Non-Discretionary Optimizations: Cell Phone Bill

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How is it that the average American chooses to spend $80 a month on their cell phone bill, and yet according to a GoBankingRates survey, more than half of Americans do not even have $1,000 in savings, and a staggering 32% of those surveyed stated that they have $0 in savings. Many readers may gloss over this statistic, but what happens when you get an unpleasant tooth ache and you do not have dental insurance, what happens when the car breaks down and it requires an unplanned repair, or what happens when the home owner’s association issues a work order to have the crumbling trim replaced on your house? Each one of these things could very easily be several hundred dollars, and may potentially even exceed $1,000.

As I have stated previously, my wife and I are conservative with our personal finances. However, at times, my frugality is even too much for her. I like to think that I am an ultra optimizer, but she would likely characterize my mentality as parsimonious, and approaching austere and ascetic.

A recent demonstration of my savviness was changing my cell phone service provider. I simply could no longer tolerate paying $45 per month. Notably, by this comparison alone, the average American could save $420 a year if they just changed to the plan that I have deemed to be no longer bearable (($80 – $45) x 12 months).

Before I tell you the name of my new service provider, let’s review some of the necessary requirements for a suitable alternative to the big wireless companies.

1. Keep my current phone

This may not be a deal breaker for everyone, but personally, since I was looking to save money on my monthly cell phone bill, spending a couple hundred dollars to purchase a “compatible” phone did not seem to be an appropriate first step.

2. Unlimited talk and text

Is it even possible to have a plan without these features? Surprisingly, yes. Although I enjoy optimizing my life and personal finances, having to be concerned with using too many minutes or sending too many text messages is a little absurd even for me.

3. Data Customization

This characteristic may be the least appreciated by the average American. Although the idea of unlimited data may sound appealing, is it really necessary? Of course it is not. Most people have internet in their home and access to internet at work, not to mention that many other frequently visited places have readily available internet (e.g. restaurants, doctors’ offices, and shopping malls). Truthfully, most people only believe that they need unlimited data because that is what the big wireless companies have spent billions of dollars pitching to society. However, when you are driving, you do not need to be, and neither should you be, reading news articles or scrolling through social media feeds.

There are a couple of legitimate reasons for which I do require access to some data on a monthly basis. Although I seldom forget how to drive to a destination to which I have already been, there are plenty of instances in which I require directions. Additionally, I choose to have notifications enabled for my banking applications so that I can receive real time alerts for all transactions. These are a great way to catch fraudulent charges! Other than these two examples, I find it difficult to imagine any other scenario in which I absolutely need access to data. As a result, I made the decision to disable cellular data for all of the other applications on my phone.

Although I strongly advocate that no one should be using their phone to access news or social media while driving, I do listen to podcasts on a daily basis while commuting. Before changing my service provider, I streamed each episode concurrently as I listened. However, with just a little forethought, I am able to easily download two episodes either before leaving the house for work or before leaving the office. In fact, after forgetting to download an episode last week, I have now added a recurring reminder to my phone such that at 4:15 each afternoon I am reminded to make sure that I have at least one episode already downloaded. In this way, with just a few intentional minutes, I have been able to dramatically reduce the amount of data that I use each month, and I am still able to enjoy the content that I value.

Now, the long wait is over, you have finally arrived, the curtain is about to be drawn back, the veil is being lifted, the credits that seem endless are nearing their end.

save on cell phone

After doing plenty of research and weighing the various available options, I determined that Mint Mobile was the ideal service provider for me. The service allows me to use my current phone, I have unlimited talk and text, and they offer several monthly data plans. The plan that I chose provides me with 3 GB of 4G LTE data (In two and a half weeks I have only used 0.044 GB). Like I said, with internet available at home, at work, and at many places in between, I simply do not need unlimited data. The best part is that I am getting this service for only $15 per month!

An important point to take note of is that the plan I have chosen is actually $25 per month; however, by choosing to pay for an entire 12 months of service, Mint Mobile discounts the rate to only $15 per month. For those of you wondering how the reception compares to my previous provider, I have not noticed even an iota of difference. Mint Mobile has a tool that allows you to see their coverage in your area. Simply enter the zip code where you live, or if you think like I do, enter the zip code where you live, the zip code where you work, the zip codes in between home and work, and the zip codes where your family lives, and then view the expected coverage for yourself. For each of the zip codes that I searched, 100% coverage was expected!

If you are still hesitating to change your service provider, I would like to remind you that more than half of Americans do not have $1,000 in savings, and 32% of Americans stated that they have $0 in savings, which means that a substantial percentage of you reading this article likely identify with one of these statistics. Therefore, saving $780 per year should be sufficient motivation for you to make this reasonable change (($80 – $15) x 12 months)).

To close, the knowledge that you now hold is the empowerment that you have been lacking to make the declaration that you have finally had enough of the little games, foolish trickery, and general chicanery of the big wireless companies. Now that you have decided to outsmart the system, it is time to sit back, relax, and watch the savings start stacking!

“Americans used to be citizens. Now we are consumers.”
Vicki Robin
Your Money or Your Life

P.S. If you needed another way to start saving in preparation for starting a family, or to guarantee your child an inheritance, these new savings should suffice!

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