01 March 2014

Why I Brag About My Cell Phone Bill (And How You Can Too)

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I was not paid to write it, and all opinions are my own.

I'm probably turning into a broken record, but when something awesome happens, I just have to brag.

Remember how I decided to join the 21st century and delve into smartphone-land??

Well, I did a TON of research. All online during naptime, of course. I knew I wanted a no-contract plan. I learned that if you don't always want the latest and greatest phone, then that's the way to go. Contract plans give you free or discounted phones, but the price of them is just being rolled into your plan. I've had the same dumbphone for 4 years (the background picture on it is one I took of B when we were engaged--that was 2009), so I'm quite obviously not a latest-and-greatest addict. The no-contract plans that run on Sprint's network (Sprint MVNOs, the technical term) seemed to be the best bang for the buck and most were rated quite highly. Just as I was about to pull the trigger and join Virgin Mobile, an internet stranger on a forum pushed me toward Ting.

Smart, smart, smart internet stranger. I had a learning curve to all this, but he explained it all and even gave suggestions of which phone I should get and how buy a Ting-compatible one on Ebay. (It was actually rather simple.)

I settled on the Samsung Galaxy S3. Ting sells devices, but it's kind of expensive, Instead, I bought a refurb (with a warranty! and chargers!) on Ebay for $175. I know this phone is a freebie on most of the contract plans when you sign up, but it basically gets rolled into your heavy phone bill.

$175/24 months (the length of most contracts) = $7.29 per month (keep this number in mind)
My new pride and joy, complete with purple otterbox
Setting it up with Ting was super duper simple. They don't have any physical stores so it's all online. I haven't had to call their customer service yet, but everyone online raves that a live American person picks up after a few rings. I even got a new phone number since I was tired of having a number that belonged to the area I haven't lived in since 2006.

The thing with Ting that scares a lot of people is that you pay per usage. Not what you think your usage will be, but what it actually is at the end of the month. My bill for my first month with my first smartphone on Ting was . . .

 . . .

wait for it . . .


Don't believe me? Well, here's my actual bill with usage price plus fees.

Yes, that includes all the wacky taxes and fees. So add my $7.29 (monthly cost of my phone) to that, and it was $31.74 for the full cost of my phone for my first month.

Also, I said above that this plan works on Sprint's network (so I had to get a Sprint phone, which was no big deal.) What I didn't say was that this plan also roams onto Verizon's voice network. At no extra cost! This is one of the main reasons I chose Ting over Virgin Mobile.

That means you're covered by 2 of the nation's largest networks when making a real live phone call. I put this to the test shortly after I got it. My in-law's house has notoriously bad reception with Sprint--my BIL says he has had to walk down to the end of the driveway (which is a looooong  one) to take a phone call. It's winter in Indiana, so that was just not an option I wanted to entertain. But then a few hours later, there I was happily chatting away on the phone with my mom while in my in-laws' kitchen, nary a care in the world about crappy reception.

My husband B decided to join in on this after an unfortunate work-iPhone-in-the-toilet incident that left him phone-less for a bit, and now we have 2 devices on our plan. He also bought the same phone off of Ebay, and our bill this month look like this:

Like all wonderful things, there are definitely a few drawbacks to Ting. The first one is that with multiple devices, you still get charged for each person's use (as far as I can tell). So if B calls me and we talk for 20 minutes, we get charged for 40 (there's no differentiation between incoming/outgoing in the billing). Same with texting.

Also, if you're a super-de-dooper heavy user in any category (2GB, 4800 texts, 2100 minutes), Ting is probably not for you. Here's the rate table:
I highlighted what we used last month, so the figure at the bottom is our total.
Although I just did the math on heavy users and it's not bad. $15 for 1GB, 25¢ for 100 extra texts, and $1.90 for 100 minutes.

I've been surprised by how many megabytes we DON'T use. Since I'd never had a smartphone, I had trouble gauging what my data usage would be. Well, it turns out that almost everywhere I go has wi-fi. And with the winter being the way it has been, I haven't exactly been sitting on park benches checking Twitter. B even showed me an easy way to disable data on my phone so it isn't constantly searching if it loses the wi-fi signal. When I know I'm not near wi-fi and need data, I just go to my settings and turn it back on. In 2 clicks, I have 4G LTE speed data. This simple trick dropped me from 97MB in the first month to a whopping 8MB in the second.

Ting's website has a handy-dandy savings calculator, if you want to see how much you could save.

Some other cool things about Ting is that there is a referral program, so if you use my link, you'll get a $25 credit, and I get a kickback, too, of course. (So, yes, my first month was actually FREE, thanks to the that!) I'd probably still be writing this post even without the kickback, since I heart frugality and I'd call this one of my better decisions. And if you want to get out of your contract and switch to Ting, they offer up to $75 to help with that. Ting also is easy to use and you can cap your amounts in each category or just set up alerts. I can check my usage any time on the app on my phone.

So, I'm obviously very, very happy with Ting! Other low-cost plans that I seriously considered were Virgin Mobile and Republic Wireless, so those might be a better fit for you. Reddit's NoContract forum was a big help. New plans seem to crop up overnight, so I'm sure I'll lose touch eventually, but for now, I'm happy that I finally joined smartphone-land/the 21st century without breaking the bank.


  1. This is really neat, Cat! I might be signing up for this! I will definitely use your referral.

  2. Wow!! That is amazing! And you have totally inspired me to look into Ting! We recently bought factory unlocked smart phones to prepare for the deployment, but we haven't switched them on yet or transferred anything. If we decide to go with Ting, I will definitely be using your referral! P.S. Can I share this blogpost on my FB page? :)