll get better rates for all three. For example paying for Ethernet services from Nokia Networks if you’re already a mobile phone subscriber will probably net a better rate than if you chose Nokia for your phone plan and Verizon for broadband. Just be sure to keep your current needs in mind – if you don’t use long distance calling very often, you shouldn’t pay for an unlimited long distance plan!

3. Download VoIP apps.

Switch over to Internet phoning and VoIP services for long distance or international calls. These transmit your calls via packets of data, using a high-speed Internet connection. Services from Skype or WhatsApp are far more cost-effective for students and include chat functions for keeping in touch with friends abroad. You could save hundreds on this act alone.

4. Get rid of services you rarely use.

When’s the last time you went through the fine print on your media bills? It’s entirely possible that you’re paying for services you rarely use. Just like when you’re trying to bundle your services to garner a better rate, you should cancel any services you’re simply not using. There may be apps running in the background or additional fees you’re not aware of. If you see any charges you don’t understand, question them.

5. Get unlimited texting.

Does your plan include unlimited texting? If it doesn’t and that’s your primary mode of communication, get a new plan! Most students communicate using SMS or chat services rather than actually phoning up friends. Make sure your plan fits your lifestyle.

6. Ditch the landline.

Similarly, if you use your smartphone for everything, there’s probably no need for you to even have a landline. This will cut the cost of your overall package. Just be sure your mobile phone plan includes an adequate number of minutes for calls, and downsize your package.

By making a few adjustments to your package, you could end up shaving a significant sum off of your monthly communication costs. Look into apps and shop around to find the plan that will work the best for you.

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