Monday, January 30, 2012

On the Phone (Again)

Sometime last week, I hit the two-year mark of owning a prepaid cellular phone. I wrote here about making the switch from our monthly pay-ahead Sprint plan to a prepaid plan with Tracfone. I also wrote at the one-year mark (see here) to report that the switch was saving us loads of money. Now that another year has passed, the savings are even more impressive. So, I thought I’d write about it all again.

As a reminder, back when Melanie and I were with Sprint, we had one mobile phone and paid for the cheapest monthly plan that Sprint had to offer. After the myriad taxes and fees that get tacked on to the basic monthly service fee, we were paying nearly $50 per month for one heavily underused phone.

In January 2010, Melanie and I bought two new mobile phones with Tracfone. The phones cost us $20 and came with 200 minutes of prepaid talk time. To keep our phones active, all we have to do is reload each phone before it runs out of minutes and/or before the service date for that phone ends. Every time you add minutes to the phone, it adds 90 days to your service period. Thus, you are stuck buying more minutes every 90 days, even if you don’t yet need them, just to keep your phone active. On the other hand, if you need to buy more minutes after just 30 days, you’ll still be extending your original service expiration date by 90 days. The service days can accumulate, in other words. So, if you add minutes to your phone on 10 different occasions, even if it’s within 10 days, you’ll have added 900 service days to your phone. Anyway, when we activated our phones, we were given more than 90 days of service to begin with. I lucked out with literally years’ worth of time on my phone. Right now, I have 1,275 days (or 3 ½ years) left until my service expires, provided I keep my phone loaded with minutes. (Melanie didn’t get so lucky and has actually had to buy minutes just to extend her service date.)

Of course, the whole point of changing to prepaid cell phones was to save us money. Has that been accomplished? Yes, indeed. The more minutes you buy at a time, the cheaper each minute is. Thus, Melanie and I have typically bought 900 minutes at a time, which costs $80. It sounds like a lot when you’re paying for the minutes, but in my case, 900 minutes last nearly forever. I’ve reloaded my phone only twice since purchasing it, and as I write this, I’ve barely made it through half of the second batch of minutes that I bought. Adding it all up, including the initial $20 that it cost to buy my phone, prorating my minutes so as to be accurate in my estimate, I have calculated that my cell phone is costing me about $6.07 per month (not including tax, which probably adds about $.25 per month). That means that even if Melanie is burning through 450 minutes per month (which she’s not), we’re breaking even compared to our Sprint days. I honestly don’t know just how many times we’ve had to reload Melanie’s phone, but it has been at least a couple of times more than mine. Still, I’d be surprised if we’re spending even $20 per month for us both to have phones. It’s probably much closer to $15. I once again rejoice in our decision.

While I think the Tracfone service has gotten better over the last two years, it hasn’t been as reliable as Sprint. Nothing has been problematic enough to make us look elsewhere, but I’m happy to hear from anybody out there who believes Melanie and I could both have cell phones, with even better service, and pay this little for it. I’m not committed to Tracfone, and in fact I was quite pleased with Sprint’s service. It’s just that Tracfone has made more sense for us than anything else thus far. (Or is it that Tracfone has made more cents for us? LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!)

1 comment:

  1. That's awesome. I love hearing things like this. You are a thoughtful consumer :) which is more than I can say for most of us!