By: Revanche

Reducing Expenses: Streamlining the cell phone plans

January 23, 2011

We’ve been paying what I’d call an outrageous amount for cell phone services.

PiC has an outmoded phone with lots of talk and messaging, no data, with Verizon and pays $63/month with the occasional overage;
I have the legacy iPhone with unlimited data and pay $63/month;
MY PARENTS have a family plan: two phones, 700 talk minutes per month, and I pay $67/month.

Total: $193

My goals:
1.  Consolidate our three services onto one service;
2.  Replace both our phones as PiC’s ready to have a phone that doesn’t have an antennae that breaks off and my iPhone maybe works 60% of the time;
3.  Save Money.

Any non-legacy data plan with the usual Verizon/AT&T services will cost at least $20, more likely $30, per phone so I wasn’t particularly hopeful about our outlook but I was determined. ‘Cause that’s all it takes.

My parents are already on T-Mobile and so far my research bears out that they offer the best plan options for our needs:  Combination talk, text and data family plans for 2 lines with the ability to add up to 3 more.  In this case, adding my parents as the additional lines with talk and text only as they definitely don’t need data would keep the cost down between $5-10/line.  I’d researching Sprint options but they are all inclusive for all lines which is great for the wholly techie family but not suitable for our hybrid needs.

PiC and I were happy with the special deal being touted on Twitter as good through January 20th for the free after rebate G2 Android phones, but apparently T-Mobile’s idea of what January 20th meant didn’t extend to 6 pm PST.

Once known for their top-notch customer service, in my experience, I was less than impressed by the current state of their service now.   Aside from their shoddy response to the inquiry regarding the miscommunication or mistake or whatever you’d call the issue of an offer yanked before the stated end of the promotion, I had to get my parents a pair of replacement phones and change their account to my responsibility for easier access since I pay the bill anyway. 

Every department’s aim was incredibly siloed and tightly focused and this didn’t produce more efficiency. Rather, it meant that I wasted almost two hours on the phone with each representative explaining what I needed every time I got transferred. And honestly, the majority of the reps were simply neither bright nor competent and failed to completely note their actions for the next CSR I was transferred to. It gives me pause whether I really want to give them any additional business.  At the same time, I figured that if the savings outweighed this initial aggravation and I rarely had to deal with them again, perhaps it’d be ok. 

The sticking point that kept me from pulling the trigger was the activation fees for the new phones for PiC and me now that we’d missed on the really nice two new phone deal. 

Searching on Fatwallet, I found that you could sign up for the Freelancers’ Union for free (and I do freelance work, so it’s legitimate) and reap the following benefits with T-Mobile:

-No activation fees (savings: $70)
-10% off talk, text, data plans monthly (savings: pretty much taxes/fees)
-Discounted equipment (might be better than what you can get online, might not be)

We could potentially pay $100 for the G2 that PiC still wants, find a free one for me, and switch to 3000 minute, unlimited text and data family plan for $170/month (including two lines with talk and text only at $10/each). 

Since the monthly saving is only $20/month, it’d take us 5 months to break even on that deal.  I’m not thoroughly impressed with this, on balance, so I’m going to take a minute to call and see if the Freelance Union discount on equipment does us one better on the online pricing and then double check if being an AT&T Premier member actually does me any good. 😉

Squeezing money out of stones is hard work, but darned if this isn’t going to be satisfying when I finally strike the best bargain I can find!

6 Responses to “Reducing Expenses: Streamlining the cell phone plans”

  1. I think this is one of those areas where your head spins, you can’t make sense of anything—and you can’t tell if you’ve gotten a decent price. Hope you’re more successful than we’ve been!

  2. You might want to check to see if you can get an employer discount (instead of or in addition to) the freelancer’s union discount… turns out we can get 23% off Sprint because of who our employer is. Our employer didn’t advertise it, but DH asked Sprint about it after reading online about another company.

    You can also just flat-out ask for discounts. We did that the last time we renewed our plan. is our recent experience doing this.

  3. WOW! Every time I hear how much folks pay for these nifty little devices, it just takes my breath away. A hundred and ninety-three bucks to talk on the phone? I pay $26 for my phone service. O’course, I can’t carry it around with me…but on the other hand, I don’t have a phone jangling at me everywhere I go, either. 😉

  4. Phone plans can get so confusing and are so expensive.

    Do your parents need a full plan, or can they get by with a land line and pay-as-go cell phone? Family plans can be pretty flexible where the total minutes can be used by any member.

    And what do you think of the iPhone 4? Why does yours function just 60% of the time?

    Good luck!

  5. Anonymous says:

    T-mobile, you must get the Nexus S! I just upgraded my legacy Sprint plan where I had 4 phones for $80 to a new Sprint Everything Data Family Plan for $160 which includes my 16% corporate discount. The wife and I are just trying to keep up with technology. Hopefully my in-laws can adapt with us, but their age/mindset hinders them. Anyhow, I’m sure you will find the right balance by the time you consolidate your cell phone service.

  6. Carly says:

    Cell phone plans are frustrating! But, like nicoleandmaggie said, when I looked around Sprint seemed to be the best family deal out there!

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