Cheap Phones and Cell Phone Plans
I know of a family who is spending $500 a month on their cell phone bill. That’s right—$500 a month! To me, that is crazy! If they instead invested even $300 a month of that $500 for the next 30 years and got an average annual 10 percent rate of return on their money, which is very doable over the long term, they would have $651,396.
In my book, the goal is to save as much money on your purchases and expenses as you can so that you can save and invest and spend intentionally on meaningful experiences as much as you can. And even though I love the convenience of my smartphone, you can bet that I pay as little as I possibly can for this modern miracle of technology! In this article I discuss 7 ways that you can slash your smartphone or cell phone bill so that you can have more money to spend on things that could have even more lasting value in your life.
1. Find out if there are cheap phones and plans with the same features (or at least the features you care most about) for less money from your current carrier.
If you really like your current cell phone carrier, research on the internet or give them a call to see if they have a less expensive plan than your current one that still has the features that you like most. Maybe that’s unlimited data, or unlimited international calls, or unlimited talk and text. Whatever it is, there’s a good chance that they offer now even a better plan than the one you signed up for.
2. Find out if you can keep the same features you love and move to a different carrier to save money with cheap phones.
There’s an even better chance that you can save money and find cheap phones if you will switch to another carrier (and you can usually port and keep your same phone number and often even the same phone). Competition among cell phone carriers is pretty fierce, so they offer great incentives to attract new customers. Shop around and find the plan features that you love for a better price. If you’re willing to leave the Big Four (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile) to join one of the smaller carriers like Republic Wireless (my current carrier), Mint Mobile, or Ting, you’ll likely save even more.
*UPDATE*: As of September 2018, we’ve switched to Xfinity Mobile! If you love the idea of having cheap phones and you’re in an area with Xfinity high-speed internet and mobile, you’ve got to check them out! We’re paying an introductory price of $40 per month for our internet for the first year (same price as the much slower internet that we used to have from a different provider), and the cell phone plan is potentially virtually free. (After this year our monthly internet bill will be $65, but you can bet that I’m going to call before the year is up to see if we can lower that—but even if we can’t, I think it will still be worth the cost, because the service has been great—so much faster—and because of the virtually free cell phone service!) Since we’re such light data users (especially given the fact that Xfinity Mobile has free hotspots it seems almost everywhere), we pay only about $3.50 a month for taxes and fees for each line. (That’s the price if you use less than 100 MB of data per month, which we do; then it’s $12 per GB per month, or $45 per month for unlimited data.) It’s such an awesome deal!
And Xfinity Mobile has the same coverage as Verizon, which reportedly has the best cell phone coverage in the U.S. You do need to sign up for Xfinity internet in order to use Xfinity Mobile, at least initially. You can then drop the internet service if you want, but then you’ll pay an extra $10 per month per line for the mobile service. (That’s still very reasonable, though!) And when we signed up they had $300 and $150 rebates available on their phones (depending on the phone you bought)—so my phone cost only $40 (including taxes) after the rebate! And it’s a great phone. Interested in learning more or signing up? Use this referral code to receive a sign-up reward of up to $100 off your purchase price: 1RQ4SP
As I mentioned above, I don’t use much data at all (on average, probably 50 MB or less per month), but I like to have it available when I need to navigate somewhere. Other than that, I use Wi-Fi at my home, work, church, the library, and most places in between. Even some of the parks we go to have Wi-Fi. Love it! If you similarly have Wi-Fi virtually everywhere you go, then see if you can switch to a low data usage plan for cheap phones like those by Republic Wireless, Mint Mobile, and Xfinity to save. (And remember, Xfinity has Wi-Fi hotspots all over! At least they do in the metro areas around where we live.)
3. Buy cheap phones: buy a less expensive phone (and sell the more expensive one).
If you are making monthly payments on your cell phone, see if you can sell it (make sure you can get out of any contract you might be in first without paying too much of a penalty) and buy a cheap phone (or cheap phones) for cash. If you haven’t looked in to buying used phones, they’re a great way to go to save money. Almost all of our cell phones as well as my smartphone (until the one I last bought, as noted in the section just above) have been used (from eBay or Amazon), and they’ve all worked really well for us.
4. Find cheap phones: consider switching from a smartphone to a basic cell phone.
If you or someone in your household doesn’t use data much and you are looking for cheap phones, consider switching back to a basic cell phone. It’s really not as difficult as you think—I mean, how often are you really in a place where you can’t use Wi-Fi or where you’re without Wi-Fi for very long? And if you really just love the convenience of having a pocket-sized, Wi-Fi enabled computer, try this trick that I do (and love): I buy a very inexpensive, used smartphone for that purpose. (I buy them for around $20 to $30 on eBay; currently I’m using the Kyocera Hydro Elite because it’s water resistant and my last phone—or rather the one before the last one—took a dip in the lazy river at the water park—fortunately, it [mostly] survived; thank you, rice trick!*) So I use my regular Republic Wireless (now Xfinity) smartphone to make phone calls (though my other smartphone does that too when connected to Wi-Fi, using a free app called FreeTone) and use data on rare occasions when I need to navigate or have some other pressing need.
Then I use the Kyocera to save storage space on my other phone, to have a backup in case my battery on my regular smartphone dies, and, most important, to save wear and tear and the likelihood of a dropped phone and cracked screen on my more expensive, network-enabled smartphone. (Sadly, I did drop and crack the Kyocera about a month ago and cracked the screen; doh! I then went and bought a case and screen protector for it; should have done that sooner!)
*Note: I’ve since learned (thank you, Google!) that there are household items that purportedly work even better than rice, like oatmeal and couscous. But a desiccant (drying agent) like calcium chloride works even better, apparently.
For now, my husband still has a regular basic cell phone (though we might switch him to an Xfinity smartphone soon, since we’d save about $20 a month with one of their cheap phones!). So if you really don’t use data much and you can get by without a smartphone (or you can use a network-disabled smartphone with Wi-Fi, like I do) for at least one of your phones, then this could be a great way to go to save money if you don’t go with a less expensive cell phone carrier such as Republic Wireless or Mint.
5. Another option for cheap phones: find a cheap smartphone plan.
If you love the convenience of your smartphone and don’t want to give that up but are looking for cheap phones, then look into switching to Xfinity Mobile, Mint Mobile, or Republic Wireless for super cheap smartphone service.
Mint Mobile is a relatively new carrier that offers a steal on data plans for their cheap phones. You’ll pay just $14.99 a month for their cheapest plan—2 GB of 4G data and unlimited LTE data after that. Though Republic Wireless has been great for me, when the phone I have eventually dies in the next few years, I’m going to seriously look into Mint Mobile, because their rates are a little cheaper even than Republic Wireless’s current plans, and you do have the benefit of unlimited data, even if it’s not at the fastest speeds (which to me isn’t too big of a deal). If you love a great deal like I do, check them out!
Republic Wireless is the carrier I’ve been using for the last two years, and they’ve been great. I bought a used cheap phone from eBay and pay about $13 a month (including taxes) on their data refund plan. They don’t offer the refund plan on their newest phones, so their newer plans start at just $20 a month for 1 GB of data, and go up in $5 increments per GB from there. It’s still an awesome deal, but if you’re a heavy data user (but remember my tips above for how you can reduce your data consumption!) looking for a great deal, then check out Mint Mobile.
And if you have Xfinity in your area and can use them for internet and mobile, you could potentially save even more money, on both bills. They’re cell service is on the Verizon network, so their coverage is great. And they frequently have rebates on their smartphone devices (often $150 to $300 off their new devices), making it even easier to switch over! So check them out and see how much you could save! I love Xfinity (and love my $3.51 monthly cell phone bill)! Use this referral code to save up to $100 when you sign up for smartphone or internet service: 1RQ4SP
6. Look into getting prepaid, cheap phones.
There are times when using an inexpensive prepaid cell phone plan may be the best option for cheap phones for your family. Especially if you’re interested in having a second or third phone for a family member that wouldn’t use it very often, look into prepaid cell phone carriers such as Cricket Wireless, Boost Mobile, or Tracfone. With a prepaid service, you could activate the cell phone service for times when you want to have it, such as during a sport season or something similar with one of your children, and then you could turn off turn off coverage for months at a time when you wouldn’t need it.
Owning a prepaid phone would also allow you to easily shut off service if you chose to in the event that your teenager did something where you felt it was best that they lose the privilege of being able to use a cell phone for a time.
7. Consider getting rid of your cell phones altogether and going with a cheap phone at home.
OK, I know getting rid of your cell phones would be extreme, but the best payment of all is the one you don’t have! 🙂 That would save you even more than buying one of the cheap phones mentioned in this article! Even if you can’t get rid of all of your cell phones, maybe you can get rid of one or more of them. For example, if your young kids have cell phones, consider getting rid of them, and just let your child borrow your phone or your spouse’s when they’re on trips for sports team or drama club. Or do what we plan to do when our children are older, which is to have one cell phone they will all share and “check out” as needed (and approved). But really, many of your children’s friends and virtually all of the teachers will have cell phones, so they really don’t need one, even for school activities. But if you like the extra peace of mind, consider this approach: let the kids have one that they share and that gets docked from 9 p.m. to 7 am. each night. (That’s what we plan to do when our kids are in high school and we probably get a cell phone for them to share.)
If you use a cell phone as a replacement for a cheap phone at home, check out ObiTalk instead. We’ve been using ObiTalk for more than three years now, and they’ve been great. This is an internet phone provider (so it does require that you have internet in your home), and you pay just a small one-time cost ($50 or less) to purchase the Obi device. Then after that you get free phone service, year after year! It’s amazing. No yearly subscriptions, no monthly bills. And their service has been flawless. We’ve never had to make a service call or had any downtime (except when our previous internet service was being wonky, but that’s a different matter).
I know that smartphones are super convenient and that cell phones are nearly ubiquitous in our society, but remember, for most of us they’re not a true need. I’m not advocating that you give them up, because fortunately there are a lot of ways to be able to have cheap phones—many of them outlined above—so that you can reduce how much you spend on them.
I switched to a smartphone (thanks to Republic Wireless and their data refund plan—I don’t know when I would have been willing to take the plunge otherwise—until I learned about Xfinity Mobile, that is!) a couple of years ago, so I know smartphones are really convenient. But because, as I mention above, the majority of people are really not in places without Wi-Fi for very long or very often, do try to buy cheap phones with minimal data plans. (And did you know that if you start the navigation while you are at home and connected to Wi-Fi, you can then navigate from there to your destination without using data? Pretty awesome!)
If you’re still using a basic cell phone, you might look at one of the super cheap smartphone options mentioned above, and make the switch if it will save you money.
Invitation to Share
Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help a family member or friend or people in general? Would you please take a minute to share this article via email or social media? I would love your help to share these principles of financial well-being with others. Thank you!
Join our closed Families for Financial Freedom Facebook group to get support and share ideas for how we can all improve our financial well-being by earning more, spending less, saving more, and investing more and reach our financial goals. You can do this! And we are here to help.