Over the past few years, numerous moms have asked my advice about cell phone service for their kids. I tell them we don’t have smart phones (did you see the buzz on prepaid iPhones??). We all have Tracfones–a no-contract, pay-as-you-go service, and we love it. But as I always say, you have to choose a plan that works for your circumstances.

This phone costs $50! Not a bad deal for this Tracfone. There’s one like it, but more bells and whistles for $90.

So, why don’t we have smart phones? The whole world seems to have one, and my husband is the only one at his work who does not have one. He’s often made fun of. But when he tells people our family of four pays less than $600 a year for cell phone service (that means “air time”), people are shocked into silence. One family we know pays $2,400 a year for four cell phones (we’ve heard people who pay $300 a month for four phones, not all smart phones). And one smart phone is about $100 a month for all the services–$1,200 a year! Ouch. And people will readily admit they don’t use 90% of the features and functions of their smart phone.

One day we’ll have to succumb because the only cell phone will be a smart phone. But until then, we’ll stick to the cheap service.

But, let’s look at this a bit deeper:

I work from home, so there’s no need for me to have a smart phone. I talk on either my POTS land line or my MagicJackline (which has improved in quality over the years) and check my email from several computers in my home. I need my cell phone to communicate with my kids via text (their preferred way of communicating on the phone). With Tracfone, texting is cheaper than calling. Currently, I have a bit of an antiquated Tracfone that doubles my minutes when I buy any amount. And, I can access the Web with my phone, so there’s no problem checking email out and about if I can’t get Wifi on my iTouch (when I bring it with me). I spend about $120 a year to purchase air time. And I never, ever have service problems. Tracfone customer service both online and on the phone is pretty good and reliable.

The least expensive Tracfone is this Samsung version. This is my husband’s phone. It now goes for $10 (the whole package includes chargers, etc.) and double minutes. But it doesn’t have many features.

My husband works in a studio with all the technology he could ever need, and has an even older Tracfone than I do–he’s due for an upgrade come Father’s Day! He can’t access the Web on his oldie, but he hardly ever uses the phone–mostly for emergencies or to text a few friends and the kids. He spends about $100 a year on air time (also, his old phone does double purchased minutes, but that’ll change to triple minutes once we buy him an updated phone.) By the way, buying the actual Tracfone is extremely affordable, ranging from as low as $7 on sale up to $90 for a high-end touch-screen phone.

This is the Tracfone my kids have. They aren’t “embarrassed” to be seen with it since it looks somewhat up to date though it’s not a smart phone. We got them on sale for $20 each at Walmart.

Both our kid have better Tracfones than we do! They have the Qwerty keyboards, making texting a breeze. They are air time hogs, but that’s to be expected with middle schoolers. We spend a total of $360 a year (give or take $30 each kid) for their air time.I am in charge of buying air time for everyone. So when they need it, they let me know, and I can buy online or buy a card at a store. I can always find discount online codes to give me more free minutes/air time than I actually purchase.

This is my current Tracfone. I’m probably going to replace it soon, but it is still in great shape and it was a great deal for $10 on sale! (Update: my phone got wet and nothing can save it so I have to get a new one sooner than later. I don’t know which one to get! I kind of like that $50 touch phone above!)

Right now, I’m not willing to potentially pay $2,400 to $3,000 annually for four cell phones. I don’t know how much a contract would cost for our family. However Tracfone keeps getting cheaper and cheaper. First they added phones that double the minutes. Now they have phones with triple minutes! You can’t beat that for kids who text like crazy. So for their birthdays they will most likely get a new phone that has triple minute capacity. They’ll love it.

But as I tell people who ask me about cell phone service — you have to go with what works for your family. Tracfone works for us.

~Marilyn, TFF

8 thoughts on “Why I Love Tracfone’s Inexpensive No-Contract Cell Phone Service

  • Pingback: Please Enlighten Me: Why Does a Kid Need an Expensive iPhone? | Two Frugal Fairfielders

  • September 11, 2012 at 11:46 pm
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    sure u have a tracfone but i have my samsung galaxy 3 so my fone is like 10 times better stop being a cheapass

    • September 12, 2012 at 10:15 am
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      Hopefully your fancy, expensive phone has spell-check on it. You need it. :–)

  • Pingback: 5 Lessons I Learned to Lower Landline Phone Costs | Two Frugal Fairfielders

  • June 7, 2012 at 9:09 am
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    Im so glad you included pics of the phones. I thought tracfones were too low-end but Ive been proven wrong. I clicked through to tracfone’s site ( thanks) and saw that i can keep my number! ok – need to crunch my numbers now and see if this will be a good switch for me…Thank you!

    • June 7, 2012 at 4:14 pm
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      Marybeth,
      There’s even a $90 touch screen phone on Tracfone’s site. Not sure if you saw it. But I haven’t researched the difference between the $90 and the $50 versions. I believe the $50 is on sale for $38 on the website?? I’m tempted…
      ~Marilyn

  • June 7, 2012 at 6:32 am
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    Money saving advice indeed. If you are near a computer a lot, consider getting a google voice number. It’s the only number I use. My cell phone, home, and computer ring when I “attach” numbers to the line. I use the google talk to make long distance calls over the internet, use the chat/text feature for texting, and I don’t have to look at my phone screen to answer a text if I’m working on a computer. The nice thing about the google voice number is that if I decide to change, or lose my cell phone, I don’t have to notify a bunch of people of the change.

    • June 7, 2012 at 8:06 am
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      Thanks, Robin! The funny thing is that I have a Google voice number but I have NO idea how to use it. (I haven’t taken the time to really figure it out). But your comment inspires me to figure it out before they take the number away from lack of use. ~Marilyn

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