If you read our post on cutting the cord, you know that we realized disconnecting internet from our home would save us $10-20,000 over the course of 10 years! An insane sum. At that time we had already experimented a great deal with various mobile virtual network operators or MVNO’s. At that time Mr. SS had a plan that offered 200 mins. and 100 texts with NO data through a company called US Cellular. Mrs. SS had a WiFi only phone, that is to say: no service plan. After realizing that was a little too lean, and that it left Mrs. SS with no service plan for emergencies in the car, we made a few adjustments.
Currently we use sim cards from Red Pocket Mobile. Red Pocket is one of many MVNO’s that purchase bulk access to networks like Verizon and AT&T at wholesale rates, and resell them at a discount. Another MVNO you might have heard of is Walmart’s Straight Talk. Many of these providers offer the same network access to tech savvy customers willing to do a little research and set up themselves. These services are not for everyone. If you must have the newest and fanciest phone, cannot curb your online streaming of video and music, or you’re not willing to find alternative methods of doing so, if you are the type of person that visits your local Verizon store regularly or relies on customer service and tech support to fix your issues, these services may not be as “hands on” as you’d like. On the other hand if you can follow a basic YouTube tutorial and you take it upon yourself to research and fix things yourself, you’ll love the savings.
A word of warning here: you need to know how your phone works, the difference between CDMA and GSM, what network providers work well in your area, how to install a sim card and trouble shoot issues on your phone. Mr SS specifically purchased our phones to make the best use of MVNOs based on our geographic area and needs, your needs may differ.
Many of these services offer unlimited plans at good rates but we frankly didn’t need it. So Red Pocket’s 500 mins, 500 texts, and 500 MB LTE Data for $10 is perfect for Mrs. SS as she is around WiFi all day and makes many of her phone calls through Google’s voice over IP (VOIP) service Google Voice. I’m out at the homestead or out and about running errands much of the day, so a little extra service was needed. Initially I opted for RedPocket Mobiles 1000, 1000, 1 GB plan for $15 per month. However, after using the service for about three months we felt comfortable pulling the trigger and purchasing the 500/500/500 annual plan through eBay for just $99 or $8.25 / month.
“But what about your additional data needs?” Great question, a little further looking on eBay will and you’ll discover downgraded FreedomPop sim cards. Now if you haven’t had any experience with FreedomPop I’ll tell you this: they’re kind of shady. Basically, they use a freemium style service that has a lot of pitfalls and shady fine print if you’re not very careful. With that said, there are a few eBay sellers that offer “downgraded” Freedompop sim cards with pre-configured accounts. This means they circumvent the shadiness and jump the pitfalls for you so that you can never be charged for Freedompop’s service. I highly recommend this option because all the kinks are worked out in advance and you typically get 700MB of free service rather then the 200MB standard for a one-time cost of around $7.
Our phones have dual sim card slots (a common feature on many Chinese made devices) which allows us to receive calls, texts, and use the initial 500MB on the Redpocket plan and then turn on the FreedomPop sim in settings and use that. It’s not necessary to have a dual sim card slot but without one you will have to remove your old sim and swap cards periodically to use the service on the other plan. In this case you may find it useful to purchase something like this downgraded FreedomPop mobile hotspot that would allow you to use your current phone, with a different MNVO or no service plan at all with a VOIP service like Google Voice. This of course would result in your service plan being reduced to $0.00. Naturally, if you have the patience, you could purchase a number of these cards and swap them as you use them. 2 cards= 1.4 GB, 4 cards= 2.8 GB etc.
Now, assuming you don’t want to carry multiple sim cards and potentially experience outages while you swap between them, it may be possible to message the FreedomPop seller you purchased your sim card, mobile hotspot, router or device from, and purchase additional data by the GB directly through them. I’ve done this with my seller and the rates really are the cheapest possible way to buy AT&T 4G LTE data. Of course you have to trust them and there’s nothing really guaranteeing that they won’t just disappear one day. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with, but it is possible to purchase 1, 2, 5, 10GB or more of high-speed data to be loaded directly onto your downgraded FreedomPop sim card for just a few dollars per gigabit by sending a PayPal payment.
A few final words about all of this. Trying to have a $0-$5 cell phone plan is not perfect. It takes a considerable amount of research and preparation. It requires that you have an unlocked phone that you own outright, potentially limiting your device choices, it inherently works better for those that need less cell phone service (though more can be had with a bit of effort) it won’t always work right, you may have to tweak it and research and adjust, BUT by just doing a little research on which MVNO works best for you, you can purchase an annual cell phone plan offering the bare bones for $5/ month, annual unlimited talk, text and 5GB of data can be had for just $20 a month when purchased annually through eBay.
If you if you are serious about reducing your internet and cell phone costs, potentially saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year that could go toward paying down debt, saving for retirement, or creating an emergency fund, I urge you to ask yourself: “Can I do with a little less and use my abilities and creativity to think outside the box?” If you can, stick it to the man and save that money!