Did you see the NYT article (apologies if you’re at your paywall limit) about the true cost of upgrading to the hot new phone? Buying a fancy $1,000 iPhone is the equivalent of giving up $17,000 in retirement savings, they say, because an investment of $1,000 in a retirement account today should balloon to about $17,000 in 30 years.
Which I guess is an argument you could make about any sizable purchase.
But what about the ongoing cost? If you’ve read some of my posts before, you’ll know this is where I like to drill down. Sure the initial purchase is an eye-popper, but what are the small-ish never-ending monthly costs that companies love so much, because they slowly add up to even bigger numbers?
For an education on saving money on cell phone service, I turn to my buddy Oscar, who has made it his personal mission to wring every excess dollar out of their monthly plan.
His 3 keys to success:
- Avoid the Big 3 (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile) and instead contract with a smaller company that uses those bigger companies’ networks. His current provider is Tello, which uses the T-Mobile network. He’s also used Simple Mobile, MetroPCS (currently Metro by T-Mobile), Red Pocket, and Ting.
- Avoid plans with hidden surcharges and fees – he’s still smarting from the Ting plan that had these
- Tailor each line to the user and avoid unlimited data
Here’s the breakdown on their lines:
- Oscar & wife Stella: Unlimited Talk/Text + 1 GB Data – $10/mo each
- College-age son: 300 Minutes Talk/Unlimited Text + 2 GB Data – $12/mo
- High school daughter: 500 Minutes Talk/Unlimited Text + 500 MB – $8/mo
Total per month is $10 + $10 + $12 + $8 + $2.69 taxes = $42.69
“These types of plans aren’t for everyone,” explains Oscar. “This works for us because I’m either teleworking and using my wi-fi instead of data or using wi-fi at the office.” Similarly, Stella and their daughter are home most of the time, and their son is usually on a wi-fi-blanketed campus.
Due to their habit of using wi-fi when possible, calls don’t typically count toward talk minutes. Video calls are done via FaceTime. Voice calls are often on WhatsApp. And direction finding is via a Garmin GPS, rather than a data-sucking map app.
As you might guess, Oscar’s not a fan of annual hardware upgrades either. He’s proud to holster the 1st generation iPhone SE (pictured), which he bought refurbished at Back Market.
You can read about my Back Market experience here.