Back before I was married, I never had a cell phone. And I was proud of it. I only knew of one other person over 27 years old who had held out as long as I had. I enjoyed saving that money (and spending it on college), and I wasn’t a big phone person anyway. Even after I was married, I was still a big cheapskate as far as cell phones were concerned – my wife and I shared her cell phone for several years before we finally each got our own.
Over the years, we have discovered ways to save big on cell phones and monthly plans. We now each have our own iPhone (I have the 4s, she has the 4), and we are spending less for both plans combined than we were spending for the one old flip phone we had when we got married.
We only spend $12 + tax per month for our two iPhones.
So you might ask, “why does a frugal homesteader need an iPhone?” And that is a good question. However, these smartphones are much more than just phones. We use our phones for all of the following:
- Standard talking and texting
- Talking over Skype (which is our primary home phone)
- Taking pictures and videos of our children
- GPS navigation
- Shooting pro videos for our YouTube channel
- Staying connected remotely for Matthew’s business needs (email, web, etc)
- Digital shopping list
- Calendar and reminders
- Social media
- Pocket Bible
- Entertainment for ourselves and our children
- As a tool for selecting random students (Matthew’s a teacher)
- and much more.
Still, any monthly out-of-pocket expense has to be carefully evaluated, especially when you are a single-income family. We are shocked to hear of some couples who spend more in one month on their cell phone plan than we spend for the same in an entire year. It pays to shop around.
How to Have an iPhone for Free
For my iPhone 4s (Matthew), I have a no-contract plan through FreedomPop.com. FreedomPop runs on Sprint’s network. My plan includes 200 minutes of talk, 500 texts, and 500 MB of data, all for $0. That’s right, I get it for free. 100%. When I first set up my account, I paid a $20 set up fee, and that’s it. They even allow me to set my account so that I cannot go over and get extra charges.
So how is the service with this free plan? Well, for the price I can’t complain. Sometimes the voice is a little sketchy, so I often use Skype with my data instead. The texting works great. There are a couple other annoying things about this plan, such as not having the ability to set your own ring tone. You also have to use their app for voice and text – it doesn’t integrate with the native dialer. But again, I love it for the price.
Is 500 MB enough data for an iPhone?
I have been using this FreedomPop plan for about 5 months, and I only came close to using all my data once. I never figured out which app was draining the data, but I turned data off for any apps I didn’t need it for, and now I am fine. Actually, data is only needed when you are away from a wifi-network, and most of my time is spent where I have free wifi access. I also avoid streaming videos and music when I’m on the go, but other than that I use my data as needed. Below is a screen shot of my usage now (day 13 of my month). Notice I have only used 5 minutes of my voice, 2 of my messages, and 2 MB of data. Remember, this is because we use Skype for our home phone and I can use Skype with my data:
iPhone on Verizon’s Network for $12/month
My wife has an iPhone 4 on Verizon’s network with a $12 monthly, no-contract plan with PagePlusCellular. Her plan includes 250 minutes of voice, 250 texts, and 10 MB data. Her plan is much more reliable than mine, and integrates perfectly with the iPhone. If she ever gets close to using all of her voice minutes, PagePlus allows us to renew the plan early with no problems. The Verizon network is amazing, and she often has better service than I do. We have used PagePlus for four years now, and we love it! Thev have many other no-contract plans to choose from, so visit their site for more info.
So you may be asking, why don’t you both have phones on the free FreedomPop plan? The reason is because the PagePlus option is more reliable on Verizon’s network. The voice quality is also more consistent, and a cell plan of only $12 per month is still a great deal. For now, the combination of free and cheap is working well for us.
Get an iPhone for Cheap/Free
So you may be wondering where we got our iPhones in the first place, if we really are frugal. My iPhone (iPhone 4s, 16GB, white) was actually given to me by some good friends when they upgraded and/or switched carriers. I bought my wife’s iPhone through a Facebook swap and shop group for $75 (iPhone 4, 32GB, black). We have actually had several iPhones given to us over the months, which we have passed on to other family members in need. Many people are generous and ready to give their old iPhone away to someone who will take care of it and get some good use of it. Try updating your Facebook status, saying you are looking for a used iPhone. We are very grateful to our friends’ generosity.
Over the years, we have also purchased a few used smartphones online at Amazon.com. If you look at phones that are a year or two old, the prices are usually very reasonable. Our first smartphone was an HTC Incredible for a little over $100.
Don’t you want the latest iPhone 6?
To tell you the truth, I don’t really mind having a phone that is a couple years old. The 4 and 4s still work great, especially for the price. If I had an unlimited supply of money, I probably would spring for the iPhone 6 or an Android equivalent. But I am more than happy with my 4s for now.
Do you have a great money saving tip for smartphone users?
Please comment below if this article was helpful. We would be more than happy to answer any questions, and we would love to hear of other money-saving cell phone tips you have found!