Cutting Costs: Cellphones

By Philip

On the road to financial independence there are two ways to increase your savings, you can either increase your earnings or decrease your expenses. After tracking our money we decided to take a look at our monthly bills and see where we could cut costs. A friend of mine had told me about discount cell phone plans a few years ago, but in my ignorance I just made fun of him about it. Once I got serious about finances my phone bill was one of the first things I took a look at. I loved paying $120/month for “better coverage” as much as the next guy but I knew there was a better way. 

Melissa, disgusted by her cell phone bill

 I remembered my friend talking about Republic wireless so that was where my research started. I discovered a whole slew of discount cell phone companies know as MVNOs (mobile virtual network operator). MVNOs are basically wireless service resellers. MVNOs don’t own the cell infrastructures like towers, they have contract agreements with larger cell companies 

(Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint) to use their excess space and sell it at a discounted price. Most companies have plans that start as low as $15/month! You might be tempted to sign up for the first plan you find but there are a few things you want to take into consideration.

  1. What network does this plan run on and what is the coverage like in my area?
  2. What type of phone can I use on the plan?
  3. Is my current phone unlocked (not bound to a specific carrier)?
  4. Are you under contract with your current provider.
  5. How is the customer service?

I had only heard about Republic Wireless at first so I showed Melissa the website and she was skeptical but was willing to try it, until I told her the answer to question #2. Republic wireless doesn’t support Apple products. That’s was a deal breaker. I asked Melissa if she was willing to pay 5 times as much for cell coverage just for the ability to use an iPhone and the answer was a very simple “yup”. Luckily we found other companies that do work with iPhones so we decided to look into those. 

We settled on Mint mobile (resells T-Mobile service), because we think Ryan Reynolds is sexy. Just kidding we didn’t find out he was a part owner of the company until after we had already signed up. I loved how easy their website was to figure out if their service would be good for you. On the home page all you have to do is enter your zip code and what type of phone you have and you will know in seconds whether Mint will be a good match. You can then choose from 3 different plans starting as low as $15/month. When my friend first told me about his cheap phone he talked about having no data and only being able to use Wifi, which was a huge turn off for me. Mint seems to be one of the better companies for heavy data users. The plan I signed up for gets 12Gb of data for just $25/month. It was incredibly easy to switch over from Verizon to Mint. I was able to keep my phone number and there was no break in service. Mint ships you a new sim card and gives you instructions on how to activate it in minutes. I’ve only had to call customer service once and they were very helpful.

This all sounds amazing right? So what’s the catch? There are a few important things you need to know:

-You need to own your own phone. Mint does not sell cell phones. We were still paying off Melissa’s phone when we wanted to switch so we had to cash out with Verizon. Most companies don’t do contracts anymore but the payment plan on their devices is how they keep you around.

-Your phone needs to be unlocked. The good news here is most new phones are. A quick internet search will teach you how to figure this out with your phone.

-To get the cheapest prices you need to buy in bulk. I say $15/month but that is an average. For Mint specifically you need to buy a year of service to get the cheapest prices. You can get a 3,6, or 12 month plan. The good news is they run specials all the time and give discounts for referrals. When we signed Melissa up for her year of service, the 8Gb plan came out to $11.77/month (normally $20/month) due to the special they were running and a referral.

-Activate your new plan during their customer service business hours. When I activated my phone it worked like a charm, I had access in seconds. When we attempted to activate Melissa’s phone it was late at night and it didn’t work until the next morning. I made the assumption that their offices were closed and no one was there to do their side of the activation process.

-There are no family plans. Each individual phone has it’s own plan, data limits and billing cycle. 

We are about 6 months into our time with Mint Mobile and we are very happy with it. I will say that Verizon did have the superior coverage, but it was not 4 times as good so the cost wasn’t justified. I have had a few occasions where I was wanting to look something up on my phone or make a call and was in a bad service area and didn’t have wifi, but it’s usually in remote areas. I have not experienced more dropped calls with Mint than I did with Verizon and I think the connection actually sounds better than Verizon’s did. If you have any experience with T-Mobiles network you will know what you are getting with this, it isn’t the best around but the price is unbeatable. The great thing about Mint is they offer 3 month trials at their best prices so if you switch over and you don’t like it you can easily switch to another carrier. If you are interested in trying Mint feel free to use our referral link.

Although we went with Mint there are a lot of options out there. Here are a few more to check out:

-Ting

-Republic Wireless

-Freedom Pop

-Gen Mobile

It’s a great feeling to pay significantly less on a phone bill and not have much difference in your quality of life. Reducing your recurring expenses will lead to major savings. By making this one change we will save about $1100 this year. That money goes a long way if you are trying to pay off debt, or trying to find money in your budget for retirement savings.

Do you have experience with an MVNO? Share your experience in the comments so we can all learn and grow together.

4 Replies to “Cutting Costs: Cellphones”

  1. I have never heard of these companies before and I’m so excited to look into them. What an easy way to save lots of money! If we end up on similar plans, it could save us about $800/yr! Yes, please!

    1. It is seriously such a game changer. We will save close to $1000 this year just from this one simple change.

  2. I switched to Republic Wireless a few years ago from a bigger provider and ended up saving hundreds of dollars a year on our service. Once I learned more about the MVNOs you talked about, it was a game-changer because you’re essentially using the same service that you would for a more expensive large carrier, you’re just paying less for it. I’ve used several carriers including Republic Wireless, Ting, Gen Mobile, Red Pocket, Mint, and a couple of years ago I switched to Tello (where i currently am). With Tello I’m paying about $8/month for about 100 minutes/month (I don’t do a lot of calling) and 2GB of data. My wife has more minutes and about the same amount of data for $10/month. So we’re paying less than $20/month for 2 phones and it’s never felt like we were limited in any way – calling on the Sprint network. We love it!

    1. Exactly! When we made the switch to Mint last year we couldn’t believe how much we were saving! Thanks so much for your input and experience!

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