Save Money Ditching Your Monthly Smartphone Bill

7 July 2015

cell phone final

I know right from the beginning of this blog post many of you are going to think I am crazy. Why in the world would anyone consider cutting off their smartphone bill? Your cell phone can do so many things including text, connect you to your bank, play your music and much more. According to an article at CBC.ca, Canadians are paying some of the highest cell phone bills in the industrialized world. In the same article, they detail that basic plans can cost $37.92 per month, but depending on where you live can cost $62 to $92. Taking the lowest number of $37.92, you are spending $910 over the course of a two-year plan. If we take the higher rate of $92, your two-year plan can cost you $2,208. Those numbers just include the plan and do not include the device. That is a large chunk of change to spend when you look at those cold numbers.

You may look at me a little sideways to discover I do not have a regular functioning cell phone and most of the time no one is the wiser. That does not mean I avoid Facebook or miss the latest games. Being smartphone free just means I am not connected online all of the time. Below I have detailed the measures I have put into place so most of the time I can enjoy being smartphone free without feeling much impact.

Use Another A Portable Device

My device of choice is an iPod Touch. This device retails for about $250 on the lower end and does not require a data plan. The real secret is the iPod Touch when connected to wireless can do almost everything an iPhone can do. In fact my iPod is so versatile I often call it my phone without thinking. Free wireless is available at more restaurants, coffee shops, cafes and even shopping malls. I regularly hop onto hot spots to check in with my messages. While I highly recommend the iPod Touch, a small tablet could also perform most of the same functions a smartphone can perform.

Sending Messages

keyboard

Many of my friends and I chat through Facebook. When we are making plans, we use the messenger program, Facebook events or email to discuss our plans. Before I head out, I check my messages one last time to make sure there were no last-minute changes. Much of the time, everything runs smoothly.

If I am meeting someone and they do not arrive, I eventually find somewhere with Wi-Fi to check my messages. Every Tim Hortons and McDonald’s comes fully equipped with free Wi-Fi. Sometimes I can access it simply by parking near the building to check a quick message. There has been a few times where I needed to connect with someone quickly and had no access to the internet. Each time I politely borrowed a phone and called. If you are at a Wi-Fi spot, you can also send an e-mail as a text message by typing in the person’s number and their carrier's specific e-mail format. Check out the e-mails for most of the Canadian cell phone companies at Techwyse.

Emergencies

Emergencies are always one place where I have had others look at me strangely. What would happen if you were not connected and your family cannot reach you? The reality is I spend much of my time around the internet. Whether it is at work or at home, I am often connected to the Wi-Fi, and thus can connect to family and friends.

If you are concerned about driving, you can pick-up an inexpensive prepaid phone for as little as $45 at Best Buy Canada. A little phone like this can ensure you can make an emergency call or text if needed. I am fortunate that I can use my old phone as a pay as you go when I need it for longer distance travel. Some phones charge a small charge monthly to keep the phone activated, so research your options thoroughly to best fit your needs.

GPS

gps

I realize some people also use GPS on their phone so they feel like they are saving money not purchasing a separate device. I thought the same before I ditched my smartphone, but I figured out a few ways to work around it. GPS devices for your car generally range from $150 to $250. I am lucky as I currently have a GPS that was gifted to me. Despite being directionally challenged, I survived a year and a half without that portable GPS and did not have a smartphone. Before I left for somewhere new, I would map my directions on my iPod and take screen shots of the turn-by-turn directions. Then as I drove, I would simply flip through the photos. A few shots of the map around the final destination also helped me a few times when I was confused. If I get lost, I swing into a Tim Horton’s and hop on the Wi-Fi to sort it out. You can do the same, or simply purchase an inexpensive GPS for your needs.

So if we add up the devices I mentioned:

  • IPod Touch: $250
  • Prepaid Cell: $45
  • GPS: $150

The grand total is $445 invested to function similarly to having a smartphone.

The average low smartphone contract for two years (not including the device), as quoted from above, is $910.

I realize this idea is not for everyone. Smartphones have so many amazing features. Some of us end up places for long stretches of time without Wi-Fi and need the mobile connectivity. Besides being a frugal choice, I find that being disconnected for short bursts of time can be liberating. Instead of checking Facebook during my daughter’s dance lesson, I read a book or get to know other parents who are waiting also.

Bargainmoosers, would you ever consider getting rid of your smartphone?

(Image Credit: Tarkan Rosenberg, kimubert, Jimmy_Joe)

TOPICS:   Phones

18 comments

  • Isabelle
    I have. I have the iPod for when I'm on wifi - that's generally at my family's, or at work. No hot spots in town. Some hot spots when I got out of town (like Walmart). Generally though, I switched to my iPad. I have an iPad mini that I always have with me. I decided that instead of having a cell phone on a plan that cost me a LOT (~74$/month), I'd switch to the iPad - I was always carrying it with me anyways, so why not? It has 3G capabilities, so I did end up paying a little more for it. But now the iPad itself has the data plan. I generally keep the 3G off - it's 5$/month up to 10mb. But when I'm out and need it for something, when it's an emergency, or when I need the GPS, I just turn the 3G back on, and pay depending on usage (I'm usually in the 10-100mb range, which is 10$/month). I went this route over a year ago, and haven't regretted it since. It took a bit to get used to it, but the savings have made it worth it. Sure, I paid a little more for the 3G version, but give it two months, and the monthly phone plan vs the iPad plan, and the 3G was paid off. Plus I no longer need to buy an iPhone - I just get the iPod Touch for music, and other stuff I did with the iPhone that didn't use the internet, and I'm good to go. (that difference has paid off too)
    • Kristy R.
      I am glad it is not just me Isabelle floating out there in an ocean of smartphones. I feel like a bandit sometimes hoping on and off WiFi networks! That's handy to know about the iPad data plan and could completely replace the pay as you go cell phone. We were considering buying a new one anyways as they are very handy. That cheap $5 a month is enticing enough to consider purchasing one with 3G capabilities.
  • Mel
    No way! I too had an iPhone for many years and relied on wi-fi. Now that I've had my iPhone for going on a year, I am hooked, It's just too convenient all the things that it can do. Plus, I always says that "time in money" and it saves me a lot of time doing many tasks!
    • Kristy R.
      It really depends on just how much you are connected to WiFi. I found when I first started, I really evaluated what I needed and what was just convenient. I make use of the notes section frequently to jot things down to look at later. I have also found if you type out e-mails while off the grid, they send once you are back on WiFi. It is convenient to be connected all of the time though, and I agree it can save you some time. For me, the trade off of being locked into a two-year contract was not worth it.
  • Avigayil M.
    Cool idea. Not sure I could do it, but I can lower my cell bill by monitoring the amount of time I actually use it and then reducing my plan just to cover my needs.
    • Kristy R.
      I think that's what it comes down to, making sure you have your needs met for what you actually use. It is a need versus want dilemma! For me, I am near WiFi so much that it makes more sense at the moment to avoid being locked into a contract.
  • blob
    Use Fongo for free call with wifi with a real free local number! The best!
  • kingy
    There are apps that you can install that will give you a free phone number so you can make calls and text. Like blob said, Fongo is a good one, I've used Text Plus in the past.
  • Kristy R.
    Thanks for the app recommendations kingy and blob. I have used TextFree in the past, but it gives you a US number to text with. I will have to try out Fongo!
  • Susan W.
    I cut the cell phone cord, too. Wifi and Fongo mean I have a Canadian phone number to accept calls and I use Google Hangouts to make outbound calls to landlines in the U.S. and Canada for free. Also good to note, every cell phone in North America is capable of dialing 911 - with no cell plan - as long as you're in an area with cell coverage and the phone is charged.
    • Kristy R.
      Good to know about 911 always being available on the phone with no plan on the phone!
  • Rodney D.
    I've been preaching (and practicing) money-saving practices such as these for years now. I myself have a small, basic cell phone for roadside emergencies (through Petro-Canada Mobility, where $25 prepaid lasts 4 months of time if not used up, equaling to $75 for a year for an emergency cell phone (yes, with SMS text messaging) when on the road. I choose Petro-Canada Mobility only because we do not have 7-Eleven's in Quebec, and apparently the 7-Eleven SpeakOut service gives an even better cash to time coverage ratio, but since I haven't looked into this for months now, you best research 7-Eleven SpeakOut yourself before you quote me on this : ) When it comes to smart-devices, I myself prefer Android devices over iPod Touch or iPads: not only can you get one without commitment or contract for around $50 from major retailers (pay as you go, as mentioned in this article, which is at least $150 cheaper than the cheapest iOS alternative) but you also get an earpiece and a microphone integrated into the device (as it IS a smartphone and not just a media player or tablet: this allows you to use the suggested apps below to make and receive phone calls without having to use a set of earphones for call privacy). Furthermore, not only do Android devices perform practically everything that the iOS devices do, but they also give you the freedom to access your data and copy over photos, videos, music, etc. to and from your device simply by connecting your smartphone to your computer (no need to go through bloatware, DRM-prison software like iTunes to convert everything to and from iOS format before doing so). Now when it comes to apps in order to make and receive free unlimited phone calls and send and receive free unlimited SMS text messages, all using the wi-fi functionality of your device, the following suggestions are the apps I suggest most, and are all completely free of charge aside from banner advertisements integrated into the interfaces of said apps (an extremely small price to pay in my opinion). Note that these are apps that provide you with an authentic telephone number that can contact and be contacted by other actual telephone numbers, not a complicated scheme where both users must have the same app running and must communicate through said app (a pet peeve of mine regarding those who have written articles in the past promising free 'phone calls' and free 'text messaging' only to suggest instant messaging platforms such as Skype or FaceTime). Hopefully these pros and cons will help you make an informed decision. These are listed in no particular order: FONGO: Pros: Gives you a local Canadian 10 digit telephone number where you can receive unlimited telephone voice phone calls free and receive unlimited incoming SMS text messages free. This gives you a voicemail account, provides caller display, and provides call history (even when your device is not connected or turned off). Allows you to record your voicemail greeting. Cons: Inability to send SMS text messages without paying. Only outgoing telephone calls to MAJOR Canadian area code telephone numbers are given free - to smaller areas, payment is required in order to make these phone calls. Text Free by Pinger Pros: Gives you a local Canadian 10 digit telephone number where you can send and receive unlimited SMS text messages free (Canada and U.S. numbers) as well as receive unlimited telephone voice phone calls free. This gives you a voicemail account, provides caller display, and provides call history (even when your device is not connected or turned off). Cons: Outgoing calls to telephone numbers costs money (60 minutes of use is provided free for new users). Also, this app is INCREDIBLY battery and resource hungry (your device will slow down and your battery will drain much quicker when this app is installed). Text Free does not allow you to record your voicemail greeting. Text Plus by Gogii: Pros: Gives you a local Canadian 10 digit telephone number where you can send and receive unlimited SMS text messages free (Canada and U.S. numbers). The cleanest and most efficient of sms text messaging interfaces and much more battery and resource friendly than Text Free is. Cons: Telephone voice phone calls (sending or receiving) costs money. Gogii only gives 4 minutes of voice phone call use free to new users. For the past 6 months, phone call functionality has simply NOT worked for me (normally, I would receive notice of phone calls with call history and could place and or accept to receive calls at a fee, now I receive NO phone calls and cannot even place calls {this has been tested with three different smartphones of different makes and models}). Also, no voicemail account is provided (this represents the only suggested app of the group that does not provide one). Groove IP Lite / Ring.to Cons: (That's right, for this one I'm starting with cons...it is my post here of course: ) Gives you a U.S. based local 10 digit telephone number (you choose the US zone). Requires the Groove IP Lite app to place and receive telephone calls and requires the Ring.to app in order to send and receive SMS text messages (both apps use the same account). Incoming voice phone calls and incoming SMS text messages will most likely cost the person who is contacting you long distance fees if they are in Canada (the number provided to you is a U.S. based number, remember?) Pros: Send and receive unlimited SMS text messages free (Canada and U.S. numbers) as well as PLACE and receive unlimited telephone voice phone calls free (Canada and U.S. numbers). Gives you a voicemail account that can SEND your voicemails to your E-Mail address (NONE of the other suggested apps do this). Provides caller display, and provides call history (even when your device is not connected or turned off). Allows you to record your voicemail greeting. Well there you go, I know it's lengthy, but I'd assume that everything I've learned researching these matters for years can help others looking for the same kind of information. As I usually help viewers through my YouTube webpage, being a faithful BargainMoose reader, I'd be happy to help anyone reading this post with questions as well, simply contact me through my E-Mail address (contained in the next post)
    • Rodney D.
      If you have any questions, feel free to send questions to RodneyDickson@yahoo.com
    • Kristy R.
      Thanks for the detailed review, I'll have to check out some of these apps in action.
  • Wendy
    I picked up a used Samsung smartphone for $70 a few years ago and used it with a 7-Eleven Speakout SIM. When that phone died (from me dropping it multiple times I'm sure) I picked up a used iPhone 4 for $150. You don't have to have an expensive monthly plan or 2 year contract or spend several hundred dollars to have a smartphone and service. With Speakout if I just use the phone with no data (using free Wi-Fi spots when necessary) I can easily make $100 last me a couple years. If I chose to activate data it would cost me $10/mth. for low usage. I wouldn't want to be without my smartphone, but I'm definitely not willing to fork out hundreds of dollars for a phone or a monthly plan, so used smartphones and Speakout work perfectly for me!
    • Kristy R.
      That sounds like another happy marriage of working around the system to keep your bill low, and still getting the services you want. Great thinking outside the box!
  • joy
    I was fortunate enough to switch over to WIND when they still had Pay-as-You go. For $5 a month I get unlimited texting & incoming calls. For wifi, like you, I have learned all the hot-spots. Pretty much everywhere I go has free wifi, even the grocery store. If I absolutely need it I can use data on my phone which maxes out when I hit $2 usage for the day. All told I spend about $10/month of data/cell service.
    • Kristy R.
      I have been eyeing WIND when their promotions pop up. Having pay as you go and that cap on data as options is another great way to manage the data bill and keep it low per month.

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