Just because you need to be careful with your cash doesn’t mean you have to settle for a third-rate phone. There are plenty of good, affordable devices on the market. You just need to know which ones to pay attention to.
Best of all, cheaper phones are easier to buy outright, meaning you don't need to sign up to a contact. Then you can save even more by going with a cheaper SIM-only plan.
Phones obviously change price depending on the vendor, so be sure to check out multiple sources if one of these babies catches your eye.
Optus X Sleek
The Optus X Sleek is far better a phone than you'd expect for $149. The device itself feels premium thanks a glass and aluminium build, performance is fine, and the camera is respectable. The catch? The screen is hard to read in bright light, and the phone is locked to Optus.
Samsung Galaxy J3
Samsung's Galaxy J3 is a fine example of an entry-level Android smartphone. The battery is good (and removable), you get expandable storage, and the camera does well enough when you're shooting outdoors. All in all, a good option for a basic phone.
After a phone that looks like an iPhone that isn't an iPhone? Look no further than OPPO's F1s. The F1s is a solid budget offering with a nice 5.5-inch display, lighting fast fingerprint reader, and a (little too) familiar user interface. If you're happy to sign up for Optus Prepaid, you can get the F1s at an even cheaper price: $259.
Alcatel Go Play
The Alcatel Go Play is a bit underpowered, but makes up for the slightly sluggish performance with a rough and tough build that will survive almost any punishment you can inflict. The Go Play is rated IP67 for water-resistance (can be submerged as deep as one metre, for up to 30 minutes, but you need to ensure the headphone jack and charging port are sealed), and is drop-proof to heights of 1.5m. When testing the Go Play, we tried our best to break it, and while multiple drops on concrete banged the phone up, it's still working.
Moto G4 Plus
The Moto G4 Plus is another solid budget-to-midrange Android smartphone that doesn't make too many compromises. There's a lovely 5.5-inch 1080p display, mostly zippy performance, and an unmodified version of Android Marshmallow. If you’re after a no-frills, no-nonsense Android handset, the Moto G4 Plus is a great choice.
The iPhone SE isn't exactly an affordable smartphone, but it's nonetheless the cheapest way to get a new iPhone. It's got the same processor and camera found in the iPhone 6s, just in a smaller form factor. Topped off with a lovely display and solid battery life, the iPhone SE is a great all-rounder.
If you're happy to take out a 24-month contract, there's also plenty of great iPhone SE plans available.
Samsung Galaxy S7
As last year's flagship, Samsung's Galaxy S7 is starting to come down in price. Outright it's still a bit pricey - officially retailing for around $949 - but it's getting a lot more affordable on contracts.
Given its flagship status, the S7 is top notch phone: there's IP68 water-resistance, a 5.1-inch Quad HD display, and a stunning camera.