Paycheck Chronicles

Kate Is Clueless About Cell Phone Spending

We've been back in the United States for three-ish days, and we're knocking through all those "get settled in a new country" chores.  One job that is making me crazy is setting up cell phone service for our family of six.  I've spent the last few months gathering information and doing research, and I am still overwhelmed by the decisions.

As part of my research, I asked for advice from two Facebook groups that have people I trust.  I was amazed at how different the responses were between the two groups!!!  One group suggested name-brand carriers, long contracts, unlimited data, and expensive monthly charges.  The other group almost unanimously suggested buying used phones, limiting data to special occasion use, and using off-brand carriers such as Republic Wireless and Ting.

Amongst the more spendy group, various people have reported to me that they spend $260 for five people, $183 for three people, $280 for five people - these numbers are insane.  And these prices are for family plans, with military discounts.  Crazy!  I'm just not spending that.

Since I am cheap, I am planning to either use phones that we already have, or purchase used phones, and go with an off-brand carrier. My family already knows that we only use data when we have a need;  we don't keep data on all the time.  I am hoping that these three factors will help us find a plan or plans that will keep our bills more reasonable.  Ideally, I'm looking for under $100 per month for the six of us.  I don't know if it is possible, but my cheaper friends are paying $20 or $40 a month for 2 to three people.  It definitely seems like it should be possible.

So, here's my question:  why would someone make the choice to have more expensive cell phone service when there are so many cheaper options available?  Do people just prefer to have name brand carriers, even though the off-brand carriers use the same networks?  Or are the "free phone with contract" deals too good to give up?  Do consumers want to have contracts?  Or are the off-brands not well-known?

I'll be spending today continuing to figure out how to get the cell phone service we need for the price I want to pay.  I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this subject - maybe they will help point me in the right direction.

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