Life Hack: Cheap Cell Phone Service

I pay between $40-50 per year for the privilege to carry a cell phone and call others.  You read that right, $40-50 per year.

I actually have no clue how much cell phone coverage really cost a typical person each month.  All I know is when I was getting peoples budget during my working days, it seemed like they were paying anywhere from $100-140 per month.  That works out to $1200-$1680 per year.

How does my cell phone plan work?  I’ll get into that in a second.  First of all, I guess I should say I’m not selling Republic Wireless or any of that crap.  Go read other blogs for that stuff.  My plan actually consist of 2 parts.

Part 1: Prepaid.  I have an old grandfathered plan with T-Mobile.  Basically I pay $1 a day (only on days I make calls).  This allows me unlimited minutes.  I just purchase a couple of those prepaid cards to load cash on my account each year.  No regular monthly cell phone bill.  I don’t have 4G LTE, 3G, or even 2G.  So no data plan is attached, but you know what…wifi is basically everywhere these days.  Starbucks, Krogers, WalMart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, McDonalds and a ton of other places all provide free wifi, so I figure why pay for expensive data plans.  My home has excellent wifi coverage throughout thanks to wifi extenders.  I could text if I wanted to, but do to spam texts, annoying middle of the night texts (from my younger days), and just plain crazy chicks texting, I had texting blocked entirely.  I prefer using FB messenger to send messages to friends instead.  This part of my plan cost anywhere from $10-20 per year.  I use this sparingly, when I’m on the road mainly.

You would have to shop around for available prepaid plans.  It looks like a lot of providers are trying to ditch the per minute plan models, but AT&T and T-Mobile do have alternatives.

Part 2: Annual Skype calling service.  Yes skype is a cool video chat service that is free.  But did you know that if you pay for Skype, you can actually call land lines and cell phones.  I just pay for this annually at $30 (it saves about $6 for the annual service).  Basically the way Part 2 of my plan works, when I need to make calls and I have wifi available, I log into the Skype app from my cell phone, pull up my phone contacts list and press the call button.  I’m instantly calling my friends and family up, no worry about spotty coverage.  I have unlimited minutes with this plan for domestic numbers.  My number even shows up when calling my friends, so they have no clue if I’m calling from Skype or the T-Mobile network.  Best of all, I can use this when traveling abroad and have wifi to make calls back home.  This avoids ridiculous per minute charges for international calls.  It also works with my desktop or laptop PC as well.

I use Skype, but I believe Google Voice you can do something similar as an alternative. WhatsApp is a decent free alternative as long as your friends have the app as well.

That all there is to it.  Phone service for about $40-50 per year.  Sure I go without having a data plan, but personally it’s not worth the cost.  Plus, think about the amount of time you actually spend talking on phones these days, probably not a whole lot.

Also, whenever I want a new phone I have to pay for it in full.  No AT&T Next plan or anything like that to screw you over.  But you know what, you can get really awesome phones for not a whole lot of $ these days.  I actually just purchased a new phone locked to AT&T and unlocked it myself to work on T-Mobile.  Awesome 13MP camera and all the other bells and whistles for $70.  I’ve also been amazed at how some people easily dispose of their old tech.  I’ve literally been handed old iPhones, which I unlock and sell on craigslist or use for a while.  Here is an old guide I created on the unlock requirements from the different carriers.

Personally, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, by not having your typical cell phone plan.  I get what I need for a fraction of the price.  When I plan to do my epic National Park trip across the States, I’ll probably purchase one of those wireless hotspots or just get a cheap WalMart monthly prepaid plan during that time frame.

Let’s put it another way.  I pay $50 a year for phone use.  The difference between your typical plan at $100 monthly works out to $1150 for the year.  Instead of cell phone service, did you know you can actually get airfare and hotel to Tokyo, Japan for a week for just under $1000 right now.  Hell, I’ve even seen a sweet deal to Amsterdam.  I’d rather spend my money on trips like that.


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Readers Comments (4)

  1. This is awesome. Your phone costs are even cheaper than the Frugal SuperGuide at the MMM forum.

    • I’ve never checked that guide out. I know a lot of guys in the FIRE community use Republic Wireless. What I’ve done is basically created my own version of their $15 plan, but for cheaper. My skype plan just renewed for the new year for $30.48, the same it’s been for years. I think the same setup is available with Google Voice, but I’ve never tried it as I’ve always been happy using skype.
      Another cool thing is for overseas travelers, they can use this setup to call back to the states using the hotel wifi and avoid high cost per minute international calls. Technology is cool stuff.

      I believe AT&T still offers a Pay as you go plan by the minute, but you have to dig into their site to find it.

      No way I can justify spending $100 a month for a cell. This actually reminds me, I need to post some pics of the process, maybe this weekend.

      I have an unlock guide somewhere on my site. It basically gives all of the requirements from the different carriers to unlock your cell phone for free. Just search “unlock” and I’m pretty sure it will pull up.

  2. My girlfriend who break up with me if I could not receive her texts 😉

    I do use the Skype and free google phone number for my business. Clients don’t need to know it goes directly to my cell.

    • HAHA ZJ. You should keep her waiting one day to reply and see how that goes.
      I use FB messenger for that stuff. Saves on getting the spam marketing texts.

      I don’t use the call forwarding, but could see that being an awesome cost effective alternative to having a separate line. Great Idea.
      Last thing you want is a customer having your personal number. I had a brain fart one day and gave a customer my personal number. Never picked up when he called, but I eventually answered one Saturday and had to disguise my voice and say he had the wrong number.

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