My Frugal Cell phone bill (less than $20 per month!)

This post is not a review of a typical cell phone plan. Simply put, today I will demonstrate my thought process when determining a cell phone provider. There will be an affiliated link on my cell phone provider, but please don’t take my word for it. Do your own research. The info shared here can be a valuable baseline to measure against.

When you decide to choose a cell phone plan, there are a few factors to determine your priorities. For example, how important is the coverage? Currently, I live in a suburb of a major city with millions of people in a 10 mile circular radius. Due to this population, cell phone coverage is abundant. And because I live so close to a major city, I am going to have cell coverage with any modern provider. On the other hand, at one point in my life, I lived just north of rural Western KY. There wasn’t even a library within a 20 mile radius drive from my home. So, cell phone coverage was hard to come by unless you went with the top two carriers and their rape-your-wallet-fee. Moreover, most cellular service providers offer a Coverage Map to show their territory. Real-World testing would be your best bet, but a digital coverage map is better than nothing.

As of this post, Spring 2017, there is a new trend going on, and that trend is buying unlocked phones and a no commitment prepaid cell phone plan. As of now, you can buy a good enough smart phone for under $200. check out the Moto E series Disclaimer: By “good enough” I mean a very basic phone that can make calls, email, texts, and simple web browsing. If you are a power user, check out the Moto G Family or the Google Pixel series. Since writing this post, I have switched phones to the Google Pixel 3a and love the fact that ALL my photos are backed up for free, with unlimited storage through Google’s photos app.

What Cell phone service provider did I go with?

One of my favorite bloggers, Mr Money Mustache uses Republic wireless. Now, I have nothing against his recommendation, but I personally use a provider called Ting. Please Compare the two, they are both very similar.

With Ting, I am not kidding when I say this, I am able to use this provider with my Smartphone and my bill is less than $20 per month! How is this possible you say? This is because Ting allows me to completely block services I am not using and their tier billing plan only charges me for the services that I actually use. I use Google Voice for my phone number which, allows me to make calls using my 4G LTE data cellular connection. Ting will provide you with a Cell number, so you don’t have to use the Google voice option. I just prefer this method so I can use my data connection to make calls. And that is the key to my savings. Because I can make calls and send texts using 4G data or WiFi, I have blocked all services I am not using. I have WiFi at home and at work. So my calls from work or home do not count against my data plan. Moreover, when I am on the road for long distances, Ting’s tier model will charge me for the data that I use. Below is a screenshot of my actual usage.

How much data would one actually use?

Ting provides a data calculator here. But you are probably safe to plan on using 2 gigabytes of data your first month if you don’t plan on streaming video. In my personal experience, I have had a few months where my data usage exceeded the 500MB shown above, but as you can see the next tier up was a fair compromise and convenient at the time since I was on the road and could not afford to lose access to my precious data plan.

What if you need more data than the 2GB shown above?

Have no fear! At one time, I needed 5gb of data and as you can see below, I only paid $56. I turned my phone into a cellular hot-spot for my laptop and kept on plugging away at my work. I did not have to make any additional calls to increase my data plan, I just kept using my data uninterrupted. (Ting also gives you the ability to lock your phone’s data usage, just in case you are on a fixed income and want a consistent bill every month.)

So, what is the catch?

If you are used to walking into a Verizon store and having the rep handle all your cell phone needs, then you are out of luck here. Ting does not have a standalone retail store. All transactions are done online or over the phone. But I can say, the website is intuitive and I was able to complete the whole process there. When you need to talk to a human, the Ting customer service is amazing. Give them a call today and test it out. You will have a short wait time before connecting to a human. Never in my life have I witnessed this customer service in a cell phone service provider. Now that this service provider has been around for longer than 5 years, I respect Ting as a legitimate competitor in the cellular service provider field. I have purposely waited to write this post because I wanted to use their service for a while before giving a recommendation. I have used them for about 18 months now with no issues whatsoever. And since I am not locked into a contract, I can ditch them at anytime should their service degrade.

2021 update: I am still using this same cell phone carrier. And I still love them! 🙂

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