Thursday, April 30, 2009

I hate my cell phone bill

Out of all the bills we have to pay every month, there is only one that Jeremy and I grumble about on a regular basis: our cell phone bill. We are paying way too much money for something that does not give us nearly enough value. Sending so much of our hard-earned money to T-Mobile each month just seems like such a waste!

The worst part is that we're locked into a contract so we can't seek out other, more cost-effective options. Until August, that is, which is why I'm asking for your help. When we get out of our contract, I think we'll look into some combination of a regular cell phone, a prepaid cell phone, and a land line to match our needs better and hopefully bring down our bill quite a bit.

Here are the facts on the ground as they are right now. We have the cheapest available Family Plan from T-Mobile which includes two cell phones sharing 700 daytime minutes, with free evenings and weekends. The plan, which doesn't include text messaging, is $60/month. With taxes, of course, it ends up being a few dollars more.

My main damages with this plan are as follows:
-We never, ever come close to using 700 daytime minutes. Cell phone bills are (purposely?) really difficult to decipher as far as usage patterns, but as best as I can tell, we are using around 300 total daytime minutes per month, max. That's less than half of our allotted time.

-Why the sam hill do text messages cost four times as much as they did five years ago? Time was, they were 5 cents each to send and receive. Now the same service costs 20 cents. Rubbish, I say.

-Anyway, I wish we had text messaging, or at least that we had a pricing structure that treated a text message the same as a minute of talking (like in many other places in the world). In Syria and Jordan, in fact, a text message was cheaper than a minute on the phone, which makes so much more sense to me. It's just how I would prefer to use my phone. (Also in Syria and Jordan: incoming calls are free, which also makes sense.)

-Another way I would prefer to use my phone is by utilizing "Missed Calls" more often, but that's another story.

-By far, the most common calls Jeremy and I make are to each other. With our T-Mobile plan, those minutes are free, which is great except then what are we paying $60/month for?

-We don't have a land line. We opted out of a regular phone to save money, but I have to wonder if that is really happening.

Based on the above information, my ideal phone plan would have fewer daytime minutes, include text messaging, and be a lot cheaper than $60/month. Ideally, both Jeremy and I would have a cell phone (but one or both could be prepaid). Do you think that such a thing exists, somewhere out there, in some combination?

Have any of you had these same problems? What have you done to solve them? Do any of you have experience with prepaid phones? If so, which ones? How much IS a land line these days?

Please solve my problem. Thanks.


Ashley said...

I have no solution to your problems. We have the same. I am on AT&T and I love the roll over...but we never even come close to using them. My mom has just complected our lives by giving me an iphone...great gift but right now is not worth the extra $30 a month. I hate that there is no way to really "downsize" and these two year contracts are a real pain.

Liz Johnson said...

I love the setup that we currently have. I shall explain.

We have AT&T, and we are on a family plan with five people: Me, Chris, his sister, and both of his parents. We have 1400/minutes per month, plus free nights/weekends, and free calls to any other AT&T phone (which is what most of my extended family uses as well). We pay approximately $25 per person, including taxes/fees/etc.

Chris' sister also has 200 text messages on her specific line for an additional $5/month, and we have the option of adding texting per line or for the entire plan (although I'm not sure how much it costs, since the rest of us never text and thus haven't looked into it).

By having AT&T, we also have rollover minutes, which means that we accumulate any unused minutes. I have never paid overage charges, even when we occasionally go over our minutes. Between the five of us, it happens pretty rarely, but it does happen every once in a while. It doesn't help that Chris' sister and I talk on the phone way too much.

Anyways, I guess my best advice is to find as many people as you can (I think AT&T allows up to six per plan) and go in together. Even if there are some rampant talkers on your plan, you still end up saving money by going in with other people.

I think you can get a pretty cheap land line via Vonage if you're interested... that's how my mom used to do it before Comcast tricked her into switching to them. She seemed to think that it was $20 or $30/month, and that was a pretty good deal.

JackJen said...

The inherent problem with the cell phone companies is that they don't compete (price-wise) with their most important product: the minutes. Instead, they lure us with free phones, take the $$ loss and recoup it well within the 2yr contract.

What NEEDS to happen is that cell phones need to be sold at a NORMAL price, and the PLANS THEMSELVES need to start competing with each other.

Can you imagine what would happen if cell phone companies actually had to COMPETE with their minute-for-minute price?

Check with Cornell. They probably have a deal with one of the wireless companies. I STILL get my LDS Church/BYU employee discount with AT&T (saving 10%/month and 35% on phones) all these years later. (For the record, I've told them "I NO LONGER WORK FOR BYU" and they said, "Meh.")

Nancy said...

We use Gizmo Project for our land line. We bought a phone number (that costs like $30 per year about) and a little VoiP box and voila. Local phone calls ringing in our home.

We put $10 on our phone credit every 8-9 months. In total it costs us about $50-60 per year to have a Utah phone number ring in our house (we still have it set up here so that our families can call us for free without having to use Skype--Skype does offer similar services but theirs was slightly more expensive, although the sound quality does seem better than Gizmo at times).

Anyway, that's what we do.

Since I'm usually just at home only Andrew had a cell phone in the States. Of course, there were times when I wished that I had a cell phone, but I never use a cell phone so it's pointless.

Here, though, we both have cell phones because it's all pay-as-you-go, which rocks! :P

Good luck with that.

Lilianne said...

Wow! $60 per month? I'm thinking this is a steal! We pay $112 a month for our Verizon Wireless (we went with them because they are the only service that works in the hospital) and that's even with the UofA discount. I don't know what Ithaca is like, but depending on that, you might want to think about Verizon because they do get service through very thick old buildings. It's what everyone used in Washington, DC because it worked in the Capitol and on the subway tunnels. I was told they use different technology.

The options are so crappy when you go to sign up. We have unlimited text messages, but adding that one is like an extra $15 a month - and you have a choice of either 300 minutes or it jumps up to like 800 minutes! There's no in between. So you either pay $40 for the 300 minutes & perhaps have to pay any overage minutes OR pay $90 for the 800 minutes just so you don't get trapped paying $2.50 per minute you go over. ARGH! So frustrating.

We only have cell phones and we probably use our phones a lot more then you and Jeremy. We thought it worthless to get a landline because if Jason were to call home, it'd be using up minutes by calling a landline. So, our easiest solution was to get a family plan - but it's still expensive. I guess people are willing to pay for it because having a phone at your disposal wherever you go is just a luxury they can't live without - including myself!

Good luck finding a plan that works for you!

christi and clifton said...

Sorry I don't have any advice. We are part of the .01% (maybe less) of Americans who don't own cell phones. It is kind of nice to be gone and not have anyone bothering you when you are out. But last week I had to use a pay phone (they still exist! :)and it was REALLY annoying! Good luck!

Jennifer said...

We had a land line in our apartment, but canceled it when we moved here. It cost $17/month for just basic service--no long distance or anything. I hated not having caller ID and having to take messages for Jeff from people in the ward--I would just tell people to call his cell phone! It sounds like a Vonage-type line might be good for you since it isn't much more and includes long distance.

We both "need" to have a cell phone, so we're on a family plan with AT&T (700 minutes-we usually pay $76/month with a few random texts). Like Liz, we rarely use them, but rollover has saved our tails a few times (like last month where we went over by 450 minutes! We still aren't sure how that happened, but we didn't have to pay since we had enough rollover).

Since both of our parents and most of our siblings also have AT&T, it saves us tons of minutes to be with them. I just call my mom's cell phone instead of the house.

My sister does the prepaid cell phone and a year ago they found T-Mobile to be the best deal.

I hate decisions like this. Good luck. Lilianne made a good point that it might be worth checking out which carriers work well in Ithaca. I know lots of people around here feel like Verizon has better coverage, but in other cities, AT&T is better. My parents switched from Verizon to AT&T years ago because Verizon had a dead spot in our house...very inconvenient.

Lindsay said...

We don't have a land line either. I have verizon, and we pay about $70 a month for 750 minutes, family plan with two lines, free in-calling to every verizon phone number (which is almost all of our family), but texts are 20 cents each. I am not a big texter, so I just pay the extra dollar or two for texts I send each month. To be honest, I don't think the $60 you are paying is too crazy. But I do agree with Liz. If you can find some parents or siblings to go in with you on a plan, it is a lot cheaper. We have never done this, but I have friends who have. We only use about half our minutes each month too, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. Although, the rollover with AT&T would be a nice feature. I think verizon gets the best coverage, if you plan on traveling a lot. Bryan really wants to get a land line for those rare occasions when my cell phone is dead or on vibrate or in the car with him and he can't get a hold of me. I've looked it up before and to get a basic line from Qwest, with no frills, is only about $15. We'll see. Good luck. Let us know what you decide!

Dylan said...

Bridget, given that it sounds like you're looking for ways to lower your cell bill, I thought I'd mention how to use the internet to save on wireless. There's one great new savings blog called that constantly tracks new ways to cut wireless costs and exposes shady billing practices utilized by the cell phone companies. Also, check out the consumer advocacy website where I (admittedly) work,, that slashes the average cell bill by 22 percent. Through the site, we have currently audited over 26,000 cell lines and have saved consumers nearly $5 million off their wireless bills. You can see in the national news media, most recently on Good Morning America at

Good luck to everyone reading on cutting expenses in the recession.


Anna said...

Good question; we don't have cell phones and I've been wondering how to pick one when we do get them.

Also I am reading Birth. Thanks for your review from a long time ago. It's terrific.

sarah said...

The only thing I can think of that would make it cheaper would be to share a plan with someone else too. Possibly me if you want to look into it. I have to pay that much for my own cell phone every month and it's only 10 more dollars a month to get another line..only problem is that jared gets his for free from his parents since it only costs them 10 dollars a month for his. but they have a limit of how many lines they can have so i had to get my own personal cell phone bill which sucks. seems like sharing a plan would be more cost effective as long as there was an easy way of paying the bill every month.

Jeanerbee said...

I am gleaning good tips from this discussion! I have been wanting to lower our bill too - we aren't under contract anymore, but stayed with Tmobile to keep our number. My side of the family has Tmobile so we get free calling to them... I DO like to text so I wish I could get like a prepaid texting phone and then just use the home phone for my calls!


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