Smartphones can cost an arm and a leg–and a lot of people can’t afford that kind of investment. Whether it’s the up-front cost or the monthly service fees, a cell phone shouldn’t cost more than an electric bill or car insurance. For people looking to buy a phone and still stay in the black, there are a few options available. Here are the 5 best cell phones for the budget-minded consumers sorted by carrier.

1. AT&T: Apple iPhone 3GS

Yes, it’s possible to have an iPhone and not pay through the nose for it. Depending on the store, it’s an option to start a new contract and only pay $49 for this phone. Keep in mind that’s it’s 3G, not 4G, so folks looking for lightning-fast connections and who depend on their phones to double as tiny PCs might want to keep shopping. However, for most people, it’s a great buy.

2. Cricket Wireless: Cricket TXTM8 3G

Cricket is known for being the lowest of the low when it comes to price. There are no contracts to buy and consumers can get the everything package for around $50 per month. Combine that savings with this phone–usually available for around $50, too–and the savings is immense. Another 3G option, there aren’t any sign-up fees, surprise fees or penalties for stopping service at any time.

3. Sprint: LG Rumor Touch

For someone who really wants to score a great deal, check out the LG Rumor Touch. It’s completely free when starting or extending a Sprint account. Don’t think that free necessarily equates to low quality. LG is a great brand, and actually one of the most popular in SE Asia. To avoid unnecessary costs and still get the same quality of phone, give it a try.

4. T-Mobile: T-Mobile My Touch 4G

Talk about a double whammy. Not only is this model also free with a T-Mobile contract, it comes with 4G. Designed just for the carrier, it packs a powerful punch and a great sleek design. Free and fast? Yes, please.

5. Verizon Wireless: LG Vortex

There are actually two great free models offered by Verizon including the not quite as good Samsung Intensity II SCH-U460. However, the LG Vortex wins at this carrier as a solid Android option for budget-savvy shoppers.

No matter which carrier a person goes to, there’s never a need to overspend. If you want to buy a phone, be smart, be savvy and do the research to find a phone that works and is affordable.

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