What if someone gave you $100 and asked, “How far can you stretch this money to cover your cell phone communication needs?”
Yesterday, I start on a journey to answer that very question (that no one is asking.)
The challenge has two parts:
- Buy a new phone
- Buy the service for that phone
The goal is to spend $100 on BOTH of those. Do you think Lazy Man can do it? Yes he can!*
In fact, I placed the orders yesterday.
In a world of $1000 iPhones, $100 isn’t going to get you very far. It might just pay the sales tax in some extreme places. I spent a long time trying to find the average cost of a cell-phone plan and came up empty. I found something that said JD Power put it at $73, but it seemed outdated. I’m thinking it might be closer to $60 or $65. In most cases, you probably can’t get two months of what the average person pays for cell phone service.
It should be obvious that I’ll be cutting some corners to get this done. Part of the challenge is to not cut too many corners where the whole thing falls apart.
Getting the Cheap Phone
I have written before that you can save money with Amazon Prime Exclusive Phones. If you are willing to put up with some extra advertising, you can get a new Alcatel A30 for $59. It was $64.19 including tax for me.
It’s a very low-end phone. It is a step below my old Nexus 5 that debuted nearly 4 years ago. I don’t have this phone in my hands yet, but if it’s anywhere close to that, for $59, I’ll be extremely happy. I was able to use that Nexus 5 as my regular phone until just a few months ago until I broke the screen.
Getting the Service
Amazon has had that cell phone deal for a long time. It’s been tempting, but I never had a real reason to buy it. The best way to save money is not to spend it, right?
However, Rick Broida from CNET’s Cheapskate mentioned this deal for 3 months of Mint cell service for $30. That’s 2GB of 4G data each month on T-Mobile. Without that “Foxtober” promo code it’s $15 a month. The comments on that CNET article seem to be split between people who like the service and those who ran into some difficulty with limited customer service when they had a problem. I feel like it’s worth the gamble, because if it works, I’ll save $20 a month. I currently have Cricket for $35/mo. with autopay. (I’m also presuming that over the long haul, I’ll pay the $15 a month price.)
Mint Sim (not to be confused with Mint the online personal finance software) also has very cheap plans if you use more data. I tend to use around 1.5GB a month.
I took advantage of the deal and bought 3 months of service. With shipping and the regulatory recovery fee it came to $35.55.
The big question is whether T-Mobile will be acceptable in my area. Cricket uses AT&T and I know it works well for me. For the price of 1 month of Cricket, I’ll roll the dice to find out.
Winning my Own Fabricated Challenge!
If you add up the $64.19 for the phone and the $35.55 for 3 months of service I spent you get… $99.74. Boom! Challenge won! I have 26 cents to spare. If I need to stick to AT&T, I can still stay with Cricket for $35 for one month and squeak in under $100.
The big win here will be if the Mint service works for me. That’s a potential savings of nearly $250 a year… maybe $500 if my wife does it too.
I’d like to make a final note about the phone I bought. It may seem silly to buy a phone for such a (fabricated) challenge. I could just pop the Mint sim card into my Moto X Pure and see how it goes. However, I learned the lesson a couple of months ago that it’s extremely helpful to have a spare phone. We really had to scramble with a couple of broken screens. This new phone doubles as an insurance plan. It’s also the kind of thing I can drop in the diaper bag with a few episodes of Blaze or Paw Patrol. That’s a huge value when you need to entertain a couple of toddlers.
I’ll report back in a month or so and let you know how it goes.
* Lazy Man is also very adept of referring to himself in the third person.