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Everyone has a cell phone, right? Nine out of ten Americans own one, which is not surprising as all you need to do is look around any public space and you’ll spot them.
Yet, I’m not one of the 92% who has one, and due to expanding job duties, I will require having one. Ironically my husband’s cell phone, an older basic phone that was only good for phone calls, stopped working as well.
We agreed that we did not want to be bound to a long and expensive contract plan. Once such contract from Sprint offers to lease an iPhone 7 (or iPhone 7 Plus) for $7 a month when you sign up for their Sprint Unlimited Basic plan.
That’s $122 for the first month (including $21.75 monthly credit), and $92 monthly after that for 5 lines.
That’s an 18-month lease for the phone and the small print states that after 1/31/2020 the monthly cost increases to $60 for line 1, $40 for line 2, and $20 for lines 3-5 – a $68 a month increase.
This may seem like a great deal for a large family, but it’s just the two of us needing phones.
Thus, this begins my search on how to save money on a phone.
1. Prepaid Airtime
Instead of being stuck in a contract, you can opt for prepaid airtime.
Let’s explore the Walmart Family plan:
- Bring your own phone (T-Mobile GSM compatible) SIM card is $1.49
- LG Rebel 3 Prepaid Smartphone $59
- The lowest no-contract plan is $24.88 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data (for first 1GB up to 4G LTE speed, then 2G)
- Add additional lines for $24.88 a month each
- Get a $15 credit after 3 months for signing up for any Walmart plan plus enroll in autopay with
- Financial Assistance for families on SNAP or Medicaid – receive $10 or more off your monthly plan
So, for two phones it’ll be $50 a month, with the third month costing $35 (one-time credit).
An added bonus, you can get cash-back if you shopped through your shopping apps. If you enrolled in the autopay with the Walmart MoneyCard, you’ll also get 1% cash-back too (up to $75 in a year).
2. Older Generation Phone
You know you can save a lot of money by getting a phone that’s 1 or 2 generations older than the latest release?
Let’s look at iPhones: The newest model is the iPhone XR which costs $749, but an older generation iPhone like the iPhone 8 only costs $599. Let’s go down one more generation, the iPhone 7 costs $449. The difference between the newest and 2 generations ago is $300!
Maybe you’re strictly an Android user, let’s check those out: The newest Samsung phone is the Galaxy S9 that costs $839. The previous generation was the Galaxy S8 and that costs $599.
Let’s go down one more generation to the Galaxy S7 that costs $469. The difference between 2 generations of Galaxy phones is $370!
You’re not just saving at least $300 but you’re also avoiding all the bugs and issues that come with a brand-new phone. You also avoid the trouble of apps not working because their developer hasn’t upgraded to the new system yet.
3. Refurbished Phone
An older generation phone is cheaper compared to the latest one, why not take it a step further and get a refurbished one?
Refurbished phones are simply phones that were returned for minor repairs, fixed up and returned to the store. Many are still under the original warranty and only thing different is the price.
Again, let’s look at the iPhone 8 that costs $599, Best Buy offers a refurbished one for only $479. That’s a $120 savings.
4. Government Subsidy
You may have seen advertisements in your local classifieds for “free government phones” and seen the tents in different parking lots. Yes, you can get a government subsidy through a program called Lifeline. You qualify if:
- Your income is 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines. The guideline is based on your household size and state.
- You are on Federal assistance, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), Veteran’s Pension and Survivors Benefit, or are part of a Tribal program and live on tribal lands.
You’re only allowed one discount per household and it’s about a $9.25 discount per month.
5. Seek Discounts
There are many ways you can look for wireless plan discounts – through your work, college, military, or affiliations.
Here are some ideas of where to look for discounts:
- A large employer – some companies have arranged to have discounts for their employees, such as Boeing giving their employees a 25% discount for Verizon.
- Military or First Responder – Many wireless companies offer discounts for military, firefighters, and police officers, such as T-Mobile giving a $25 discount for first responders.
- Education – students, teachers, and employees often can get discounts by submitting their “.edu” email address. Best Buy and Sprint have a deal for students to get a year of free talk, text, and 1 GB data with the purchase of a smartphone.
- AARP – If you belong to AARP you qualify for many wireless discounts, such as from AT&T that offers a 10% discount on monthly service.
- Consumer – Check with your bank, insurance, credit card, or other companies you’re a customer to see if they offer any wireless discounts.
It never hurts to call your phone provider and see if there are any discounts you may qualify for.
6. Lower your Bill
Once you’ve decided on a cell phone plan, whether you went with a contract or prepaid plan, there are still ways you can lower your monthly bill. These include:
- Get a plan to match your needs – if you find that you don’t need as many talk, text or data minutes your plan offers, switch to a lower one.
- Keep your phone longer – Don’t accept to upgrade your phone whenever the company offers to. Sometimes this comes with higher fees.
- Skip the Insurance – Opt-out of protection plans and insurance policies, check your credit card or home insurance for coverage instead.
- Use Automatic Payment – Most companies offer a discount for using autopay services.
- Stay within your Data Plan – Don’t go over your limit which incurs more charges and some companies will switch you to the larger plan.
- Look for discounts – Check if you qualify for an employee, senior, veteran and other discounts
Going through your bill and checking for charges you don’t want and changing plans to fit will save a few more dollars every month.
7. Use Apps to Earn
A good reason to justify getting a cell phone is to use all the different apps to earn money.
Using your cell phone to earn points and cash for shopping, answering surveys, watching videos and playing games and if you have several to use, you can use the cash and gift cards to pay for your cell phone service. Not only that, some shopping apps actually offer cash-back on mobile services.
Here are several to get you started:
- TopCashBack – Get $100 back from Verizon for a new device activation
- SwagBucks – Claim gift cards for AT&T or Verizon mobile data
- MyPoints – Earn points from Verizon, Mint Mobile, Unreal Mobile, and others
- InboxDollars – Earn $10 for joining Mint Mobile, or claim a Prepaid Visa or check
8. Use Free Apps Instead
This is what I have been using up until now, a free texting app on my iPad. There are so many places that offer free Wi-Fi that this is a good alternative to having a wireless plan.
There are many free apps available out there for iOS and Android, such as:
- TextMe: Unlimited free calls and texts to any phone
- Talkatone: Turn your iPad or iPod touch into a phone
- Call2Friends: Internet calls online from your browser
Even if you do decide to get a wireless plan, you can still use these free apps while connected to your Wi-Fi to save your minutes and data limits.
9. Just the Basics
You can also get a very basic phone for calls only and save your internet searches and data for when you have a Wi-Fi connection to use your tablet or computer.
One idea is to get a simple no-contract flip phone for $20 and refill your minutes for only $40 for 3 months and 400 airtime minutes. Use it for when you’re on the road, or during emergencies and black-outs and use your work or home number for the other times.
Now as an added bonus, I’m sharing how you can save on your landline at home.
MagicJack costs only $35 (plus taxes) for one year, that’s $3 a month. You can also transfer your old number and save the hassle of having to notify everyone of a new phone number.
They now have a new MagicApp where you can have your home phone and smartphone ring simultaneously! It works just like using your magicJack service at home and get unlimited text messages to any U.S. mobile number.
MagicApp is available for iPhone, iPod, iPad and Android smartphones and tablets.
Getting a phone shouldn’t be an expensive endeavor and as you have read. There are several alternatives to try. It all depends on how dependent you are needing the phone – on the road a lot, running a business, or in a poor Wi-Fi area and such.
It pays to do your homework, check all the carriers available in your area and don’t sign any contracts until you’re satisfied that their plan fits your needs.
Did you find a cell phone or mobile service at a great price? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.