You need to lower data use on your mobile phone. The price I see advertised for cell phone service with data plans is mind-boggling. I know I’m weird, but I just can’t seem to understand why people pay so much for it or why they use so much of it. I’ll walk you through my thought process, and maybe you’ll get where I’m coming from.
How It All Started
We used to have different kinds of phone bills. We used to just pay for home phone use and long distance. I’m surprised home phone or land line phones for residences is still a thing, but some people want security systems and fear the need to call 911. I won’t deal with those things today, but I’d like to get back to the phone bill. Now, most people have two phone bills. However, I will deal with this issue in another FIREHack article, but the hack should be obvious. Anyway… with the addition of that second bill, the mobile phone bill, eventually this extra charge for data started showing up in our expenses.
Apple and Google were working on upgrading cell phones so they could surf the internet. Geeks like me were daydreaming about having the internet clipped to our side (no putting mobile phones in your pocket in those early days). I had a Blackberry at the time. It could kinda sorta get online, but the experience wasn’t great. Finally, the breakthroughs came, and an expensive device found its way to back pockets. The iPhone was Steve Job’s “one more thing.” (Google released the less hailed G1.) At that moment, data for mobile phones became a supercharged industry. Mobile phone plans began to see this added feature, and for the most part we all had unlimited data.
The Need to Lower Data Use Arises
That “free ride” didn’t last long. Our hunger for data consumption grew exponentially and became more difficult and expensive for the carriers to keep up. Unlimited data plans as we knew them went the way of the dinosaur, and the tiered data plan was born. Competition between carriers seems tough, but the prices don’t seem to come down very much as a result. So, some of us started looking for ways to lower data use.
The current price for Verizon’s “unlimited plan” is $75 for one line, $130 for two and $160 for 4. Of course they advertise $40 for this service, but we’re smarter than that. In my case, I’d need two lines. That would cost me $130. This “deal” might be a decent one if it were truly unlimited. (It drives me crazy that companies bold-faced lie to you.) Your “unlimited” data is throttled at some point. So here’s what we can do, let’s get the upgraded “unlimited” plan. Surely that will be truly unlimited. Nope, throttled after 22 gigs. I get it. These services are how they make their money. I’m fine with it. Just tell us in the big print what we are really getting, and let the fine print be bonuses. Anyway, I digress…
Let’s check out a different plan. You could get a tiered 2GB plan for $35. Much more reasonable. They will charge you $15 for every GB over your first 2GB. Fair I suppose. You did use more. If you could figure out how to lower data use, you wouldn’t be charged this extra fee.
The FIREHack I’ll teach you today will let you buy an even lower tiered plan, but still use way more data on your phone than 2GB. How? Keep reading. I have two lines with Google’s Project Fi. My bill for those two lines is usually under $50 a month. Most of the time with taxes and fees, it’s around $40. We use a ton of data on our phones, and we are only charged for it IF we use it on the network. We stream video, play games, send pictures to grandparents, comparison shop, stream music, etc. Yet we still have this low monthly bill. What gives?
How to Lower Data Use on Your Mobile Phone
We lower data use because we typically turn off our data feature and only use WiFi. Free WiFi is practically ubiquitous in the US and most countries we’d visit. I get this isn’t always the case in many rural areas, but if you live there you likely don’t get data anyway. Our homes teem with the WiFi signals from our wireless routers, and we can encrypt its access. Our offices have this same feature. Most of the places we go or shop offer free WiFi. Our internet providers offer open WiFi connections that require login and a little encryption at many of the places we go as well. WHY ARE YOU USING YOUR DATA PLAN IN THESE LOCATIONS? Geeze people, stop it!
Step one, get a lower tiered data plan. Two, turn on your WiFi. Step three, let your phone access open WiFi. Four, take the twenty seconds to login to other free services. Step 5, shut off your data except for those times when you absolutely need to use it and there is no WiFi available. To clarify, you shouldn’t drive and use your phone anyway, so it’s rare that you need data because you are typically somewhere where you can use the WiFi. Bam! You save up to $30 a month per line.
Bonus Points to Lower Data Use Charges
In addition, you could get bonus points for using a service like Google’s Project Fi which only charges you for the data you actually use at $10 per GB. Several services work similarly. I only have experience with Fi, so I can give you my personal experience and recommendation. They actually put the extras in the fine print, which I appreciate, and you really only get charged by the MB. So if you use 435 MBs, you will not be charged $10. You only pay $4.35. Novel, huh? The image on the top of this post is a screenshot from my actual phone about half-way through a month’s cycle.
There are several other benefits, like free calling in over 120 Countries if you are a traveler. Most of these countries also charge you data at the same rate. Again, I’ve found that WiFi is available in many international locations, so only use the data if you don’t have access. If you use my links and move your service, they will give me a little referral bonus at no extra cost to you. I’d appreciate that, but it’s not necessary. Just follow the steps, lower your data use and save some money.
The Benefits of Lower Data Use
Let’s do the math. A person with two lines on Verizon’s lower tiered “Unlimited” Plan will pay $130 per month before taxes and fees. I will be conservative and say I pay $50 a month for my two lines. That’s a savings of $80 per month or about $960 per year. Invest that at 7% annual return over 10 years and you get over $13,000. After 20 years, it’s over $40,000! As a result, you still get to use your phone like you would have. But you make $40,000! Why are you using data you pay for again?
Let’s be a little more conservative in our approach. Verizon’s plan for 2GB of Data for two lines would be $70. With this tweak, now the savings is only $20 per month, or $240 per year. It’s still worth it and has a potential $3400 return over 10 years and a $10,000 return over 20 years.
As I will usually point out, there are other benefits to implementing a FIREHack. One of the biggest is decreasing your spending rate. Another is increasing your savings rate. Those benefits are often more powerful in the long run than the actual dollars you get from investing.
Please, stop paying for so much data on your phone.