Paycheck Chronicles

Kate Is Clueless: Cell Phone Expenses

If you're a regular reader here at the Paycheck Chronicles, you'll know that we are moving back to the actual United States this summer. In addition to all the usual PCS moving chaos, there is the additional stuff that you have to do when you return from overseas. In our case, it means getting (probably all new) cell phones. For a family of six.

I've been doing a lot of reading, research, and asking around, and I am absolutely stupified at the amount of money that people are telling me that they spend on mobile phones. In my completely unscientific poll, the majority of families tell me that they spend between $200 and $300 per month on their mobile calling, texting, and data needs.

That is insane.

Our last two overseas duty stations have been blessed with very affordable internet. My current plan is about $25 per month, depending on the exchange rate, for 300 minutes, 300 texts, and unlimited data. Unlimited. My husband pays about $15 every few months to top up his pay-as-you-go plan, as do the kids.  All told, our cellular budget is about $30 a month.

Now, my frugal friends tell me that they use options like Republic Wireless or pay-as-you-go plans such as Tracphone to keep their spending in line with their budget. However, the prices of even these bargain brands is way more than I'm paying now.  And, it seems like going with anything other than a big-name, national brand brings logistical challenges such as having to order the phone or SIM card only via the internet, or not having customer service at shops or to call.

While I am all about saving money, I'm also dealing with the reality of landing in a "new" country, dealing with pets, buying cars, finding a place to live (story for another day), getting children enrolled in schools, and all the other drama that comes with moving.  At some point, I am going to give in and take the simplest option I can quickly find.

Which is why I am trying to gather as much information as possible before we land and are pulled 62 different directions.  So, dear readers, what does your family do for cell phones and service?  How much do you spend, and what does that give you?  What sort of tricks do you have for keeping your bill at something that resembles a reasonable level?

All information most appreciated, by me and also by all the people who read the Paycheck Chronicles!


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