Smartphone Tips & Tricks

You love your smartphone but sometimes you’re unsure how smart it really is. Can’t it be easier to do things like increase the size of the text, install updates, and make the battery last longer? It would be nice if doing these things was a bit more intuitive or user-friendly, but, as they’re not, we’re here to help.

How to increase the font size

Make reading text messages easier by doing the following:

On an iPhone: Under Settings, choose “Accessibility.” Look for and click on the words “Display & Text Size.” On the next screen, you have the option to turn on “Bold Text” and “Larger Text,” among others. Click on “Larger Text” and you can turn on what are called “Larger Accessibility Sizes.” The larger text won’t work on every app, but it will function on many, and that will make reading on your phone easier.

If you’d like to darken the text, which is called bold, turn on “Bold Text.” Again, the text won’t be bolded on every app, but it will be on many of them.

On an Android phone: Under Settings, choose “Accessibility.” At the next screen, tap “Font Size.” Here, you’ll see a slider. Drag it as far to the right as you like. The farther it goes to the right, the larger your font size will be. Then, click “Done” to save your changes.

How to install updates on your phone

On an iPhone: Open Settings, then click on “General” and then “Software Update” and turn “Automatic Updates” to the “on” position. On the next screen, turn on “Download iOS Updates” and “Install iOS Updates.” Now software updates will be made automatically after they have been downloaded. iPhone sends you a notification before updates are installed. All you need to do is make sure your iPhone is charging and connected to Wi-Fi to complete the update.

On an Android phone: Open Settings, then click on “About Phone/Tablet.” On the next screen turn on “Automatic Update.”

Get more from your battery

Over time, the battery in your phone won’t last as long as it once did. But there are things you can do to extend its life.

If you have animated or live wallpaper on your phone, delete it. It’s fun and it looks nice, but it drains the battery.

Certain apps, like Uber and Grubhub, track your location. If they’re tracking it all the time, it will drain your battery. On an iPhone, open an app like Google Maps or Uber or Grubhub, etc., and make sure that the “Location” setting is switched to “While Using.”

On an Android phone, go to Settings, click on “Location” then “Mode,” and on the next screen tap “Battery Saving Option” to turn it on. Set this way, your phone will only know its location when it’s connected to a network.

If your screen is very bright, which you might have needed it to be prior to enlarging your font size, it will drain your battery. To dim it, under Settings click on “Display & Brightness,” then use the slider to adjust the brightness down a notch. These directions apply to iPhones and Androids alike.

Turn Bluetooth off

Using Bluetooth to transmit data requires an enormous amount of battery power. Enable it when necessary, and shut it off when you don’t need it.

On an iPhone, go to Settings and click on “Bluetooth.” Move the slider to the left to turn it off.

On an Android phone, go to Settings and click on “Bluetooth.”  Move the slider to the off position.

Adjust email retrieval

If you get your email on your iPhone or Android, it’s important to note that the more frequently your device looks for new data, the more it drains your battery. To adjust the frequency, on an iPhone open Settings, then click on “Mail” and then “Accounts.” On the “Accounts” screen, click “Fetch New Data” and then how often your phone should check for email. The longer you go between checks, the better for the life of your battery.

On an Android phone, open Settings and click on “Accounts.” On the “Accounts” screen, tap on the three dots icon in the right hand corner. This will bring up “Auto Sync Data.” Click on “Ok” to disable auto syncing.

With both iPhones and Androids, even though you adjust the frequency with which they check for email, you can still check your email manually by opening up Gmail, etc.

All this information about saving your phone’s battery might make you wonder…at what point do you need a new phone?

Most people upgrade every one to two years, but you really can go three years or more. If you’re considering getting a new phone, here are a few reasons to take the plunge:

  • To get the latest updates. If your current phone has reached the point where it simply can’t support them, it’s time for an upgrade.
  • If despite all your best efforts and trying all the suggestions provided above for saving your phone’s battery your phone holds a charge for only a half day or less, it’s time for a new phone.
  • And if, even though you made the font size larger and maybe even bolder you’re still having trouble reading what’s on the screen, it’s time for a bigger screen. One that’s attached to a new phone.

Now that you know a number of tips & tricks for your smartphone (and the signs you might need a new one), make another smart move:

Get FREE wireless with Life Wireless

Now that you know many of the tricks and tips to get more out of your smartphone, why not make another smart decision. Let’s get you going with free cellular service from Life Wireless.

It sounds too good to be true, but it’s 100% real.

Life Wireless offers government subsidized free cellular service through the Affordable Connectivity Program to qualifying individuals and families. And, if you’re unemployed or participate in a government benefit program such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or WIC, you already qualify for this Federally funded free cellular service. As a participant, you receive the following, free, each month: Unlimited talk, text and data, and a free smartphone or you can bring your own.

Even if you’re paying just $20 a month for cell service, wouldn’t you rather have that $240 to spend on groceries, gas, or paying down debts? Of course you would. All it takes is just a few minutes to complete the application. Do so now, and you could be cutting your monthly cell phone bill to nothing in no time.

Plus, if you’re approved for Life Wireless/Lifeline Assistance Program and sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data that you can split between two phones. That means free cell service for you and free cell service for someone you love. If your child has been asking for a cell phone, this is a terrific opportunity to provide him or her with talk, text, unlimited data and the ability to stay in touch with you!

Of course you don’t have to split the service between two phones, you can keep it all on one. But it’s a wonderful option if your spouse, child or relative needs a phone – and who doesn’t? – but has been unable to get one due to the expense.


Whichever option you choose – to keep the data on one phone or split it between two – Life Wireless will make sure you receive the free talk, text, and unlimited data to help you stay connected.

Option 1: Combine Your Data

Activate Lifeline and ACP on the same device and receive unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 5GB of mobile hotspot.

Option 2: Split Your Data
Split your data between two phones or supported devices and you’ll have one device with ACP’s free talk, text, and 6GB of data and a second device with Lifeline’s talk, text, and 4.5GB of data (6GB of data in California).

Fast facts about Life Wireless

Yes, you can add more minutes and data!

You can purchase additional minutes or data one of the following ways:

  • Go to www.LifeWireless.com and click "Add Minutes/Data"
  • If you have a smart phone, go to your MyLifeWireless app and click "Add Minutes".
  • Call Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620, or by dialing 611 on your Life Wireless phone.
  • You can also go to any Moneygram location and use Receive Code: 7924

Yes, you can track your minutes!

Your minutes replenish each month on your anniversary date before end of the day. For example if you signed up and received your minutes on the 12th of the month, your minutes will replenish every month on the 12th of the month.

You can check your account balance the following ways:

  • Go to www.LifeWireless.com and click "My Account"
  • Go to your MyLifeWireless app on your phone, and click "Check Balance"
  • Call Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620, or by dialing 611 on your Life Wireless phone.

Yes, you can keep your current phone number!

If your application is approved, you have the option to keep your current phone number.

Once you receive your Life Wireless phone in the mail, call Life Wireless Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620 and a representative will assist you in keeping your current number. Make sure that you don't call from your Lifeline phone and have your account number and password from your previous carrier handy.

What our customers are saying:         

"Life Wireless has been great. I have used it so many times for appointments and finding the proper care providers for my needs as well as for my family's needs. Thank you so much Life Wireless!"

Rebecca L., KY

Without this phone I would be lost. It has helped me stay in contact with my daughter’s specialist. I schedule her appointments and they can call back if there are any complications with her results. Thank you, Life Wireless.” Amanda Z., PA
 
“I've been looking for apartments, doctor’s offices, and school phone numbers, and my data provided has been a tremendous help in gaining access to this information. I'm very grateful for this service.” Maria R. AZ

Don’t wait. Get FREE wireless service now!

What is a SIM card and what does it do?

To get the best cell phone coverage, you need a SIM card. But what exactly is a SIM card? A woman we know was certain it had something to with The Sims, the video game her kids used to play. It was kind of funny. But still, we had to set her straight.

What are the functions of a SIM card?

Your SIM card stores the information that enables your wireless provider to recognize it. Your phone number is stored on your SIM card along with what are called “authorization keys.” These give your phone authorization to access the data, texting, and other services provided by your cell phone plan. Without a SIM card, your phone could not access and utilize your wireless provider’s network.

Where is the SIM card located?

The SIM card is located on either the right or left side of your phone. To access it, look for what appears to be a tiny hole or indentation. (If your phone is in a phone case, take it out first.) To get to your SIM card you can use what’s called a SIM ejector tool or – why give yourself a headache? – a paper clip. Press the clip into the small hole and the SIM tray panel will pop open.

What is a dual SIM?

A dual SIM phone means you can put two SIM cards into one phone. This lets you manage two phone numbers, each with their own SIM card, on one phone. This is a neat feature if you want or need to have two phone numbers say, one for business use and one for personal use, and really don’t want to lug around two devices. You can make calls from either number, and receive calls to either number. When making calls, your device will ask you which SIM card you want to use.

SIM cards aren’t “attached” to one phone. Except when they are

In general, you can remove your SIM card and put it in a new phone. You can even take someone else’s SIM card and put it in your phone. But sometimes, certain wireless carriers don’t permit this easy switching. And that’s why it’s important that we discuss locked and unlocked phones.

About unlocked and locked phones

An unlocked phone is a phone that’s not associated with a particular wireless carrier. One of the big benefits of this is that you can switch providers anytime you want – like when you find a plan that gives you all the bells and whistles the pricey wireless companies promise for nothing. (But we’ll get to that in a minute.)

On the other hand, a locked phone is a device that’s tied to a carrier like AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. These carriers “lock” your device to their network to prevent you from using it on another one.

How can I tell if my phone locked or unlocked?

If you bought your phone from, say, AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile, and you have a monthly contract with them, your phone is most likely locked to their network. If you bought your phone at Best Buy or at an Apple store or on Amazon, or someplace else entirely, it is most likely unlocked. They key phrase there is “most likely.” You can’t be certain until you check.

How to determine if your phone is locked or unlocked

1.

Check your settings: iPhone

One way to tell if your iPhone is unlocked is to go to Settings, then Cellular, then Cellular Data. If the words “Cellular Data Network” appear, it’s most likely – but not definitely – that your phone is unlocked. The pricey wireless providers really make you jump through hoops.

Check your settings: Android

One way to tell if your Android phone is unlocked is to go to Settings, then Connections, then Mobile Networks, then Network Operators. While in Network Operators, click on “search now.” If a variety of wireless carries names pop up, it’s most likely – but not definitely – that your phone is unlocked. Once again, pricey wireless providers will work your last nerve.

2.

Contact your wireless provider

You can call the customer service department for your carrier and ask them to see if your phone is locked. You can also request that they unlock it. If you’d prefer to talk with someone in person, you can always visit one of your carrier’s stores and do the same thing. For those who are more tech confident, it’s worth checking out your provider’s website to see if it offers information on how to unlock your phone. It’s important to note that, once you’ve requested your phone be unlocked, it can take your carrier 48 to 72 hours to do so. After that time has elapsed, call them to confirm that they have indeed unlocked your phone. You don’t want them conveniently – or inconveniently, for you – forgetting to do so.

Customer Service Numbers for:

AT&T: 1-800-331-0500

Verizon: 1-800-922-0204

T-Mobile: 1-877-453-1304

Cricket Wireless: 1-800-274-2538

Mint Mobile: 1-800-683-7392.

Straight Talk: 1-877-430-2355

Boost Mobile: 1-833-502-6678

3.

Try switching SIM cards
Another way to determine if your phone is locked or unlocked is by switching out the SIM card. Don’t worry, it’s easy. Simply borrow one from a family member or friend whose service is provided by a carrier different from yours.  Then test it out in this manner:

  1. Shut down your phone.
  2. Remove it from the case, if it’s in one, and then remove your SIM card.
  3. Put in the SIM card you borrowed.
  4. Close the SIM tray.
  5. Now, turn your phone back on.

If you get a message requesting a code to unlock the SIM card, your phone is locked to your network provider. If you can use your phone like you always do, make and receive calls, send and receive text messages, your phone is unlocked.

How does a SIM card function when I travel abroad?

It functions just the way we described it earlier: it allows your wireless provider to recognize your phone number so you can utilize your wireless provider’s network.

However, before traveling out of the United States, check into the roaming fees your provider charges. They can be some pretty big fees which means you might want to obtain a SIM card once you’ve arrived at your destination. Doing so means you’ll pay the same prices as the local citizens do.

It sounds like an unlocked phone and the ability to switch out my SIM card is the way to go. But what are all the benefits to it?

  1. If you want to switch service providers for any reason at any time, it’s a whole lot easier – not to mention a whole lot less expensive – to unlock your phone than to go buy a new one.
  2. If you would like to sell your device there’s no wondering or hoping that the purchaser’s provider is compatible. When your device is unlocked, anyone can buy it, pop in their SIM card, and start using it immediately. No hassles. No down time. An unlocked phone makes that transaction nice and easy.
  3. As we mentioned earlier, when traveling internationally or just making international calls, an unlocked phone allows you to use local SIM cards rather than paying the super high prices many providers charge. If you make a lot of international calls on a regular basis, you can save hundreds of dollars each year.

In short, the greatest benefit to an unlocked phone and being able to switch out your SIM card is the ability to change carriers because… you’re not getting great coverage…. or your cell signal is spotty… or because you just discovered the most incredible free cell phone plan that you’d be crazy not to switch.

Now that you’ve got a better understand of the whole SIM business, let us introduce you to a Government cell phone plan that gives you the service and data you need – for nothing.

Life Wireless offers government subsidized cellular services through the Affordable Connectivity Program to qualifying individuals and families. And, if you’re unemployed or participate in a government benefit program such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or WIC, you already qualify for this Federally-funded, no cost cellular service. As a participant, you receive the following, free, each month:

  • FREE Unlimited Talk & Text
  • FREE 15GB Data (+ more data for California residents)
  • FREE Smartphone (or bring your own phone)

Even if you’re paying just $20 a month for cell service, wouldn’t you rather have that $240 to spend on groceries, gas, or paying down debts? Of course you would. All it takes is just a few minutes to complete the application. Do so now, and you could be cutting your monthly cell phone bill to nothing in no time.

Plus, if you’re approved for Life Wireless/Lifeline Phone Plan Program and sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data that you can split between two phones. That means free cellular service for you and free cellular service for someone you love. If your child has been asking for a cell phone, this is a terrific opportunity to provide him or her with talk, text, unlimited data and the ability to stay in touch with you!

Of course you don’t have to split the service between two phones, you can keep it all on one. But it’s a wonderful option if your spouse, child or relative needs a phone – and who doesn’t? – but has been unable to get one due to the expense.

Whichever option you choose – to keep the data on one phone or split it between two – Life Wireless will make sure you receive the free talk, text, and unlimited data to help you stay connected.

Option 1: Combine Your Data

Activate Lifeline and ACP on the same device and receive unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 5GB of mobile hotspot.

Option 2: Split Your Data
Split your data between two phones or supported devices and you’ll have one device with ACP’s free talk, text, and 6GB of data and a second device with Lifeline’s talk, text, and 4.5GB of data (6GB of data in California).

Don’t wait. Get the service and data you need at no cost to you now!

Stay connected for FREE to family, friends, employers, your children, your whole world with Lifeline. Enroll now by using the Life Wireless Online Enrollment form.

What our customers are saying:

"Life Wireless has been great. I have used it so many times for appointments and finding the proper care providers for my needs as well as for my family's needs. Thank you so much Life Wireless!"

Rebecca L., KY

Without this phone I would be lost. It has helped me stay in contact with my daughter’s specialist. I schedule her appointments and they can call back if there are any complications with her results. Thank you, Life Wireless.” Amanda Z., PA
 
“I've been looking for apartments, doctor’s offices, and school phone numbers, and my data provided has been a tremendous help in gaining access to this information. I'm very grateful for this service.” Maria R. AZ

What is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)?

There are a lot of Government subsidized programs that have been put in place to be lifelines to those who need them. Here we’re going to talk about two that are vital. Medicare and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

Let’s start first with Medicare

You’ve probably heard of Medicare, and if you’ve gone online and looked into it, it may have struck you as overwhelming, with so many choices to make and not a real, clear understanding of what those choices mean. Here we’re going to make Medicare information easier and clearer to understand.

In a nutshell, Medicare is health insurance. Specifically federal health insurance for:

  • Those who are 65 or older
  • Certain younger people who have disabilities
  • Those who have End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD)

There are 3 parts of Medicare and each covers a different service

Medicare Part A

Medicare Part A is hospital insurance. It covers inpatient hospital stays, stays in a skilled nursing facility, hospice, and some in-home health care.

For more about what Part A covers, visit: What Part A covers | Medicare


Medicare Part B
Medicare Part B is medical insurance. It covers visits to your doctor, lab work, surgeries, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services.

For more information on what Part B covers, visit: What Part B covers | Medicare

Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D is for prescription drugs. It helps to cover the costs of prescription drugs and many recommended shots and vaccinations.

For more information on what Part D covers, visit: Drug coverage (Part D) | Medicare

When are you eligible for Medicaid?

You are eligible for all three parts of Medicare on the first day of the month in which you turn 65. You can also be eligible earlier if you’ve qualified for Medicare because of a disability.

Medicare offers coverage options

Medicare offers options as to how you get your coverage. Once you enroll, you’ll need to decide between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage.

About Original Medicare

Original Medicare consists of Medicare Part A and Part B. These are provided to you by the federal government, and for these two parts you will enroll through your local Social Security office. If you receive mail from Social Security or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, hold onto it.

For more information on Original Medicare, visit: Your Medicare coverage choices | Medicare

About Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage is a health and drug coverage plan from a private company that Medicare has approved. It’s simply an alternative to Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans include Medicare Part A, Part B, and usually Part D. Some offer additional benefits including hearing, vision and dental coverage.

For more information on Medicare Advantage, visit: How do Medicare Advantage Plans work? | Medicare

What does Medicare cost?

With Medicare Part A, there’s typically no cost as long as you or your spouse worked for at least 10 years in the United States and paid Medicare taxes.

With Medicare Part B, what you pay depends upon your income. This year, 2022, the Part B base cost is $170.10 a month. If you are in a high tax bracket, you can expect to pay more per month.

With Medicare Part D, there are many different plans to choose from. At present, the average cost for Part is $33 a month. As with Part B, if you’re in a high tax bracket, you can expect to pay more per month.

For more information on Medicare Part A, B, and D costs, visit: What does Medicare cost? | Medicare

Programs that can lower your Medicare costs

There are programs available that can help lower your Medicare costs. Some are offered through State Medicaid Offices (you can find yours here). Others are separate resources that include:

Supplemental Security Income – This Social Security program is there to help those with lower incomes.

Insure Kids Now – This program offers health insurance for children under age 19.

Medicaid – For those with limited income and resources, this state and federal program can help.

Moving On

At the beginning of this post we said we’d be talking about two Government subsidized programs that have been put in place to be lifelines for those who need them. Now that we’ve covered Medicaid, let’s move on to another powerful lifeline – the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). 

About the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a government benefit program operated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that provides discounts on monthly broadband Internet access service. ACP benefits may be obtained from any participating provider of your choice including Life Wireless. Only one member of a household can participate in the program and the service cannot be transferred to another family member or individual.

Because many families struggle to afford cell phones and Internet access, both of which are vital to staying connected with their children’s schools, doctors, and employers, among others. That’s why the Federal Government also offers Lifeline.

About Lifeline

Lifeline is a federal program created to help qualified households pay for connectivity services such as wireless and internet plans. As with the Affordable Connectivity Program, only one member of a household can participate in the program and the service cannot be transferred to another family member or individual.

Examples of one household:

  • A married couple that lives together
  • A parent/guardian and child who live together
  • An adult who lives with friends or family who financially support him/her

Each of these are one household and must share one benefit.

Examples of more than one household:

  • Four roommates who live together but do not share money are four households. They can have one benefit each, for a total of four benefits.
  • 30 seniors who live in an assisted-living home are 30 households. They can have one benefit each, for a total of 30 total benefits.

Each state has different eligibility requirements such as receiving government assistance or having a household income that is at or below the federal poverty level for the state in which you reside.

In general though, you are qualified to receive Lifeline if you participate in any of the programs listed here:

  • Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid (not Medicare)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veteran's Pension or Survivor's Pension Benefit

Additionally, if you are a resident of a Federally-recognized Tribal land, you may qualify under the following programs:

  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribally Administered TANF
  • Head Start (if you meet the income-qualifying standards)

Even if you’re paying just $20 a month for cell service, wouldn’t it be great to have that $240 to spend on groceries? If you apply for Lifeline and are approved, you’ll receive:

  • FREE Unlimited Talk & Text
  • FREE 15GB Data (+ more data for California residents)
  • FREE Smartphone (or bring your own)

How pairing Lifeline with the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) doubles your connectivity

If you’re approved for Lifeline and you sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data that you can split between two phones. That means free cell service for you and free cell service for someone you love. If your child has been asking for a cell phone, this is a terrific opportunity to provide him or her with talk, text, unlimited data and the ability to stay in touch with you!

Of course you don’t have to split the service between two phones, you can keep it all on one. But it’s a wonderful option if your spouse, child or relative needs a phone – and who doesn’t? – but has been unable to get one due to the expense.

Whichever option you choose – to keep the data on one phone or split it between two – Life Wireless will make sure you receive the free talk, text, and unlimited data to help you stay connected.

Option 1: Combine Your Data

Activate Lifeline and ACP on the same device and receive unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 5GB of mobile hotspot.

Option 2: Split Your Data
Split your data between two phones or supported devices and you’ll have one device with ACP’s free talk, text, and 6GB of data and a second device with Lifeline’s talk, text, and 4.5GB of data (6GB of data in California).

Important things to note:

Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) are separate programs. Lifeline benefits may be combined with ACP benefits and applied to the same service plan. You may also apply Lifeline and ACP benefits to different service plans. You don’t need to enroll in Lifeline in order to enroll in ACP and you do not need to enroll in ACP to enroll in Lifeline. You may choose to get Lifeline and ACP services from different service providers, and you may transfer your Lifeline and ACP services to another provider subject to certain regulatory restrictions.

About Life Wireless

Life Wireless service is a prepaid service offered to those eligible for ACP discount benefits and those eligible for Lifeline benefits.  To maintain your service and benefits, you need to activate your service by calling someone, initiating data usage (by going on Facebook, for example), or by responding to instructions from Life Wireless to activate the service.

To keep your account active, you must use the service at least once during any 30-day period by calling someone, answering a call from someone other than Life Wireless, sending a text message, using cellular data (again, by going on Facebook or Amazon, for example), purchasing additional service from Life Wireless, or by responding to a direct contact from Life Wireless confirming that you want to continue receiving service from Life Wireless.

Should your service goes unused for 30 days, you will no longer be eligible for Lifeline benefits and your service may be suspended (allowing only 911 calls and calls to the Life Wireless's customer care center) subject to a 15-day cure period during which you must use the service (as described above) in order to fully re-activate your service, keep your telephone number and remain enrolled in the ACP.

For questions about Life Wireless, visit our Contact Us page here.

Like Medicare, Lifeline is your lifeline to maintaining a healthy life.

Stay connected for FREE to family, friends, employers, your children, your whole world with Lifeline. Enroll now by using the Life Wireless Online Enrollment form.

What our customers are saying:

"Life Wireless has been great. I have used it so many times for appointments and finding the proper care providers for my needs as well as for my family's needs. Thank you so much Life Wireless!"

Rebecca L., KY

Without this phone I would be lost. It has helped me stay in contact with my daughter’s specialist. I schedule her appointments and they can call back if there are any complications with her results. Thank you, Life Wireless.” Amanda Z., PA
 
“I've been looking for apartments, doctor’s offices, and school phone numbers, and my data provided has been a tremendous help in gaining access to this information. I'm very grateful for this service.” Maria R. AZ

 

WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT'S LIFELINE PROGRAM ALL ABOUT?

WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT'S LIFELINE PROGRAM ALL ABOUT?

All you need to know about the Government’s Lifeline program.

All you need to know about the Government’s Lifeline program.

One of the definitions of the word “lifeline” is “something regarded as indispensable for the maintaining or protection of life.” Used in a sentence, like this, “The bill would extend the summer meals program for students, which is a lifeline for many families,” you can further understand its meaning.

Not only that, you get a sense of how crucial a lifeline is. There are a lot of Government subsidized programs that have been put in place to be lifelines to those who need them. Here we’re going to talk about two that are vital.

Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP provides nutrition benefits in the form of an Electronic Balance Transfer (EBT) card to those families whose food budgets may not be big enough to enable them to purchase healthy food. This Government program is particularly important to those who find themselves unemployed or who may be working but not earning enough to feed their family healthy, nutritious meals. Think of it as a boost to your food budget that you can obtain by meeting certain eligibility requirements.

What are the eligibility requirements for receiving SNAP benefits?

The eligibility requirements for receiving SNAP benefits differ from state to state. But, if your state agency determines that you are eligible, you will receive benefits all the way back to the date you submitted your application.

To apply for SNAP benefits, you need to submit an application with your local SNAP office. Click here for the SNAP State Directory of Local Resources. On that page, you’ll see a clearly labeled map of the United States. Find your state and click on it.

You’ll see your state’s particular name for its SNAP program, a link to its state SNAP website, an 800 number, and a link to your state’s local offices you can call with questions or for additional assistance. Some states even provide a link to their online application.

Once I submit my SNAP application, what happens?

Usually, within 30 days, your state agency or local SNAP office will send you a letter stating that they received your application, reviewed it, and whether or not you are eligible to receive SNAP benefits.

If you’re found eligible, you’ll be asked to take part in an eligibility interview which is usually done over the phone, but is occasionally done in person. You will also be asked to provide proof of the information you provided in your application.

If, after your interview and submission of your proof, you are determined to be 100% eligible, you will receive benefits all the way back to the date you submitted your application. So, if you submitted your application on September 1st, and are approved on October 1st, your benefits will be retroactive to September 1st.

It’s also possible that you could be eligible to receive SNAP benefits within 7 days of your application date. If your household has less than $100 in liquid resources and $150 in monthly gross income, or if your combined monthly gross income and liquid resources are less than what you pay for rent or mortgage and utilities expenses, it’s possible your wait will be less than a month. Your state agency can give you more information, so reach out to them.

How do you get your SNAP benefits and what can you buy with them?

Earlier we mentioned the Electronic Balance Transfer (EBT) card. This works like a debit card, with SNAP benefits (money) being placed into your account every month. Once the benefits appear in your account, you can use your EBT card to go food shopping. There are certain items you can buy with your SNAP benefits and certain items you cannot.

Items you can purchase with SNAP benefits include:

Fruits and vegetables; meat, poultry, and fish; dairy products; breads and cereals; snack foods; non-alcoholic beverages; and seeds and plants. Note: SNAP benefits can be used for seeds and plants that will produce food that your family can eat.

Items you cannot purchase with SNAP benefits include:

Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, or tobacco; vitamins, medicines, and supplements; live animals; fast food and any foods that are hot when you buy them. In addition, you cannot use SNAP benefits to buy pet foods, cleaning supplies, paper products, or other household supplies, hygiene products or cosmetics.

SNAP is a lifeline for many, many families with a limited food budget and it’s worth applying for if you and your family could use assistance with purchasing healthy foods.

What if I could also use assistance with my cell phone bill and affording Internet access?

Many families struggle to afford cell phones and Internet access, both of which are vital to staying connected with their children’s schools, doctors, and employers, among others. That’s why the Federal Government offers a program called Lifeline.

About Lifeline

Lifeline is a federal program created to help qualified households pay for connectivity services such as wireless and internet plans. Only one member of a household can participate in the program and the service cannot be transferred to another family member or individual.

Examples of one household:

  • A married couple that lives together
  • A parent/guardian and child who live together
  • An adult who lives with friends or family who financially support him/her

Each of these are one household and must share one benefit.

Examples of more than one household:

  • Four roommates who live together but do not share money are four households. They can have one benefit each, for a total of four benefits.
  • 30 seniors who live in an assisted-living home are 30 households. They can have one benefit each, for a total of 30 total benefits.

As with SNAP, each state has different eligibility requirements such as receiving government assistance or having a household income that is at or below the federal poverty level for the state in which you reside.

In general though, you are qualified to receive Lifeline if you participate in any of the programs listed here:

  • Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid (not Medicare)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veteran's Pension or Survivor's Pension Benefit

Additionally, if you are a resident of a Federally-recognized Tribal land, you may qualify under the following programs:

  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribally Administered TANF
  • Head Start (if you meet the income-qualifying standards)

Even if you’re paying just $20 a month for cell service, wouldn’t it be great to have that $240 to spend on groceries? If you apply for Lifeline and are approved, you’ll receive:

  • FREE Unlimited Talk & Text
  • FREE 15GB Data (+ more data for California residents)
  • FREE Smartphone (or bring your own)

And Lifeline isn’t the only Government subsidize program designed to help you stay connected!

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP): What it is and how it doubles your connectivity

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a government benefit program operated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that provides discounts on monthly broadband Internet access service. ACP benefits may be obtained from any participating provider of your choice including Life Wireless. As with Lifeline, only one member of a household can participate in the program and the service cannot be transferred to another family member or individual.

If you’re approved for Lifeline and you sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data that you can split between two phones. That means free cell service for you and free cell service for someone you love. If your child has been asking for a cell phone, this is a terrific opportunity to provide him or her with talk, text, unlimited data and the ability to stay in touch with you!

Of course you don’t have to split the service between two phones, you can keep it all on one. But it’s a wonderful option if your spouse, child or relative needs a phone – and who doesn’t? – but has been unable to get one due to the expense.

Whichever option you choose – to keep the data on one phone or split it between two – Life Wireless will make sure you receive the free talk, text, and unlimited data to help you stay connected.

Option 1: Combine Your Data

Activate Lifeline and ACP on the same device and receive unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 5GB of mobile hotspot.

Option 2: Split Your Data

Split your data between two phones or supported devices and you’ll have one device with ACP’s free talk, text, and 6GB of data and a second device with Lifeline’s talk, text, and 4.5GB of data (6GB of data in California).

Important things to note:

Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) are separate programs. Lifeline benefits may be combined with ACP benefits and applied to the same service plan. You may also apply Lifeline and ACP benefits to different service plans.

You don’t need to enroll in Lifeline in order to enroll in ACP and you do not need to enroll in ACP to enroll in Lifeline. You may choose to get Lifeline and ACP services from different service providers, and you may transfer your Lifeline and ACP services to another provider subject to certain regulatory restrictions.

About Life Wireless

Life Wireless service is a prepaid service offered to those eligible for ACP discount benefits and those eligible for Lifeline benefits. To maintain your service and benefits, you need to activate your service by calling someone, initiating data usage (by going on Facebook, for example), or by responding to instructions from Life Wireless to activate the service.

To keep your account active, you must use the service at least once during any 30-day period by calling someone, answering a call from someone other than Life Wireless, sending a text message, using cellular data (again, by going on Facebook or Amazon, for example), purchasing additional service from Life Wireless, or by responding to a direct contact from Life Wireless confirming that you want to continue receiving service from Life Wireless.

Should your service goes unused for 30 days, you will no longer be eligible for Lifeline benefits and your service may be suspended (allowing only 911 calls and calls to the Life Wireless's customer care center) subject to a 15-day cure period during which you must use the service (as described above) in order to fully re-activate your service, keep your telephone number and remain enrolled in the ACP.

For questions about Life Wireless, visit our Contact Us page here.

Like SNAP, Lifeline is your lifeline to maintaining a healthy life.

Stay connected for FREE to family, friends, employers, your children, your whole world with Lifeline. Enroll now by using the Life Wireless Online Enrollment form. And don’t forget to check out the reviews we’ve received from customers, below!

"Life Wireless has been great. I have used it so many times for appointments and finding the proper care providers for my needs as well as for my family's needs. Thank you so much Life Wireless!" Rebecca L., KY

“Without this phone I would be lost. It has helped me stay in contact with my daughter’s specialist. I schedule her appointments and they can call back if there are any complications with her results. Thank you, Life Wireless.” Amanda Z., PA

“I've been looking for apartments, doctor’s offices, and school phone numbers, and my data provided has been a tremendous help in gaining access to this information. I'm very grateful for this service.” Maria R. AZ

 

You love streaming your favorite shows. Here’s how to use less data doing so

YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime – most people have a subscription at least one of them and, thanks to the pandemic, plenty of people now subscribe to all three. It was a tough two years, spent mostly at home, alone, and in desperate need of entertainment. Music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and I Heart Radio also saw an uptick in subscribers, though not nearly as great as the movie streaming services. It’s like we’ve developed an addiction to being entertained which isn’t really a bad thing.

Though it could do some serious damage to your data.

Now if you have cell phone service with an unlimited data plan, you might not be too concerned about how much data you’re using. But think about it. If you have an unlimited plan with up to 2GB of data or even 10GB of data, once you hit that cap you’re going to care about how much data you’re using and be looking for ways to use less of it.

That’s where this post comes in!

So, how much data does streaming use?

Let’s start by looking at how much data it takes to stream your favorite music service.

Honestly? Streaming music takes a lot less data than streaming video. Having said that though, it’s important to remember that most of us stream music on our smart phones and for a lot longer than we watch movies or videos. We’ve got our music streaming while we’re commuting, running on a treadmill, studying, etc. It all adds up to a lot of time listening via our cell phones – and those typically have a data cap. Sure, it might be a 10GB cap, but still.  

Let’s take a moment to look at what you get in terms of hours with a 2GB, 5GB, or 10GB data plan. Generally speaking:

  • A 2GB data plan will give you: 47 hours of low-quality audio, 28 hours of medium-quality audio, and 17 hours of high-quality audio.
  • A 5GB data will give you: 117 hours of low-quality audio, 70 hours of medium-quality audio, and 42.5 hours of high-quality audio.
  • A 10 GB data plan will give you: 234 hours of low-quality audio, 140 hours of medium-quality audio, and 85 hours of high-quality audio.

Obviously Spotify isn’t going to swallow up all your data that quickly, but listening to music for hours at a clip and on the highest-quality setting will definitely have an impact after a while.

So, what can you do?

Tips to reduce data usage on Spotify

1. For starters, remember that it’s always best to use Spotify via Wi-Fi. If you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, go into the app’s Data Saver feature and turn it on. This reduces the amount of data you’ll use by showing you fewer images and reducing the quality of the audio.

Click Home; click Settings; click Data Saver On

While you’re there, turn on Audio-only podcasts as well. This means that when you download a podcast, you won’t also be downloading its video, thus saving you data.

2.If you have Spotify Premium, download the music you like and enjoy it offline. Go into the app’s settings and under Music Quality, switch Download Using Cellular off and only download music when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

3. Again, in the app, look at your Music Quality setting and make the necessary adjustments. The higher the quality setting, the more data you’re using.

4. It’s possible your smart phone has a data saver on it. A Google search on your specific device can help you find it and turn it on.

Moving on to streaming services and how much data they use

Services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime all use about the same amount of data and, frankly, it’s a lot of data especially if you’re not using Wi-Fi. And, like with music streaming services, movie streaming services and YouTube allow you to adjust the quality of the video from high definition to standard definition.

Let’s take a look at Netflix as its data usage is comparable to that of Amazon Prime and Hulu.

On Netflix:

  • Streaming a standard-definition quality movie or an episode of your favorite show uses 1GB of data per hour.
  • Streaming a high-definition quality movie or an episode of your favorite show uses 3GB of data per hour.
  • And streaming a 4K movie or episode of your favorite show uses 7GB of data per hour.

That’s a lot of data so, again, please be on W-Fi and, if you’re thinking that downloading a movie from Netflix and watching it offline will save your data, it won’t. According to Netflix, it will still consume the same amount.

How does YouTube stack up?

It stacks up pretty closely, actually. In fact, 1GB of data allows you to watch just about 500 minutes of YouTube. You just probably shouldn’t do it all at the same time!

Generally speaking:

  • Streaming a 480p video uses 264MB of data per hour.
  • Streaming a 720p video uses 870 MB of data per hour.
  • Streaming a 1080p video uses 1.65 GB of data per hour.
  • And streaming a 4K video uses 2.7 GB of data per hour.

This doesn’t look like a lot of data is being consumed but let’s face it, people across the world are crazy for YouTube. Makeup tutorials? Yes please! Home improvement advice? Sign me up! And kids love YouTube, too. Watching all those videos can add up to a big drain on your data. So, it’s definitely a good idea to take a look at your data usage. Here’s how.

How to check how much data you (and maybe your kids) are using on YouTube

For Android phones:

Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile network. This will indicate how much data the kids are using in total. You can also go to “App Data Usage” to see how much data the YouTube app is using unto itself.

For iPhones:

Go to Settings > Cellular. Once you’re there, you can see how much data YouTube is using on the device. Under “Current Period” be aware that you might be seeing total data usage from several months because that setting doesn’t refresh itself every month. For a clearer picture of how much data you or your kids are using currently, scroll down and tap “Reset Statistics.”

If you’re a little stunned by the amount of data you or your family’s consuming watching sweet kitten videos or videos of cute puppies celebrating their birthdays with all their puppy pals or, eh hem, makeup tutorials, read on for ways to decrease and limit the amount data they’re using.

1. Embrace the joy of downloading.

If you’re a YouTube Premium customer – and if you or your family is on YouTube regularly it’s worth the expense to become one – you can download videos and watch them offline. This is one of the most effective ways to reduce your data usage.

2. Lower the quality of the videos you’re streaming

The higher the quality of the video, the more data it consumes. Adjust the quality down a notch and you’ll save significantly on your data usage. Here’s how:

In the video player:

Click “More” and it will give you the opportunity to adjust the quality of the videos you watch.

In your YouTube profile:

Log in and you can adjust the video quality for every video you watch. 

3. Stream only while you’re on Wi-Fi!

We mentioned this earlier and it’s worth repeating. Watching YouTube videos via your home’s (or your local library’s or your favorite coffee spot’s) Wi-Fi connection will really help you stop draining away your data. You can also force the issue by going into your YouTube settings, finding the “Play HD on Wi-Fi only” option, and turning it on.

4. Nix autoplay

If you leave your YouTube account open and unattended, it will continue to play videos until you shut it off. To stop this and save some of your data, turn off autoplay. You can do so right from the screen of any video.

5. Say good-bye to cellular streaming

To really conserve your data, you can disable the cellular streaming option. On an Android phone, swipe down on your phone and click Mobile Data. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to disable the cellular streaming. On an iPhone, go into Settings, select Cellular, and then switch Cellular Data to off.

6. Switch off muted playback

As you scroll through the feed of videos you’ve subscribed to, You Tube shows you snippets of those videos. The videos are muted, but they’re still draining your data. Simply go into your YouTube settings and switch the Muted Playback option to off.

That was a lot of information!

Honestly, we could probably talk about data all day. How much you need. How much you’re using. All the ways to cut back. We’ve covered a lot so let’s close with a couple of frequently asked questions you should be able to answer easily.

How many GB of data do you spend watching a 2-hour movie?

On average, watching a 2-hour movie at standard definition quality costs about 2GB of data.

How many GB of data do you spend watching a 1-hour episode of your favorite show on Netflix, Hulu, etc.?

On average, watching a 1-hour show at standard definition quality costs you about 1GB of data.

How many GB of data do you spend streaming over the course of a month?

On average, if you watched 2 episodes of your favorite show in standard definition quality, it would cost you about 60GB of data per month.

On average, if you streamed two hours of music at medium quality each day, it would cost you about 4.3GB of data per month.

Now that you’ve got the data business down, let us introduce you to a Government cell phone plan that gives you the service and data you need – for nothing.

Life Wireless offers government subsidized cellular services through the Affordable Connectivity Program to qualifying individuals and families. And, if you’re unemployed or participate in a government benefit program such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or WIC, you already qualify for this Federally-funded, no cost cellular service. As a participant, you receive the following, free, each month: Unlimited talk, text and data, and a free smartphone or you can bring your own.

Even if you’re paying just $20 a month for cell service, wouldn’t you rather have that $240 to spend on groceries, gas, or paying down debts? Of course you would. All it takes is just a few minutes to complete the application. Do so now, and you could be cutting your monthly cell phone bill to nothing in no time.

Plus, if you’re approved for Life Wireless/Lifeline Assistance Program and sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data that you can split between two phones. That means free cell service for you and free cell service for someone you love. If your child has been asking for a cell phone, this is a terrific opportunity to provide him or her with talk, text, unlimited data and the ability to stay in touch with you!

Of course you don’t have to split the service between two phones, you can keep it all on one. But it’s a wonderful option if your spouse, child or relative needs a phone – and who doesn’t? – but has been unable to get one due to the expense.


Whichever option you choose – to keep the data on one phone or split it between two – Life Wireless will make sure you receive the free talk, text, and unlimited data to help you stay connected.

Option 1: Combine Your Data

Activate Lifeline and ACP on the same device and receive unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 5GB of mobile hotspot.

Option 2: Split Your Data
Split your data between two phones or supported devices and you’ll have one device with ACP’s free talk, text, and 6GB of data and a second device with Lifeline’s talk, text, and 4.5GB of data (6GB of data in California).

Don’t wait. Get the service and data you need at no cost to you now!

 

 

 

Data not working on your Android phone? Check your APN settings

Just when you’re completely and utterly dependent upon your phone, when you can’t call your kids or your best friend without it or find the closest Marshalls or Dollar General unless Google Maps is ready and waiting, it gives up the ghost. Simply stops working. Just denies you the data you need right then and there.

We’ve all been there and it’s insanely frustrating. But there are ways to fix the situation. In this post we’ll address data issues on your Android, the importance of checking your APN settings when things go awry, and how to get your phone back in business as quickly as possible.

And APN stands for….?

APN stands for Access Point Name and it refers to the carrier or network your cell phone uses to access or connect to the internet. Under regular circumstances, you don’t need to deal with it. It comes preconfigured by the manufacturer and works its magic behind the scenes. Sometimes, though, things go wrong (like when Google Maps stops helping you get to Marshalls!) and your APN needs to be reset. Here’s how you do so.

Reset your Access Point name

These instructions are simple and easy to follow and they should allow you to reset your Access Point Name quickly and easily.

Go to:

 “Settings -> Network & internet -> Mobile network -> Access Point Names.”

If you have an Android 11 or earlier, tap “Advanced” under “Mobile Networks” and you will see “Access Point Names.”

At this point you should see a list of APNs. In the menu icon, on the top right, click “Reset to default.”

This should do the trick. But if it doesn’t, keep reading. We have other tips up our sleeve.

Additional ways to reset your Access Point Name

Sometimes after an Android software update APN settings can get wonky. If the above solution hasn’t fixed the issue give one of the following methods a try.

1. Enter your APN address manually.

1.Go to your APN list using the method outline above, then tap the “+” icon in the top-right corner.

2.Enter all the APN details for your network. These should be available on your carrier’s website (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.).

3.Save the APN details you’ve just entered, then select them from the APN list on your phone.

2. Clear your cache

A good chunk of your phone’s memory is dedicated to what’s called a cache. This is where data for apps and various processes your phone runs is stored for easy, automatic access when called upon.

Sometimes though, errors occur in the cache and mess up your data connection. When this happens you need to clear the cache and to do that you need to access what’s called the recovery screen.

Accessing the recovery screen can vary a bit from phone to phone, but on a typical standard, stock Android device, you should be able to get there by doing the following:

1.Turn your phone off. Then, when you turn it back on, hold down the power and volume buttons until the little droid shows up on your screen.

2.Using the volume buttons, work your way to what’s called “Recovery Mode.” It’s possible you’ll get a message on your screen that says “No command.” If that happens, try holding different combinations of the volume and power buttons. One method that works – according to Android users we’ve spoken with – is to hold the volume button up and the power button at the same time.

3.Once you’ve reached the recovery screen, select “wipe cache partition” by navigating to it using the volume button, then select “wipe cache partition” by using the power button.

Wiping the cache in this manner should only take a couple of seconds. When it’s done, turn the power off of your phone and then turn it back on.

3. Check your network

If methods one and two haven’t helped yet, it’s possible that your data isn’t working because your phone is set to access a network – 3G or 4G – that’s not providing the best coverage.

Do you have a 4G phone? If so, be sure 4G is selected as your network. And if you don’t have a 4G phone, it’s possible your phone is trying to connect to a 4G network. That won’t work simply because the phone isn’t capable of it. So, you need to check your network settings.

That’s easy.

Go to “Settings -> Network & Internet -> Mobile network -> Preferred network type,” then navigate to the network that works best with your phone. If your phone is 4G, set it to 3G/4G Auto. This way it will always seek out and connect to the best possible signal.

4. Return to your device’s default settings

We all love our various apps (GasBuddy anybody?), but often they – as well as system updates – cause errors that result in our data not working. When this happens, it’s sometimes best to simply restore all your network settings to their default status. Here’s how to do this:

1.Go to “Settings -> Network & Internet -> Network settings reset.”

2.Click “Reset Settings.” You’ll be asked to confirm the selection, so click “Reset Settings” again.

3. Power down your phone, wait a few seconds, and then restart it.

Remember that when your return your device to its default settings, you will have to reenter your Wi-Fi passwords and pair your Bluetooth devices again. It’s a little bit of a hassle but a small price to pay for having your data connection up and running again.

5. Pop out and switch out your SIM card

If you’re still having data issues with your cell phone, try switching out the SIM card. Don’t worry, it’s easy. Simply borrow one from a family member or friend whose service is provided by a carrier different from yours.  Then test it out in this manner:

1.Shut down your phone.

2.Remove it from the case, if it’s in one, and then remove your SIM card. The SIM card will most likely be located on the right or left side of your device. You can pop it out using what’s called a SIM ejector tool or – why give yourself a headache? – a paper clip. Press the clip into the small hole on the SIM tray panel and it will pop open.

3.Next, remove your SIM card and put in the one you borrowed. Close the SIM tray.

4.Now, turn your phone back on.

Now that your data is working, get FREE wireless with Life Wireless

Now that your data connection has been restored (and you no longer feel like tossing your phone out a window out of frustration!), discover the freedom of FREE wireless service with Life Wireless.

It sounds too good to be true, but it’s 100% real.

Life Wireless offers government subsidized cellular services through the Affordable Connectivity Program to qualifying individuals and families. And, if you’re unemployed or participate in a government benefit program such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or WIC, you already qualify for this Federally funded free cellular service. As a participant, you receive the following, free, each month: Unlimited talk, text and data, and a free smartphone or you can bring your own.

Even if you’re paying just $20 a month for cell service, wouldn’t you rather have that $240 to spend on groceries, gas, or paying down debts? Of course you would. All it takes is just a few minutes to complete the application. Do so now, and you could be cutting your monthly cell phone bill to nothing in no time.

Plus, if you’re approved for Life Wireless/Lifeline Assistance Program and sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data that you can split between two phones. That means free cell service for you and free cell service for someone you love. If your child has been asking for a cell phone, this is a terrific opportunity to provide him or her with talk, text, unlimited data and the ability to stay in touch with you!

Of course you don’t have to split the service between two phones, you can keep it all on one. But it’s a wonderful option if your spouse, child or relative needs a phone – and who doesn’t? – but has been unable to get one due to the expense.

Whichever option you choose – to keep the data on one phone or split it between two – Life Wireless will make sure you receive the free talk, text, and unlimited data to help you stay connected.

Option 1: Combine Your Data

Activate Lifeline and ACP on the same device and receive unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 5GB of mobile hotspot.

Option 2: Split Your Data
Split your data between two phones or supported devices and you’ll have one device with ACP’s free talk, text, and 6GB of data and a second device with Lifeline’s talk, text, and 4.5GB of data (6GB of data in California).

Fast facts about Life Wireless

Yes, you can add more minutes and data!

You can purchase additional minutes or data one of the following ways:

  • Go to www.LifeWireless.com and click "Add Minutes/Data"
  • If you have a smart phone, go to your MyLifeWireless app and click "Add Minutes".
  • Call Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620, or by dialing 611 on your Life Wireless phone.
  • You can also go to any Moneygram location and use Receive Code: 7924

Yes, you can track your minutes!

Your minutes replenish each month on your anniversary date before end of the day. For example if you signed up and received your minutes on the 12th of the month, your minutes will replenish every month on the 12th of the month.

You can check your account balance the following ways:

  • Go to www.LifeWireless.com and click "My Account"
  • Go to your MyLifeWireless app on your phone, and click "Check Balance"
  • Call Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620, or by dialing 611 on your Life Wireless phone.

Yes, you can keep your current phone number!

If your application is approved, you have the option to keep your current phone number.

Once you receive your Life Wireless phone in the mail, call Life Wireless Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620 and a representative will assist you in keeping your current number. Make sure that you don't call from your Lifeline phone and have your account number and password from your previous carrier handy.

Don’t wait. Get FREE wireless service now!

Discover the freedom of an unlocked phone

What’s the difference between a locked and unlocked phone? And does “jailbroken” refer to a cell phone that’s been in the slammer?

It’s tough, not to mention confusing, to keep up with all the terms that surround technology today. Terms like “locked,” “unlocked,” and “jailbroken” – what do they even mean and how, for the love of Pete, do they pertain to your smartphone?

Don’t worry. We’re here to help.

An unlocked phone is a phone that’s not associated with a particular wireless carrier. One of the big benefits of this is that you can switch providers anytime you want – like when you find a plan that gives you the same kind of bells and whistles the pricey wireless companies promise at no cost to you. (But we’ll get to that in a minute.)

On the other hand, a locked phone is a device that’s tied to a carrier like AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. These carriers “lock” your device to their network to prevent you from using it on another one.

Now what you need to know about a jailbroken phone is that it’s not the same as an unlocked phone and anyone who tries to tell you so is utterly incorrect. Jailbreaking a phone means messing around with its software and possibly installing a different operating system or tweaking the device so that, for example, apps that come loaded onto your phone that typically cannot be deleted, are deleted or hidden. It might sound like if you jailbreak a phone it would result in unlocking it, but it doesn’t. A jailbroken phone is still connected to its particular carrier. Don’t be fooled by someone offering to sell you a jailbroken phone and claiming, “It’s just like an unlocked phone!” It isn’t.

 

Why would a wireless company sell locked phones?

Excellent question. Locked phones are usually sold at a significant discount. You, or any consumer, sees an iPhone at a really low price at an AT&T or Verizon or T-Mobile store, and think “Wow!  What a deal!” Then you buy it – and pat yourself on the back for saving big time – but you also have to sign a lengthy expensive contract which makes up for the price you paid. These carriers lock your phone so you can’t switch networks, get out of your contract, or sell your phone until they’ve recouped their loss. And lots of them lock your phone for two to three years. That’s rather extreme.

How can I tell if my phone locked or unlocked?

If you bought your phone from, say, AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile, and you have a monthly contract with them, your phone is most likely locked to their network. That’s just how it is. If you bought your phone at Best Buy or at an Apple store or on Amazon, or someplace else entirely, it is most likely unlocked. They key phrase there is “most likely.” You can’t be certain until you check.

How to determine if your phone is locked or unlocked

 

1.

Check your settings: iPhone

One way to tell if your iPhone is unlocked is to go to Settings, then Cellular, then Cellular Data. If the words “Cellular Data Network” appear, it’s most likely – but not definitely – that your phone is unlocked. The pricey wireless providers really make you jump through hoops.

Check your settings: Android

One way to tell if your Android phone is unlocked is to go to Settings, then Connections, then Mobile Networks, then Network Operators. While in Network Operators, click on “search now.” If a variety of wireless carrier names pop up, it’s most likely – but not definitely – that your phone is unlocked. Once again, pricey wireless providers will make you jump through hoops to figure it out.

2.

Contact your wireless provider

You can call the customer service department for your carrier and ask them to see if your phone is locked. You can also request that they unlock it. If you’d prefer to talk with someone in person, you can always visit one of your carrier’s stores and do the same thing. If you’re relatively tech confident, it’s worth checking out your provider’s website to see if it offers information on how to unlock your phone. It’s important to note that, once you’ve requested your phone be unlocked, it can take your carrier 48 to 72 hours to do so. After that time has elapsed, call them to confirm that they have indeed unlocked your phone. You don’t want them conveniently – or inconveniently, for you – forgetting to do so.

Customer Service Numbers for:

AT&T: 1-800-331-0500

Verizon: 1-800-922-0204

T-Mobile: 1-877-453-1304

Cricket Wireless: 1-800-274-2538

Mint Mobile: 1-800-683-7392.

Straight Talk: 1-877-430-2355

Boost Mobile: 1-833-502-6678

3.

Try switching SIM cards
Another way to determine if your phone is locked or unlocked is by switching out the SIM card. Don’t worry, it’s easy. Simply borrow one from a family member or friend whose service is provided by a carrier different from yours.  Then test it out in this manner:

Shut down your phone.

Remove it from the case, if it’s in one, and then remove your SIM card.

The SIM card will most likely be located on the right or left side of your device. You can pop it out using what’s called a SIM ejector tool or a simple paper clip. Press the clip into the small hole on the SIM tray panel and it will pop open.

Next, remove your SIM card and put in the one you borrowed. Close the SIM tray.

Now, turn your phone back on.

If you get a message requesting a code to unlock the SIM, your phone is locked to your network provider. If you can use your phone like you always do, make and receive calls, send and receive text messages, your phone is unlocked.

My phone is locked. Now what do I do?

If you’d like to unlock your phone – and why wouldn’t you? It’s your phone and you deserve the freedom to make provider and plan choices for yourself – you need to contact your provider. Again, you can visit your carrier’s store or see if there’s assistance on its website, and of course you can call. If you do, be sure to have your account password and IMEI number handy. You can obtain your IMEI number by dialing #06# on your device’s keypad.

It sounds like unlocking my phone is the way to go. But what are all the benefits to it?

  1. If you want to switch service providers for any reason at any time, it’s a whole lot easier – not to mention a whole lot less expensive – to unlock your phone than to go buy a new one. Think about it. Spend a few minutes getting your current device unlocked or plunk down $300 on a new one? We think spending a few minutes is the way to go and we think you’ll agree.
  2. If you would like to sell your device there’s no wondering or hoping that the purchaser’s provider is compatible. When your device is unlocked, anyone can buy it and start using it immediately. No hassles. Now down time. An unlocked phone makes selling your phone nice and easy.
  3. When traveling internationally or just making international calls, an unlocked phone allows you to use local SIM cards rather than paying the super high prices many providers charge. If you make a lots of international calls on a regular basis, you can save hundreds of dollars each year.

In short, the greatest benefit to unlocking your phone is the ability to change carriers because… you’re not getting great coverage…. or your sell signal is spotty… or because you discovered a plan with such tremendous savings for yourself and your family that it would be crazy not to switch.

Discover the freedom of an unlocked phone and FREE wireless with Life Wireless

Forget the pricey wireless carriers and their locking antics. Discover the freedom of an unlocked phone and FREE wireless service with Life Wireless.

It sounds too good to be true, but it’s 100% real.

Life Wireless offers government subsidized cellular services through the Affordable Connectivity Program to qualifying individuals and families. And, if you’re unemployed or participate in a government benefit program such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or WIC, you already qualify for this Federally funded free cellular service. As a participant, you receive the following, free, each month: Unlimited talk, text and data, and a free – unlocked! – smartphone or you can bring your own.

Even if you’re paying just $20 a month for cell service, wouldn’t you rather have that $240 to spend on groceries, gas, or paying down debts? Of course you would. All it takes is just a few minutes to complete the application. Do so now, and you could be cutting your monthly cell phone bill to nothing in no time.

Plus, if you’re approved for Life Wireless/Lifeline Assistance Program and sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data that you can split between two phones. That means free cell service for you and free cell service for someone you love. If your child has been asking for a cell phone, this is a terrific opportunity to provide him or her with talk, text, unlimited data and the ability to stay in touch with you!

Of course you don’t have to split the service between two phones, you can keep it all on one. But it’s a wonderful option if your spouse, child or relative needs a phone – and who doesn’t? – but has been unable to get one due to the expense.


Whichever option you choose – to keep the data on one phone or split it between two – Life Wireless will make sure you receive the free talk, text, and unlimited data to help you stay connected.

Option 1: Combine Your Data

Activate Lifeline and ACP on the same device and receive unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 5GB of mobile hotspot.

Option 2: Split Your Data
Split your data between two phones or supported devices and you’ll have one device with ACP’s free talk, text, and 6GB of data and a second device with Lifeline’s talk, text, and 4.5GB of data (6GB of data in California).

Don’t wait. Use your unlocked phone for FREE wireless service now!

You work hard for your money. Here’s how to keep more of it.

Save money with free wireless phone service!

You work hard for your money. Here’s how to keep more of it.

As I write this, the economy is in really bad shape and there isn’t a regular person around who’s not buying less because of it. But I’m also thinking that, even when the economy is fine, and American cheese singles are not almost $7 a package, so many of us – myself included – still struggle buying groceries, paying down debt, and having any money at all left over for some fun.

My point is that especially now, but also always, having a household budget in place is crucial.

“Budget” sounds like “diet” to me

The word “budget” always sounds like “diet” to me. And who likes diets? Diets are restrictive. Difficult to adhere to. Punishing even.

But diets have their benefits. And budgets do too. When adhered to even just a bit, both pay dividends. Your clothes are a little more comfortable or your blood pressure drops a few points. You’re able to take the kids to the movies or to spring for a manicure.

If you want something, you have to work for it. Well, I want to help you keep more of your hard earned money in your pocket and I’d like to do the same for myself so let’s get into this budget business now. Because honestly, I need to do something about my nails.

How to set up a budget

First, determine how much money you bring in after taxes. This is easy enough to do if you receive a regular paycheck. For the sake of this exercise, let’s pretend you bring home $2,000 a month. Let’s also pretend you bring home another $500 from a side hustle or two. That’s $2,500 a month.

Next, pick a budgeting method. From what I’ve read about the 50/30/20 method, it sounds like the method for me. My mother, on the other hand, has always used the envelope system.

With the 50/30/20 method, you allocate up to 50% of your post-tax income for needs, 30% of your income for things you and your family want, and 20% gets put into savings and is also used to pay down debts.

With the envelope system, you get paid, cash your check, and place cash in envelopes you’ve marked “Mortgage,” “Utilities,” “Cell Phone,” etc. and then, when enough cash has accrued to pay a particular bill, you deposit the cash, write a check, and pay the bill. As I said, my mom swore by this system and I know people who still use it. But it means carrying a lot of cash and having a lot of cash in the house. Those things worry me.

Having said that, for the sake of this post, we’re going to work with the 50/30/20 method.

So, what are your needs?

As I mentioned, with the 50/30/20 method, you allocate up to 50% of your post-tax income for needs. Needs are essentials, the things you absolutely must have for living and typically include:

  • Groceries.
  • Rent or mortgage.
  • Utilities.
  • Car payment.
  • Car insurance.
  • Health insurance.
  • Child care and/or any other expenses incurred so you can work.

Since we’re pretending you clear $2,500 a month, that’s $1,250 you can spend on needs. Start by writing down each of those categories and assigning a dollar amount to how much you spend on each every month. And when it comes to car and mortgage payments, budget for making just the minimum payment allowed. Any more than that should go in the 20%/paying down debts category and for the purposes of getting started, it’s best to work with the minimum payment you can make.

What are the things you want?

As I mentioned, with the 50/30/20 method, you allocate up to 30% of your income for things you and your family want. Again, since we’re pretending you clear $2,500 a month, that’s $750 to put toward wants.

Remember, needs are those things that are essential. Wants are things like:

  • Take a vacation
  • Go to the movies
  • Eat dinner out
  • Get a monthly manicure

Deciding what’s a “want” and what’s a “need” can be tough. Is a manicure a want? Or maybe it’s a need because you know you have to look a certain way at work. Give this part of your budget serious thought as you develop it. If something looks like a “want” but you know in your stomach it’s a “need,” put it in that category.

Now, let’s save some of your income and use some to pay down debt

With the 50/30/20 method, you allocate up to 20% of your post-tax income and put it toward savings – for retirement, out-of-the-blue expenses, etc. – and paying down debts. With $2,500 in post-tax income, that means you have $500 for this category. I find it easiest to split the 20%, and put 10% ($250) in a savings account, and the other 10% ($250) in a checking account specifically for paying down credit card, student loan, and other debts.

Budgets… and reality

In the scenario we’ve just gone over, you have $1,250 for monthly needs, $750 for monthly wants, and $500 for monthly savings and to put toward paying down debt. The reality may be though that you need more than $1,250 for your monthly needs and in that case, you need to “borrow” from or, more accurately, not put as much into the other categories. This is normal. Let me say it again: this is normal. This is most likely your first time putting a budget together which means it’s the first reality check about where your money is going that you’ve had. We’ve all been there. Breathe. Now that you see it in black and white, you can do something about it. And you will. And things will improve.

Tools for tracking and managing your budget

Now that you understand how, by using the 50/30/20 method, your post-tax income should be allocated, you need some way of managing that information and charting your progress. You can keep it all in a notebook or create a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets. There are also, as you can imagine, lots of apps dedicated to helping you organize and manage your budget. Personal Capital, Mint, and Goodbudget are three with very good reviews plus they’re FREE. I can’t see the sense in working hard to keep more of my money and paying for an app, but that’s just me. Explore them all and read the reviews then pick the one that works for your needs.

Final thoughts about budgets

Your budget is a tool, and a flexible tool at that, to help you. As your circumstances and priorities change, revisit your budget and make the necessary adjustments. It’s a good idea to review your budget at least once a quarter to see how you’re doing and to pat yourself on the back for making progress. To go back to the diet reference I made earlier, it’s like feeling your clothes getting loose, or having your doctor say your blood pressure is down. It makes you feel good, like the effort is worth it, and gives you the motivation to stay the path.

The next section provides tips on more ways to keep more of your money. Try one. Try five. And put the money you save toward your needs, wants, and savings. It all adds up to improving your financial position.

 

More ways to keep more of your money

Set up automatic transfers

Spend a few minutes on your computer setting up a monthly automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account and wala! You’re free from thinking about it and worrying if you did or didn’t take it care of it this month (or any month). In addition to alleviating that money worry, you’ll have the pleasure of watching your savings grow as if by magic until one day you discover that vacation you’ve been saving for is ready to be taken.

Keep the change

And I mean keep it. Every day. Empty your pockets and pocketbook of your change at the end of the day and put it in a jar. Do this for 30 days then count it up and deposit it into your savings account. This is by no means a get rich quick scheme, but you’d be amazed at the chunks of cash you can save this way. In fact, one time a long while ago, we needed a new sofa. With a mortgage and two kids, a new sofa wasn’t happening any time soon, I assure you. So I convinced my husband that we should save our change. Every day we put all our coins in a huge planter we named Bertha. (Why Bertha? I honestly can’t recall.) After six months we counted it up and can you believe it – we’d saved almost $2,400. Guess who got a new sofa?

 

Do a home energy audit

Did you know that your coffee maker, toaster, phone charger and other devices suck up energy even when you’re not using them? They do – and they can account for as much as 20% of your monthly electric bill. Take a walk around the house and unplug these items and others you’re bound to discover. You can also make your home more energy efficient by replacing air filters every 3-6 months, and making sure your windows, vents, and even the space around electrical outlets are properly insulated. This prevents your A/C in the summer and heat in the winter from being wasted.

According to the Alliance to Save Energy, the average U.S. household spends $5,550 a year on energy. Purchasing energy-efficient appliances, making certain home improvements and taking actions – like those mentioned above – every day can save hundreds of dollars.

To see how you’re doing, ask your utility company to provide you a year over year expenditures statement so you can see if any of your bills are trending upward and taking steps to stop it.

Cancel those subscriptions

Cable television. Magazines. Gym memberships. Weight loss apps. These and others like them are subscriptions so many of us forget about, but still get charged for. Set aside time to review your credit card statements and checking account statements and you might be amazed at the number of items you thought you cancelled but are still paying for. Don’t have time to do it yourself? Try Truebill. The site searches forgotten subscriptions on your behalf which is great, but just be aware that for every dollar you save by using the service, Truebill takes 40% as what it calls a “savings fee.” So if they save you $500 annually on a particular bill, they’ll charge you $200. And while you save annually, Truebill takes that $200 fee immediately.

Lower your auto insurance payment

You compare the prices of electronics and clothes before you buy them, so why not compare auto insurance quotes? There are websites like credit report company Experian, that make comparing quotes a snap. Experian provides multiple auto insurance quotes in minutes. You can see all the best rates side-by-side and quite possibly save yourself more than $900 this year. Of course you can also do it the old fashioned way – by calling around. One of my best friends made a few phone calls and replaced her $300 a month plan with one for $55. In less than 20-minutes, she saved $2,940 a year.

Bring a list to the supermarket

Sure – you should join your supermarket’s loyalty program to save more on your purchases and if you hit Target or Walmart for groceries, absolutely get their app for additional deals. But the most important thing you can do to save money on groceries is to bring a shopping list of exactly what you need to buy. It takes just a few minutes to look in the refrigerator and freezer, pantry, and laundry room to determine what you absolutely need to purchase and write it down. It’s worth the effort to prevent buying things you don’t need or giving in to impulse purchases.

 

Cut out dining out

Or at least cut down the number of times in a month you dine out. I know how tough this is. Everyone is busy and exhausted. Cooking is the last thing you want to do after working all day. It’s just so much easier to say “let’s eat out tonight!” But I’ll tell you, you can save some real money by cutting restaurant meals out – or at least down. And when you do dine out, consider ordering appetizers only or sharing an entrée with your dinner companion. To save even more, skip the drinks and the dessert. (You can always have those at home!)

Embrace your local library

Libraries today offer so much more than books. They are a treasure trove of digital options including movies, foreign language classes, audiobooks, e-books, music, and more – for adults and children. And you can access all these items – including books! – free, simply by presenting your library card. Many libraries now allow members to “check out” passes for local attractions. Libraries in Atlanta provide members with passes to the local zoo, the aquarium, and the science center. Call your library and ask if they offer free passes to specific events and activities.

 

Switch – or ditch – your cell phone carrier

If you’ve never considered looking into free cellular service, this is the perfect time. Life Wireless offers government subsidized cellular services through the Affordable Connectivity Program to qualifying individuals and families. And, if you’re unemployed or participate in a government benefit program such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or WIC, you already qualify for this Federally funded free cellular service. As a participant, you receive the following, free, each month: Unlimited talk, text and data*, and a free smartphone or you can bring your own.

Even if you’re paying just $20 a month for cell service, wouldn’t you rather have that $240 to spend on the needs highlighted in your budget or to put toward paying down debts? It takes just a few minutes to complete the application. Do so now, and you could be cutting your monthly cell phone bill to nothing in no time.

Plus, if you’re approved for Life Wireless/Lifeline Assistance Program and sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data that you can split between two phones. That means free cell service for you and free cell service for someone you love. If your child has been asking for a cell phone, this is a terrific opportunity to provide him or her with talk, text, unlimited data and the ability to stay in touch with you!

Of course you don’t have to split the service between two phones, you can keep it all on one. But it’s a wonderful option if your spouse, child or relative needs a phone – and who doesn’t? – but has been unable to get one due to the expense.


Whichever option you choose – to keep the data on one phone or split it between two – Life Wireless will make sure you receive the free talk, text, and unlimited data to help you stay connected.

Option 1: Combine Your Data

Activate Lifeline and ACP on the same device and receive unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 5GB of mobile hotspot.

Option 2: Split Your Data
Split your data between two phones or supported devices and you’ll have one device with ACP’s free talk, text, and 6GB of data and a second device with Lifeline’s talk, text, and 4.5GB of data (6GB of data in California).

Limit your online shopping

There’s only one sure fire way to limit online shopping and buying things you probably don’t need. And that’s to stop saving your billing information on your favorite sites. (If you’ve already done it, delete it.)  That fact that you have to input your shipping address and credit card information every. single. time. you want to buy something from Amazon or Target or wherever, is enough to make you say, “the heck with it!” Really. The extra work is an amazing deterrent.

 

Keep more of your hard-earned money with Life Wireless. Start now!

Why have cell phones become today’s back-to-school essential?

There are dozens of reasons parents and kids need to be able to connect during the school day.

For starters there’s the matter of “forgotten items.” You know, they call and beg you to drop what you’re doing to deliver … the homework they need now, the sports gear they’ll need later, the musical instruments the band instructor inspects daily, the library book they needed to return a week ago…

For forgotten items, they need a cell phone.

Then there’s the “I don’t feel well,” “My braces broke,” “They made us run in gym and now I think I have heat stroke” stuff.

And of course there’s the “I forgot to tell you I’m going to a friend’s house after school,”  “I need to stay late so I won’t be on the bus, can you come get me later?” and the inevitable “Can we have pizza for dinner?” communications.

For all of these announcements and requests – and many others – kids need to have a cell phone.

But that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to get them one.  

Get your student – and yourself – a free smart phone

I know – it sounds too good to be true, but it is 100% for real.

Life Wireless offers government subsidized cellular services through LifeLine and the Affordable Connectivity Program to individuals and families who qualify. These programs are backed by the Federal government and provide you and your student with the following each month:

  • FREE Unlimited Talk & Text
  • FREE 15GB Data (+ more data for California residents)
  • FREE Smartphone (or bring your own)

If you’re unemployed or if you participate in a government benefit program such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or WIC, you already qualify for this federally funded free cellular service. Just think, for an investment of a few short minutes to apply and be approved, you can give your student the ability to stay in touch with you (and you with him or her!) at school, after school, and wherever their schedule takes them.

Once you’re approved for Life Wireless/Lifeline Assistance Program and then sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data. This means that you can split that service between two phones. And the result is that you get free cell service and a free smartphone, and your student gets free cell service and a free smartphone. You just have to remember sign up for ACP.

Things to know once your student has a cell phone.

Once your child has a cell phone it’s practically guaranteed that he or she will be glued to it, or at least attempt to be glued to it. It’s kind of understandable, particularly if they’ve waited a long time to get one. But being glued to anything – a smartphone, tablet, television, gaming system, etc. – is never a good thing. So it’s up to you to set boundaries and direct your child’s digital consumption. Of course it goes without saying that they’ll roll their eyes and give you an attitude but remember: your house, your rules. And besides it’s for their own good.

Following are a few ideas for managing your student’s screen time.

Limit the amount of time your student can be on his or her cell phone. Kids – young ones, tweens, and teens – need boundaries and it’s up to parents to set them. Maybe allow them 15 minutes before they leave for school in the morning, half an hour before homework time after school, and an hour after their homework is completed in the evening to be on their phone. Limiting screen time is of increasing importance as studies have shown that mental health issues like depression, self-harm and suicide among US adolescents and young adults began to rise in the 2010s, not long after social-media platforms and smartphones were introduced. 

Get into their business. Know who your kids’ friends are, both online and off. Know their parents, if possible. And definitely know what social media platforms they’re on, what sites they go to online, and exactly what they’re doing on those sites. It’s also an excellent idea to be friends with your child on whatever social media platforms they are on: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. This way you can keep an eye on the user names of people who follow your child and also see if any of your child’s videos are being saved far too many times. Disturbing user names and videos that have been saved thousands of times are enormous red flags that require immediate parental involvement. Your child might not like being “friends” with you online, and you might hear, “You don’t trust me!” but stay strong and vigilant. There are, sadly, lots of parents out there who wished they had known who their kids were interacting with and what sites they were on.

Look into those apps. There are literally thousands of apps that tout how educational and beneficial they are for kids, but are they really? There’s little research to back those claims. Make sure you know what apps your kids are using and even try them yourself. For additional guidance, check out associations like Common Sense Media. They offer reviews that can help you decide if an app is or isn’t appropriate for your child and find others that are. Another great resource? Other parents and your child’s teachers.

Set the example. Consider ditching social media or limiting your own use to no more than 30 minutes a day. Your kids may not follow your lead immediately, but give them time and spend the time you would have been on your phone doing things with them and others in your community. Real life friendships offer deeper levels of well-being than any friendship struck up online and spending more time with your kids is always the best investment.

If you have little children or grandchildren… Remember that little ones learn best by communicating face to face. Talking back and forth in a face to face conversation is critical for language development and learning to read social cues. They can’t get those skills from gaming or watching a show or movie. Two way communication is the key to strong language skills. And while in person is best, chatting with parents, grandparents, older siblings or far flung family members via FaceTime or Zoom works too and goes a long way toward helping kids become good communicators and students.

The importance of play. On the weekends, during school breaks, and over summer vacation, set limits as to how much time your child can be on the phone. Otherwise, frankly, they’ll be hunched over scrolling away for hours at a clip.  We know a woman who gives her kids an hour of screen time in the morning, another hour after lunch, and two hours in the evening to be on their phones or gaming systems whenever there’s no school. Other than those times, they need to be involved in unstructured playtime. That can be running around outside, reading, writing, pursuing a hobby, practicing a musical instrument, daydreaming, etc. All of these activities – including daydreaming – stimulate creativity. If you have very young children or grandchildren, daily playtime needs to be a priority.

Make certain areas and activities tech-free. No cell phones or tablets at the family dinner (breakfast and lunch, too) table and in restaurants. Same goes for family gatherings and social gatherings including things like church services. Keep televisions out of your child’s bedroom and resist the urge to have the television on as “background noise.” Create a cell phone station in the kitchen or other easily accessible common area where phones and other electronic devices can be charged overnight. The last thing you want is the light from a smart phone or tablet interrupting your child’s sleep or tempting your child to use them into the wee morning hours. If you don’t already have these “regulations” in place, it will take your kids time to get used to them but – hang in there. Studies show that the results of making these changes are more frequent and better family time, better sleep, and better eating habits.

Get in on their act. Play video games with your kids. Watch a show or movie with them. Doing these things promotes social interaction and bonding. It also gives you a chance to share your own life experiences and encourage good sportsmanship. So get down on the floor, grab a controller, and let the games begin. Your kids will think you’re the coolest. And that kind of connection improves trust and honest communication. Something you’ll value greatly when your child enters high school.

Talk to your child about the realities of online privacy. Unfortunately, most teens – and even many adults – think that using a social media platform’s privacy settings means their words, photos, and videos are private. Far from it. Anything and everything your child posts instantly becomes part of his or her digital footprint – and anyone can access it. Colleges, future employers, clubs or associations they might one day like to join can and do find it all. And that includes photos sent while sexting. Your child might not post those images to a website or platform, but the mere act of sending them to someone means that photo is forever “out there,” unable to be deleted or removed and thus able to be found. Encourage your kids to think before they post or sext and to come to you if they make a mistake. Let them know that, while you don’t condone that kind of behavior, you will be there to help if necessary.

Talk to your child about online predators and sex offenders. These bottom feeders are everywhere. Social media platforms. Chat rooms. Gaming sites. Websites designed to look like gaming sites or online stores, etc. They prey on kids who appear, by virtue of their posts, to be vulnerable. Depressed, lonely, feeling alienated, bullied, abused in some way – kids opening themselves up about these and other emotions are the siren call to sex offenders and sex traffickers. The best thing your child can do is not post these feelings anywhere online. Instead, encourage them to come to you to talk or, if they’re too embarrassed, to seek the counsel of a trusted adult. A teacher, coach, grandparent, the mom or dad of their best friend. Kids this vulnerable need real help and posting on social media can only get them hurt or lead them to hurt themselves.

Budget Busters

Today's Topic: Gas prices

Every time you think you’ve got your household budget set, gas prices go up again sending all your calculations down the drain. You need gas – to get to work, school, the doctor, so where can you cut your spending in order to be able to fill your tank and still purchase the other essentials you can’t live without? Following are a few suggestions.

Do a home energy audit

Did you know that your coffee maker, toaster, phone charger and other devices suck up energy even when you’re not using them? They do – and they can account for as much as 20% of your monthly electric bill. Take a walk around the house and unplug these items and others you’re bound to discover. You can also make your home more energy efficient by replacing air filters every 3-6 months, and making sure your windows, vents, and even the space around electrical outlets are properly insulated. This prevents your A/C in the summer and heat in the winter from being wasted. To see how you’re doing, ask your utility company to provide you a year over year expenditures statement so you can see if any of your bills are trending upward and taking steps to stop it.

Did You Know?

According to the Alliance to Save Energy, the average U.S. household spends $5,550 a year on energy. Purchasing energy-efficient appliances, making certain home improvements and taking actions – like those mentioned above – every day can save hundreds of dollars.

Lower your auto insurance payment

You compare the prices of electronics and clothes before you buy them, so why not compare auto insurance quotes? There are websites that make comparing quotes a snap, or you can do it the old fashioned way by calling around. One of my best friends made a few phone calls and replaced her $300 a month plan with one for $55. In less than 20-minutes, she saved $2,940 a year.

Did You Know?

Credit report company Experian provides multiple auto insurance quotes in minutes. You can see all the best rates side-by-side and quite possibly save yourself more than $900 this year.

Pack your lunch

It’s easy to give in to the convenience of fast food. But going out to get lunch every day, at $10 or so a pop, is $50 you could’ve saved. And you could’ve eaten healthier, too. Get into the habit of shopping for lunch foods and preparing a sandwich or salad before you go to bed. And until this habit gets really ingrained, leave yourself a note for the morning or you might just leave your lunch at home!

Did You Know?

A woman in the U.K. has come up with a time-saving way to make lunch sandwiches for her kids and herself. She pre-makes all the sandwiches in one sitting and freezes them, pulling them out on the morning she needs them. Her trick to preventing sogginess: she doesn’t use butter and she squeezes all the air out of the sandwich bag.

Embrace your local library

Libraries today offer so much more than books. They are a treasure trove of digital options including movies, foreign language classes, audiobooks, e-books, music, and more – for adults and children. And you can access all these items – including books! – free, simply by presenting your library card.

Did You Know?

Many libraries now allow members to “check out” passes for local attractions. Libraries in Atlanta provide members with passes to the local zoo, the aquarium, and the science center. Call your library and ask if they offer free passes to specific events and activities.

Switch – or ditch – your cell phone carrier

If you’ve never considered looking into free cellular service, this is the perfect time. Life Wireless offers government subsidized cellular services through the Affordable Connectivity Program to qualifying individuals and families. And, if you’re unemployed or participate in a government benefit program such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or WIC, you already qualify for this Federally funded free cellular service. As a participant, you receive the following, free, each month: Unlimited talk, text and data*, and a free smartphone or you can bring your own.

Even if you’re paying just $20 a month for cell service, wouldn’t you rather have that $240 to spend on groceries or gas or other household essentials? It takes just a few minutes to complete the application. Do so now, and you could be cutting your monthly cell phone bill to nothing in no time.

Did You Know?

If you’re approved for Life Wireless/Lifeline Assistance Program and sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data that you can split between two phones. That means free cell service for you and free cell service for someone you love. If your child has been asking for a cell phone, this is a terrific opportunity to provide him or her with talk, text, unlimited data and the ability to stay in touch with you!

Of course you don’t have to split the service between two phones, you can keep it all on one. But it’s a wonderful option if your spouse, child or relative needs a phone – and who doesn’t? – but has been unable to get one due to the expense.

Whichever option you choose – to keep the data on one phone or split it between two – Life Wireless will make sure you receive the free talk, text, and unlimited data to help you stay connected.

Option 1: Combine Your Data

Activate Lifeline and ACP on the same device and receive unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 5GB of mobile hotspot.

Option 2: Split Your Data
Split your data between two phones or supported devices and you’ll have one device with ACP’s free talk, text, and 6GB of data and a second device with Lifeline’s talk, text, and 4.5GB of data (6GB of data in California).

More ways to save

Hit delete

Delete apps like UberEats, DoorDash, and GrubHub so you’re not tempted to spend money on pricey delivery services. You can still treat yourself to occasional takeout meals that you pick up yourself, or an evening out at a restaurant, but those apps are notorious for charging exorbitant fees on orders. On top of that, you also have to pay the delivery fee and tip the driver.

Barter

Are you handy around the house? If you have a private landlord contact them and see if you can do any work for them in exchange for a decrease in rent. Can you design a website or do bookkeeping? Are you an excellent seamstress? Do you speak a second language? Offer your talent and skills in exchange for things or care that you or your family need. True story: The son of a good friend of mine needed to have his wisdom teeth removed. She couldn’t afford the fee, so she offered to redesign and rewrite the dentist’s website. It was a win-win for everyone.

Ask

Are you paying a high interest rate on your credit card or cards? Contact your credit card company and ask them to lower it. They won’t offer to do it, but if you have a history of making your payments on time and for the minimum payment required, and you call and ask, it’s quite possible they’ll agree. Remember: if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. So ask.

Save on school stuff

Make sure you sign your children up for the free or reduced price lunch program most school systems offer and keep a lookout for school supplies and backpack giveaways conducted by churches, local civic groups, nonprofits, and even local insurance agencies like State Farm. These events typically take place a month to a few weeks before the start of the school year and your child will benefit from a new or like-new backpack filled with brand new pencils, pens, notebooks, paper, erasers, and more. Stocking up on school supplies can easily cost $100 or more. Take advantage of these events and save.

Cancel those subscriptions

Cable television. Magazines. Gym memberships. Weight loss apps. These and others like them are subscriptions so many of us forget about, but still get charged for. Set aside time to review your credit card statements and checking account statements and you might be amazed at the number of items you thought you cancelled but are still paying for. Don’t have time to do it yourself? Try Truebill. The site searches forgotten subscriptions on your behalf which is great, but just be aware that for every dollar you save by using the service, Truebill takes 40% as what it calls a “savings fee.” So if they save you $500 annually on a particular bill, they’ll charge you $200.

*After you have used your plan’s high-speed data 15GB allowance, we will not turn off your data. Your speed will be throttled to 256 kbps.