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How to lower your smartphone bill (to $21/month!)

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On Monday, I told you all about why I finally decided to take the plunge into the world of smartphones.

And today, I’m going to share the details about how we have four smartphones for about $20 each per month!

$21 smartphone plan

The provider that we use is Ting Wireless. Basically, it’s a bit like a pay-as-you go sort of plan, and there’s no contract involved (yay!).

Ting Rates

There are several different “buckets” of usage that you can fall into, and you’re only charged for the bucket size that you use each month.

Here’s an example of what that looks like for our family, with four phones on Ting.

Phone minutes, texting, and data usage are all separated, so if you use no data, but you text and use phone minutes, then you’ll only pay for those and you’ll pay nothing for data.

Normal contract plans box you into predetermined allotments (Don’t use data? You’ll probably still have to pay for it.), but Ting’s plan is customizable and flexible.  If you never use text messaging, you’ll never have to pay for it.

$20 per line is very reasonable, and of course you could get your bill even lower if you use less data.

(Data is definitely the most expensive part of Ting.)

What network is Ting on?

Ting operates on two nationwide LTE networks.

You can view the coverage map right here to see if this will work for you.

What phones work with Ting?

You can either buy an unlocked phone, or you can use Ting’s site to check and see if your phone will work with their network.

We’ve always bought unlocked, refurbished iPhones from Amazon and ordered SIM cards from Ting.

(I currently have the iPhone 7 Plus.)

It’s a super-duper easy process, and Ting’s customer service is EXCELLENT at helping you out if you get stuck.

You can also buy a wide range of new or used phones right through Ting’s site.

(Note: You can use Ting’s service with a simple flip phone too.  They have several non-smartphone options on their site.)


Once you have your phone, the process of getting it set up with Ting is crazy easy and fast.  Mr. FG had it done in something like 10 minutes per device.

Keeping your bill low

To keep your cell phone bill low, you’ll want to hang out in the low usage categories.

This means that you can’t operate as though you have unlimited minutes, texts, and especially data, but the savings are totally worth it to me.

What’s the point of having a smartphone if you barely use it?

Well, wifi usage is free, which means that if you’re careful, you can still use your smartphone a whole lot without paying for data.

To keep our usage low, Mr. FG and I try to mainly use the web on our phones when we have access to wifi.

So, I pretty much never tweet or use Instagram on my phone except over wifi (which I have at home, of course, and which is also available in a surprising number of locations these days.)

The Frugal Girl's iPhone

Also, texting from our iPhones to other iPhones over wifi doesn’t count as text usage, which means we can text other iPhone users to our heart’s content. 

And of course, you can use free texting apps to communicate with Android users.

A hidden advantage of this pay-as-you-go plan is that there is significant motivation to control your usage. 

If I had access to data usage no matter where I was, I would be sorely tempted to be on my phone way more than I am. 

But because I know I’m going to have to pay for it, I’m not at all tempted to pull my phone out at the park or in the car or at a friend’s house.

This might seem inconvenient to some people, but I really, really appreciate the limits this places on me.

(I could go past the limits, but then I’d have to pay for it, and we all know I don’t want to do that!).

Also, if you want to avoid a $120/month cell phone bill, the fact of the matter is that you will have to get used to a more pared-down level of cell phone usage. 

It’s just like when you decide to get rid of your cable bill by switching to Roku…you can still watch TV, but it won’t be exactly the same as it was when you had cable, and you have to be more creative than you were before.

Get $25 toward Ting service!

I was about to hit publish on this and realized I almost forgot to tell you that if you sign up with Ting through any of the links in this post, you get $25 toward a phone or toward a month of Ting service.


We’ve been really, really happy with Ting so far.

It feels like we have the best of all possible worlds…we have access to smartphone features, we have motivation to keep our phone usage under control, and we have a ridiculously low bill.

I hope that I’ve explained all of this clearly, but if I haven’t, please do feel free to ask any questions you have, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Wednesday 22nd of March 2017

Can you recommend the cheapest internet provider, slow speed is ok.


Thursday 9th of February 2017

Thank you so much for sharing about your experience with Ting! I've been reading all the posts you've written over the past couple years, and it's been a big part of helping me make a plan to switch over to a smart phone (my other phone has been giving me problems in receiving texts so I've decided it's finally time). Have a "new to me" cheaper used smart phone on the way from eBay this week! And then I plan to set up my phone service thru Ting. Will have to use one of your posted links so I can even get a discount! Thanks again!


Friday 6th of January 2017

We have awesome MetroPCS coverage. Moved over two cell phones from sprint. We now pay $60 total for two phones (all fees included in this price). We have unlimited talk and text and 6G data. Think this deal ends sometime this month if anyone is interested. I think MetroPSC runs off from the T- Mobile network. We have great coverage. In the middle of nowhere Illinois, we had perfect text and cell service. My old Sprint was terrible. I was always in roam and if I had to make a call I would have to stand in one place for it to work. Best cell decision we've made. We don't have IPhones but the phones we do have work great. We had tons of free phones to choose from but my husband and I both opted for a phone upgrade. Mine was an extra flat fee of $20 and my husband's was an extra $40.

Mrs. Picky Pincher

Friday 29th of April 2016

What do you think about Ting's coverage after being on their plan for a while? We've been on Google Fi for almost three months--they use both Sprint and T-Mobile towers. It's been nice to have a $30 phone bill for the two of us, but we do seem to have coverage issues on our provider, and we're in a major metro area. Sigh.


Friday 29th of April 2016

For me, it's been good, but I live in an area with good Sprint coverage. Does your area show good Sprint coverage on the map?

Anna Marie Menendez

Thursday 21st of April 2016

Hello Kristen: I would love to save all that money, but I live in a rural area and Sprint does not work there.I work for a hospital and get a 26% discount. I pay over $80.00 for my iPhone and my son pays $88.00 so together our bill runs for over $170.00, Do you know if AT&T has something similar that I could use? I would love to hear about it. Thanks so much.


Thursday 21st of April 2016

Hmm, I'm not sure what to suggest. I know Republic Wireless is a great carrier too, but I'm pretty sure they run on the Sprint network, just like Ting does.

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