Republic Wireless Experiment and Review– Finding the Most Frugal Phone

We were afraid Republic Wireless was too good to be true, but we gave them a try.  They didn't disappoint! You really can have an awesome smartphone for just $10/ month with no contract!  Goodbye antique dumb phone!

As I was writing about my experience losing my cell phone and looking for comparable rates for replacing it, I got thinking more about the options.  In order to share the two best candidates I found, I went through the same research I had done months ago.

The more I learned about Republic Wireless, the more interested I was.  I was starting to fall in love with what Republic Wireless offered. By the way, this is not a sponsored post, I’m just really, truly impressed by Republic Wireless.

I told the Mr. what I had discovered and we decided we would give it a try.  After all, Republic Wireless has a 30-day money-back guarantee.  In June, we bought a phone to give it a try (Moto G with 16G of memory for $179 in case you were wondering).  In August we’ll get another phone so we’ll each have one.

We were afraid Republic Wireless was too good to be true, but we gave them a try.  They didn't disappoint! You really can have an awesome smartphone for just $10/ month with no contract!  Goodbye antique dumb phone!

What makes Republic Wireless awesome in general?

New Technology (Wifi + cell)

When WiFi is turned on, the phone will use WiFi as the default for calls, texting and data.  When WiFi isn’t available or isn’t turned on, the phone uses regular cell coverage.  Your phone automatically switches between the two.  Republic’s technology makes the hand-off between WiFi and cell without dropping a call or its quality.  This technology is what helps Republic keep their prices so low, and also why you are required to purchase one of the two Republic Wireless approved phones.

Unlimited-ness

We budget time.  We budget money.  It’s nice to not have to budget calls and texts too.  All plans (did I mention there’s even a $5/month plan?) include unlimited talk, text and data on WiFi.  The plans above the $5 plan also have unlimited talk and text on cell.

For the plans that use 3G or 4G data, you get 5GB of data over the cell network each month before your speed is slowed down.  Every six months without going over earns you a “free pass” to go over 5GB in a future month without having your speed slowed down.  You start out your account with a “free pass,” so the first time you go over you aren’t punished by having your data slow down.  You can read the details here.

Unbeatable Prices

A monthly price of $10 for unlimited talk and text is better than any dumb phone plan I know of.  Even if you can’t live without data when you don’t have WiFi available, $25 a month for 3G is super competitive.

Another cool thing about their prices is that you can switch between plans twice per month.  For example, we are on the $10/month plan so we have internet where WiFi is available.  If we were going on a road trip and wanted the convenience of data in the car, we could switch to the $25 plan for the week that we’re out of town, then back to the $10 plan when we’re at home.  Charges will be prorated for the days that you are on the $25 plan.  Pretty convenient!

No Contract

The big cell phone companies love locking customers into contracts.  Part of their reasoning is that they give you a subsidized phone for free or cheap at the beginning of the service and you pay a little each month for it over the life of the contract.  With Republic Wireless, you pay up front for the cost of the phone, ($149, $179 or $299) and then your monthly payment, for however long you want to continue with the service, is just based on the service plan you choose.

Not having to sign away your cellular freedom is refreshing.  Republic Wireless is confident that they have something awesome and you won’t want to leave.   In fact, they even offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

What makes Republic Wireless great for us personally?

Price

Price is a major factor for us since we are in the midst of paying off some serious law school student loan debt.  Ever since we got married 9 years ago, we have had $10/month dumb phones on my parents’ cell phone plan.  I was thrilled that even with all the bells and whistles of a smartphone, our monthly payment will stay at $10 per phone!

Even with the cost of the phone purchase, it’s a steal for us.   We paid $179 for Mr. SixFiguresUnder’s phone.  If we spread that over 24 months, the usual cell contract period for other providers, it’s $7.45/month, bringing his grand total for cell service to $17.45/month for the first 24 months and $10/month thereafter until he decides to get a replacement phone.

Texting

Neither of us has ever had texting on our phones before.  I sent my first text a few weeks ago!  Texting seems like an easy way to keep in contact with family and friends. Mr. SixFiguresUnder gets texts from his clients, associates, and his Boy Scouts pretty frequently, so now he can actually reply!

Smartphone

There are some pretty fun benefits of a smartphone, like keeping your calendar handy, listening to audio books,  keeping your budget handy, earning money with cash-back apps, and a million other things that you veteran smartphone users could clue me in on.  I’m sure it will be handy to have a camera so readily available, though I’m sure we’ll still use our DSLR for most of our photos, since we’re pretty much in love.  Our dumb phones were on their last legs anyway.  Mine was over 6 years old!

Coverage in the boonies

The drawback I shared previously was that neither Ting nor Republic Wireless had service in our area of the boonies.  Both use the Sprint network with free automatic roaming on Verizon’s network if you are out of Sprint coverage.  According to their maps, we are right on the edge of the roaming area and the no-coverage area.  Hooray for the free trial (money-back guarantee)!  We were happy to see that the phone does work at our house.

We live in a basement, so with my dumb phone, I had to go outside to make or receive a call, which is a little annoying in the winter.  Since Republic Wireless works on WiFi, then I could still use my phone at home and even in the basement!  I have other friends who don’t have any cell reception at their homes.  With Republic Wireless, they could use their phone at home on WiFi for talking, texting, and data.

Do you want to try Republic Wireless too?

Take a look at the specs on the Moto G and the Moto X, the two phones available for Republic Wireless.  For us first-tme smart phoners, the Moto G was plenty fancy.  The Moto X is pretty sweet too, it’s just a bit fancier than either of us needs.  Keep in mind that you can probably sell your old phone on ebay or craigslist (unless it’s a total dinosaur like our dumb phones) to offset the cost of a new Republic Wireless phone.

You can get a $20 credit toward your Republic Wireless service through my referral link, which is pretty much two months of free service (on the $10 plan, of course).  To sign up, just click “buy now” on the phone of your choice.  To make sure that you get the credit, look for the green box that mentions the refer-a-friend $20 credit.  You don’t need to enter a promo code if you go through my link.

refer a friend

I can’t think of very many people who wouldn’t save money with Republic Wireless.  Even if you have to cancel your other cell phone contract early with a penalty, you will probably recoup your losses quickly.  If you’re a regular reader, you know that Mr. SixFiguresUnder would call this a sunk cost.

When you signed up for your cell phone contract, you committed to make a certain payment (your early termination penalty) plus monthly payments.  In most cases, whether you keep using your current service or not, you’re on the hook for the early termination amount, either as a penalty or wrapped up in the continuing monthly contract.  That cost can’t be recovered, spent again, or wasted – it’s already gone, so it shouldn’t be a factor in your decision to keep or switch your plan.  The deciding factors should be the future costs and benefits of each plan.

 

There you have it!  For us Republic Wireless takes the cake for the most frugal phone.  I’m excited for August when it will be in the budget to get another Republic Wireless phone!

  • How about you?  Are you happy with your cell phone plan?  Would Republic Wireless be a good fit for you?  What other plans are you using or have you considered?

 

 Note: This post includes referral or affiliate links.  You can trust that I won’t recommend something unless I think it’s great.  For more info see my disclosure policy.

How to Get Started Paying Off Debt

Are you ready to get serious about paying off debt but don't know where to start? Here are the important basic steps for how to get started paying off debt.

I often get emails from people who are finally ready to face their debt but don’t know where to start.  Here’s a quick one I received from a reader recently.

I really need your help and advice. We are in debt and it seems to be growing. We are struggling to make it every month. I would love to have your help!

Just taking the step to come out of debt denial and start facing your debt is a big deal!  There will be a long road ahead of you, but you can do this and it will be so worth it!

While I have many articles and debt discussions about specific areas of debt repayment, I wanted to specifically address and give guidance to those who are just starting on their journey to be debt-free.  I would love to hear everyone’s input in the comments.

Here are my recommendations for how to get started paying off debt: 

Find out how much you actually owe.

If your debt is spread out across multiple debtors, get all the details in one place. Ready for Zero is a great tool for tracking your debt (and it’s free).  You can connect all of your credit card and other financial accounts in one place.  You’ll want to find out your total debt as well as your total monthly minimum payments.

Make sure you can cover the minimum payments.

It’s important to pay at least the minimum to avoid penalties.  Assuming you have more than one debt, you will want to focus your best effort on one debt at a time until it’s eliminated, but you’ll need to pay the minimum on all of your debts each month.

Assess your cash flow.

Before you go any further, you need to assess the money you have coming in and going out.  Do you know exactly how much income you have?  Do you know exactly how much you are spending?  If you aren’t currently tracking your spending, sign up for Mint.com (it’s free) to start tracking your spending.  While Mint is fine for tracking your spending, YNAB is a much better method for budgeting.

If you are spending more than you’re making, you are digging yourself deeper into debt.  Find the leaks in your budget and fix them before you move onto making a plan.  You may have to make some sacrifices, but it will be worth it!

Make a plan.  

Once you have made sure you have a positive cash flow, you can make your plan of attack.  If you just have one debt, it’s easy to know where to start, but if you have multiple debts, you’ll have to decide where you want to focus your extra attention. Two popular strategies for getting out of debt are commonly known as the debt snowball method and the debt avalanche method.

The debt snowball method has you focus on paying off the smallest debt first, no matter the interest rate.  You make minimum payments on all debts, and any additional funds go toward the smallest debt you have.  When that smallest debt is paid in full, you take the monthly payment that you were making toward that smallest debt and add it to the next smallest debt.  The main reasons for choosing the snowball method are to feel success and keep momentum up.  If your smallest debt is not your highest interest debt, you may pay more in the long run than with the debt avalanche method, but with the debt snowball you can focus on a quick win to start your momentum.

The debt avalanche method has you start with the loan of the highest interest rate,  no matter the size of the loan.  You still pay the minimum on all of your loans, but you put all your extra toward the loan with the highest interest rate.  The debt avalanche will save you more money in interest, especially if some of your loans have much higher interest rates than others.  If you aren’t worried about having some early psychological wins, then this is the most logical mathematical option.

Set a goal

While the plan tells what you are going to do, a goal says when you are going to do it.  I like setting a debt-free date as a long term goal to work toward.  In addition, smaller goals along the way are essential to keep you going.  Keep in mind that a goal needs to be something that you can measure and track.

You can make a spreadsheet to keep track of your balance, minimum payment, actual payment and interest rate, which will help you decide how to start on your plan and let you measure your progress.  However, if math isn’t your strong suit, that might be overwhelming and leave you open to error.  I would recommend using Ready for Zero‘s free service to set a customized debt repayment plan.  They will keep track of your progress and help you stay on top of  your goal.

Work really hard to speed up the process.

Now that you’ve made the decision to tackle your debt, don’t slow down.  The faster you can pay off your debt, the less you’ll pay in interest and the sooner you’ll have a fresh financial start.  To speed up the debt payment process do what you can to make more money and spend less money.  Consider ways you can earn extra money.  Find ways to cut your spending and live more frugally.  Decide what you are willing to give up to be debt-free.

Don’t give up!

Don’t give up!  You can do this!  Let others know about your plan so you can have some cheerleaders.  Realize that it usually takes longer to get out of debt than it took to acquire the debt.  Fight off discouragement when you’re feeling overwhelmed.  You can do this!

In addition to the other articles I linked to above, here are a few others that might help:

My readers always have wonderful, positive insights, so I expect that you’ll find lots of other great tips for getting started paying off debt in the comments!

It’s Your Turn

  • What advice would you offer to someone who is just starting their debt repayment journey?
  • What did your plan of attack look like?
Note: This post contains an affiliate link.  For more information, see my disclosure policy.

 Linked to Thrifty Thursday at LWSL

 

How Menu Planning Saves Money

Besides saving your sanity and making meals more delicious, menu planning saves money.  Here are several ways that menu planning benefits your budget along with some tips to get started!

One Friday not long ago I glanced at the clock and saw that, once again, dinner was half an hour away and I had no idea what to make.  A search of the cupboards and refrigerator was uninspiring.  Every idea I thought of would require more prep work that I had time to do or ingredients we didn’t have.

We ended up with an easy meal we had already eaten twice that week, but I cringed at the reaction of the kids, and honestly, I wasn’t all that excited about a third meal of the same again either.  I realized that I really needed to do better at planning menus.

Planning menus out ahead of time can prevent that uncomfortable scenario.  Taking Saturday to write out meal plans for the next week ensures  variety in our menu and makes both cooking and eating more enjoyable for our whole family.  A less apparent side effect, though, is that planning menus also saves money.  It’s one of my favorite ways to save money on groceries without using coupons because it has other great benefits as well.

While it may sound daunting at first, once you get into the habit (and in my case, stay in the habit), menu planning makes meals better and helps preserve your budget.  Here are a few ways that menu planning saves money, along with some tips.

Menu Planning Saves Money

1-You’ll buy what you’ll use and you’ll use what you’ll buy!

When you shop for a list of specific ingredients for specific meals, you won’t waste money on extra ingredients that you won’t use.  You won’t have to worry about unused produce or perishables going to waste because they weren’t used in time. You’ll waste less food and money by planning your menu!

2- Make fewer trips to the store!

When you don’t plan a menu, you will find yourself making (or at least being tempted to make) more trips to the store.  Each trip to the store costs you in a couple of ways. With gas getting more and more expensive, each trip to the store is costing more, not to mention the extra wear on your vehicle.  Making an extra trip to the store also takes valuable time.  Impulse buys can be another expensive risk of making additional trips to the store, especially if you’re hungry or have a sweet tooth.  Menu planning saves money by requiring fewer trips to the store.

3- Eliminate an expensive Plan B.

When mom is tired and kids are grumpy, it’s very easy to resort to take-out when there isn’t a menu plan.  Eating out regularly, even if it’s just fast food, really adds up.  If you wait to think about dinner until you’re hungry, then it’s probably too late.  Menu planning saves money by preventing the temptation to go out to eat.

4- Sanity is priceless

I will be the first to admit that menu planning is an area where I could improve.  The weeks where I do plan out our menu definitely go more smoothly than the weeks where the 5-o’clock hour rolls around each day and I don’t have a clue what I’m going to fix.  Since we live in the boonies, there isn’t ever the temptation to run to the store or go out to eat, menu planning definitely saves sanity.  Who can put a price tag on that?

A Few Tips

Here are a few tips from my menu planning experience.  Feel free to share your ideas in the comments so we can all learn from each other!

Plan your menu around the sales.

Each week grocery stores have their best deals on the front page of their ad.  They are often called “loss leaders” because the deal is so good that the store takes a loss on them, but they are willing to do so because they know that when you’re in the store you’ll buy more than just what’s on the front page.  Plan your menu around the sales and get a little more to stock up while the price is low.

Try something new.

If you’re like me, then you’ve learned that it can be tricky to try a new recipe on the fly because it seems like you’re always missing a key ingredient.  Planning ahead is the perfect way to try a new recipe.  On weeks when I successfully plan our menu, I try to add one new meal during the week.  Since you’ll plan your menu before you go shopping, you’ll be sure to pick up the ingredients you don’t have on hand.  Your family will be excited to add a new favorite to your recipe repertoire.

Make a list of your favorite meals.

Keep a long-standing list your family’s favorite meals and put it somewhere easy to remember.  I have mine taped on the inside door of one our kitchen cabinets.  Review the list each time you sit down to meal plan.  The list will prevent your mind from going blank as you try to think of meal ideas.

How about you?

  • Are you a menu planner?
  • How has menu planning helped you save money (and sanity)?
  • Do you do menu plan the old fashioned way or use an online tool or app?
  • What menu planning tips can you share?

Linked to One Project at a Time,  Thrifty Thursday at LWSL

 

Checkout 51 Home

My Favorite Cash Back Sites and Apps

A round-up of cash back sites and apps for online shopping and in-store shopping.  Includes minimum payout and method of payment.

I mentioned to my brother that I would be posting about cash back sites and apps today. He’s generally pretty savvy, so I was surprised that he didn’t know about any of these cash back programs.  If you didn’t know you could get cash back on nearly every online purchase and some in-store purchases too, don’t feel bad– my cool little brother didn’t know either!

While there are tons of rewards programs around, I want to focus on the programs that give you cash back.  Of all the prizes and rewards available, cash is universal and useful to everyone.  You can get cash back from credit card points, taking surveys, online purchases, grocery shopping, and more.

Online Shopping

Before I buy anything online, I always check to see what cash back is available.  Each site has a different list of online stores that give a cash back incentive.  The cash back percentage varies on different cash back sites, so it’s nice to compare the offers, especially if you’re making a larger purchase.  If you make online purchases, get in the habit of going through a cash back site every time.  Every little bit adds up!

Ebates 

Ebates has over 1700 online stores to choose from.  They regularly have double cash back specials on popular stores.  I’ve been using Ebates since 2009.  My favorite thing about Ebates is that the minimum payout is only $5.01.  They payout once a quarter via check or PayPal.  When you sign up and make a $25 purchase, you’ll get a bonus $10 gift card or $5 credit in your Ebates account.

SmarterBucks

SmarterBucks is a cash back program for people with student loans (or friends or family who want to support them).   The SmarterBucks Marketplace has links for lots of popular online stores where you get a percent of your purchase as SmarterBucks cash back.  You can also do surveys and other online activities to earn cash back.

Cash back that you earn will be applied directly to your student loans.  When you sign up, you link your SmarterBucks account with your federal student loan account.    We have used it and can vouch for it being legit.  I love that the money goes straight to our loans!

ExtraBux

ExtraBux is a little different than other online shopping rebate sites.  You can search by the store or the product.  If you search by the product, you can use their compare tool to compare the prices at stores across the internet and factor in the cashback rebate as you compare prices.  They start you out with $5 when you sign up.  The minimum payout is $10 and is paid through credit card, PayPal or check.

ShopAtHome.com

ShopAtHome.com has lots of great deals that combine coupon codes and cash back.  They have stores that other cash back sites don’t have and their cash back percentage is sometimes higher too.   ShopAtHome.com pays out monthly with a minimum payment of $20.  In addition to cash back, their site has other features like grocery coupons and more.

In-Store Shopping

Cash back on online purchases has been around for years, but cash back for in-store purchases, credit card benefits aside, is relatively new.  In-store cash back is more limited than online shopping cash back, but I expect that it will expand as time goes on.

Checkout 51

Checkout 51 offers cash back on grocery items.  Each Thursday Checkout 51 gives a list of cash back offers that are good through the next Wednesday.  Some are for name brand products, while others are general, like any brand of milk or fresh tomatoes.  After you purchase the items, you take a picture of your receipt and mark the offers included on the receipt.  You’ll receive cash back when your total reaches $20.  Checkout 51 works on a smartphone or on your computer.  You can use regular coupons in conjunction with Checkout 51 cash back.

ibotta

Ibotta is a free app for your smartphone or device.  You can see the offers available at over 50 popular retailers.   When you find items you’re going to buy (includes both brand name and generic), you scan the bar code with your phone, then upload a picture of your receipt.  There are other bonus activities you can complete as well.  You can cash out anything over $5 through PayPal or Venmo.  If you prefer a gift card, they’ll do that too.

 

What other ways do you earn cash back?  What are your favorites?

 

Note: Some of the links in this post are my referral or affiliate links.  For more info see my disclosure policy.