Update: I no longer use this phone, as it’s outdated, but at the time it was great!
Even though it was dirt cheap at just $16.44 per month (including regulatory fees), it had been bugging me that we had to purchase service days every month and the minimum amount of minutes were 150. With her usage rates, she had banked over 1,000 minutes, so we were basically paying for too many minutes and not getting enough service days to use them.
So… we decided to shop around for a new phone and carrier to see if we could save some money.
The only necessary parameters were:
- the phone needed to have a full QWERTY keyboard (touch-screen or otherwise) for easy texting
- the phone should be eligible for cheap texting rates. Many of the prepaid carriers now have Androids but charge 0.5 minutes or 1 minute per text
- the plan had to be notably lower priced than the current $16.44 per month we were paying
- the phone shouldn’t have a payback period of longer than 6 months. In other words, the monthly savings from switching carriers needed to cover the full cost of the phone in under 6 months. Any gifted minutes/service days that came with the phone would be a bonus.
- the reviews of the phone on Amazon needed to be at least 3 stars (shitty phones not welcome)
Any of the following would be a big bonus, but not a necessity:
- WiFi connectivity
- upgradable memory for mp3 player usage
While there were a few slightly cheaper monthly plans out there, they offered very low minutes and really shitty phones that didn’t meet our parameters.
I was able to get the LG 840G (brand new in box) for cheaper on Amazon than I was on the Tracfone site. Sure, it’s no Android or iOS, but for just $19.99, the thing has some impressive features:
- Triple minutes on Tracfone for the life of the phone
- Each text is only 0.3 minutes deducted
- 3.2″ Touch-screen with full QWERTY
- 3G/WiFi connectivity
- Mp3 player
- 2 GB memory, expandable to 32GB
- 2 MP camera w/ zoom and video recorder
- 60 days of service on activation (no minutes)
And it even had a 4-star rating, with over 1,500 reviews (not bad for a spoiled crowd who’s already seen/experienced smartphones).
Then there’s the Tracfone component. With the triple minutes the phone offers, you get 180 minutes (600 texts) and 90 service days for just $19.99 ($21.91 with taxes/regulatory fees), or just $7.30 per month!
It may not seem like much, but nearly $10 per month in savings results in $120 in annual savings (or about $200 in pre-tax earnings). That’s enough to cover my life insurance policy. Or a cheap haircut every month (if I didn’t cut my own hair to save $1.6M over my lifetime).
The phone would pay itself off before the end of month 2, and it even included 2 free months to add on.
AND it’s made even better by the fact that she won’t see a decrease in service (just fewer unused minutes/texts). AND she will actually have a newer and more functional phone.
This particular phone uses AT&T towers (Tracfone doesn’t own its own network, rather, it buys up bandwidth from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint). A solid nationwide network, no roaming.
Now, for all those snickering at this not being a smartphone, you’ve got to understand something – smartphones have zero impact on our happiness levels. Sure, some apps are cool and some might actually even have some real world value above a web app. But at what cost? Tracfone offers Androids as well, but we just didn’t feel like we wanted/needed one. The LG 840G is better than any cell phone made in the history of mankind, up until 2007-2008. Good ’nuff, in my opinion.
If we’re comparing the cost to the true cost of a smartphone plan on one of the major carriers, the savings are in the $700 – $1,200 per year range.
Why share this with you?
Sure, Tracfone presents a good tangible alternative to ridiculously priced smartphone plans and even cheap prepaid ones. But, it also shows that even after 7 years of borderline obsessive personal finance hacking, there are still opportunities to notably decrease your expenses. Accepting your current budget status quo out of comfort is to your own detriment. Keep pushing for better so that you can use the savings on more important things – like buying back your time.