Keeping Text Messaging Bills In Check

Now that T-Mobile has joined Sprint Nextel, AT&T and Verizon in hiking the price of text messages from 15 cents to 20 cents, what can you do to curb costs and combat a rising cell-phone bill?

On The Early Show Tuesday, CNET TV Senior Editor Natali Del Conte suggested either using a blackberry instant messaging service free of charge, or paying to use the Internet on your phone so you can instant message, e-mail or Meebo others for free, instead of texting.

If you and your kids have no problem staying within the allocated amounts of texts in your plans, then perhaps these alternatives aren't for you. But the bottom line is that, with the cost of texts going up, these might be great difference-makers for you.

There've been cases of teens sending upwards of thousands of text messages a year -- some even send a thousand text messages per month -- and, at 20 cents a pop, that can be $200 in text charges.

There's no data on how many people are going over their plans' limits, Del Conte says, but it seems that text messaging keeps getting more and more popular -- and more and more expensive.

POSSIBLE TEXT ALTERNATIVES SUGGESTED BY DEL CONTE

INTERNET-BASED ALTERNATIVES

If you pay the $15-$30 a month to get the Internet on your cell phone, you can avoid those massive text messaging bills by using other means of person-to-person communication. You definitely shouldn't text if you already subscribe to an Internet service on your phone, as there are so many free ways to communicate without worrying about the expense of texting:

1) INSTANT MESSAGING: Most cells have the ability to enable you to instant message, so the same way that you IM people from AOL or Yahoo, you can do it from your cell phone. Just flip open your phone, go to the Web browser, and go to AOL.com, Yahoo.com, etc. It doesn't matter how long you're "online" -- whether you're IM-ing for five minutes, or five hours, it will cost the same if you're on one of these monthly plans

2) MEEBO: If you go to the Internet on your phone and go to Meebo.com, you can register yourself and all the IM-ing platforms you use, and it will sign you into all of them at once. So, if you use AOL and Yahoo to IM people, once you sign into Meebo, it will immediately sign you into both. A lot of people have more than one instant messaging account, so this is very helpful for them.

3) EMAIL: Just e-mail people the short messages you were planning on texting them

BLACKBERRY-BASED ALTERNATIVES

Blackberry messaging is basically IM-ing from Blackberry-to-Blackberry that connects to people through their Blackberry e-mail addresses.

For more from CNET on the increasing cost of text messaging, click here.

Editor's note: CNET and CBSNews.com have the same parent company, CBS Corporation.
MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved