Please Enlighten Me: Why Does a Kid Need an Expensive iPhone?

Touch screen Tracfone
This phone costs $50! Not a bad deal for this Tracfone. Now it’s at the bottom of a sewer, unfortunately.

Last week, some kids with iPhones made fun of my daughter’s nice touch Tracfone. Then, one of her friends told her, “All I have to do is throw my phone out and say it broke and my mom will go out and buy me a new phone right away.” Because my daughter had her eye on a Blackberry-clone Tracfone model, she acted on this terrible advice. She threw her perfectly good phone down the sewer and lied to us that a dog ate it. Luckily she’s a terrible liar.  Continue reading “Please Enlighten Me: Why Does a Kid Need an Expensive iPhone?”

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5 Tips to Lower Your Landline Phone Bill

I thought it would be easy to reduce my phone bill. Ha! A few lessons learned about cutting through the phone company’s red tape.

att answering machine
Buying a digital answering machine for $15 means we can eliminate the $10 a month charge for “unified messaging” on our phone bill! At least now we’ll be able to see when we have messages.

Yes, I still have POTS (plain old telephone service) that works well even when the electricity goes out. I’m sure readers have other solutions that work for them, and they will want to know why we don’t have U-verse, Vonage, etc., etc.  We have an AT&T landline and high-speed Internet access, and that’s what I want to stick with…but for a lower cost. I have a VoIP MagicJack line and separate phone, bought years ago, that I use for business for a few bucks a year and the quality has only gotten better over time, thank goodness. And as anyone who follows TFF knows, I am deliriously happy with our cheap Tracfone cell phone service (read about it here). It’s what works for our family and keeps our bills low.  Continue reading “5 Tips to Lower Your Landline Phone Bill”

Why I Love Tracfone’s Inexpensive No-Contract Cell Phone Service

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