How much is your cell phone bill each month?

By | December 27, 2016

Last December, I wrote a bit of a love letter to my new-at-the-time phone and plan — Project Fi by Google. I had retired a couple of months prior and no longer had data at my fingertips paid for by an employer. 14 months later, I’ve paid an average of $23.41 per month for the service. 

Are you paying more for your cell phone plan? Why? Don’t you want to retire early?

I do anything and everything I need to do with Hester and never think twice about any of it. Text has always worked for me everywhere I’ve gone. Super handy. I can make calls when I’m traveling internationally for $0.20 a minute. That’s saved me a time or two. I’d be lost without Google Maps. Hester does whatever I need her to do in most countries.

Oh, Hester is what I call my phone.

I thought about some of your potential objections (taken from my last post) and judged the quality of the excuse. From acceptable to silently judging you.

You live in an area where T-Mobile and Sprint coverage stinks.

Okay, that’s understandable. If Sprint, T-Mobile and US Cellular all have patchy coverage where you live, you won’t get great service because those are the towers Project Fi uses while in the States. I do remember being annoyed with Hester occasionally in Anchorage.


She also had a bit of trouble in Uruguay, Argentina, Romania and Bulgaria. I think I’d get frustrated if it was always like that.

You need a plan that gives you a discount for multiple devices – a family plan or the like.

Okay, so I don’t really have that type of family, so I’m not allowed to have an opinion on this. Mostly because I’ve never researched it. Project Fi does have a group plan option though. Or you can consider Republic Wireless.

You’re a customer of Republic Wireless and are happy with your $10/month plan and don’t travel abroad very often.

Okay! My parents have Republic Wireless and love it pretty darn much. Their bill never goes above $12 per month. I’m pretty sure they do whatever they want with it.

You thirst for data and regularly use many gigabytes whilst out and about, while never near wifi.

Okay. I guess.

I shouldn’t give you advice on this subject. As much as I try to embrace the technologies, most of our interactions end with more of a shoulder squeeze. I don’t quite get the appeal of using your phone for entertainment. I’m an old man.

Personally, when I’m mingling with the real world, I prefer to focus on the mingling. If I’m not mingling and want to do Serious Thinking on the internet, I want my laptop. I don’t play with Hester to try to relieve boredom. She’s for convenience. Texting, calls, Whatsapp, directions, Uber, and Instagram when I remember that thing exists.

I don’t use much data on my phone. That’s what I’m trying to say. If you want to retire early, it’s not hard to train yourself to not use too much data.

You are an Apple loyalist and you envision some unscrupulous undertakers prying your iPhone from your cold, dead hands.

Right. Okay. Have you ever heard of stoicism? It’s a religion invented in the time of Zeus. I just read a book about it. One of the basic tenets of that religion is the commandment to not be a connoisseur of anything. You’ll be a lot less happy with life if you can only have the best.

Which, I kind of understand. Kind of. I wrinkled my nose when reading that part of the book because the author uses the example of food. I’d rather have delicious food than not delicious food. I don’t care if that means I’m a snob.

I love the simplicity of the straw in stark contrast with the fanciness of the glass. Mango lassi in Argentina.

But I do kind of understand the warning when it comes to other material things. My sister is an Apple lover, frequently snarking about my Android operating system and making googly eyes at her iPhone 5c.

Her phone died recently and, as predicted, her loyalty to Apple only made her miserable.

She liked her current plan, unlimited text and calling and 1 GB of data through Sprint. With the discount she got with her employer, she’s never paid more than $40 per month for her service in the last three years.

The first Sprint store she visited didn’t have any phones on display. The holidays, y’all. No biggie. Luckily, she found the phone she wanted at the second store. Whipping out her wallet, she eagerly tried to throw money at the employees. Instead, they advised her to buy it online. It’s easier, they said.

Easier than standing here and doing it now? That doesn’t sound easier.

But, okay. She works in computers. She can do stuff online. So she went home and popped open the internet and found a phone number. Sweet! Human interaction! She called and the representative on the other end of the line politely told her about the most expensive phone.

Fine, they try to upsell. That’s their job. She’s an intelligent consumer and knows to look out for herself. She asked about the phone she wanted and he gave details. Before she ended the call with the dude, she asked, clearly and specifically, “Are there any other fees I should be aware of?” I was sitting right next to her. I heard her ask.

He assured her she would pay only $200 for the phone itself and $67 for the taxes on the phone. That’s it. He also advised her to buy it online. Still an enthusiast and a connoisseur, she went back to $267 for the phone and a new two-year contract. She checked out and rubbed her paws together in anticipation.

The size of this eggplant simply delights me.

The next day she logged into her account and saw that her plan had changed and was now $60/month. What the what? That’s a 50% increase! Yes, she had a new 2-year contract, but she didn’t think the terms changed from her old contract. She asked the guys at the store and on the phone. She read through the process when she bought it online. Nowhere did anyone ever tell her that she now had to pay $60 per month for unlimited texts and phone calls and 3 GB of data. She didn’t want that! She barely used the 1 GB from her previous plan.

Grrrr. She called customer support again and they told her (for the first time) that the old plan is not available for new phones. Annoyed, she canceled the upgrade and the new phone.

Now, my sister is an open-minded chick. Perhaps she was wrong. Maybe this cost information was on the website somewhere. It had to be, right? She went through the motions online and ordered the phone again, stopping just short of actually purchasing it.

Nowhere and never did it transparently give the cost of the service. Grrrrrr.

This is the abbreviated version of the saga. I omitted the 90 minute call she made when they decided to charge $80 for her last bill; the activation fee nonsense; the representative not canceling it when she initially asked and her calling back later that day; the double charging on her credit card for the phone and the slow diminishing of her joy.

At this point she was ready to listen to me. Her delight in being a connoisseur officially dead, she asked for my advice. Of course, I sent her my article on Project Fi. The cost of the new phone (a Nexus) was roughly the same ($263), but the transparency Google provides puts it miles ahead. Plus, her monthly bill will go down. She had never come close to using that whole 1GB of data with Sprint.

It’s about customer service.

You don’t want to give Google more power over your life than what it currently has.

Okay, that’s your right. Google’s motto is “don’t be evil.” They wield their power for not evil. They’re also really sweet to me! While walking around an airport recently trying to get in 10,000 steps before my flight took off, I found this beauty.

What a pleasant surprise!

A vending machine from Project Fi. It gave me a free pair of playing cards! Oh, Google. You just get me.

I like cards.

Google’s “fast, friendly 24/7 customer service” was a kind of throwaway bullet point in my last article about this thing, but it’s really quite good. You can chat with customer support online. That gives you a paper trail. If you want another reminder of their other customer service wins, go read my old post. Their sweet nature gifted me $110 the first couple of months I had Hester.

Also, Google Fi gives holiday presents. Last year they mailed me a Lego set and an extra USB cord. This year, they gave me $10 to use in the Google Play store. Suggestions on what to buy?

Want Project Fi? Be one of the first nine people to use my referral code and you’ll get a $20 credit. I will too. Referral code: 9F238C

18 thoughts on “How much is your cell phone bill each month?

  1. V

    I live in a rural area where Verizon is king..I heard gossip that Republic runs off the mobile but when they aren’t available, it switches to Verizon. !? GSM to CDMA? Is that possible? I find nothing on the website….. Any secret knowledge? Hoping to get.out.of the Verizon bill monopoly some day.

  2. Ben

    I’m going for it!

    Tired of AT&T after my account got hacked. They ordered a $900 iPhone on financed to my account on Christmas morning when the fraud department was closed! And at the same time, signed me up for roughly 2,000 email list subscriptions to hide the shipping confirmation emails (which I thankfully noticed).

    Anyway I am excited to save at least $40 a month and much more when international. Thank you for the motivation.

  3. Rachel

    Hi. I am a huge fan – thank you for another great article!

    Do you have any advice/input on the Nexus 5x? It is $250 on the google fi website, which is a lot for someone like myself who does not like spending money 🙂 Would you recommend this purchase? How is the phone holding up? How do you approach large purchases such as a phone? Thanks!

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Hi Rachel. It still shocks me that I have “fans” so thanks for this comment!

      I love my Nexus 5x phone. I know it’s a bit pricey, but I think it makes up for it in the monthly price. I figure I will use this phone for at least three years. That means, per month, it will only be $7 per month.

  4. Jace

    I almost went for it, but it’s $10 *per* GB. My current (no contract) plan is $35 per month for unlimited talk/text plus 5GB data. That would be $70 per month with Project FI.

    Project FI might make sense for me if I was roaming Europe or Asia, and if I wasn’t addicted to Pandora. But for someone still in the planning stage of early retirement, I don’t currently have much international travel (about one week every 5 years), so my main phone goals are a low “everything” price and a low price for the phone itself. That is what has kept me away from Republic Wireless, and now Project FI.

    My Total Wireless phone is a perfectly adequate smartphone, a Moto E, for which I paid cash at Wal-Mart and completed the entire transaction in under 5 minutes – no more complicated than buying socks. It was $49, but nowadays similar phones at the same store are about $79. That’s still a lot less than the $199 minimum Project FI phone. It is 3G not 4G (oh woe is me right? – stoicism ya’ll) and has a smaller screen than an iPhone or Nexus etc. But if I drop it off a boat, oh well, I go buy a new one for 80 bucks. Occasionally they sell other phones for as low as $19.99. plus Project FI shows 3G is the max speed where I live anyway, so now I’m even happier with my phone’s speed.

    The monthly plan? $35 plus about $2.60 in taxes and fees. Hands down the best option for someone who doesn’t care about having the flashiest phone and who wants to save money and still be able to use a ton of data.

  5. Adam

    I almost always have wifi. The solution for me was to sign up for Ting, then disable voice and text, so I only have data. Then I got a Google Voice number that I use via the Hangouts App. I can call, text, whatever via Hangouts and I usually pay $10 a month. Once and a while I go nuts on data and end up paying $17.

  6. Laszlo

    Happy New Year, TG! I can see there is a fair bit of marketing muscle behind Project Fi. I am glad you are happy with your cell phone provider choice, and many thanks for the sound information that can be used as input for making informed decisions.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      They don’t need marketing muscle when they’re so awesome. 🙂 I’m hoping that same thought will work when I release my book. Haha.

  7. Michelle Williams

    I wish this was an option In Canada. We pay about $280 ($70 each) for 7gb split between 4 phones on a family plan…and that’s super cheap compared to the $100 that everyone else pays.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Ouch! On the bright side, Canada is still better than the US in a ton of other ways. Your leader is really cute.

  8. Angele

    Just wanted to say thanks for the referral code! I finally ordered my Nexus 5x last night after exhaustive research and an “it’s not you, it’s me” conversation with my iPhone. I’m looking forward to falling in love with my new phone and service. Now to come up with the perfect name… 🙂

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Cool beans! It’s a hard conversation, but your (ex) phone will understand. It just wants you to be happy.

  9. janee

    I happily stumbled across your blog. I cannot say that I am thrifty, however, I hope to be sooner than later. I am a student, not living on campus and use my phone for everything including wi-fi. I am currently paying $110/month, unlimited data. I understand that I am paying for the convenience of unlimited. I am not sure how to get internet for my laptop, GPS for navigating my new city, Neflix on my TV when I have leisure time without the unlimited plan… Are my expectations expensive or have I not done enough research to find a more cost-effective option? (I had never heard of Project Fi before your article.) Thanks for your help and your blog!

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Affordable internet is one thing I haven’t done any research on because I’m constantly traveling and don’t have my own place, so haven’t needed it. I also worry that there just might not be an affordable option because the cable companies in the States have far too much power. :-/ I’m sorry I don’t have a good answer for you.


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