Smartphone Options for the Budget-Minded (update)

UPDATE - Wednesday, May 15: Verizon Wireless is increasing the data allowance included in prepaid smartphone plans. Current prepaid customers will now receive unlimited talk, unlimited text and 2 GB of data for $60 a month, or for $70 a month, prepaid customers will receive 4 GB of data in addition to unlimited talk and text. The increased data allowance is available to current customers now, and will be available to new customers on June 6.

Feb. 1 - For many facing a tight budget, saving a few dollars each month is important.

So, when it comes time to think about the important task of keeping in touch with friends and family, taking time to investigate wallet-friendly options can mean a few extra dollars for weekend fun or paying down those holiday bills.

One option to consider is a prepaid smartphone. Today, Verizon Wireless launched prepaid plans that provide unlimited talk, unlimited texts and 500 MB of data for $60 a month, or for $70 a month, a prepaid customer receives 2 GB of data in addition to unlimited talk and texts.

The plans are available for many 3G smartphones that run on the Android, BlackBerry or iOS operating systems, such as the Samsung Illusion, the HTC DROID Incredible 2 and most BlackBerry models.

A new smartphone isn’t necessary to take advantage of the prepaid plans. Often, a no-longer-used smartphone sitting in a drawer at home can be activated on a prepaid plan with no annual contract.

With a smartphone in hand, there are many apps that can help find ways to make a dollar last longer. Groupon provides discounts on items and services ranging from gym memberships to restaurants. The Foursquare app allows check-ins at local spots and may even provide discounts. And, before heading out for a weekend trip, download the Gas Buddy app, which identifies the least expensive places to buy gas.

With an affordable prepaid plan, and some creativity, you can stay in touch with friends and family and save a few dollars along the way.