Mental Model For Expenses: Past, Present, and Future (With Animated GIFs!)

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

The theory behind financial independence is simple. Spend less, save more, invest it into income-producing assets. The reality is complex, full of daily decisions about balancing income and spending. The Morningstar article (yes, M* is writing about early retirement too now) A Simple Plan for Financial Independence presents this simplified graphic of your “personal economy”.

Income can come from labor, capital, or land. Expenses can be put toward your past (debt), present, or future (investing in capital or land).

I’ve been thinking about this “past, present, and future” mental model for expenses, it meshes will with the simple rules that I want to teach my children: Avoid debt whenever possible, and seek out income-producing assets.

Present. There is countless advice to save money on current expenses. Call it prioritizing, call it frugality, call it whatever. These are important, but I’d rather focus on the added ideas of past and future.

Past. While debt is an important part of the economy, I hate that going into debt for non-essentials is so readily accepted in today’s society. Using home equity lines of credit for a kitchen remodels. Credit cards for vacations. The entire microloans trend where you buy a $100 pair of jeans for $10 a month times 12 months ($120) is a dangerous mind game. Debt is having compound interest work against you, and thus making someone else rich. Debt should not be normalized. Debt is an emergency!

via GIPHY

Future. If you look at people who have really achieved financial freedom, where they truly spend the day doing whatever they want and without money worries, they have all have collected a big pile of income-producing assets. It could be rental property, commercial real estate, a laundromat/car wash/business, dividend-paying stocks, municipal bonds, a pension, Social Security or even just bank CDs if you have enough. In most cases, they collected them with purpose. They didn’t just put the minimum into their 401(k) and call it a day. They would shovel whatever extra money they had into their favorite money-making machine. When I buy more stocks, I see a future income stream:

via GIPHY

When you buy one of these income-producing assets, it should get you excited!

via GIPHY

I’m still not sure exactly how to create this distaste for debt and this desire for money factories, but I’m working on it. If you have these two in place, that should help with everything else – earning more income with labor, spending less on the present.

Oh, and here’s a funny-but-sad representation of the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle.

via GIPHY

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Financial Freedom and New Car Loans Don’t Mix Well

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Apparently, my rule of thumb about affording cars isn’t exactly going viral. If you are serious about financial freedom, you shouldn’t be taking out loans for luxury items. A new car is a luxury item! Basic transportation will cost you under $10,000 and you can usually get a loan with the best interest rate from a credit union. Here are some surprising statistics from the WSJ article The Seven-Year Auto Loan: America’s Middle Class Can’t Afford Its Cars (paywall?).

The average new car auto loan is now $32,000 over 69 months. 1 out of 3 people are rolling over debt from their previous car. 90% of new car loans are for longer than 4 years. 70% of new car loans are for longer than 5 years. This is crazy. Soon we’ll have a 15-year mortgage for cars.

Dealerships now make more money from car loans (and add-on insurance junk) than the purchase price. They are getting a cut of all the interest you’re paying.

So far this year, dealerships made an average of $982 per new vehicle on finance and insurance versus $381 on the actual sale, according to J.D. Power, a data and analytics company. A decade earlier, financing brought in $516 per car and the sale made dealers $837.

This is why I support the FIRE movement. It may not be perfect, but it can inspire a change in mentality where you would never consider going into debt for heated leather seats. Instead of a $32,000 car loan, you could spend $8,000 on a used 2012 Toyota Corolla and put $24,000 towards owning a $120,000 investment rental property with positive cashflow. Or you could put that $24,000 into maxing our your 401(k) or IRA. Or you could start building a compounding stream of dividend payments from owning high quality businesses. Or seed your own new small business. The idea of owning income-producing assets is what should get you excited!!

I’m not saying you should never buy a new car. If you have your financial ducks in a row, then sure buy whatever car you want… with cash! The debt industry wants you to have your dessert NOW, and pay for it later. They want a direct cut of every future paycheck. If it’s a luxury, you should have to save up for it first, and then buy it. I know, such a quaint idea.

Getting far enough ahead to pay cash for your next car can seem impossible. Consider taking out a loan for minimalist basic transportation from all the major credit unions (NavyFed, PenFed, Alliant CU) as well as your local credit union. It’ll work at used car dealerships and even on a car off Craigslist. $10,000 financed at 3.5% APR for 3 years is under $300 a month. After 3 years, instead of starting another new lease or facing another 4 years of car payments, you can now use that $300/month to buy your next income-producing asset.

Here is a chart tracking non-housing debt from the New York Fed. The slight decrease from 2009 to 2013 made me optimistic about the future. Since then, the debt has shot back up and my optimism has gone down:

Have you noticed that half of all TV commercials are about new cars? It takes a lot of effort to convince you to buy something you don’t really need.

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Sprint Unlimited Kickstart: Unlimited Talk, Text, Data For $35/Month

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Updated with new price of $35 a month. T-Mobile and Sprint have been doing the merger dance since April 2018, which meant Sprint is still highly incentivized to keep their subscriber numbers as high as possible. October 16th, the FCC approved the merger, but there are still a few lawsuits from states against the merger.

On 10/18, Sprint raised the price on their Unlimited Kickstart promotion that includes unlimited talk/text/data for $35 per month, per line. You don’t need to port over a number from any specific provider on this one. Save money by bringing over your existing phone instead of buying a new one.

Pros of Kickstart Unlimited:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data for $35 a month, per line.
  • You can bring over any compatible phone, or buy one from Sprint. Use their phone IMEI/MEID checker.
  • You can come over from ANY outside provider, Verizon/AT&T/T-Mobile or even another cheap MVNO.
  • No expiration date. Price will not go up after a year.
  • No annual contracts.
  • No family plan or minimum number of lines required.

Cons of Kickstart Unlimited:

  • New customers only.
  • Online orders only. You won’t see this offer in stores.
  • No mobile hotspot.
  • Unlimited video in standard definition. Video streams up to 480p, music up to 500 Kbps, gaming up to 2 Mbps.
  • Data deprioritization during congestion.
  • Autopay required.

Sprint Unlimited Kickstart is best for those that want to lock in unlimited data direct from a major provider at a low $35/month price. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile Unlimited may have slightly better networks but they are also significantly more expensive.

I am not a huge data user, but it was still nice when I was on Sprint Unlimited. I could stream videos without worry and switched all my settings to “use cellular data whenever the heck you want!” instead of having to wait to sync or download things like podcasts over WiFi. There is also (slightly) better customer service at a major provider as compared to an MVNO. However, at this new price point, I would consider the these MVNO alternatives as they can offer some significant savings.

Mint Mobile is another low-cost competitor with data caps. This is what I use. They are an MVNO that runs on the T-Mobile GSM network. You can get:

(Disclosure: I am a Mint affiliate and if you purchase a Mint plan through one of the links above, I may earn a commission. I am also a paying Mint customer. Thanks for supporting this individually-owned site.)

The thing about Mint Mobile is that you have to “buy in bulk”. Initially you have to buy at least 3 months upfront, and then after that you have to buy 12 months at a time to get their lowest price. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. They do offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment.

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Causes of Wealth: Reality vs. News Coverage

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Our World in Data has a very in-depth page on Causes of Death from around the world. Then they asked: Does the news reflect what we die from? What if they compared what we read in the news and the raw data? Here is a chart that compares actual death stats against Google search data and the mentions of causes of death in both the New York Times and The Guardian newspapers (click to enlarge):

Two-thirds of us will die from either heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease. Meanwhile, over 70% of the causes of death you’ll read about in the news are either murder, suicide, or terrorism.

What about the disconnect between reality and what we read in the news about becoming wealthy? Here’s my quick take using a Google Spreadsheet (obviously not exact or based on actual data):

Most people probably realize that the news does not exactly reflect the real world. However, we can still unconsciously develop a “bias for single events”, even with financial topics. There’s also “social media bias” where what you see is only the highly-edited positive clips of their life. You see their #bestlife, but what you don’t see are their credit card debt, the downpayment from the Bank of Mom and Dad, or anxiety attacks about money.

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Mint Mobile B3G3 Promo: 6 Months of Unlimited Talk, Text, 8 GB Data For $60 Total ($10 Per Month)

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Offer end date announced to be Monday, September 9th. In my own phone, I use Mint Mobile to keep my cell phone costs low. They use the T-Mobile network, which means if you have a compatible phone switching just involves swapping in a new SIM card. It works just fine in my iPhone X. I am nearing the end of my first full year (I bought a full year upfront) and I plan on renewing since it is only $15 a month at my lower tier.

They just started a limited-time “B3G3” promo where if you buy 3 months of service, you get another 3 months free. It’s valid on their $20/month tier with Unlimited Talk, Text, 8 GB of LTE Data per month. That means you’ll pay $60 upfront and get 6 full months of service to try them out at $10 per month.

New activation required. Must be activated within 45 days. Taxes and fees apply. 3 months equals 90 days.

They also offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment at all. Here is my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review. As long as the transfer works, you have 6 months at only $10 a month to see if you want to keep them. Be sure to use their phone compatibility checker first to see if you can bring your current phone over and just put in the Mint Mobile SIM card.

In my opinion, the two best cell phone deals right now are this one and the ending-soon Sprint Kickstart $25/month for Barebones Unlimited Data.

Also see:

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Employee or Student Discounts for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

celldiscount

Updated 2019. Each of the four major cell phone providers offer discounts for certain large groups, even applied to an existing personal line. You could qualify through your employer, educational institution, or even affiliation with certain organizations like AAA or credit unions. Many also have discounts for military and/or first responders. So grab your work or school-affiliated e-mails, check out these links, and find out what discounts are available to you.

You may still find a better deal with a lesser-known prepaid or MVNO plan (especially if you don’t need data), but sometimes a major carrier with a discount can be very competitive.

AT&T Wireless. AT&T Signature Program

It’s easy to find out if you’re eligible for savings for your qualified AT&T wireless service through your employer, school, or other association. Just enter and submit your work or school email address and we’ll show you whether you qualify for applicable discounts and benefits on wireless services, devices and more.

Don’t have a work or school email? If you don’t have a work or school email, bring your student or employee ID to an AT&T store to find out if you’re eligible for the AT&T Signature Program.

Verizon Wireless. Employee Discount Program

We offer great monthly discounts for corporate, government and education employees, as well as valued service members and veterans. If your organization has an agreement with us, you may be eligible. Sign in below to register for a new discount or renew an existing discount.

T-Mobile. In 2014, T-Mobile changed their corporate discount program for consumer lines. Existing corporate discounts were mostly left grandfathered in. The T-Mobile Advantage Program now gives a $25 gift card per device instead. If you have a work phone directly paid for by your employer, you may qualify for Business Family Discounts. Keep in mind that T-Mobile also has special discounted plans for the military and those age 55+. The ability to stack discounts varies.

The T-Mobile Advantage™ Program lets you receive additional benefits or rewards based on your affiliation with your military branch of service, company, organization, or government agency. Check your organization’s eligibility.

If you have a company-provided business line with T-Mobile, you can now add your family to your account and save up to 50% off the first two lines on a family plan. Already have your family on a Simple Choice plan or T-Mobile ONE? You can get in on the BFD too!

Sprint. Sprint Works Program.

The Sprint Works? Program extends exclusive savings and special offers to employees, students and members of organizations. Please complete the form to see if you qualify.

LoveMyCreditUnion.org also offers credit union members Sprint monthly plan discounts and waived activation and upgrade fees. I’m not sure how these would stack with the Sprint Unlimited Kickstart $25/month plan.

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Business Idea: On-Demand Garage Rental + DIY Car Repair Lessons

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

The NY Times has a new article They Supply the Garage, You Bring the Elbow Grease where you rent space hourly or daily for DIY car repairs. The article referenced GarageTime as a place to search for a residential or commercial garage space in your area. Most commercial spaces include lifts, while others are essentially listing their large driveway with an electrical connection and perhaps an air compressor. Be prepared to sign a liability waiver.

My related business idea is to use the space to teach people basic car repair skills like how to change your oil, replace brake pads, replace headlights, repair dents, or perform common after-market modifications like LED headlight swaps. YouTube has tons of how-to content, but I think there is still a market for someone to be walked through the process the first time. For example, someone could list their space and also upcharge for some lessons. The next time, the customer could just do it themselves.

I’m a bit surprised at the timing of this article, as isn’t the stereotypical Millennial is supposed to just stare at their phones and not do anything dirty with their hands? I also keep hearing that cars are becoming more and more like computers on wheels. I suppose it’s a nice little reminder that DIY is still alive, and some people still like to save a few bucks and do things for themselves.

You don’t even need a garage for many basic maintenance tasks that can save you money. For example, here’s a Youtube video I found the other day that shows you how easy it is to change both the engine air filter and cabin air filter on my 2015 Toyota Sienna. Your dealership shop will charge you at least $100 an hour for this knowledge. You’ll also probably be charged more than the $12 for the cabin air filter and $11 for the engine air filter that Amazon is asking. (These seem to have good reviews, but OEM parts are also available online.)

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

The Power of Being Open-Minded About Cutting Your Household Expenses

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Here’s the short version of this depressing WSJ article Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class (paywall?). Household incomes have gone nowhere. Meanwhile, housing prices are up, healthcare costs are up, and college tuition has skyrocketed. Ouch. However, you can’t control that things are worse for you than if you lived in another time period. You can only control your response, and that is why I try to focus on actionable ideas instead of dwelling on “the way it should be”.

“Make more money” advice is hard to pin down. Of course I want everyone to have a high income. I like the idea of spending money on improving your marketable skills, “investing in your yourself”. However, everyone has a different combination of what they are good at, what they enjoy, and what others will pay them to do:

caddell620

Meanwhile, I find that spending advice applies much more broadly. My most general spending advice is that you need to expand what you think is an option. Most people hang out with people around their own income level, look around, and then spend the same money on the same things. The trick is that net worth shoots up when you earn a good income, but spend like someone who earns about 1/2 or 2/3rds of what you make. It may not feel natural, but you have to trick yourself into picking from a wider menu of options. Here are some quick examples.

  • Housing. You could buy a 4,000 sf house with a 3-car garage. A family of four could live in a 1,000 sf apartment (mine did). You could share an apartment with roommates. You could rent a room inside a large house. You could buy a duplex and live in one side, rent the other. You could buy a 4-plex and live in one unit and rent out the rest.
  • Transportation. You could lease a $60,000 SUV and pay about $8,000 year in lease payments – after 3 years and $24,000, you’d have to start all over again. Alternatively, you could buy an entire car for $8,000 and own it for another 10 years. You could downsize from a 2-car to a 1-car household. Many urban residents don’t own a car at all.
  • Food. A single person could eat out at every meal, never touch their stove, and easily spend $1,000 or more per month on food and alcohol. A family of four can cook all meals at home and spend under $600 a month. These days, food has become the ultimate convenience item, but it’ll cost you.

I can be hard to stay open-minded about your expenses. In fact, many quickly become defensive. You’ll often hear a straw-man argument like “I don’t want to sit around sorting coupons, eating lentils every meal, or living in poverty”. I wonder if they have seriously considered all of the options above.

You don’t have to pick the cheapest option in every category. You probably know someone in an expensive house but drives a 20-year-old Toyota. I know someone who makes over $250,000 a year but rents a cheap, single room in a large house (while eating out every night). I know someone who owns a beautiful beachfront house, but AirBNBs the majority of it.

I’ve been looking for over 15 years, and there is no single path to financial independence or early retirement. Even if you don’t want to embrace frugality as the cure for everything, the cold reality is that it’s hard to live at life true to yourself unless you first reach at least $10,000 in savings to ride out the bumps.

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

The Status Spending Test: Two Simple Questions About Your Car and Home

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of backlash against the “latte factor”. I agree buying a Starbucks latte every day will not directly lead to poverty, and forgoing it will not make you independently wealthy. However, sometimes a concrete example is more powerful than a vague position like “just prioritize your spending” (which I believe, but sort of like “spend less than you earn”).

Instead of the small stuff, I prefer to start with the biggest expenses and work down from there. You may consider your mortgage and car payments to be a “fixed” expense, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be reduced. Tom Welsh of Humble Dollar has a post Pay to Play which includes a very simple test to see if you are spending an excessive amount on your social status, possibly at the expense of your future basic needs. No calculator required. No budgets.

How can we tell if we’re engaging in heavy social spending? Two simple tests can help you analyze your own degree of social spending.

Test No. 1: Did you pay $57,000 or more for your car – a 50%- premium to the average $38,000 new car price?

Test No. 2: How many rooms in your home are used by people every single day? Divide that number by the total number of rooms in your home. Is it 50% or less?

My current vehicle is a 2015 Toyota Sienna, bought used for well under even the average number. It creates zero excitement and is little more than a reliable appliance, but I have come to love it (and its sweet sliding doors) for what it is. We are a family of 5 inside a 2,000 sf house, and every single room is definitely used every single day, often by multiple people at the same time. We prioritized room, safety, and reliability in the car. We prioritized location with the house, with minimal commute time, while also trying to make it smaller (and cheaper) but still allowing for a home office.

Now, a luxury car and a big house may be your prioritized expenses and well within your means. Which is great. But if it isn’t, you may have found something to cut back on that is much more powerful than skipping the Starbucks. Moving is a huge pain, but it’s a one-time change to which you quickly adjust, while potentially improving your overall financial picture for the rest of your life.

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Which Households Spend More, Less, or Exactly What They Earn? Breakdown by Income Level

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

In the post How Well Do Americans Balance Income and Spending? by the St. Louis Fed, they examine the breakdown of household spending as compared to income.

In terms of the big picture, 55% of US households were net savers (earned more than they spent), 30% broke even, and 15% ran an income deficit (earned less than they spent). However, that’s everyone across all income levels, and thanksfully they looked deeper in the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances and broke it down further by income quartile.

It is not surprising that lower income households overall have a harder time spending less than they earn. Instead, I would consider these two observations:

Out of the households in the bottom income quartile earning less than $27,000 per year, roughly 75% of them manage to break even and/or save money each year. This is not to say that households that are earning close to the poverty line ($26k for a family of four) are not struggling. However, I think a family that is “just getting by” on a $100,000 income would appreciate their situation more if they know that so many $26k income families are breaking even at this level, with a third of them even managing a sur.

Out of the households in the top income quartile earning over $98,000 per year, roughly 25% manage to save nothing or go into debt at the end of each year. Yes, most households with a six-figure income are saving some money. But a quarter of them aren’t saving anything!

I have always been struck by the huge variation in spending by the same number of humans in the same city. The family earning $50,000 finds a way to spend $50,000. The family earning $250,000 finds a way to spend $250,000. If you have a relatively high income, that is a huge opportunity. Don’t waste it. If you create a budget sur and invest it in productive assets, one day those assets will do the “work” to make money instead of you.

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Lesser-Known Cheap Talk & Text Only Cell Phone Plans on Every Network – From $1 a Month

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

phones7Updated 2019. Cell phone bills are getting cheaper than ever. Have you checked prices recently? All of the major networks sell wholesale minutes to MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals. If you choose to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), every MVNO will have a form where you can check compatibility via identification number (IMEI or MEID).

This post includes light and unlimited talk & text only plans – no data (although some plans include some anyway). Here are the cheapest plans with unlimited talk & text and 2+ GB LTE data. A minimalist plan is good for people who only want to make short calls, while unlimited talk and text plans allow you drop that landline completely for under $18 a month. After looking through what must have been over 100 MVNOs, here are the cheapest options by network below (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint).

T-Mobile NetworkT-Mobile Network Color: Hot Pink

  • Light Barebones Usage. Lycamobile has a barebones Pay As You Go plan where you just buy a SIM and there is a minimum top-up of $10. The rate is a flat 5 cents a minute for talk, and 12 cents per text. You must have some sort of activity every 90 days to maintain your service (make a phone call, send a text). If you only used 200 minutes a year, that would be under $1 per month ($10 a year).
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Mint Mobile has a $15 a month plan with unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB of LTE data. You even get slower 2G data speeds if you exceed your LTE allotment. Their intro offer is 3 months at $15 per month. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $15 per month price. They offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making the multi-month commitment. If you don’t want that 3 GB of data, you can go with Republic Wireless and get unlimited talk and text with zero data for $15 a month with no bulk requirement.

I recently switched to Mint Mobile myself – see my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review for tips based on my experiences.

Sprint NetworkSprint Network Color: Yellow

  • Light Barebones Usage. Tello Mobile has a Pay As You Go plan where there is a minimum top-up of $10. The rate is a flat 3 cents a minute for talk, and 1 cent per text. You must have some sort of activity every 90 days to maintain your service (make a phone call, send a text). If you used 400 minutes a year, that would be $1 per month ($12 a year). Scroll down to the bottom page under “Shop > Pay As You Go” to find this option.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Tello Mobile also has an unlimited talk, text, and no data for $8 a month. You need to choose a custom plan to find this option. I also like the same plan with 1 GB of data at only $10 per month. I will also mention that Republic Wireless has $15 a month plan for unlimited talk and text on the Sprint Network, but you can’t bring any used Sprint device over – you must buy a specially-modified phone.

Sprint “Secret” Offer: Sprint offers a “barebones” but still unlimited talk, text, and unlimited data for $25/month via their Sprint Kickstart plan that they don’t really promote. You can bring your own compatible phone (check with them) or buy one.

AT&T NetworkAT&T Network Color: Blue

  • Light Barebones Usage. H2O Wireless has a Pay As You Go plan where you can buy a $10 card that lasts 90 days. The rate is a flat 5 cents a minute for talk, and 5 cents per text. You must buy another card after it expires in 90 days. This means you could use 800 minutes a year for $3.33 per month ($40 per year).
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Red Pocket Mobile via eBay offers unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB data for $17.08 a month when you pay for 12 months upfront ($205 for one year) with a free SIM included in the kit. You can choose the AT&T network when you sign up.

Verizon NetworkVerizon Network Color: Red

  • Light Barebones Usage. PagePlus Cellular has a Pay As You Go plan where you can buy a $10 card that lasts 120 days. The rate is a flat 6 cents a minute for talk, and 5 cents per text. You must buy another card after it expires in 120 days. This means you could use 500 minutes a year for $2.50 per month ($30 per year). PagePlus now accepts 4G smartphones.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Red Pocket Mobile via eBay offers unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB data for $17.08 a month when you pay for 12 months upfront ($205 for one year) with a free SIM included in the kit. You can choose the Verizon network when you sign up.

Here are the cheapest plans with unlimited talk & text and 2+ GB LTE data.

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Lesser-Known Cheap Data Cell Phone Plans on Every Network (3 GB from $15/Month, 5 GB from $20/Month)

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

phones7Updated 2019. Cell phone bills are getting cheaper than ever. Have you checked prices recently? All of the major networks sell wholesale minutes to MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals. If you choose to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), every MVNO will have a form where you can check compatibility via identification number (IMEI or MEID).

This list includes unlimited talk and text plans with at least 2 GB and 5 GB of 4G LTE data. The average data user used 3 GB of data per month in 2017. If you don’t need data, here are the lesser-known cheapest talk and text only cell plans. Many of these advertise “unlimited data”, which means they throttle speeds down the 128 kbps (2G) after your LTE allotment runs out. After looking through what must have been over 100 MVNOs, here are the cheapest options by network below (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint).

T-Mobile NetworkT-Mobile Network Color: Hot Pink

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 3 GB LTE Data. Mint Mobile has an unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB LTE data plan from $15 per month. Their intro offer is 3 months at $15 per month. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $15 per month price. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. They offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 8 GB LTE Data. Mint Mobile also has a $20 a month plan with unlimited talk, text, and 8 GB of LTE data. Their intro offer is 3 months at $20 per month. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $20 per month price. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. They offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment.

Note: I recently switched to Mint Mobile in my own phone. Please see my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review for tips based on my experiences.

Sprint NetworkSprint Network Color: Yellow

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 2 GB LTE Data. Tello Mobile has an unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB data plan for $14 a month. You don’t need to buy a year upfront. You need to choose a custom plan to find this option. Their 2 GB plan is only $14 per month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 6 GB LTE Data. Tello Mobile has an unlimited talk, text, and 6 GB data plan for $24 a month. You don’t need to buy a year upfront. You need to choose a custom plan to find this option. Their 6 GB plan is only $24 per month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets.

Sprint Unlimited for $35: Sprint offers a “barebones” but still unlimited talk, text, and unlimited data for $35/month via their Sprint Kickstart plan that they don’t really promote. You can bring your own compatible phone (check with them) or buy one.

AT&T NetworkAT&T Network Color: Blue

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 5 GB LTE Data. Red Pocket Mobile via eBay offers unlimited talk, text, and 5 GB data for $20 a month or less when you pay for 12 months upfront ($240 for one year) with a free SIM included in the kit. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. You can choose the AT&T network when you sign up.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 3 GB LTE Data. If you prefer a month-to-month plan (no full year commitment), Straight Talk Wireless has an unlimited talk and text plan with 3 GB data for $34 per month with auto-refill (every 30 days). $35 per 30 days without auto-refill.

Verizon NetworkVerizon Network Color: Red

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 2 GB LTE Data. Red Pocket Mobile via eBay offers unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB data for $20 a month or less when you pay for 12 months upfront ($240 for one year) with a free SIM included in the kit. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. You can choose the Verizon network when you sign up.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 5 GB LTE Data. Total Wireless has an unlimited talk and text plan with 5 GB data for $33.20 per month with auto-refill (every 30 days). This is a month-to-month plan (no full year commitment). You can also choose $35 per 30 days without auto-refill.

If you don’t need data, here are the lesser-known cheapest talk and text only cell plans.

When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Thank you for your support.

Share this:

eccad.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Eccad.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.