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Recently I decided to stop overpaying for my mobile/cellular phone service. At $150 per month for two lines, I realized there had to be a better and cheaper way.

Finding a New Plan

Locking myself and my wife into a neverending stream of contracts, two year commitments on a phone barely designed to last one and a half. Even the top model phones can’t stand two years of service, losing battery life and generally acting like a ten year old shitty computer after a few months of use.

Smartphones have become an integral part of our lives. Just sit on a park bench or watch people on public transportation. Hell, just walk people walking down the street, sneaking a look every few steps at the ground to make sure they don’t get run over by a car. And the recent story where a woman died after running back into her burning house for her cell phone, injuring a police officer in the process, shows more than anything that our smartphone addiction is reaching dangerous heights.

So in addition to saving money, I challenged myself to do away with the 24/7 smartphone. Republic Wireless, one of the newer cell providers that resell access to the networks of Sprint and Verizon, has a $10 per month cell phone plan that gives you data access only on wi-fi. That means when you are travelling between your home and office, or out camping, you won’t be able to surf the web. I know that most of you couldn’t stand the idea of not being able to distract yourselves on a boring train ride to the office, but I’ve been without a smartphone for about two months and I am happy to report that I don’t miss it.

How Much Am I Saving

The first thing I did was do the math. My wife still had a year in her contract on an iPhone 4, and I had two months left in my two year agreement. I called AT&T to inquire about my early termination fees. To cancel both lines and break my contract would cost $380. Many would balk at a fee like that, and in fact, fees for early termination are the number one reason in my unofficial survey that friends and colleagues hesitate to make the jump. One of the benefits of financial independence is that you are able to spend money to save money. So that’s what I did.

I figured out that waiting the extra two months to cancel my phone when the ETF went away would actually cost me $100 more than just cancelling immediately. That’s because of the monthly rate for the service. I also did the math a bit further and found that it would only take 5 months to reach my “break even point,” which is the date by which I will have saved enough by switching to pay for the $380 fee. After that, the ETF would be zeroed away, as well as the $300 additional funding I would need to buy two new phone from Republic Wireless. I would be saving $105 per month, every month, going forward.

So my upfront costs were actually $680 – hence the notion of spending money to save money. If I hadn’t paid off $100,000 in debt and not been living debt free, I might not have been able to do this. Time is money, and I have both, so I could do it.

My cell phone bill went from $150 per month for two phones to $45 per month. That’s with me getting the $10 per month cell phone plan, and her getting the $25 per month cell phone plan. The difference between them? She gets unlimited 3G data wherever she is, I don’t. That’s because she is a stay-at-home mom taking care of two kids, and living in a fairly unfamiliar city, we don’t want her to be without GPS or the ability to look up needed information when out and about.

How Does Republic Wireless Work?

Republic Wireless offers four rate plans, and almost all of them are cheaper than any of the major providers like Sprint and Verizon. They make money by operating on a dual calling system: when you are connected to Wi-Fi, your telephone calls are routed through the internet via a VOIP protocol. When you aren’t on Wi-Fi, they use rented access to existing providers, as MVNOs. Republic’s hope and belief is that most of us are connected to a Wi-Fi access point at most times, and the free usage they get during those times will more than pay for the times they need to access the paid cellular networks.

Those are the positives, so let me tell you about the negatives, which may actually not be negatives for you. Republic only offers two phone options, the Moto G for $150 and the Moto X for 180-200 (these prices will vary based on when you are reading this). That’s because the phone must be preconfigured to use their unique dual access calling system. If you want to save even more money, Republic allows you to purchase a used Republic Wireless phone from another ex-user or upgrader and activate it.

We both got the Moto G, and I will say that I like it as much as my older HTC One X that I ditched. My wife likes the phone more than her iPhone 4 because the camera actually turned out to be quite good and she likes the larger screen.

I haven’t noticed noticed any call quality issues that would make me not recommend their services. Obviously you’d be best served by living in an area where Sprint gets good coverage. The only issue I had was when I returned from vacation, I forgot to switch my phone from the $5 per month plan of Wi-Fi only, and went to a wedding. Realizing that I had to switch back to my $10 per month cell plan, I could not do so because Republic Wireless requires you to have wi-fi access to do so. So this negative was actually my fault, and was the result of a really good positive, which is that Republic Wireless allows you to switch your cell plan twice a month. So if you are going out of the country for two weeks, you can drop down to the $5 per month wi-fi only plan, which leads me hahaha to another negative, which is that Republic Wireless phones do not work internationally…but…if you are connected to Wi-fi overseas, you can use your phone just like you were in the USA. Your friends can call you for no extra fee, and you can call them without dialing international codes or prefixes.

Is It Worth Switching?

If you want to save some real money and can live with the minor downsides, or if you want to try to limit your smartphone use, Republic Wireless is highly recommended. For my family, we are saving $105 per month, which is definitely enough to convince me to switch. The main driver was the frustration of paying $150 per month, and some upcoming costs that were going to rise (rent). In addition to switching our cell phone service, I switched auto/renter insurance providers, saving another $35 per month. Sometimes smart money management is staying even at zero in a time of rising costs.

Are you looking to switch your cell phone plan too?