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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: notmyhand on June 21, 2015, 08:39:37 AM

Title: Help with our cell phone plan
Post by: notmyhand on June 21, 2015, 08:39:37 AM
I am taking a look one line at a time at our budget and trying to see what we can do to minimize each cost.  My current concern is our cell phone bill and I know you guys would be able to suggest some better alternatives because I cannot seem to find much.

Current bill - $199 a month plus taxes is ~$230 a month
Verizon - four total phones, two still on contract but we can pay early termination if it makes sense
Unlimited Data on two phones
Two basic phones for my in-laws
1400 minutes

Our use:
-My husband and I use around 900-1200 minutes a month due to our work that is not with other Verizon users or evenings/weekends (self employed contractors)
-Mother in law swings between not using much and then using ~400 minutes a month when a relative calls, has a basic phone
-Total we use about 1300 minutes that do not count evenings/weekends or other Verizon users
-Combined we used between 5-6 gb of data a month
-Father in law uses less than half an hour a month, has a basic phone
-Due to where we travel, we have to stay on Verizon's coverage map.  No T-Mobile in the area, Sprint shows roaming on major travel points, and AT&T is poor on travel routes per a coworker.  We have to be able to be reached by clients.  This is central and northern PA to northeastern PA.
-Currently we have a shattered smart phone and a two year old smart phone and two basic phones.  If we have to buy new phones for savings then we do not mind as long as it makes sense.

We do not mind splitting up.  If someone can suggest a good pay as you go for my father in law that ends up at less than $15 a month and same with my mother in law, we don't mind topping up their  minutes.  Or if there are other auto-reload plans on there.

Has anyone successfully switched high use plans and if so, to what plans?

Throw any thoughts out there.  I have looked but cannot find anything that makes a huge amount of sense.  The combination of requirements is making it hard.

Thank you for all of your help!

Title: Re: Help with our cell phone plan
Post by: Daley on June 21, 2015, 05:51:02 PM
First, you need to calculate actual total minutes used, not just above and beyond the freebie in-network minutes - do the hard math on usage so you know what each line specifically needs. Second, you need to understand that needing to stay on a Verizon first provider with roaming, you're dealing with some of the most expensive MVNOs available. Also, if you haven't found the sticky yet, read the guide (!/) (unabridged here ( Once you've done the math averaging and built in a little safety net on margin for total usage, you can start shopping plans.

First, we'll go over which providers to avoid. Although Ting does Verizon roaming on its CDMA network, it's Sprint first which is going to leave you without any mobile data access at all in most of the places you're wanting to be which are Verizon reception dependent. As such, definitely not worth the cost on handset replacement and the needless electronic waste generation. There's also Puppy Wireless which is a Verizon MVNO that supports LTE handset activation, but they don't do off-network roaming currently. The same can be said about BYO Wireless and the lack of off-network roaming with them as well, plus they can only activate Verizon CDMA handsets which eliminates taking LTE handset activation to them as well. I also would highly recommend avoiding Page Plus, Straight Talk, and Total Wireless as customer service is pretty rough and there's a lot of reasons why none of the America Movil family of MVNO brands are in the guide.

The only Verizon MVNO I'd recommend for consideration would be Selectel ( combined with a data diet ( (easier than you think). Both providers can activate CDMA or LTE Verizon handsets without a problem now. The only thing to take note is the lack of off-network roaming, as voice and SMS will work but not data. Check their map here ( You're probably going to want to consider going on that data diet, though.

Your FIL's handset plan will be trivially easy as their $75/year plan would be overkill. Your MIL might be able to get by on the $15/month plan combined with a Flex card to catch overages at 5/minute when she exceeds the 300 minute limit, so long as the numbers you quoted for her doesn't hide a huge amount of in-network call time. That puts a baseline cost of around $21.25 plus sales taxes for the in-laws plus overage.

The two of you will have to shop on data usage, and the easiest way to keep costs down will be the previously mentioned data diet. However, if you need more than 1300 minutes or 500MB of data, all the remaining plans are "unlimited" talk and text plans with between 1-5GB of data ranging between $40-70/month... so it at least simplifies the talk and text end without needing to keep track there, but it makes each line's savings dependent upon how little data you can use and/or if you can keep that data usage below 1GB or 3GB a month. All combined, at the low end you shouldn't have to spend much more than about $80/month for your two lines given each of you can potentially keep data usage below 1GB. You could each go with the $55/month plan (for a total of $110 for the two of you) which comes with 3GB of data on each line likely without any usage modification, but this community is all about minimalism and efficiency - what you're doing with your budget, you can do with your data usage as well to save even more money. At the high end, around $140 would give the two of you each 5GB of data, but the savings is considerably less dramatic. An extra $15 savings a month between each plan level you can step down on is an extra $180 in savings a year per line. Are the potential creature comforts of using online GPS maps and streaming media worth the extra money, especially when you can buy an excellent offline GPS map ( for a one-time $30 purchase (not to mention several reasonably good free ones - including Google Maps ( - depending on the smartphone OS used), and when your phone probably has plenty of room for several hours worth of music and/or podcasts that you could download at home? Excessive mobile data is more a creature comfort than a necessity, and most professionals can easily get by with less than 500MB of data a month with just a little forethought, patience and conscious usage. Just something to consider.

That should give you a direction and a ballpark range of savings between $65-130/month. Any other questions, just ask.
Title: Re: Help with our cell phone plan
Post by: notmyhand on June 21, 2015, 07:51:10 PM
I.P. Daley,
Wow, what a great and thorough response.  I will thoroughly read and decipher but I wanted to make sure you knew I was greatly appreciative of this response.  This community is wonderful!

Thank you!
Title: Re: Help with our cell phone plan
Post by: Daley on June 21, 2015, 09:17:22 PM
Not a problem. I'll readily admit, I was dumping full analysis on you for a more complete picture of why I recommended what I did and would advocate against some of the other frequently recommended MVNOs that sometimes show up from others. That said, I can overwhelm people with info, and I apologize if I did with you.

Here's the tl;dr:

Do the research to confirm numbers by including in-network minute usage and data usage per line, but odds are you're safe to go Selectel and get...

FIL: $75/year plan
MIL: $15/month plan plus flex card
Hubs: $55/month unlimited plan, but he could probably do the $40/month plan changing data habits
You: $55/month unlimited plan, but you could probably do the $40/month plan changing data habits

Now, here's a short(er) and sweet(er) but slightly more detailed:

Go Selectel for everyone, but get more solid usage numbers that include total minutes/texts used and total data used for each line. Do a monthly average but also take note of the max usage numbers.

Odds are though, you should be able to use their $75 yearly plan for your FIL and most likely the $15/month plan for your MIL with a flex card added on to the account periodically to pay for any minute overages above 300 minutes a month. That $10 flex card should provide an additional 200 rollover minutes.

For yourselves, each of your minute usage levels could justify going with any one of Selectel's unlimited talk and text plans at $40/month or higher, but your data usage will absolutely require it. As such, the easiest solution is for each of you to go with the $55/month unlimited with 3GB data plan without any serious changes to either of your habits based on the assumption that you both use that quoted 5-6GB of data a month equally. However, if you get smart about data usage and each learn how to keep your needs below 1GB/month, you could potentially save another $30/month combined by using their $40 unlimited plan instead.

On the flip side, if either of you refuse to limit your data usage and you still find 3GB a tight squeeze per month, it'll either cost you an additional 5/MB with a flex card or an extra $15/month for a 5GB allotment. No matter which plans you pick, you'll save money, but learning to use less data will save you more money.

For the sake of simplicity, we'll just ignore the potential for any further optimization below the $40 unlimited plans as you'll encounter diminishing returns that might not be worth the extra savings right now. The important thing is making the major changes now to start saving money sooner than later.

As for reducing data usage, just stop using mobile data for social media services like Facebook and Instagram, don't stream music or movies, start using offline GPS maps like Sygic for navigation, start using a web browser like Dolphin or Opera Mini/Mobile which will let you turn off images on web pages while browsing the internet (most websites are still quite useful without images), and limiting app and OS updates to WiFi only. Just doing those basic things will reduce your data usage dramatically.

That help with the parsing?