Cell phone bills are the worst. Every month we're shilling out $150-$200 dollars, and at the end of the month we're not quite sure what we paid for. Facebook browsing? Amazon shopping? Sweet instagramming? The best snap chat of all times? Okay, maybe we know what we paid for, but aren't there better options out there?
There absolutely are. We shopped around to save some cash on our monthly bill. For some context, we are a household of two. We prefer unlimited - our current data use is about 16 gigs a month. We're on the road a lot, so wifi isn't always handy. Our current bill averages roughly $150, but sometimes creeps closer to $200 with some international charges
Option 1: Sprint
Don't cringe. Sprint gets a lot of grief online for poor service. Luckily for us, they also have a first year free plan. That's right, unlimited data, text, and calls for one year for free. All we pay are taxes and fees - less than $10 per month. This is a savings of $1680 for a year. Baller.
What's the catch? Well, we had to BYOD (bring your own device). This worked out great for an Iphone 6 and Google Pixel. You can check your eligibility here. You have to order online, pay for a SIM card, and pay for over night shipping. All in, you'll be out $15ish to get started. What attracted us to this deal is that there is no contract. If service sucked, we could just go back to old faithful (AT&T).
Option 2: Mint SIM
Mint SIM is fun. If a phone company was our spirit animal, it would be Mint SIM. Mint is a prepaid plan. You can get unlimited calls and text with 2 GB of 4G data for as little as $15 a month. They also have a BYOD plan. See if your phone is eligible here. Mint will reward you with lower prices if you prepay in bulk. 6 and 12 month options are available. This starts to feel a bit like a contract, so make sure you have coverage in your area before signing up.
If you need more data, you can purchase up-to 10 GB a month for $300 a year. For two phones, that was going to run us $600 for a year of cell phone coverage, saving us $1200. This was going to be our first choice before finding the Sprint offer.
Option 3: Project Fi
Project Fi is Google's attempt at a mobile network. It's a solid choice for someone that can stay on wifi most of the time and doesn't need much data. Without a contract, you can pay $20 a month for unlimited calls/text. Data costs $10 GB. The nice thing about Fi is that it seamlessly switches between wifi networks, and the best cell phone network available. That's right. Google has access to over a million wifi hotspots, which gives you access to free wifi. If you aren't in range, then your Project Fi enabled phone will toggle between three 4G LTE networks to ensure you get the best coverage. If you don't have a phone that is Fi compatible, the Google store does offer financing on their phones, which is a nice plus
This is great for someone in a city that can make use of Google's wifi network. Unfortunately for us, this wasn't the case. Our data usage would have eaten into our phone budget, wiping away our savings.
So What about Those Saved Pennies?
So we are going to save about $1,700 this year. In theory. What happens when you take an expense out of your budget though? That money goes towards dining out, beer, and beef jerky. Okay, maybe that's only us, but you get the picture.
To make sure we didn't squander our savings, we set up two automatic withdraws:
1) We opened a Self Lender account. Self Lender offers a savings plan that helps build credit. We needed an extra installment account on our credit report, so this was perfect. We signed up for 12 monthly payments of $48. In twelve months they'll cut us a check for $545. Our monthly payments get reported to the credit bureaus. Our credit score will thank us later.
2) The remaining $100 was auto invested in Acorns. Acorns has a $1 monthly fee, but they invest your money in stocks based on your comfortableness with risk. In addition to the automatic flat payment, Acorns rounds up our purchases throughout the month to invest our spare change.
Does this savings plan make us boring? Maybe. But at the end of a year we're going to have $1700 we wouldn't have otherwise, and $1700 can buy a pretty fun vacation. :)
The Bottom Line
These phone plans might not be the right fit for you, and maybe you don't need automatic payments to help save money. The important take-away here is that you evaluate your phone options. Overpaying each month is like throwing money away. Saving money on your phone bill and throwing it away on pleasantries is just as bad. This is just a reminder to evaluate your bills, cut costs, and save those pennies.