In the post Saving Money on Your Cellphone Bill, I shared with you some strategies on how to save money on that all-too-necessary cellphone bill. Today, I'm going to get a little personal and share with you how we built our family plan to maximize those savings. We get our cellphone service from T-mobile, but this should work with any carrier that offers a family plan.
Step 1 - Figure out YOUR PLAN
I don't talk on the phone all that much, but I do text and surf the web ALL THE TIME. So I didn't care how many minutes my cellphone plan included, as long as it included enough text messages and data to satisfy my monthly use. I took a look at my past usage patterns and discovered that I usually use somewhere around 1.5-2GB of data each month. So I came up with the following requirements for a cellphone plan:
- Must work consistently at home and at work, where I spend the majority of my time.
- Preferably have a nationwide network and/or roaming agreement with other carriers since I do travel occasionally.
- Includes unlimited texting and at least 2GB of data each month.
Step 2 - FIND YOUR PARTNERS IN CRIME
Cellphone carriers give discounts to family plans as compared to individual lines - think of it like a Groupon. However, since we are talking money, it is imperative that I only include people I trust in a potential family plan. In the end, I settled on my parents and 4 good college friends for a total of 7 lines for a family plan. Not a big problem since most family plans now allow for up to 10 lines.
Step 3 - COMPARISON SHOP
There are plenty of comparison shopping sites out there. Wirefly.com is a good one where you can compare plans from a number of different carriers. However, I actually recommend going to deal sharing sites such as slickdeals.net to find the best plan. Because carriers often introduce new promotions to attract customers and the internet is very good at finding the best deals. Here is how I found the plan I finally settled on:
Sure T-mobile doesn't have the greatest coverage, but it works great in my area. Some additional perks of going with T-mobile included: free unlimited international texting and data roaming (2G speeds) and unlimited music streaming thru Music Freedom. As a bonus, I was able to add a 200MB/month data plan for my iPad through the T-Mobile Free Data for Life promotion.
Step 4 - Setting up the plan
Once the optimal plan was identified, I invited everyone to join the family plan. First, we set up some ground rules regarding how bills would be divided and how payments are made. We agreed to divide the bill evenly 7 ways. So the total bill each month came to $130/7 = $18.57 plus taxes and fees. Since T-mobile no longer offer subsidized phones on a contract, we also agreed that everyone will pay for their own phone if they chose to finance one through the carrier. When each month's bill arrives, I pay the bill in full. Then I send out an email as detailed below and family plan members pay me through Google Wallet.
As you can see, my family plan members pay as low as $22.58/month for a relatively decent phone plan. We have been doing this since September 2014 without any problems. What's even better is that the more people we include in the family plan, the lower the cost/line! The key is finding people you can trust to be part of the plan, especially if they are going to finance very expensive smartphones through the carriers. Sure it requires a little bit of work to set up initially, but I think that's a fair expense for significant savings on a vital utility. What do you think about our setup?