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Yes, I can hear your gasp through the internet. “No flip phone for me!” you say. Dear Frugalite, please hear me out. This story is an example of “tough love” on the budget, but it has a happy ending! I save money with a flip phone every single month.
How I fell out of love with my smartphone
In 2018, despite my reservations, I got myself locked into a two-year contract with a well-known cellular company. Money was tight, and I couldn’t afford to buy even the most basic smartphone outright. I thought it would be okay. After all, two years isn’t that long.
Almost immediately, there was trouble in my new “marriage.” The mobile signal in my rural area was terrible. I became known by my family and friends as an infamous call-dropper. The lower-end mobile phone I got with my contract developed a bad connection in its charging port. So charging it became a finicky trial before I could pay it off.
In addition, as a rural homesteader, I began to question whether I REALLY needed to check my emails and have access to the internet everywhere I went. I was paying MORE for my cell phone than the internet I used at home. My smartphone was not a very smart choice for me and my budget!
Tip: Check out How to Audit your Personal Budget on the Frugalite.
How I found my freedom
Two long years of inconvenience slowly ticked away. A couple of calls to the cell phone provider provided some discounts for unsatisfactory service. But they would not let me out of my contract. In the meantime, I talked to my neighbors about their cellular reception and what company they used.
Aha! I could switch to their carrier, which was doing quite well for them.
As I continued my research, I found out that there was an even cheaper option: to go with a self-serve carrier that used the same signal as the company my neighbors used. And even more, I could save money with a flip phone instead of a fancy smartphone.
The self-serve carrier was a good choice for me. I am tech-savvy and don’t mind using internet-based tech support for my phone. They had an excellent plan for less than $CA25 ($20.50 US) a month. The plan was comparable to what I had been paying over $CA80 ($65.64 US) for before: unlimited texting, international texting, voice mail, unlimited calls, Canada-wide long distance. I decided it was time to switch to a flip phone.
I chose to save money with a flip phone
A small number of flip phones were available for me to choose from, all in the $CA100 ($82.04 US) range. I liked the idea I could buy my phone outright and not have to commit to another contract. In addition, I wanted to get away from an Android-powered operating system, as I was beginning to feel uncomfortable with having all my information and activities accessible to Google.
The features that were important to me were:
- no Android operating system
- basic camera
- alarm, timer
- some ability to text
In the end, I chose a ZTE Cymbal 2. This flip phone has all of the features above, and then some! It even has a built-in browser. It is so difficult to use that no one in their right mind would use it regularly. But it does work in a pinch. Its 1600mAh removable battery lasts for 12 hours of talk time or 16 days of standby time, yes DAYS. With my self-serve carrier, I was able to get a free 500 MB data bonus for signing on, so I have all the phone service I need for $CA23 ($18.87 US) a month, plus 1 GB of data.
Flip phone problems and how I have solved them
Limited texting: When I got my new phone, friends would text, and the first text I sent them all was: got flp phn hrd 2 txt. I can receive their chatty texts, but I can’t reciprocate them. There is no real fix for this. I don’t text anymore, except for the briefest information I need to send, like “onmyway.” When I need to convey information to someone, I either phone them or email them, depending on the person and context. These days, I only get texts from my closest friends, and they get it and support my choice.
Limited camera: While my new flip phone has a camera, it is only 2MP. So, this has proven to be a challenge when I want to take photos for my blog. I can’t zoom in, and the photos themselves don’t have enough information within them to allow for cropping and decent crispness. My solution for this is kind of ironic: I use my old smartphone, which has a great camera in it, and Bluetooth the photos to my laptop to process. I guess it came in handy, after all!
No navigation: My new flip phone does not have Google Maps, and it does not provide directions. I recently needed to drive to a nearby reasonably large city to buy some used tires I needed for my beater car. To make this trip, I used Google Maps on my laptop before I left and just wrote out the directions on an old-fashioned piece of paper, as I do not own a printer. The piece of paper worked very well.
Information on the go: When I first got my flip phone, I ran into trouble a few times when I went to town. I was used to searching for numbers and making calls on the go. Now, it is inconvenient to look up a phone number. I carry gift cards in my email account that I can’t access easily on my flip phone. I write down important phone numbers and gift card ID numbers in my notebook that I always carry to solve these issues.
Why I am happy with my choice
In the end, this was about two issues: my budget and my lifestyle. I save money with my flip phone: $CA60 ($49.22 US) dollars a month for my budget, and I’m not that rich. So, $CA720 ($590.62 US) a year is a lot of money to me. If you feel ready, read about How to SLASH your Fixed Expenses!
Regarding my lifestyle, when I talk on the phone, I am talking on the phone. When I use my laptop, I am using my laptop. I am happy with keeping these two separate. I have been able to adjust pretty easily to having a flip phone. So, in the end, a bad contract led me to a great choice, both for me and my budget.
What’s your call?
Do you use a flip phone now, or would you consider switching to one? How do you manage cell phone expenses in your budget? Share your frugal phone-related thoughts in the comments below!
Colette is a seventh-generation farmer and homesteader. She grew up in the suburbs of a large Canadian city, but spent summers in her childhood visiting her family farm. She has worked professionally as a researcher and writer for decades, all the while travelling the world. She always knew she would return to the area near her family farm in Eastern Ontario, Canada and is now happily living not far from there on her Half-Acre Homestead. Soon, she will be launching a website full of tips for Frugalites and homesteaders alike. If you subscribe to the Frugalite email list, keep an eye on your inbox to be one of the first to see it!