I thought about making this title even more clickbait-y (“You won’t believe how this couple saved hundreds on their phone bill - number 7 will shock you!”) but went for something more tame (:
- Ported number to Google Voice (primary device is now an iPad on Wifi)
- Cheap T-Mobile voice and text only plan for me (useful for driving/biking/away from WiFi)
- Pre-paid Verizon for my wife (saved ~$20 / month with more data than before)
Our current plan is:
- Google Voice (one time $20 payment to port number)
- iPad / Mac for calling / texting while on wifi
- T-Mobile Voice and Text for travelling ( $3 / month )
- Prepaid Verizon ( $40 / month, 3 GB data )
- The Backstory
- Why do I even have a phone?
- Google Voice
- Out And About
- Prepaid Verizon
From what I understand, my wife and I were on the cheaper side of phone plans to begin with. We were at about $100 / month for both of us with data. That’s after our bill came down from ~$160 once we paid off our phones. We didn’t stop to do the math and both got brand new phones when we joined phone accounts after getting married. As soon as we got home, I realized we signed up to pay about $1600 over two years for Samsung Galaxy Note 4s. Now, they were great phones, but in retrospect I don’t think they were each worth $800 apiece - at least not to us. We both have laptops, so we didn’t really “need” a phone capable of everything. But, everything is fancier in a show room and we were distracted by the pretty screen and features we wouldn’t really use.
Within about 18 months, both my wife and I had broken the screens on our phones. I’m not sure if Samsung phones still work this way, but at least on the Note 4, the screen and digitizer were literally glued together - replacing a screen was at least $200, even though the LCD itself could be found for about $30 - there was just no way to replace only the LCD. So, we learned a fun lesson as we paid off phones that we were no longer using (since we couldn’t justify the cost to repair).
After this, my wife and I started looking at Facebook Marketplace for used phones - we ended up with a pair of iPhone 5cs. Yes, they’re old, but they still run pretty well, and up until iOS 11, were still able to run the latest software.
So, my wife and I are both home 90% of the time - I work from home and my wife stays at home with our daughter. We are fortunate to live in an area serviced by fiber, so we get 500 Mbps down for ~$70 / month. That said, we have great wifi at home, so we were able to get by with a 2 GB / month data plan. With both of our phones, data plan, access fees, etc. we were at about $100 per month for both phones.
Why do I even have a phone?
I am a huge creature of habit. Unfortunately, one of the habits I fell in to was replacing every moment that could possibly be boring with looking at my phone. Hacker News, Reddit, Email, Bloons TD5 - it really didn’t matter, just as long as I didn’t have to stand in line at the grocery store and think, or interact with people around me. I realized that this was not healthy; I wasn’t using my phone, it was using me. (Sorry for the cliché, but I think it’s fairly accurate here). My life was largely dictated by notifications, checking to see if anyone called or texted (spoiler: they usually hadn’t) and generally feeling like I always needed to have it with me.
Because I am typically not very good at doing things in moderation (I either go 100% on a project or wait until I can give it that much attention), I ended up just leaving my phone off for a couple of weeks. I found that I wasn’t really missing it and was paying more attention to the world around me. I did realize that there were some texts that I was missing and I still wanted to be able to receive calls as I’m an independent contractor and need to chat with clients, recruiters, etc.
Google Voice proved to be a great middle ground for me. For a one time payment of $20 I was able to transfer my existing number from Verizon to Google. I then downloaded the Google Voice and Hangouts apps on my iPad, and now I get texts via the Google Voice app and can make outbound calls from Hangouts (and receive them, as well). I also got the added benefit of being able to call and text via my number on my Mac (where I spend 90% of my working time anyway). I’ve got a nice setup with a microphone and noise-cancelling headphones, so it has honestly been much nicer making and receiving calls in this fashion than it ever was before.
Out and About
If I’m out and about, I probably have my iPad with me if I’m doing any sort of work (I use it as a notepad and external monitor, primarily - check out the Duet app if you’re interested in the external monitor functionality). However, sometimes I ride my bike to various places around town and my wife said she would feel more comfortable if I had a way of contacting her and vice-versa. So, I did some research and found that T-Mobile offers a $3 / month plan that includes 30 minutes of voice and/or 30 texts, with each additional costing 10 cents. Yes, that is $3 per month. So, I pulled out an old AT&T phone, filled out their unlock request so I could use it on other networks (and waited about a week for them to get back to me), then slid in the new T-Mobile SIM card and was good to go! Granted, 30 minutes isn’t much, but this is only for when I’m out and about, biking somewhere or driving and need something right now. If I can wait 5 minutes, I’ll probably be somewhere with wifi where my iPad or Mac can take back over as my primary means of communication.
Now that my wife was the only number on our account, I looked at our options for plans and found that we were paying ~$65 / month for her to have unlimited talk / text and 2 GB of data. After looking at their prepaid option, we found that there is a $40 / month plan with unlimited talk and text and 3 GB of data. So, for ~$20 less per month (after taxes and such), my wife gets more data. I think we may have a tiny bit of overlap where we had to pay “ahead” on the account since it’s now pre-pay, but that will both even out if/when we ever leave Verizon, and even if it doesn’t, saving $20 / month is over $200 per year, so we’ll make back that money soon enough.
All of this is to say a few things:
- You might not really need your phone all the time - try taking a break and seeing how much you truly need it and how much you are using it to escape from the world in an unhealthy way.
- Check your phone plans regularly and see if your carrier has added any new plans that might make more sense for you and your family.
- Don’t be afraid to make a change and try something new - worst case scenario, I walk back in to the Verizon store, reactivate my existing iPhone, and I’m no worse off - plus, I’ve saved on the data for a few months anyway.
Feel free to email me if you have any other tips or tricks about phone plans!