With today’s smartphones it isn’t enough to have a fantastic minute plan for voice calls, which today are pretty affordable. What really starts jacking up the bill is the data and dreaded text plan. With AT&T  recently changing their texting plans there are now fewer options to choose from. AT&T will now only offer 1000 text messages for $10 a month or unlimited for $20 per month, as opposed to the old plans of 200 texts for $5 per month, 1500 texts for $15 per month or the before mentioned unlimited. The unlimited family texting plan of $30 per month has been unchanged.

Now there’s nothing you can do about the data plan, but there are numerous options to cut down, or even eliminate your texting charges. Both iOS and Android have free texting applications, but I’ve always found those to be mediocre performers at best.

Google voice is one of these no cost solutions. Google Voice is a service which uses a specific phone number issued by Google and you can specify what phones ring at what times when callers dial. This isn’t an article about Google Voice but if you would like more details check out this fantastic article by our very own Sean Aune.

If you have a Google account you have access to Google Voice, so the first thing you must do is set up your Google Voice account. To get to that page of your Google account follow the instructions below:

1. Go to you Gmail inbox.
2. Go to the bottom and click “even more”, you will then be directed to a Google products page.

3. Find the Voice button and click it.

4. Choose your phone number.

5. Create your pin and accept the terms and conditions.

6. Add the phone number you would like Google Voice calls forwarded to. You can add more than one but if you want to set up free text messages one of them needs to be your mobile number.

7. Have Google verify your phone number.

Next download the Google Voice application from the App Store or Android Marketplace. You will send and receive text messages through this interface as opposed to the default text message application on your phone.

Now that you have your Google Voice account set up and the mobile application on your phone it’s time to configure your Google Voice account to make the magic happen.

1. Under “settings” in your Google Voice account click “Voice Settings”. You will then be brought to the page where you manage your external phone numbers.

2. Click edit under your cellular phone number and you will then be able to configure how texts sent to your Google Voice number are handled.

3. At the top of this page choose “Voicemail & Text”.

4. In the Voicemail notifications section be certain that the radio box under “Send Text (SMS) message to: (your cell phone)” is not checked. If it is it will send a text to your cellular number and you will be charged accordingly.

5. Save your changes.

You are now ready to drop your texting plan with your carrier and text via your Google voice number. The key here is that you have to be disciplined enough to only give out your Google Voice number, otherwise people who have your regular cell number will continue to text that number and you will be charged texting fees.

If you plan on implementing this system, I would highly suggest calling your carrier and having them “block” any text messages to your cellular phone number. You don’t want people who already have your cell number texting it, thus creating additional expenses.

Everyone will not feel comfortable strictly texting via Google Voice and the mobile application, but if you feel you can commit to this system it will save you anywhere from $5 to $30 per month.

TechnoBuffalo readers what ways do you text? Do you text traditionally, through an application or with Google Voice? I want to know in the comments below.