Cell phone Part 2: Finding Value

Maybe you read about how I was thinking about canceling my cell phone service. I calculated the value it provided me (about $10) vs the actual cost ($33). I ran into a great friend and MMA reader in our local coffee shop and was chatting about this. “So” he asked, “If you could get a cell phone plan for $9.99, then you would?” “Yup, that about sums it up!” I explained.

I was kind of being a smarty pants when the cell phone guy asked if I wanted to just downgrade my plan instead of canceling. “Yeah, maybe” I said. “If you have plans for less than $10 a month.” “We do!” he exclaimed. Um…ok, now you have my attention.

Turns out that there are plans for $7 a month for 3g phones or $8 a month for 4g phones. You pay upfront for the year $83/$100 and receive 2000 minutes and 2000 text messages. It’s kind of perfect for me! If I only use 15 minutes one month (a very typical situation for me) I have more minutes to use later in the year (like when we are traveling and coordinating reservations).

After a bit of talking with Mr. Mt, we realized that he would be perfectly fine using the 4G plan. He can keep his sweet phone, use the WiFi, and easily learn to live without a data plan.

It’s not perfect for everyone. But after years of working a job where his phone was like a work leash, I think us going more low tech is kind of a perk to leaving the 9-5. Even when he was in the military, he was required to have a cell phone and be accessible at all times. His last job was a stream of ASAP work emails chiming through the phone and 24 hour shifts on call.

Being less accessible 24/7 feels like a small luxury.

Instead of paying $66 a month, our new monthly expense will be $15 (although paid upfront). That frees up an extra $51 a month or over $600 a year!

Depending on what stage of your financial journey you are in, that money could go to many different thing. Paying off debt, saving up for a home, remodel, Roth IRA, or something else very responsible. Basically Guard the Gap stuff.  We have made those very responsible choices for 15 years now, which has helped bring us here.

Instead, I think we are going to spend that $51 a month. Our passive income covers all our bills at this point, so I don’t feel the need to cut expenses just for the sake of cutting. But I am a value hound. I want my time, money, energy and possessions to bring the most value possible! Starting in April, I’ll add a line item to our Monthly Expenses post talking about where we spend that $51.

My motivation is two fold for you all. 1. A lot of people poo-poo little savings. Like it just doesn’t matter. I want to show what we are buying instead – things/experiences that really do add value to us. 2. Intentionality. It can be easy to just go with the flow and not question things. We get so busy racing around that we don’t ask if a purchase is really adding value in proportion to the cost. I’m hoping if I can be transparent in our value intentionality, that maybe you will be inspired to be thoughtful about yours as well. Because money is a great tool, but a horrible goal.

The crazy thing to me is this: If my phone hadn’t dropped on the floor and busted, I might not have questioned the value of our cell phone plan ($33 a month seemed very reasonable to me!). Had I not calculated the value, I might not have asked about uber cheap plans. If I hadn’t asked, we would still be spending $51 more every month without any extra benefit.

The teenage girl I mentor thought this was hilarious and has no problem mocking my new ridiculous cell phone (it is very funny!).  It was a classic Their Up is My Down moment. But really it comes down to the Highlight Reel. Some thing are my “most important”, or it’s “the rest”. Unlimited minutes/text and lots of data is absolutely “the rest” for me. You’ll have to stay tuned to see what ends up making the “most important” list in future monthly expenses.

For conversation:

Do you review your fixed expenses to make sure you are getting the best value compared to the cost?

How funny is this cell phone?! I think they found a case of them in a Y2K bunker.

If you had an extra $51 you HAD to spend each month, what would you spend it on?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

24 thoughts on “Cell phone Part 2: Finding Value

  1. I love it! We have to do something different next year (our son will be in TX and our service doesn’t work well at all there), which may mean new phones for all, so we need to start looking for economical options. I really think the only thing I would miss about data is Google maps…but that’s just a matter of planning ahead and looking up directions before I leave the house.

    “If you had an extra $51 you HAD to spend each month, what would you spend it on?” This is a really hard question for me. I Don’t Know!!!??? Maybe grooming the dog? Because I don’t like doing it – it would remove something negative.

    • We looked up car GPS units on Amazon and they are super cheap now compared to 5-10 years ago! It might actually work better for us because cell service in Montana can be so spotty. Dog grooming sounds like a good use. I’m all about reducing the unpleasant stuff. =)

  2. I could live without the data as long as I had enough texting, but I can’t live without the camera on my smart phone. I use it all the time. I get my husband’s “hand me down” Iphones from work though as he doesn’t have to turn them back in when he upgrades, so I never pay for one. Plus he’s in IT so always has the latest and greatest, so I’m never too far behind. Total perk. I use Ting pay-as-you-go for the plan. You basically only pay for what you use and get billed each month. Mine usually runs about $20-$24. Not $10, but not bad either, especially since it’s the only cell phone bill we have.

    As for an extra $51/month that I HAVE to spend….hmm. Maybe babysitting so my husband and I could get out more? If I could save to spend, then I’d save for things that need replacing like our sofa.

  3. I’m (un)lucky to have a “Corporate Phone”. Cost = $0, but it comes with a BIG hook (always “on”!). I’m starting to think about my Post-FIRE cell plan, but haven’t spent too much time on it yet. I agree with the prevalence of free wifi, there’s definately an opportunity to go with a “low cost” plan on limit your wireless usage. A topic on my list…..for Spring 2018!

    • Not being on our cell phones all the time does feel like a post work perk! There is free WIFI almost everywhere we go. (Coffee shop, library, gym, grocery store!)

  4. Not going to lie, as a Millennial, the thought of switching to a “dumb phone” sounds terrifying. (I’ve had an iPhone since I was a freshman in college!) That being said, it also makes me realize how reliant I am on my phone. We paid off our foolishly financed phone this past month freeing up an extra $60/month and dropping our bill down to $100/month. You’ve inspired me to start tracking how much data, texts, and minutes I actually use each month and make efforts to reduce it with the hopes of reducing our bill even more in the future.

    PS that extra $60 will become part of our Roth IRA contributions which I hope to start next month!

    • I think tracking your usage is a great idea! She how much you actually need, then find a plan that fits those needs. There are more and more alternative phone options out there. =) Mr. Mt kept his smart phone, so we still have one in the family. =)

  5. I had a similar phone years ago, and I loved it. It was small enough to easily fit into a pocket and it wasn’t distracting because it didn’t have games or Facebook or any other nonsense. It was A. Phone. And that’s it.
    While I love the maps app on my phone, the rest of the time I wish it were still just a phone.

  6. I’ve been looking into getting rid of my very pricey AT&T plan and moving to Ting, but I haven’t pulled the trigger on that yet (why? because my todo list is a mile long, and this just hasn’t broken into the top ten spots just yet).

    If I had to spend $51 a month I think I would splurge on a massage. Though with prices being what they are here I would probably have to choose my favourite limb every month and have that one tended to : /

    • I spent a month gone wrong in the Philippines, and the one saving grace was onsite massage that was $7 for an hour. So I did that every day. Every. Single. Day. Plus they thought my $2 tip was AMAZING. So I was basically their favorite customer. =)

  7. Your phone looks like the ones we had a few years ago. Except ours had an antenna sticking out of it. Very embarrassing!

    I can’t think of anything I really want for $51/month. Maybe I’d spend it on food, like indulge in some higher end items I usually don’t buy,

    • Mr. Mt still has his really nice smart phone, so when we are out together that is what we use. Mine is more of an emergency back up. =) And the fancy food sounds like a great idea! I love fancy food! Expensive cheese, exotic fruits, high end chocolate, some good wine. Shoot, that is dinner right there! =)

  8. congrats on the awesome phone plans. Im currently with Republic Wireless and only spend $11 for unlimited talk, text, and datat (over wifi only). Tough to beat.

    If i had an extra $51 per month, I would probably just add it to our investments each month.

    • It’s actually a bit easier for me to be intentional about the big things. Sometimes I need to slow down and focus on the mundane details, especially if they are reoccurring bills. =) Thanks for stopping by!

    • I think we could have done ok with just one phone, but this option actually saves us more money ($51 a month vs $33.) It’ll be nice to have one smart phone for taking pictures and video, and then this very dumb phone for emergencies. =)

  9. I love the thought of having to spend an extra $51 a month! My daughter loves swimming at our local Wellness Center, it’s $20 to go as a family, so $51 would cover a couple of visits easily with money to spare for a special snack or coffees afterwards. Another fun use would be to have some of our close friends over for a beer or wine tasting party with a few yummy appetizers. I’m looking forward to seeing how you decide to spend it! :)Audra

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