Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cell Phone Solution

Over a month ago, my then-new cell phone was stolen. I posted about whether or not I truly needed a cell phone, and received a lot of very welcome comments. Jack and I read them over and had some discussions back and forth about this matter, as well as our phone service in general.

We discussed the matter of safety, the issue of what is or is not a necessity (is it a perceived necessity but just really a convenience, or not?), and played around with different scenarios as to how we might re-adjust our budget for the most affordable option to satisfy our present needs.

It's taken a while to figure out, but here's what we determined works best for now:

1. Much of our communication and business dealings are by phone. We're not comfortable in removing this entirely, as it's our substitute for actual in-person visits with family and friends we'd otherwise never be able to afford to visit regularly. Yes, letter-writing and email play a part in staying in contact, but we still are not ready to give up on a phone altogether. That may change someday.

2. My former job assignment ended, and I'm not now on the road 8 hours daily. That'll likely change soon. We decided that if there's an inexpensive option, it would be prudent to have an emergency cell phone, since the commute is an hour each direction and my car is an older used vehicle...and much of the driving area is long stretches of interstate with many miles between exits.

3. I did not want to sign up for a plan, or buy another cell phone through a major provider.

In investigating this, Jack went in person to the office that had sold me my phone. His intention was to pay off any remaining bill, to make sure the number had been disconnected so the person who stole the phone couldn't run up charges under my name, etc. What he found out was very disconcerting...after having stated to the salesperson when I originally bought the phone that what I wanted was the least expensive, no frills one they had, I had been sold a much more expensive one. After having told her up front that I wanted a pay-as-you-go arrangement (which we already had, I was just re-affirming), she had signed me up with a long term plan WITHOUT MY SIGNATURE or KNOWLEDGE. And we owed $200, after having paid some on it already...very upsetting since I had been told the initial cost all told was $99.

I was NOT a happy camper. Despite a call to the higher powers, it was her word against mine. That is the last time I will use that company, and it's one of the best known nationwide ones. Stinky stinky stinky...

Well, anyway, here's what I did, at my husband's urging to do something...

I went to Walgreen's and bought the cheapest phone they had...$15...which was a Motorola and looks like any other basic phone out there, minus all the fancy stuff. It came with minutes already on it, and I bought $20 worth of additional minutes on one of those phone card minutes cards. The deadline date for buying more minutes to keep the phone operational is in December of this year. I'll only use the phone for emergencies...not for calling Jack and finding out what I need to get at the store, etc., but it solves that dilemma for us.

So I've paid $35.00 USD for over 70 minutes of stored call time, and I don't have to fiddle with it at all till December unless I use up the minutes by then...if I do, it's as easy as buying a $10 phone card to put more minutes on it. All told, with no additional minutes, that comes to a grand total of $5.00 a month for my phone. I can live with that!

We still have to figure out Jack's phone. Now that he's seen how affordable my phone is, he's thinking of changing from his cell phone's Big Company, to the cheapy Walgreens phone soon. That is, after paying off the (blippingbeepingfricketyfrackety) remaining $200 from my stolen phone.

We still have the home phone, and we love our home phone service because long distance anywhere nationwide is included in the one monthly charge, any time of day or night, any day of the week.

Whenever we move to our homestead (maythatdaycomequickly) someday, we'll choose the least expensive option and see how we can work that with an internet connection. That's all above my understanding, but by then we'll likely have figured it out.

There's the update...I feel much better having a phone that averages $5.00 a month for security reasons. For chatting, I'll have to stick to the home phone :)


Meg said...

Good for you! Our cell phone contract is up in a few months and we're investigating cheaper options ... we still feel some need to have our own phones, but even the minimum plans with most companies are way more phone then we need. I like your solution!

Carolyn said...

Sounds like a good solution to your problem.Great Job!

TOCCO said...

I just started selling with verizon.... I am learning bunches.... If I see anything helpful, I will let you know. Sorry your phone was stolen!

ilex said...

Wow, you're my hero- you've come up with a brilliant (and cheap!) solution to a necessity that we never knew we needed. I truly hate having a cell phone- I had to get a new one when I took my new job about a year ago, after being cell-phone free for 8 months. Gah. Someday, when I'm futzing with the chickens and repairing the water barrels and shelling peas for a living, I'll do what you did.

Beth said...

We had a very inexpensive plan with Alltel, but we've found that for what we were paying them for one phone we can afford 2 TracFones. My husband has one and my daughter and I share one. We don't use them to stand around chatting with friends in public. They are for emergencies or convenience...arranging pick-up times, adding to grocery lists,etc.

I don't know for sure how many minutes we use per month. But we've managed to keep our costs for two phones to around $20 per month.

Razor Family Farms said...

I hate phone companies. I know -- I'm not supposed to say hate and it's a strong word. Let me rephrase:

I hate, hate, hate phone companies.


No doubt about it.

I'm glad you found a solution! Very good.

Just a quick note about my site: it is under construction and will be up and running again soon. I miss it and can't wait to get back to blogging. Sigh. I love blogging and having blogging buddies.


City Mouse said...

I went though a big cell phone decision drama also, mostly because the cell phone is my only mode of communication when I am up at the homestead. I went with Verizon (Adks are Verizon country), and mostly because almost everyone I know has Verizon, so it's free phone to phone. So that seemed like the best choice for us.

Congrats on your solution - smart, dependable, and affordable. The prepaid phones seem to be getting very popular. I know several folks with them.

Wendy said...

So glad you found a solution that works. I hemmed and hawed about my cellphone, and in the end, I did much the same thing that you did - pay as you go deal.

tansy said...

i have tracfone and really like it, with the exception of all the advertizing i get through text messages, emails and paper mail. plus, i can get free double minutes since they offer it all the time. it might work for your husband.

Anonymous said...

This has been our solution too. We bought 2 cheap cellphones and bought a years worth of minutes for both. We've never had a cellphone through a company with monthy bills and fees and we've never regretted it. There were times this winter when Eric was stranded on the side of the road and the phone was a lifesaver. We never have these phones on, but always carry them with us, just in case. I think it is a wise choice, especially in case of emergency. Because Aden is anaphylactic, we will probably buy one for her as well when she's older and spends more time on her own, so that way help is always available to her.

Robbyn said...

Meg, I don't know what we'll do for our regular phone service on our oneday-homestead, but for now this'll work :)

Carolyn, thanks! Love how your garden is growing, and your vibrant bucket plantation :)

Thanks, christina! We've had nothing but good experiences with Verizon, as they are our land line at home. I don't know that they even do cell service here...seems Alltel has that neatly wrapped up locally. I wish you well at the new job!

Ilex, yeah, dontcha love how things seem to be set up where everyone assumes it's a necessity anymore? I had to have one with my job, too...and that's how it got stolen (fricketyfracketymumblegrumble)
If it were up to me, I'd just send smoke signals, but my Hub is the Mr. Be Prepared man. Thankfully, he has more sense than I do sometimes, and ergo we'll have some sort of phone at any given point, most likely :)

Beth, is a Tracphone similar to what I have? Sounds like you found a great solution!

Lacey, just how do you REALLY feel about cell phones?? ha!
I'll be checking out your new site...this one has to go down occasionally for a tune-up.

Hi City Mouse, and welcome! We'll have to do like you when we get our homestead, and see what works best in taht situation. For now, this'll do the trick :)

Robbyn said...

Tansy, the free double mintes sound like something I need to look into...thanks for the tip :)

Farm Mom, that just cements it for us, then. They are so affordable it doesnt seem safe to NOT have one in certain situations. You're right, you'd breathe easier if Aden had one when the right age...I do breathe easier that my daughter has one. Sometimes when the roads are bad or there's rough weather, it keeps me from waiting up all night to see if she made it safely to her destination.