How to Save Money With a Flip Phone (*gasp)

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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
  • calendar

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!

About Colette

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!

How to Save Money With a Flip Phone  (*gasp)
Colette

Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. (www.halfacrehomestead.ca) Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in February 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!

25 thoughts on “How to Save Money With a Flip Phone (*gasp)”

  1. Robert Bigelow

    I have used the cheapest phone available since they were available. 20 bucks, give or take, a month. No lock on providers, have used it everywhere I needed to go. My latest is a flip phone, my only criticism is the phone number style alphabet, rather than a full keyboard…lotsa typos, but my friends get it. Shorthand helps, like, omw ( on my way) K ( obvious). It’s all I need, or want. Auto recharge, refill, etc, at about 23.00(us) a month. It just works foe me.

    1. Thx Rbrt Bglw! I will immediately adopt your omy for on my way. That will save me thousands of button pushes on my flip phone key pad over my lifetime. Many thanks! I agree that a phone like this is all I need.

  2. Colette, I love this. Yes, people can live without a high-dollar, multi-year phone contract. For years I simply refused to have a cell phone, because I felt it was a waste. When I became a mother, I decided it might be more useful in case of emergency or if our landline was out (which happened several times due to construction vehicles nearby). I went with a TracFone because, like you, I wanted an inexpensive phone I could just buy outright. I was happy that I could purchase the amount of time/minutes that suited me and I kept that phone for almost 8 years until it died. When I replaced the phone I went with a company (now defunct) that actually offered a limited amount of talk/text/data for free every month and used that service for maybe 3 years. That was also the service we put our son on when he got a phone. When that company was absorbed by another, my son stayed with them and his bill is typically about $10-11 per month. I switched my phone over to TracFone and used a RetailMeNot code to purchase my one year service plan, with talk/text and data in the amount I needed for – $76.00! Last year and this year I spent an additional $11 for extra texts, but I limit my mobile data and do just fine. I text a lot, but it is not my primary phone for speaking, and only use data when necessary. I already pay for internet/land line at home for those purposes! Now I have to conquer that bill 🙂

    1. Hi Christine, How FANTASTIC you got 8 years out of a phone you bought outright. I hope I am so lucky! I think the information you provided in your comment will be very helpful for folks looking to reduce their cellular bills. Especially these days, I think it is so important to look at every expense and consider the need/want continuum. The Frugalite motto to live BENEATH your means has never been so valuable. Good luck with your review of your landline/internet!

  3. Ah yes, exactly what I was thinking. Unfortunately, right now I use my smartphone for Instacart, which is how I earn a meager living (working on that problem), so I need to keep it. And like you a short time ago, I have another year on my contract. I used to have a pay-as-you-go smartphone from Verizon prepaid, but last year I dropped it and broke the screen (yep, during the pandemic) and couldn’t get it fixed. Besides, it would have cost over half the price of the phone to fix it, so I got a new one. Unfortunately, because of closures everywhere, the only one I could get was with a 2-year contract. Once that’s up, if I can replace IC as a vocation, I’m going to do what you did and save the smartphone for use as a camera (and to surf the web when WiFi is available – yes, that does work even without service). For a primary phone, I’d sooner go back to what I used to have – one with a slide-out keyboard so I could text easily. Wonder if I could still find one somewhere…

    1. Yes, Jim, I think a lot of us got “stuck” with sub par stuff we bought during the worst of the pandemic. I hope the final year of your contract goes quickly for you. As I push the buttons on my flip phone’s keyboard 13 times to write “Hello” I do wonder if there are any of those phones still around….blackberries??? Who knows, maybe we can create a new wave of demand for them!

    2. Sounds like one of the LG series, LG ENV2 possibly. Somebody on FleaBay probably has one. Some of the pay as you go carriers can flash compatible phones over to their networks too so that’s something to think about, just research what type of network the carrier uses and compatible models and you should be good to go.

  4. I was a hold out for a long time regarding getting any kind of cell phone….I finally, long after all my friends and family had one, I got a flip phone…and I loved it….I do not remember having any problems with texting…..in fact – after I did finally get a smart phone, I preferred the texting on my flip phone to the new phone…..I keep a phone for a long time and am only on my 2nd smart phone ….I still think that I might prefer to go back to a flip phone…I would miss being able to look stuff up…but I have a tablet & a desk top computer….so I think I could get used to it….I would also miss the GPS, and the great camera…..I only pay $31.78 per month (US)…..I am on a family plan with my son & his family, so not really spending too much.

    1. Wow! Donna! Hold on to that plan! You are doing quite well with that. If the plan ever ends, I will welcome you back to the world of flip phones!

  5. Some other advantages of a flip /dumb /feature phone compared to an allegedly smart phone:

    1. The security of a flip phone is far better. Smart phones are hacker magnets. Even zillionaire Warren Buffett (who would have no problem funding a smart phone) refuses to have one.

    2. The battery life and usability between charges is vastly better with flip phones.

    3. Unless you have a need to take lots of photos and upload them while on the go away from your laptop or PC, a simple stand-alone pocket camera (like the older Kodak Zi8, eg.) works just fine, and doesn’t come with a monthly contract to pay. I’ve even found that many (not all) clip-on lenses intended for smart phones work just fine when adapted to that Zi8. So a flip phone’s lack of a camera is not an issue at all.

    –Lewis

    1. Thanks, Lewis! It’s not very often I find myself making the same choices as billionaires like Warren Buffet, but there you go. Regarding the camera, clearly technology has come a long way. I wasn’t aware of the whole range of pocket cameras now available and all they can do. (Perhaps I am showing my ummm…maturity there!). I guess the bottom line is a dumb phone can be quite the smart choice!

  6. Ha ha ha ha! Quit stealing my secrets! First you had a car that looked a lot like mine, now you have a phone that looks a lot like mine! Kidding, kidding. Well, just about the secrets part. The other stuff is true.

    I have an old school flip phone that has worked fine for around 8 years. I’ve replaced the battery once. My calling plan is $25 a month for unlimited talk and text, no contract. (Bonus tip – for Cricket customers, if you are buying a new phone, when you go to select a calling plan go to the very bottom of the page and look in the fine print. That’s where I found my ultra cheap calling plan.)

    One of the really cool things about my phone is, it lasts a week on one charge. So it’s kind of a safety feature too. Also a lot of stores and other places that provide discount apps still have a PC option if you want to dig, so you can still get discounts if you want to, track your calories, etc, just not on your phone.

    Thanks for this article!

    1. Ha ha Redbranch! That gave me a good laugh. I guess we’re both true Frugalites, eh? You will have to keep an eye out for my future articles to see if I keep un-covering your secrets!

      Christine in this thread above got 8 years out of her flip phone, and yours may last even longer. I haven’t heard of anyone having a smart phone for that long.

      I do agree that the battery life of these phones is one of their greatest features. it just goes and goes and goes….and with a removable battery, there is a chance for me to replace it, like you did, rather than throwing out the phone.
      Thanks for sharing your tips: the name of the carrier with such a good plan (Cricket) and ideas to keep up with activities you like on a smart phone through your PC. Ideas like these can help those on the fence make the “flip” to a flip phone!

      1. You’re welcome and thank you in return. Oh, and I have dropped my phone on pavement a few times and it just has a few scuffs on the surface. That thing is bulletproof. Which is funny because it’s not designed to be particularly robust.

        Funny story I have to share before I go:

        I had to do a return on a purchase, and the only way they wanted to do it was for me to show them a QR code. Ideally, on my phone. Well I didn’t want to print out the QR code and my phone screen is tiny, plus I have data turned off. So what did I do? I took the QR code, saved it as an image, loaded it on my ancient E-reader, and took THAT puppy into the store. They could read the code off the screen and I walked away happy, still without having had to use a Fondleslab.

        LOL…

        1. HAHAHAHa! Hey Redbranch….now you are stealing MY secrets!!! Post flip phone, I had been paid with a thank you gift card for a guest lecture I gave to a class. I took a photo of the QR code with my 2MP camera…..wouldn’t scan. (rats!). The next time I went to town, I was prepared: I used my old “smart” phone to take a photo of the QR code as it showed on my laptop screen. In the checkout line, I powered it up and showed the photo. WIN! Same thing with QR codes required for curbside pick up at out local big box stores during lockdown. Glad you raised this, as it is an important adaptation for us flip phone geniuses!

  7. Yes. I have never had a smart phone. I went from Motorola Razor to a Kyocera military grade (that I had for 5 years). Last week I just got another flipper, somim xp3. I immediately turned off automatic WIFI connect for browser and the GPS location. A couple years ago, I was using my flip phone is a wally world. A young lady, about 25ish with a baby said to me, “I love your phone!. I wish I never got a smart phone.” I have a laptop at home and I have a professional digital camera. I just need to make phone calls and text.

    1. Hi OkieRanchWife, so impressed you have never had a smart phone. Smart of you! It sounds like you have found the perfect balance of using each item for what you need it to do. AND, you can do it without being connected to location and wifi with your phone. A solid plan that clearly impressed that young woman you met, too!

  8. Ah, Blackberry…my first ‘smartphone’ and my kids called me a luddite! I held onto that one as long as I could…We use a pay as you go service now but at the end of this month are planning to switch to pure talk. We own our phones outright (i refuse a payment plan for a phone even if it means i have an older model) so it should be a painless switch (fingers crossed) and half what we pay monthly now. Now to keep DH from wanting a new phone every couple years!

  9. Hi Grammyprepper, I love these labels….luddite! I wear that one with pride….cheap? I prefer thrifty, thank you, or frugalite. I will cross my fingers on your behalf that your transition to pure talk goes well. This is another great tips for readers to be aware of. I’m sure you can find excellent uses for that extra cash you will have. All the best!

    1. Lewis, this is a great addition to the theme of this article. Thanks so much. What a wake up call this is! If I DIDN’T already have a dumb phone, this would give me pause! What caught my attention when I read this article was how authorities are still not clear on how accessing the owner’s smart phone is getting the thieves direct access to the owner’s bank account….is it lax security on the part of the owner? Sophisticated software that the thieves use to hack the smart phone? Or a combination of both? I don’t want any part of this problem….Again, I’m siding with Warren Buffet on this one. Cheers!

  10. The last time I calculated it, my flip phone costs me $8.50 per month, or about $120 a year. I’m a bit amazed when people say they are paying $25 per month for one – as if that’s uber-frugalista – that’s how much I paid for a land line the last time I had one, and at least with a land line, service doesn’t usually go out with bad storms. I kind of miss having a land line, for that reason.
    (That’s not to say that 25 Bucks is a bad deal, though.)

    I wonder how much people are paying for sthmart phone service over a ten or twenty year period? The price of a new small car, perhaps? I guess that’s why I never got satellite or cable TeeVee, I saw the cost as a yearly price rather than a monthly one.

    1. Helot, WOW! $120 a year is awesome uber-frugalite! Do you mind sharing a few more details for our readers about how you manage this? Pay as you go? No data/Phone only? Self service carrier? Is there a particular carrier you recommend?
      I had considered a landline….to get a landline now in my area would cost $50 per month, with a $50 connection fee. This plan does NOT include any long distance, either. Without a package deal with internet and home television, you will also be paying $34.95 for long distance every month. That is how much I was paying for my smart phone service. That is why I went with my flip phone. I would have preferred a land line, as I have an old style wall phone I was planning on rewiring. However, being a frugalite, I made the best choice for my budget. Hope to hear more from you about your great deal! Thanks for sharing!

  11. It seems there is even another deal breaker with “smart” phones. This story hit the fan today from Massachusetts about Covid tracking apps being secretly loaded onto Android phones without the owner’s knowledge or permission. Then commenters after the ZeroHedge.com reprint indicate this is happening in other states as well. Here are the details:

    Google Accused Of “Force-Installing” COVID Tracking App On Phones, 22 June 2021

    https://summit.news/2021/06/22/google-accused-of-force-installing-covid-tracking-app-on-phones/

    Reprinted here:
    https://www.zerohedge.com/technology/google-accused-force-installing-covid-tracking-app-phones

    Plus 65 comments [some are highly revealing], & counting…

    So “smart” phones are fully capable of being another tool of the surveillance state — at your expense.

    –Lewis

    1. Whew! Lewis! It looks like I got out of the smart phone just in the nick of time. I read the article and it was scary….Google installing a COVID tracker app in your phone without your permission “for your own good.” Honestly, what could go wrong with that??? I read most of the comments and many were quite informative and some quite hilarious! Many of the commentors were mentioning either getting a flip phone or already having one. This is a great addition to our thread on the benefits of flip phones. Save money and avoid unannounced surveillance of your every move: a great package deal.Thanks so much!

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