Super Cheap Cell Phones and the Break-Even Point - Live Like a Mensch
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Super Cheap Cell Phones and the Break-Even Point

Recently, J's cell phone gave up the ghost. (I believe it was dropped from his shirt into a ginormous mug of coffe. Multiple times. J can be pretty hard on his belongings).

We have phoned with Credo for several years now, after we and Verizon had a less-than-amicable divorce. (Some things were said on both sides that simply could not be taken back. For example "This is your rate" and "Yes, you were roaming while sitting in your living room" and "Doodyheads!")

So, we looked up when we could replace J's phone without paying for it. We discovered that of the 750 minutes we are currently eligible for with our plan (which, by the way, is the cheapest/lowest usage plan offered), we have not even used 10% per month over the last year. (This is because we, unlike anyone else in our age group, actually have a home phone. I love it. You can have my landline when you pull it from my cold, dead hands.)

I called Credo, and discovered that there was no way to spend any less per month (currently $95), despite our more common usage of our phones as paperweights.


J is interested in possibly having a smart phone. We have not entered the 21st century, and our phones have been of the dumb, only-makes-calls-and-takes-really-bad-pictures variety. J would like to have a calendar available to him on his portable paper weight and coffee buoy. I would like to do the Twitter more often and program my phone to run my life, as I've been assured a smart phone would be able to do.

J found a cell phone service called Republic Wireless, that charges as little as $5 per month, provided you buy the phone. They are able to do this because they allow you to use Wi-Fi for any data usage, rather than 3G or 4G or whatever number G they're up to these days. (I feel like those G numbers are the like the razor cold wars from a few years ago, when they just ketp adding more and more blades). If you use cell towers for data, you're charged for it, but otherwise, you can use the Wi-fi you're already using for your other devices.

We were intrigued. Could this possibly be as good a deal as they claim?

We did some research. Read many a review. Determined that as long as we actually turn off the switch-to-cell-tower option, you really can have a smart phone for $10 per month, each.


Unfortunately, we do still have to spend $300 each on new phones, cancel our contracts with Credo, which will cost $80 for J and $145 for me, and purchase Otterbox phone protectors at $40 each to keep our smart phones uncaffeinated. So, is it still worth it?

J, because he is an engineer and could make an Excel document in his sleep, decided to create a spreadsheet to see when our break-even point would be. (And therein, you get a glimpse at how we Mensches keep the romance alive in our marriage.)

So, if all goes according to plan, we will break even next April--and we'll have saved nearly $900 by March 2016.

Of course, there's no guarantee that all will go according to plan. And this is why making these sorts of decisions is so difficult. We might have just made our single smartest cell phone decision since we stopped drinking coffee while holding a cell phone--or, we might end up having wasted more money overall than we would have if we'd just stuck with what we know.

No matter what, I'm really excited to get a smart phone and become, what's known in the parlance of our times--a late adopter.

I will definitely keep you updated on this situation as it develops. It's possible I might even update you from my new phone!


Have you ever made a break-even point decision--whether for a mortgage refinance or a service provider change--that bit you in the rear? Have you ever had one work out exactly as you planned? Tell us about it in the comments.



haverwench said:

Wow, this is awesome! I've also been on the fence about smartphones—I keep hearing about all these great apps you can use for everything, including saving money in myriad ways, but I always assumed I'd have to pay at least $50 a month for the phone service. I even considered buying a used phone and not buying a plan for it, just to use the apps (ecofrugality.blogspot.com/.../how-smart-are-smartphones.html). But a smartphone at $10 a month just might be worth taking the plunge for.

However, if what you really want is the lowest possible price for a phone that will be used only in an emergency, you can always do what we did: spend $40 on a refurbished phone from T-Mobile and sign up for their pay-as-you-go service. With our plan, we have to add $10 to the account, and we spend $2 of that for each day that we use the phone (which may happen once or twice a month). However, we don't have to keep track of minutes: it's $2 for that first call of the day, and after that, it's all the minutes you can eat. So basically, that $10 every three months is all we spend.

March 10, 2014 1:06 PM

Maggie Trudeau said:

WOW!  I've got to look into my cellphone costs.

March 12, 2014 11:47 AM

Live Like a Mensch said:

Image source Now that J and I are the proud owners of some spiffy new smart phones, I am looking for

March 21, 2014 12:00 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

J and I are now three months into our smart phone ownership , and I can tell you--I have no idea how

June 11, 2014 9:46 AM

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