While I'm sitting at my front window watching my neighbors get their houses filled with new energy efficient appliances, their windows repaired, and their holey walls patched up, I figured I'd tell you about something Ryan and I did to save money recently.
It had to happen, especially since my student loan payment just tripled (!!!) now that my 4 year graduated repayment plan has expired. As a side note, Income Based Repayment (IBR), while a life-saver in some instances, isn't always the best choice. It would mean my monthly payment would be less than the interest owed, so if I ever made more money or were somehow blessed with a lump sum from the heavens and later decided to pay off the debt completely, I'd have to pay back MORE than what I owe right now. Also the thought of taking 25 years to make payments makes me kind of ill. If I had eye-popping debt, you better believe I'd do it, but mine hovers around the price of a baseline luxury sedan (one with manual windows, that is). At this rate, I'll have a huge portion of it paid off in six years, with the rest soon after.*
Anywho, up until now, Ryan was on his parents' cell phone plan, and it was time to cut the cord on that (many thanks to my generous MIL for allowing us to mooch a bit). Meanwhile, I was on another carrier's contract for a seemingly outrageous amount for not much benefit (1000 minutes, no data, for $50/month with me using perhaps 100 minutes a month). We needed an alternative that wasn't too expensive and was contract-free so that our monthly outlay for portable communication devices (sounds swanky) wouldn't exceed what I was already paying just for my own service.
In steps Republic Wireless. They've been in Beta forever, or at least close to forever, testing their hybrid phone model, which primarily uses Wi-fi for calls and data as well as standard phone networks when Wi-fi isn't available. We finally got in on the beta waves after 10 months on the waiting list. Right now, we're paying $45/month (taxes inclusive) for our cell phone service. Not just for one, but two smart phones. You can use it unlimited as long as you're connected to Wi-fi, which the phone finds automatically, and you get limited service on the Sprint network when you're not in an area with Wi-fi (I'm not going to say "car" unless you promise that you're not driving and texting/talking. Seriously, you might as well be drunk doing that, so just don't).
Republic is not for you if you
1) Want a top of the line phone (ours is perfectly respectable but not state of the art) or
2) Need unlimited data all the time anywhere or
3) Have to have perfection 100% of the time with the service (the VOIP is sometimes a bit noisy--this is still Beta, which means they're testing, tweaking, and perfecting right now) or
4) Can't pay for an un-subsidized phone (we had to pay outright for ours, so they were $250/each**, which we saved up for over several months. Most contract plans keep the phone price down because they make up for the subsidy with the higher priced data and minute plans).
But if you're a casual technology user, needing to save money yet wanting more than a basic dumbphone, consider Republic. I've had no issues with the phone and am getting plenty of dopamine hits with the constant access to the interwebs. Pow! Status Update! Pow! Pictures of kittens! Oh, that dopamine feels so gooooooood.
(Another alternative is a prepaid plan from any other carrier. It seriously pains me to see people who struggle to put money into savings every month pay too much for cell phones. I mean, some pay hundreds for their devices and have nothing in the bank? Folks, there are ways to have a fun gadget and not go broke. And if your friends make you feel bad for not having the latest and greatest, well, they aren't your friends. It's okay, I'll be your friend.)
*As a result of this drastic budget change, we'll be relying on some leftover supplies to do a few projects but otherwise we have to not pursue anything major at this time. Kind of sucks, but I'd rather stay current than go into default in the name of home renovation.
**It's a Motorola Defy XT. Very hardy. Dropped it into the toilet (with clean water THANK GOODNESS) and it came out unharmed despite being completely submerged. Didn't even have to do the "put it into a jar of rice" trick.
Disclosure: Nobody paid me for this review and I'm not affiliated with Republic except as a full-price-paying customer.