A New Cell Phone Is More Than A Money-Saver, It’s An Obligation-Reducer

Getting a new cell phone is helping me achieve three of my goals for this year: cutting my expenses, simplifying my life and reducing my obligations to the big-business grid.

About 10 days ago, I bought a MetroPCS phone and signed up for their $40 per month plan that includes unlimited talk, text, web and all taxes and fees.

My old cell phone was with Nextel, a company that was absorbed by Sprint. Service on my Nextel phone has been declining since the company was taken over, and I’ve known for months that I would have to make a change.

I went with Nextel years ago because I needed unlimited Internet access from my phone for my bookselling business, something no other company offered at the time.

My change from Nextel to MetroPCS saves me $17 a month, allows me to have a new phone and gets me better coverage, better features and includes text messaging, if I should ever decide to text anyone.

Why I Chose MetroPCS

MetroPCS is available in most of the Southern and Eastern United States and in major cities on the West Coast. They don’t cover most of the Western U.S. or other countries, but similar pay-as-you-go and no-contract companies are available around the world.

Consumer advocates like Clark Howard recommend MetroPCS because they don’t require a contract and offer modern phone choices.

My phone cost $42 including sales tax at Walmart, and I was able to activate it by voice prompt from my car outside the store in eight minutes. If you want to keep the same number as your old phone, you have to visit a company store.

They have both company stores and authorized dealers, and you can also order online. I’ve seen phones for as little as $28 at Walmart and as much as $350 at a dealer in a local mall.

If I assume the phone will last one year, the cost for the phone will add $3.50 per month, making my actual cost $43.50 per month, still saving me around $13.50 per month over Nextel.

Here’s a statement of truth: The days of signing a contract to get a cell phone are over.

You can have a dependable, modern, easy-to-use, fully-featured phone for a reasonable price without signing a contract.

If you don’t want to go with MetroPCS or it isn’t available where you live, prepaid, by-the-minute phones are also good deals, and some of those — like Virgin Mobile — offer Internet access and other advanced features.

Does your cell phone service need an overhaul? Or are you doing better than I am? I’d love to know.

The Bigger Picture

I’m reducing my expenses because my income is down, and I’m also trying to take care of outstanding issues that have bothered me — like having a cell phone with declining service from a company that essentially no longer exists.

On Friday, I’ll tell you what I did about something else that bothers me — paying for trash service.

In general, however, I’d like to reduce the amount of business I do with companies that do business unfairly, take advantage of customers and require long-term, unreasonable commitments.

I’m careful how I spend my money, and I’d prefer to do business with companies that I can hold directly accountable when the offer bad service by dropping them. Signing a contract ties you down to a lengthy commitment even if you aren’t satisfied with the service you get, and that’s unfair and downright silly.

Ideally, I’d like to have a life that interacts with a few big businesses as possible. I don’t want to be involved in life’s economic systems any more than necessary.

Changing from a huge cell phone company to one that’s slightly smaller but offers more attractive terms isn’t a major step in the right direction, but it is a step. I save money, I save hassles and I get better service.

That’s not saving the world, but it’s a small part of making my life simpler. It’s also a deliberate step away from nonsense. And living a simple, deliberate life is my plan, my goal and my reality.


  1. Hi Gip! That’s weird about the post disappearing into the void like that. Glad you re-posted so I could find it!

    I have a love/hate relationship with my cell phone. My wife and I are under a contract, and we love our service – but it’s more expensive than we’d like.

    I’ve looked into pre-paid options up here, and I just don’t see any that are viable.

    The issue with cell phones where I live is that coverage can be spotty due to the tower locations and the terrain. Certain areas are just “dead zones”, even if they should (in theory) be covered by the existing towers.

    This issue is compounded by the fact that the major providers seem to own the towers around here, and while Virgin Mobile and the other companies can access them they’re “low-priority” traffic. In other words, the customers with the contracts get first dibs. Then probably the pre-paid customers of the people who own the towers. Then everybody else.

    It all depends on how much you need your phone. If your cell phone is a convenience that you could do without, the prepaid options are great.

    If you’re like me though and you use your cell phone as your primary means of business communication, the prepaid options don’t seem to cut it – at least not up here.

    Just my $0.02. 😀

    1. Coverage is spotty here no matter what carrier you’re with because of the hilly terrain and how geographically spread out the Fort Worth area is. People from out of town are always amazed how far it is from one thing to another here. People think of Fort Worth as a suburb of Dallas sometimes, but it’s 35 miles between them and there are lots of other towns inbetween no matter what route you take. People like me who live west of Fort Worth might see Dallas once a year or so.

      MetroPCS started here, so I assume some of their best coverage is here.

      Most of the prepaid phones use someone else’s network. Virgin Mobile, for example, uses Sprint PCS.

      I have my home phone roll over to my cell phone so that all calls to go one voicemail box. That also saves money and time for me.


      1. When I had a land-line phone I did the same thing – rollover to my cell phone, one voicemail. I had the interesting problem though that the land-line carrier didn’t do it right.

        With alarming frequency they’d “roll over” a call and it wouldn’t wind up going to either my cell or my cell’s voice mail. I have no idea where they routed it, but it just kept ringing and ringing.

        So when number portability came out, I just switched everything to a cell phone. It made life much easier. 😀

  2. My cell is for emergencies only, so I just have a basic model and the lowest minutes available. I’m with you – it really pays to reassess your needs every so often, so that you’re not paying for a lot of services – or a high end phone – you don’t need.

    Would you be willing to tell us a bit about your online bookselling business sometime? (Only as much as you are comfortable discussing) I’m interested in what types of books you have (rare, antique, etc) No particular reason, just that I love books and I’m curious 🙂

    1. My bookselling business almost isn’t worth talking about anymore. It’s not making much money because I don’t have much inventory. I’ll try to figure out ways to talk about it more. Thanks for asking.

  3. Hi Gip!

    Glad to hear you made the switch! I have Straight Talk from WalMart and I have to admit that their service is pretty good. The monthly cost is the same as yours and I love that. Ideally I would like to get a smart phone but that will have to wait since finances are low. The phone I have now suits me just fine for now and I can’t complain.

    1. I don’t want a smart phone. The one I have will access the Internet, and that’s good enough for me. It also has a built in camera that’s pretty good, so I might get some benefit from that.

  4. Hey Gip, before I forget, I’d love to hear more about your book business too as I also love books! Just an idea for another post 😉

    As far as cell phone’s go, I am seriously attached to my smart phone (an HTC Evo). But you’re smart to stay away bc once you get one, it’ll be hard to go back. My plan is pretty good though, I don’t pay that much for it, altho it IS more than $40/month. I have been with Sprint for at least 8 years and I have also noticed that service has begun to decline, but not to the point where I need to drop them. Compared to AT&T, they have far superior service and plan prices too. But that’s neither here nor there, since you seem to have found a great deal that works for you!

    As for cutting costs, why don’t you consider getting rid of your home phone? If you get unlimited minutes, what’s the point of a home phone anymore?

    1. I’d love to get rid of my home phone, but I can’t quite do that yet. More on that another time.

      I suppose AT&T has the best coverage around here, but no one seems to have complete coverage in this area because of the way the area is laid out.

      In any case, I’ve heard that the Evo is a great phone. I think it is often recommended as the best value in smart phones.

      I’m sure I’ll have more on saving money and reducing obligations in the coming weeks.

  5. I’m with Marianney, couldn’t live without my Ipone (well I probably could but who would want to). I was very reluctant at first at giving up my cheap little cell pbone which did all I needed. But my Iphone is just in a different league. Probably unfair to talk about it when you’re trying to economise so I’ll justify having it by telling you that it enables me to navigate pubic transport in a relatively new city so that I don’t need a car. When I do hire a car it helps me navigate that too.

    I think my next post will have to be around money. I’m wondering if winding your expenses back too far can actually stop the flow of incoming money. Remember how I said that there always seems to be just enough and no more? Well this was affirmed for me again yesterday. I’ve needed a medical procedure that my medical insurance wouldn’t cover, for some time now. Finally I went to the doctor prepared to go on a public health waiting list. I obviously didn’t look like a kind of public health person to my new doctor who straight away gave me a private referral. I really did not want to spend thousands on this procedure so I put the letter away and asked God/the Universe to please take care of it. Within a couple of days I got another good writing gig so I thought I’d check out how much the procedure would cost me. The person I spoke to literally said ‘Don’t come here, we’re far too expensive and gave me the number of another clinic that specialises in what I need . Turns out it will be quite affordable there after all.

    Start with little things. If you really need something just ask for the resources and they seem to arrive.

    1. I’m looking very forward to your post about money. I can see how cutting too much could close off some channels. And I can also see how living a life of excess could do that too.

      I feel very much called to simplify and be diligent in reducing the physical, emotional and financial clutter from my life while still living as grandly as possible.

      Thanks for the example. It make sense to me. I love how solutions appear at the moment they are needed, just like the money seems to.


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