What To Do About Our Cell Phone Plan?

Last week my wife called me with bad news.  She was over at her parents house and dropped her phone on the tile floor.  The phone still worked but the screen was shattered.  The funny thing is that the phone still worked, and after my father-in-law put a piece of packaging tape over, the immediate danger of cracked glass was limited.

So, for the moment my wife is living with this mess of a phone:

But we’re not exactly sure what to do next.

The setup

My wife is on a Sprint  family plan with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.  My wife was on the plan first, and the other two lines were merged in later.  Thus, my wife is technically finished with her contract and is eligible for a new phone.  The other two lines are also eligible for a full upgrade, but are still under contract until July 29th (Sprint allows you to get a full discount a few months before your contract is up).

The issue

My wife could just go to the store and get a new phone, and could get it at a full discount. The issue is that it would lock her (and presumably the other two lines) into another two year contract.

And we’re not sure if we want to stay with Sprint.

Up until last summer, there were four lines on the plan.  I was the other line.  But, my employer offered to provide me a phone, and since I was done with my contract and it would save us about $40 per  month, I took them up on the offer.

My employer is on AT&T and I have to admit, their service and network is much better.  Sprint has still not rolled out 4G LTE service in the area.  Yes, according to Sprint, it’s OK to offer service two generations behind what everybody else offers.  Also, Sprint just doesn’t have a great network.  They actually provided us an Airave signal booster to make their phones usable in our house.  Sprint phones barely work in my in-laws house, my parents house, and last year when we were camping, there was one campground where we even got a hint of service (where I saw campers at other sites using their phones with no problem).

Since our employer has a deal with AT&T, we could get a discount on our service.  If we transitioned all three lines, the overall cost difference would be minimal.

The issue is that the other two lines can’t transfer (without paying an early termination fee) until July 30th.

Here are the options:

Stay with Sprint

If my wife, her mom, and her sister were to agree to stay on Sprint, my wife could just go get the phone replaced and nothing would really change.  Nobody loves Sprint, but everybody knows it’s inferior service.  Maybe they’ll upgrade service and coverage?

Stay with the broken phone

My wife could stick with the broken phone for another two months, at which point everybody could transition.  However, my wife doesn’t think the phone will last that long and has made it clear she does not like this option.

Utilize insurance for two months

We have insurance on the phone so we could actually get it replaced.  However, there is a cracked screen deductible of $100.  This would give her a usable phone for two months.  At that point, some of the cost could be recovered if the phone could be sold, but it’s a pretty old model and I wouldn’t expect it to fetch more than $25-50.

Have my wife transition first

My wife could go over to AT&T, and the other two lines could follow in July.  The issue is that my wife’s plan would cost roughly $90 per month, while only dropping $40 per month from Sprint. This would essentially equal the cost of just paying the cracked screen deductible (and could turn out worse if you assume salvage value of the phone).

Borrow or buy a beater

We could look around to see if we could borrow an unused phone or buy a cheap one to get us through the next couple of months.  You can buy some older phones for $50, and you’d hope that you could get some of that back in a couple of months, but who knows? Also, Sprint would likely charge the $36 activation fee in this case.

What to do?

Ideally, my wife would not have dropped her phone, or would have done so closer to the July 30th time where we could leave.  But, fate didn’t work out that way so we’re in a strange position.

Any recommendations on what to do?  I know the best answer from a financial standpoint is to try to live with the current phone but I know my wife doesn’t like this idea (and I don’t blame her).  What would your ‘next best’ option be if you were in my shoes?  Has anybody heard how Sprint’s service upgrade is going? I’ve heard that they are rolling out 4G LTE and you’d have to think this would be a requirement across the board if they want to keep up.

Thanks, readers!

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29 thoughts on “What To Do About Our Cell Phone Plan?

  1. You only have to make it two months. Just get a beater phone or suck it up and pay the insurance deductible.
    My Financial Independence Journey recently posted..Memorial DayMy Profile

  2. I spent or wasted good amount of time looking for cell phone deals and I believe I found the best one. Our family just switched to T-Mobile family plan for $170 a month and that’s for 5 unlimted text, talk and data. Data is 2GB on 4G speed and after speed reduces down to 3G.

    Told everyone I met over the weekend and everyone I told couldn’t believe I chape it was.
    Peter recently posted..How to Get Out of Debt – Create a BudgetMy Profile

  3. I had a similar issue. I didn’t break a phone, but when we moved our home is in a pocket where our previous provider had no service. It’s crazy, but only Verizon has service for a couple mile radius. Fortunately we were about at the end of our contract. All I did was buy a very cheap prepaid phone to get me through. I think I paid $12 for this really awful tiny little phone, but it worked. At the time I rarely used my cellphone.

    Of course, this isn’t going to work for someone who relies on a smart phone and any savings depends on whether you can find a really cheap phone and just how much your wife uses it.
    Betsy / CollegeMom recently posted..Innovative ways to save energyMy Profile

    • If we did do something like that, I would hope we could recover some/all of the cost by re-selling it.

  4. Well, one thing I think immediately is this is an opportunity to look at budget plans, you are so near the end of your contract that finding something temporary to close that out – or even switching just her first to a lower cost carrier might be a good option.

    Have you considered firms like MetroPCS etc as alternatives? I would imagine you would see large savings on your bills if you did…
    Matt from Saverocity recently posted..Drop Shipping For Manufactured Spend, Day 2My Profile

    • No, but maybe we should. I think the network coverage is an issue with any of the prepaid in this area.

  5. I’ve been out of contract for about a year now, but since we’re on family plan I’ve been in the same boat as your wife. I’d be paying more for a new phone on individual plan (even with a new carrier) than the amount reduced for me leaving the plan, and the parents’ phones can’t go with me for over a year.

    However, my hubby told me that Sprint is actually changing their Terms of Service July 1st, which means people that are currently under contract can get out of their contract with no ETFs (Early Termination Fees). I had just gotten my parents and my MIL new phones last summer, and my dad’s already had to be sent to the manufacturer this year to be fixed. He has the same phone as my mom, but he constantly was losing signal when my mom’s phone wouldn’t. Now the “fixed” phone is acting up again. If my dad can hold out until July 1st, I think we’ll be moving to another carrier and new phones.

    • A month might be do-able. I will have to look at the TOS change to see if this is a way out for us.

  6. I went Sprint -> Ting, a MNVO for Sprint (same network). So, we get the same exact service we used to get with cheaper service.

    It was a $580 bill that made me move (haha). My wife has been burning the minutes recently, but we did ~1,500 extra minutes, 500 extra MB and 200 extra texts in April and it was only $133 total. I won’t spam your comments, but I have a review somewhere in my archives (or ask me if you’re interested, I’ll send you a screenshot)
    PK recently posted..Personal Finance 101My Profile

    • I just switched to TING when my Sprint contract was up, but found I couldn’t live without data. I formerly used 1.5 GB a month and trying to get by with 1000 MB was impossible. But the service was fine and works well for my husband who has no desire to use the data. If you have the Sprint SERO plan like I do, I would just renew again and get a new phone. If you use data you will find that the other Sprint providers (Ting, Republic Wireless) won’t be cost effective due to high data costs. When the other two contracts are up just keep the phones and they are usable on the pay as you go plans with Ting, if you decide to do that.

    • It’s definitely the best cost, but they’re still running a 3G network with pretty poor coverage. If they proved that they are going to step it up, staying would be a no-brainer.

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