Conventional personal finance wisdom says that it’s best to skimp on your cell phone – go with a prepaid plan or skip text messaging. I even wrote a whole post on similar tips to save money on cell phones. However, I’m starting to come around to the thinking that it could be worth “pimping your cellie.”
Before I go too far, I should say that I’ve had a smartphone, specifically a Palm Treo, since they came out. In 7 years of Palm Treo ownership, it probably saved me $300 worth in conveniences each year. Considering the plan cost me $30-40 a month it wasn’t a bad investment, but it’s not a great savings. I since plunked down $200 for a Palm Pre and haven’t regretted it at all. In fact, I was even more proud of the decision when I saw this PC World article that listed it as a $1200 savings over a iPhone in Total Cost of Ownership over two years. Soon, a cheaper sister phone, the Palm Pixi will be out and you’ll be able to save even more money.
I should mention that the $30-40 month plan isn’t available with the Palm Pre. I had to upgrade a new phone plan that was $70 a month. It doesn’t seem to make sense as I had unlimited data before. However, if I think of it from the perspective of Sprint, phones like the Palm Pre put more stress on their network, which require more upgrades, which requires more money.
The Palm Pre made me more than $160 in a single day. How? I was at a yard sale where I saw a pair of Air Jordan’s… brand new, never worn. I remember from a recent episode of Numbers that people collect vintage shoes. (Don’t act shocked that I’m nerdy enough to enjoy television shows about math.) Using my Palm Pre, I hopped on Ebay and saw that the same shoes recently sold for $200. So I didn’t hesitate to pick up the shoes for $20. We “only” got around $176 on Ebay for flipping them. The same day I saw a DVD of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, which I somehow thought might be out of print. A quick look on Wikipedia showed that it was indeed out of print. The subsequent look on Ebay showed it going for $15… well worth the $1 price tag. We had no trouble flipping it.
The other thing that I’ve found handy is the built-in GPS navigation that comes with the Palm Pre and Sprint’s new higher-priced plan. That saves me from buying the other GPS navigation that I was planning on (so my wife and I don’t have to share one). The navigation has saved me hours (yes, my sense of direction is that bad).
Overall, when you factor in the more expensive phone plan, I probably haven’t actually saved money or made money with my Palm Pre. The difficulty is that I have to continually find ways to save or make money each month to match the ongoing phone plan. There are only so many Air Jordans and Yellow Submarines to be found. At least it’s not becoming a big cost center for me.