By Andy Valencia
This month my “big” column is about money. But I don’t want to leave the world of tech commentary entirely behind, and I have found a surprising way to save money on technology.
There are roughly four major cellular companies – that is, companies who put up cell towers and run the radios which talk to your cell phone. But there is a quirky market of “Mobile Virtual Network Operators” –MVNOs – who can also sell you cell service. They buy excess capacity from the big operators, and then give you a better deal. Sometimes, a much better deal.
My family has been living with a MVNO named “Red Pocket” for many years now. We have one phone on a plan that provides (monthly) 1,000 minutes of calling, unlimited texts, and 1 gigabyte of data; it’s $8.25 per month. My own phone’s plan is minimalist – 200 minutes of calling, 1,000 texts, and 200 megabytes for $2.50 per month. You won’t watch movies using this plan – use your laptop via wifi! – but it’s perfect for “Where are you?” messages and calls, along with emergencies. It certainly saves me money; the sales tax on your monthly plan might be more than my monthly cost!
If you’re interested, you buy 360 days of service in one go. It’s on eBay, search for “Red Pocket plan 360” and see what’s available. When you make the purchase, they send you a SIM card. Put it in the phone, go to their web site, and activate it (including choosing a phone number or transferring your own). The web site redpocket.com has all the details.
Do you feel like your phone has become that thing from Sigourney Weaver’s “Aliens” movie, an alien clamped to your face? Switch to a phone that lets you communicate without the siren song of the phone becoming your reality. The Nokia 2780 is a tiny flip phone with great audio. You can see texts and even compose them in a pinch, and you’ll treat it like a phone, not a lifestyle. It’s small and cheap – about $90.
For an even more minimalist line of flip phones, have a look at the “Sunbeam F1” product line.
Save some money on your cell plan, and then buy a cheap phone which makes it easy to keep your head up and your eyes on the world. Take the money you save and pay off credit card debt, buy some organic ingredients for your meals, save for a rainy day, and at least once visit an arboretum or rose garden.
Live it up and leave your phone in the car!