Melanie has worked in the BLINQ Marketing Department since early 2014. We asked her to share a smart money tip for her fellow savvy consumers.
Q: What’s your favorite money-saving tip?
I find that once I’m used to a recurring cost, I won’t pay as much attention to it and just treat it like a given. So I tend to be very careful about committing to subscription services, since I may end up paying for them longer than I really need to. This is even more true if I’m getting locked into a contract of any kind.
That’s why the best decision I’ve made was to switch to a prepaid cell phone provider.
Years ago, most people thought of prepaid phone plans as being geared toward people with bad credit, and only coming with limited minutes, no data and a poor choice of terrible dumb phone handsets. But that’s not true anymore!
Now you can get unlimited talk, text and data on a prepaid plan that uses the same networks as the major carriers, but at a much lower monthly cost — and you have much better choices about what phones you can use!
The “catch” is that you need to buy your own phone, without the carrier subsidy. A “no contract” phone may seem more expensive, but don’t forget to consider why carriers are willing to offer new phones so cheap.
Many consumers get hooked by the “free phone” offer that carriers use to lock you into a contract, but if you look at the cost of that free phone over the course of two years (or longer), you end up spending a lot more. You can find lots of feature-rich smartphones online at a good price and use one with a prepaid plan that’s 50%-80% cheaper than a basic contract from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless.
Depending on your carrier, it probably doesn’t even need to be a more expensive “unlocked” phone, just one that’s compatible with your service.
I actually saved even more by buying a pre-owned smartphone (true story!) and then activating it with a prepaid carrier. Both the phone and plan offer me what I need, so I see no point to paying more for the same thing. The beauty of many of today’s prepaid carriers is that you can use any compatible phone you want — whether that’s one you already own or something brand-spanking new. If you’re saving $50+ per month on a cheaper plan, feel free to splurge a little.
(Want to go prepaid, but not sure what kind of phone to buy? Check out our article on the difference between unlocked and no-contract phones. Then head over to our cell phone shop to check out great deals on smartphones.)
Q: Speaking of splurging, what do you like to do with the money you save?
I enjoy food, travel and photography; I especially love being able to combine all three. On a recent trip abroad, I splurged on renting a higher-end camera lens so I could take better pictures of the local wildlife.That allowed me have nice gear that suited my purpose, without the commitment of buying something that would definitely be overkill for regular use. I’m glad I chose to spend a little extra on the rental, because my own lenses definitely would’ve left me pretty disappointed. That’s my bonus savings tip: renting expensive equipment gives you the benefits of access when you need it, without the hefty price tag.