Decimating your phone bill

We all need a cell phone and some sort of service.  According to a JD Power survey, the average phone bill is $73/mo.  That means that if you want to retire early and afford that phone bill, according to the rule of 300, you need to save an additional $21,900 to have that phone plan in retirement.  How can we lower this?

I’m here to say, that as long as you’re not some kind of road-warrior parent, real estate selling, on-the-road salesman, you can probably do without the expensive phone plan.  Even if you are a parent, do you really need to be in communication 24 hours a day, every day?  What if you were in the loop for 90% of the time?  Would that be acceptable?  Let me explain.

If, like me, you’re able to be in WiFi for the great majority of the day, you don’t even need a phone plan.  You can still text and call all you want.  When you’re out and about, off WiFi, and something comes up, you’d still be able to switch back onto your plan and pay just for that little bit that you use…then go back “into the dark.”

Let me explain.

Currently I have cell service through Ting, which is a re-seller that uses Sprint’s CDMA, EV-DO 3G, 4G WiMAX, and 4G LTE nationwide network as well as GSM service via the T-Mobile network.  Their prices are pretty damn reasonable.

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Each month, you pay for what you use.  There’s also no contract.  So, if I did not make any on network calls, texts or use any data…I would pay $6 for that month to basically have my device registered.  This is what I shoot for every month.  But how can I still use my phone as if it was on network, and use nothing?

The great power of WiFi, my child

I have a phone number through Google Voice.  Then, I added my real cell phone number to that.  My phone knows to send and receive calls and text messages through Google Voice, and even Hangouts knows to work with it.

To make sure that I’m using no data, I turn on Airplane Mode and then reactivate only WiFi.  Now, when I’m on WiFi, everything works as normal.  When I’m not, nothing works.  I’m fine with that.  I’m fine with it because typically wherever I go, there’s WiFi at my destination.  Work, home, Wegmans, Home Depot…shit I even get WiFi while I’m stopped at a red light across a Tim Horton’s.  I always get a little chuckle when my phone auto-connects to a store I’m passing, and my messages sync up before I head out on my way.

Now, the game is to stay off your network plan.  You have it in an emergency (just take off airplane mode), but for other things, how can we work around it?

Turn-by-turn navigation

Google Maps now has offline navigation and Here Maps both have offline turn-by-turn navigation.  Download a particular area to your phone and then you can navigate to your heart’s content.  The only problem here is that you don’t get traffic updates, but that’s rarely a concern for me.

Music

Most apps like Spotify will let you download your favorite tunes, but, if you’re a frugal slacker like me, you don’t have a Premium account that allows you to save music to your phone.  Instead, I simply use Subsonic to save podcasts to my phone.  They sync up when I’m on WiFi, and I get great talk radio to go…which I prefer when driving anyway.  Subsonic would also allow you to host your own music, if you had your own collection…so that may be another perk for you.

Facebook/Twitter/Social Media/Text updates

Simple…it can wait!  Is a constant stream of chatter worth $21,900 to you?


That’s actually all I can envision needing a phone for when outside of WiFi…but make no mistake…I’m on WiFi nearly 95% of my day.  So, take that with a grain of salt.

So, how well have I actually done in sticking to this $6/mo phone plan?

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Not too bad!  At this rate, I’ll need to only save about $5,082 to have my “WiFi-only when not an emergency” phone.  A difference of $16,818.  What’s even better is the savings I’ll make and invest.  Given an average phone bill of $73, this will save me:

$73 – $16.94 = $56.06/mo

Which will make me, according to the rule of 173

$56.06 * 173 = $9,698 over 10 years

So how come my phone bill isn’t $6?  Where did I go wrong?

Yeah, things come up.  I rely on navigation a lot, and it wasn’t until just recently that Google Maps worked offline.  Sometimes I’ll also flip my phone on when I’m expecting a time-sensitive call from school.  But, what you’ll never find me doing is crossing over into the “Medium” usage category.  My typicals “flubs” are in the “Small” usage category.  They’re here and there things where it would make my life pretty inconvenient to have to hunt down WiFi just to save $3.

It also doesn’t help that people keep texting my old number, so whenever I turn on data to look up a store, I get the texts and it puts me into the “Small” usage category for $3 because somebody tried to reach me on the wrong number.  Oh well.  But!  I’ve found a way to beat this!  You can turn on/off certain features per device, through Ting’s interface.

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No more $3 texts that say “k”!  I’ll still get messages to my Google Voice number when I’m back on WiFi.

What I’ve learned is…

  • Tons of places have WiFi, and I don’t really need to be in contact with everybody I know all of the time.  It can wait until my bike/car ride is over.
  • If you’re with other people, they’re typically more than happy to Google the name of that actor in that one movie for you.
  • Battery life is increased by a metric shit-ton when you’re in airplane mode all the time.
  • I like not hearing buzzing and beeps when I’m going somewhere.  Perhaps the side-benefit here is that I’m not trying to text or call anybody when I’m biking or driving.
  • Offline life, once setup and downloaded, is much more reliable.  I never lose data connection, because I never had it.
  • Regular cell-phone plans are overrated and overpriced.

I’ll admit it, the “WiFi only” plan isn’t for everybody…even if you can switch it on in an emergency.  But, if you’re around WiFi as much as I am, maybe you can give it a try.

If you’d like to give it a try and are feeling extra friendly, you can use my referral code to sign up.  If you do, you and I will each get $25 credit at Ting.  At $16.96/mo average cost, you’d give us both about 1.5 months of free service and you’d be my hero.

Enjoy!

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