Why We Decided To Pay More For Our Cell Phone Plan

I have been blogging about personal finance for quite a long time, and in doing that, I’ve gotten to read a lot of other great blogs.  One of the common themes that many great personal finance bloggers write about is trying to cut costs, and one big area is to reduce their cell phone bill.

Well, here I go going against the grain.  See, we just recently decided to start paying MORE.

Here’s the breakdown and our reasons.  Let me know what you think.

Old Plan: The Sprint Unlimited Data Plan with four lines

We have been customers of Sprint for years.  I think my wife and I figured out that she has been with them for almost fifteen years.  It’s been a long time.

Our plan with them was a family plan, and in addition to my wife and I, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law were also on the plan.  The total cost was around $224, so our two lines cost us $112 per month.  We had limited minutes that we never came close to, and unlimited data, because when we signed up for the plan, minutes were still the measuring stick.  Now, of course it’s minutes.

New Plan: Verizon ‘The New Plan’ with 16GB of shared data six lines

We decided to switch to Verizon.  We talked between the four of us and all agreed to move over.  In addition, my parents also decided to hop on board, as they were hitting the end of a deal that they’d had that saved them a lot of money, but frankly, was very limiting in what it offered and had very poor customer service to boot.

Any new plan now has capped data limits.  The days of unlimited data are behind.  So, after a trial run and some mb-2015-12-walletconversations, we settled on the 16GB plan.  Now, calls and texts are free.

After splitting up the costs, our monthly bill for the two of us should end up around $130 per month.

Why We Are OK With Paying More

Most people would cringe with the thought of paying more money.  But, here’s why we were OK with making the change.

  1. Coverage at home – Our Sprint service around our house was terrible.  And, we are in a pretty densely populated suburb.  We had very poor coverage in our home.  Three doors down from us on the same street, the coverage improved dramatically.  We started learning that there were boundaries that we fell right into the edge of, so that we knew that the end of our street and the end of our subdivision and the nearest intersection were all dead spots.  Between this and how frequently we dropped calls, it became pretty clear to me that Sprint did not overlap their coverage between towers at all.  So, they could show on a map that our area was ‘technically’ fully covered, but in real life it wasn’t.
  2. Coverage away from home – We do a lot of camping at various parks around the state.  Most of the camping is in rural areas.  When you look at a coverage map, Sprint doesn’t even try to pretend that they offer coverage.  And, since they run their network on a completely different standard than any other major carrier, roaming wasn’t an option.  There was only one park out of about eight or nine that we rotate through that we had adequate service.  The rest offered limited or no service at all.  We have other family members on Verizon and they always had signal.  For safety and convenience and with the number of days per year that we are away, it was important to us to have reliable service.
  3. It actually could be considered a reduction in spending – So, we’re paying $130 now versus $112 previously. That’s an increase, right?  Technically, yes, but in an apples to apples comparison it’s not so simple.  See, with Sprint, we had that rate with a subsidized phone purchase. We’d all gone past our two year agreement and owned our phones outright, yet the cost was still $112 per month.  With Verizon, part of our $130 is actually paying for our hardware.  After two years, that cost drops off.  So, if you look at just the cost of the ‘plan’, we’re actually paying about $70 per month.  The other $60 is paying off our hardware.
  4. Gift cards – We signed up for our plan via Best Buy.  They had several promotions that netted us $600 in Best Buy gift cards.  If you divide that over the 24 months we’re paying for the phone, it’s like w’re getting $25 per month back.

Why Not A Lower Cost Provider?

As I mentioned above, I’ve seen a lot of great success stories about cutting cell phone bills.  Trust me, I read many of these articles and tried to see if there was any way we could duplicate the success.  The one big stumbling block is that most of the lower cost, non-major carriers offered in our area all piggy back off of one major carrier’s network.  Which one?



So, basically, we could have ditched Sprint, gone to somewhere else and paid half the price, and ended up with the same crappy service.  And, actually it would have been worse.  See, the service in our house was so bad that they provided us an in-house range extender that was free, and wasn’t compatible with any non-Sprint phone, even if it used their network.

In short, no thanks.

Why Pay For Hardware?

One other question I knew we might get is why we are paying that much per month for the hardware.  We could have gotten cheaper hardware, but our justification is that we use our phones as our primary tool for communication.  I haven’t bought a PC or laptop in almost ten years.  My wife got a new laptop last year, but that was mainly because of her needing it to run her online business.

Outside of that, our phones do the work.  So, for us, having devices that are fast, cutting edge, and with lots of storage matter.  We can justify the cost by the fact that we use it.

Part of the $600 we got in gift cards was for the opportunity to trade in one of the devices that had held very good value.  This is always a consideration, as well, because I would have to think that in 2-3 years when we may be ready to look again, we could take advantage of similar opportunity.   Cheaper phones would be worth little or nothing, so the gap could actually be much smaller than it appears.

Bottom Line

So far, we’re happy with our new phones and happy with our plan.  A capped data plan is something that we’ll have to get used to.  We did a lot of research and we’re more than comfortable with our decision.

While nobody likes to pay more for something, it does make it worthwhile when you get positive value along with the increase.  With the newer hardware and the service that is hands down the best in the area, the extra cost is met with tangible value.  For us, that makes it a win.

Readers, what do you think of our decision to spend more on cell service?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How Many Ways Can One Repair Shop Break an iPad?

Every once in a while, my sister-in-law stays over at our house.  We live fairly close to her work, and if she has something else going around our part of town, she’ll sometimes crash in the guest bedroom.  A few weeks ago, she was staying over and came out of her room, upset.  She had dropped something on her screen and now had a cracked iPad.

It was still usable but definitely not something you want to live with long term.

Repairing A Cracked iPad

She looked around but was finding most screen replacements to cost in the neighborhood of $125-150.  Money has been a bit tight so she was holding out for a better deal.

I came across a Groupon where it advertised that they would do replacements for “as little as $85.”  Trying to be helpful, I sent her the link.

I looked up the place and it was basically a side business off of a cell phone sales shop, where I’m guessing they sold phones from different carriers and plans.

She called and asked some questions and they directed her away from the Groupon and said that they actually had a deal where they replaced the screen on the iPad mini for $75.  So, she dropped it off.

mb-2016-05-crackShe said that to this point, everything seemed pretty straightforward, and that they said they would have the repairs done the next day.

Starting To Get The Runaround

The next day they called and said that they were running a day behind.  Hmmm….red flag?

So, the following day she drove down there to pick it up and was told that it still wasn’t ready.  She was a bit upset by this point because the shop is out of the way and added about an hour drive to her day.  Time that she would now have to repeat.  They promised that it would be a day or two longer (I think Sunday was somehow part of it and they may have been closed).

On Monday, she called and received even more bad news.  They admitted that while replacing the screen, they had somehow broken the power button.  So she now had a new screen but they needed to fix the button.

At this point they refunded the money and promised that it would be another day or two to replace and repair the button.

From Bad To Worse

Another day or two passed, and shockingly, things didn’t improve.

At this point, my sister-in-law turned the handling of the situation over to her boyfriend, who she figured would be a little bit more forceful to the situation.  (He’s a big guy and I definitely wouldn’t want to mess with him). At that time, she also mentioned potentially taking them to small claims court, at which point the relationship started to break down and the guy got mad and said that they would not award her anything if she didn’t give them time to fix it.

So, they waited a few more days.  By this point, I think the reality was setting in that they had really screwed up this device.  They still had the opportunity to make it right.

They didn’t take it.

10 Days In With No Signs Of Improvement

On about day 10 to this whole thing, the person from the store said that he couldn’t fix it but that he was going to make it right and that he had personally made an appointment to take it into the Apple store the next day and would have it repaired.

My sister-in-law’s boyfriend found out that you can call the Apple Store and verify, by the device serial number, if in fact there is an appointment scheduled.

I’m sure you can guess that there was no appointment scheduled.

He texted them asking them why this was, and tried also calling.  At this point, they stopped responding altogether.

My sister-in-law is good friends with a lawyer (they went to college together), and she called and asked for some legal advice.  He advised moving forward with small claims court, and also offered to write a letter on her behalf.  I don’t think the letter really said much, but the lawyer speak was largely designed to get them to respond.  Basically, at this point they just wanted to scare him.

It worked.

A Less Than Ideal Resolution But Still A Resolution

The guy called my sister-in-laws boyfriend and said that he was done, that he was not working on this anymore and that they could pick up the f-ing iPad. Exact quote!

My sister-in-law took to the web.  She went on Yelp and a couple of other sites and immediately posted one-star reviews and detailed the situation,of course advising people against ever working with this business.

The guy called and cussed some more at her and tried the ‘scare tactic’ threatening to sue her for slander.  She laughed and told him that it’s not slander if every word is true, which it was.

The day after that some reality called in.  He called again and offered to pay her near-replacement cost for a new iPad.  She just had to go down and pick up the money.  The following day she went (with others as backup) and picked up the money.

The funny part about it is that the owner’s father was in the store when she went to pick up the money, and he got mad and started cussing….at his son.  He knew that his son had messed up the situation so badly that he couldn’t even come to his defense in the slightest.


When A Repair Shop Makes It Worse

It turns out that they completely messed it up.  She has her iPad with a new screen but everything else doesn’t work.  Her boyfriend knows someone who looked at it and said that on top of everything else, the system board was damaged and that it is useless.  She’s wondering if they did it on purpose.

Looking back, several things pop to my head:

  • My sister-in-law really put up with a lot.
  • She admitted that she probably should have just paid more up front to a qualified facility.
  • If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
  • The Groupon purchase may have been more effective in reaching a conclusion once things had started to go wrong.  They will typically get involved and stand behind sales that had gone through their site.
  • It was really cool that my sister-in-law didn’t get mad at me at all for passing along the referral.  I’m sure she wishes (as do I) that I had simply scrolled past that Groupon.  In the end, it was just something that didn’t work out.

Readers, have you ever had a repair gone bad?  Tell me your experiences in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

7 Reasons I’m Nervous About Our Cell Phone Plan

I’m starting to get a little stressed out about our cell phone situation.

We are on a family plan with Sprint.  Both my wife and I have been on Sprint for years, probably both well over 10 years.  When we got married, she moved over to my plan.  Later on, we actually picked up my mother-in-law and sister-in-law as having multiple lines on one plan was the most cost effective solution.

I’m the last person whose two-year contract is coming to a close, and I’m starting to question whether to stay with Sprint or not.

A lot has changed in just the two years since we all last agreed to move forward, so here are some considerations.

  1. Are two year contracts dead? – It seems now that the trend is that carriers don’t want to lock you into a two-year deal by offering you a reduced rate on the purchase of your phone.  Now, it seems that they want to get you to either buy your phone up front or lease your phone.
  2. Can we beat Sprint’s price? – Out of all the major carriers (I’ll get to other carriers later on), Sprint is by farmb-201403phone the cheapest, and it seems that since we’ve been customers for so long, we get better pricing.  I’ve seen where I can get a ‘lease’ on a new Samsung S6 for as little as $5 per month.  Their ‘regular’ price, which is also what I’ve seen from the other carriers, seems to be at least $20 or more per month.  That’s pretty big.
  3. How does our Unlimited plan work moving forward? – We’re right now on an Unlimited Plan.  They don’t offer that anymore, but my understanding is that you can usually stay with your current plan as long as you want.  I just don’t know how this ties into the carriers not wanting to provide the lower-up-front rate pricing.
  4. Even if we kept everything the same, our price will go up – When I signed up a little over two years ago, my employer had a contract with Sprint, and we get about 19% off the base package price.  Last I checked, Sprint is no longer working with our employer, so when we renew, we’ll lose that discount (Sprint now verifies your eligibility with every new line or phone).
  5. Sprint has terrible coverage – Sprint doesn’t have great coverage at our home, or our in-laws home.  It seems pretty silly to put up with bad service, but that’s what we have.  Sprint did provide us with a free signal booster at our house.  This helps a lot.  Our in-laws don’t get great service but still have a land line, so it’s no big deal.  Still, I hate paying for bad service!
  6. Could pay-as-you-go service work for us?  – I’ve seen a lot of great recommendations about using a pay-as-you-go carrier, and how that can save lots of money.  These work great, but they all rely on the service of a major carrier.  I’ve done some research, and the best plans that would potentially work for our usage all rely on…you guessed it…the Sprint network.  This would be terrible for us.  We would not be able to use our signal enhancer as Sprint only supports them for Sprint customers.  Ugh!
  7. Does one plan make sense for two, possibly three, different households? – Right now, things work out OK but things and needs can change.   I’m nervous about locking people in to something that may work today but not tomorrow.  For example, what if my in-laws wanted to cut the cord on their land line, then they may not want to go with Sprint?  What if my sister-in-laws situation changed and being on Sprint didn’t make sense for her? I want to make sure that any plan we get into would allow for flexibility as situations change.

The bottom line is that things are going to change at some point.  Right now, things work pretty good for us.  But with all of the changes today and potentially tomorrow, who knows?  There is definitely some work to be done to make sure we head down the right path.

Readers, have you changed plans in the last few months?  What about pay-as-you-go carriers that don’t rely on Sprint?  Any recommendations?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Why Cell Phone Insurance Is A Must Have In Our House

There’s a lot of back and forth on whether purchasing insurance for electronic items is a worthwhile deal.  We have several things with insurance in our house, specifically our flat screen TVs, an exercise bike, and a dehumidifier.  All of these were purchased after careful consideration.  The exercise bike was a replacement of a treadmill that had gone bad and was covered under warranty, so it worked.

One thing we never even question is our cell phones.  Since I switched to a work provided phone, I receive cell phone protection automatically, as I was directed to sign up for it when choosing my plan and such.

But, the ‘must have’ rule applies for my wife.  Why? Well, to put it kindly, things don’t usually end well with her and her phones!

She has the best of intentions, but every insurance we’ve place on her phones has been used at least once.  In the few years we’ve been on a shared plan, she’s had three different phones, and all have been replaced.

Phone 1: Blackberry

In 2010, my wife and I both got Blackberries, literally a month or two before the bottom fell out on their usage.  Nonetheless, we decided to purchase protection through SquareTrade.  About a year later, my wife’s went south.  It got extremely hot to the touch and wouldn’t hold a charge or do anything.  Since we had the same model, I even swapped out the battery, to no avail.  It was shot.

SquareTrade has us send in the phone, and their terms were that they paid us the purchase value of the phone.

Phone 2.0, and 2.1: HTC Junk

So, with $350, my wife went to get a replacement phone.  She chose an Android device, an HTC to be exact.  We got a good deal at the Sprint store, as they had ‘extra’ in stock of a new device that they could discount for us since it was out of contract.  The deal was pretty good, though I had my suspicions on whether it was a new phone (as they said it was).

For this phone, we signed up for the protection offered through Sprint.  They charged $7 or so per month.

It wasn’t more than a few months and the phone started having some serious problems.  The touch pad wouldn’t work, and Sprint replaced some components and re-flashed it.  This worked for a short time, but the phone started acting up again, so they replaced it (this time with a refurb). The new phone did the same thing after awhile, and Sprint acknowledged that the phone…well, it sucked.  It had a slide-out and the slide-out often caused things to get mis-aligned.

It might have been replaced one more time.  I can’t even remember.  All I know is that this thing was ‘in the shop’ more often than a 1980’s GM lemon.   Sprint was starting to get annoyed, since at this point my wife had completed her contract, and with each repair they tried to get her into a new phone with a two year re-up.  We were trying to stick it out to get in sync with other members on the plan, so we kept refusing.

Then, my wife’s phone met my in-laws tile floor and the screen went into a million pieces.  Since this was not a mechanical failure, a deductible would apply.  Since she was now ready to get a new phone anyways and the phone was so out of date that she probably wouldn’t have been able to sell it to recoup the deductible cost, she ended up just getting a new phone.

Phone 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2: iPhone 5

mb-201310phoneBy this point, she was enamored with Apple products and wanted an iPhone.  We looked around and the best deal was to get the phone through Best Buy.  It was $50 cheaper than Sprint could offer at any of their stores or online.

While we purchased the phone, they offered the ‘Best Buy’ protection plan.  It seemed like a lot of money, around $229 for the duration of the plan, but we ended up going with it.  The plan included things like water damage protection (this is important in a minute), no deductibles, unlimited replacements (SquareTrade, for example, limits you to essentially one), and even included price guarantees for trade-in at the end of your contract.  Plus, the cost per month spread out over 24 months was less than the $11 offered on Apple products through Spint.

So, we purchased it.

And luckily we did.

My wife didn’t have the phone more than a couple of months when we went to a concert.  She had a drink in one hand, her phone in the other, and well, it’s pretty easy to imagine what happened.  Ker-sploosh.

She grabbed the phone out an instant after it went in, and everything actually seemed to work great.  It never went out, the data kept working, texting was working, it accepted a charge, and it seemed she had skirted danger.

Until the next day.  When she went to make a call.  And she could barely hear.

This was actually kind of funny because the speaker was on top, where the phone went bottom first, yet the part that never got submerged was what stopped working.

She tried a few tricks, like drying it out in rice, but the damage was done.  So, off to Best Buy we went.

She was truthful about what happened.  They tried to troubleshoot it insomuch as they turned it off and on, and tried it themselves, and agreed to order her a new phone.  The only downside was that it is a re-furb.

But, really, since the protection continues through the life of your two year agreement, it’s a pretty minor inconvenience.

A couple of days later her replacement showed up.  She got everything transferred over and left the store, everything appearing to work fine.

Until we drove away, and the data stopped working.

Sprint is currently working to upgrade the Detroit area from 3G to 4G LTE.  Around our house, it’s about half transitioned.  The store had 4G LTE, but other areas are still only on 3G.  As it turns out, the phone would not connect to 3G.  I spent a long time on the phone with Sprint, and they tried a whole host of things, but confirmed that it was two different antennas within the phone, and speculated that the initial problem with the phone could have in fact been the 3G antenna.

Back to Best Buy. The tech tried a little more advanced troubleshooting, but ended up agreeing that the phone was not right.

Another order was placed, another couple of days went by, and another phone arrived.

This one worked great on all accounts.

Still, we’re in our third month and on the third phone.  The protection plan, I would say, has already paid for itself.

Readers, do you get cell phone protection?  Has not having it ever burned you?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.