In an earlier post I wrote that I didn’t have a smartphone and was getting along fine using my dumbphone that did nothing but make calls and play MP3 files. It finally stopped working. So I bought a smartphone, mainly because the cheapest ones cost about the same as the dumbphone I bought a few years ago. It’s cool being able to use wi-fi to look at websites and read Wikipedia (on an app that uses the text stored in the phone’s memory). I still mostly use it as an MP3 player. I still use a prepaid plan and my cost will still be around $10 per month over the life of the phone.
If your household is like mine, you’ve got cellphones and other devices that need charging, and chargers that seem to “go missing” all by themselves. I solved the missing-charger problem by getting a power strip extension cord that has a couple of USB charging ports. I connected USB cables to the charging ports and attached them to the power strip with a cable tie that holds them firmly in place. The TV and related devices plug into the power strip and the USB cable stands by, always ready to charge a tired cellphone. It’s been a couple months and the power strip and USB cables are still in place.
Once every year for the past few years I’ve spent $100 to add 400 (or, with a bonus, 800) minutes and an additional year of service to my cellphone. I don’t use that many minutes during the year, so the total cost of my cellphone is $100 per year for the service, or about $8 per month. The phone itself cost $30. Let’s assume it will last at least 3 years, so that’s that’s about $10 per year for the phone. Add up the cost of the service plus the cost of the phone and we see that my cellphone costs me less than $10 per month.
This year, as I was purchasing my 400 minutes, I noticed I could add an additional year of service for $50. Total cost: $150 for the next 2 years. Now my total cost for cellphone service for the next 2 years is $75 per year or about $7 per month.
I’ll admit it’s really cool to have a phone that you can use to play games, look at the Internet, watch movies, chat, and … make phone calls. But is it worth a thousand dollars a year? If you’re reading a blog like this, I would suggest that the answer might be no. I haven’t yet made the transition to a smartphone. I have a dumbphone. A basic cellphone. A basic model from Tracfone, to be specific. I can use it for telephone calls. I can send text messages. I can take photos. I especially like that it takes a 32 GB micro SD card that can hold many hours of music, podcasts, and old radio shows. It has a something called a “browser”, but whatever that is, it’s completely useless. It cost about $30 when it was new. If you want to get one, it’s less than half that now. It has already lasted almost 3 years — so that comes to about $10 per year for the phone. I buy a prepaid service card that keeps the phone working for a year and gives me more minutes of service than I use in a year. These cards have a face value of $100, but they can be had for less than than on eBay or when Tracfone has a promotion. Three years of phone service for less than $300, plus $30 for the phone itself. That’s about $9 per month.
So tell me, what does a smartphone cost per month?
Maybe you could replace the smartphone with a dumbphone, er, a basic cellpone, and if you need diversion, instead texting and playing, you could just listen to MP3s and read actual books made of paper and ink.
If you decide that you absolutely must have a smartphone, you can still save quite a bit of money by getting one that works with prepaid service. If you buy one separately from the phone service, you’ll probably pay less. Getting a cellphone for “free” while paying $$$ per month on a long term contract is usually the most expensive way to get a smartphone. You can find good phones on eBay and then use a bring-your-own phone service. You won’t get the latest greatest smartphone, but you will pay a lot less.
One more tip: Keep your phone in a case when you’re not using it and it will last much longer.