The Results Are In On My Prepaid Cellular Experiment

Three months ago I blogged about an experiment that my wife and I would be running: switching to a prepaid mobile plan with the intent to save money. The results are in and they aren’t exactly what I expected. Three months ago I hypothesized the following:

Worst case scenario… I’m figuring we’ll usually be fine with about \$60 dollars or so a month to cover all the minutes, texts and data we’ll need.

After keeping track of our expenses over the past three months I’ve come up with some numbers, I’ll throw them down here for you number geeks. Check it out:

In the month of September my phone bill (not including my wife – there is no family plan on prepaid) came out to \$79.75. This was for \$25 in voice (at .10 cents a minute), 600 MB of data and 1000 text messages. In October my total bill came to \$38.32. This covered \$25 in voice and the bare minimum in data and text (200 messages and 10MB of data). In November my total bill came to \$60.22, which covered \$25 in voice, 500MB of data and 200 messages. My average monthly cost? \$59.43.

My wife’s phone bill came to \$35.94 in September, \$32.84 in October and \$38.32 in November. She bought 1000 text messages two of the three months and \$25 worth of voice all three months. Her average monthly bill came to \$35.70.

That gives us a combined average monthly phone bill of \$95.13.

My estimate back in early September when I wrote the last post on this? I’ll quote for you again:

…about \$60 dollars [should] cover all the minutes, texts and data we’ll need.

Boy was I off on my estimates. Here’s what I think went wrong.

1. I underestimated how many of our minutes we weren’t using on the normal plan due to free nights and weekends.
2. I underestimated how many text messages my wife sends a month. 😛
3. I overestimated how well google voice would work (I tried to use it whenever I was connected to a wi-fi network for my voice calls).

What am I going to do now?

Technically the prepaid plan is still a decent amount cheaper than the postpaid plan I used to have. Our average cost has been about \$95 a month. Our old phone bill used to be about \$120. So we’re still saving \$25 a month. Not too shabby, and honestly if you don’t mind dealing with the frustrations of a prepaid plan it’s an easy way to cut down your expenses in a place you otherwise probably wouldn’t have thought to look.

What were my biggest frustrations with the prepaid plan?

1. Losing visual voicemail on my iPhone
2. Having two monthly bills
3. Having to refill the feature packages (data and messaging) every month before a certain date (if you don’t you lose what you bought and haven’t yet used)
4. Having to estimate how many minutes, messages and how much data I’d need every single month
5. Having to watch my data, voice and message usage on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis

Frustrations 3 and 4 could be ironed out eventually, for the most part. If I had signed up for automatic refill on the feature packages I wouldn’t much have to worry about frustration number 3. Over time my usage would probably level out (to a certain point) as well, so I would likely be able to stop thinking about how many minutes/messages and data to buy as well, so this would lessen frustration number 4.

Frustration number 2 honestly isn’t that big of a deal, so whatever. Losing visual voicemail on top of everything though (including not cutting my phone bill in half like I was hoping) seems to have put the final nail in the coffin for me. I’m going to switch back to a postpaid cellular plan and stop worrying about counting my minutes, messages and data (and get my visual voicemail back!).

Anyone else out there try this in the past and decide to go back, or considering switching to prepaid to cut costs? I’d love to hear your experiences.