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Could You Save Money with a Prepaid Cell Phone?

Posted By Miranda Marquit On 02/15/2012 @ 12:19 pm In Personal Finance | 24 Comments

One of the things I have a hard time with is the cell phone contract. My husband and I were locked into a cell phone contract for two years near the beginning of our marriage. It became a burden to pay the same amount each month, and be limited as to minutes and times we could speak.

Of course, since the early days of my marriage, cell phone contracts have improved. Most of them offer unlimited calling options, as well as options for texting and data. Some plans are all-inclusive, while others are more of an a la carte proposition, where you can get unlimited calling minutes, and then add other features, such as data and text, for a fee. Or you end up with overages [3] that result in huge charges.

Even with these improvements, though, I’m a fan of pay as you go plans.

Could You Save Money with Prepaid/Pay As You Go Cell Phone Plans?

With pay as you go, you don’t sign contracts. You pay for service up front, and then once that service is used up, you make another payment. At our house, we have two prepaid cell phone plans. One, for my husband who uses talk and text quite a bit for his job as an adjunct professor, is a monthly unlimited talk and text plan for $50. He has a phone with a camera and a slide-out qwerty keypad.

My cell phone is a Tracfone. I bought the phone, which has a slide-out qwerty and a camera, for less than $50, and it came with triple minutes for life. So, I pay by the minute. I usually manage to get by spending $20 or $30 every three or four months. Because of service signed up for years ago, and due to the way the service days add up, I have service for the next two years, so I don’t have to worry about some of the provisions that come with per-minute cell phones.

Basically, what we spend averages out to between $55 and $60 a month for both of our cell phones. It’s much better than paying right around $100 a month for two cell phone plans. We don’t use smart phones, but there are prepaid opportunities that allow you to purchase an Android or BlackBerry smart phone and get unlimited talk, text and data for as little as $55 ┬ámonth. You do have to buy the phone separately, but it usually isn’t more expensive than what you would pay to purchase from a company locking you into a contract — and your monthly savings quickly add up.

Evaluate Your Phone Needs

Really, you need to evaluate your phone needs as you decide what sort of plan will work best for you. In some cases, a family plan, with a contract, can help you save money if there are quite a few of you sharing the plan. In some cases, if you have quite a few family members, even several prepaid plans could get expensive. Additionally, if you use a lot of minutes and do a lot of texting, a plan in which you pay for minutes can quickly become expensive. It works for me because I use an inexpensive Internet phone at home and few people, beyond my husband when I’m away from home, ever call my cell.

Consider your situation, how many calls you make, and how often you use text and data. Then compare contract plans, prepaid plans, and per-minute plans, as well as combinations. Choose what works best [4] for you, and what will give you the best value for your money.

(Photo: Michael @ NW Lens [5])


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[2] Email: mailto:?subject=http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/save-money-prepaid-cell-phone.html

[3] overages: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/money-leaks-2.html

[4] Choose what works best: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/finances-55-seconds-negotiate-deal.html

[5] Michael @ NW Lens: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aboyandhisbike/108458444/

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