Two months ago, while browsing my favorite subreddit, r/Personal Finance, I discovered people were paying $15-$30/mo at the most on their phone bill, and with smartphones that go on the internet, not those prehistoric pre-paid phones that only make calls. After researching further, I found the company they were using was called Ting.
Ting is a "pay-as-you-use" phone service provider that offers customers separate tiers for voice minutes, text messages, and data, each of which is adjusted month-to-month to match actual usage. There are no contracts, their customer service is top notch (they believe in humans), and your phone bill at the end of every month will leave you wondering if you actually just robbed them. Plus, as a web developer, their wonderfully designed website and choice of color palette immediately convinced me to make the switch.
Since 8th grade, I have been a Verizon customer, most currently paying $70/mo for my iPhone 5 with an 8% discount offered through my work. After using Ting's savings calculator on their website, I found using their service would SAVE me an estimated $50/mo based on my previous, consistent usage amounts with Verizon. That's an average bill of $15-$25 monthly, using my phone the same way I always have. Where has Ting been all these years!?
I made the switch to Ting two months ago. My bill for July was $17 (I policed my usage) and my bill for August was $26 (I did less policing and used my phone regularly), including the taxes. I am a low minutes, low text messages, and medium data user, which is why Ting is so beneficial to me. I avoid phone conversations like the plague, communicate with the people I'm closest to via iMessage or Facebook Messenger, and I'm always connected to wifi at work and home, so data is only used outside of these locations.
This was my usage for August.
As mentioned before, Ting charges you per your usages based off of "tiers" that include small, medium, large, and extra large (or extra small at $0 if you don't use it). The small tiers for minutes, messages, and data start at $3 - when you reach the limit for this tier (over 100 minutes, over 100 messages, and over 100 MB of data), you are moved to the next tier, medium, which is $9 for minutes, $5 messages, and $12 for data. Since the pricing is a bit all over the place, click here to see their rates chart.
Since I switched to Ting midway through my contract with Verizon, I was required to pay the bullshit early termination fee to compensate for Verizon's butthurtness. As much as they tried to get me to stay, they knew they had no competition in price compared to Ting, and showed me how much they valued my 14 years of customer loyalty with a $220 early termination fee. Now, I know I'm supposed to be saving money here, but don't worry, I did the math (I think)! $70/mo for the next 9 months (until me contract was up) is $630. Switching to Ting now at, say, $25/mo for the next 9 months, is only $225. Add the early termination fee of $220 makes that $445, making that still a $185 in savings. However, since Ting is so amazing, they pay you back in Ting credit for a portion of your early termination fee. In this case, I was reimbursed $50. So, despite the ETF, I'm still saving $235 by switching to Ting now instead of waiting for my contract to end. Yay math!
Is there a downside to Ting? Absolutely not. Well, okay, there is one - it ended up not effecting me, but I understand some may not be as lucky. Since Ting uses the Sprint network, your phone needs to be unlocked or be a Sprint activated phone in order to work with Ting thanks to the way current, large service providers operate. But wait, don't leave yet! This isn't as bad as it sounds. Originally, I had an iPhone 5 through Verizon that recently needed to be replaced through Apple (with my Apple Care). Since I received a replacement phone straight through Apple and not Verizon, my phone came back to me "unlocked" and I was able to get it up and running simply by purchasing the correct SIM card offered on Ting's website. To check to see if your phone may be eligible to do the same, enter your MEID here - if they tell you it's ready to activate, just replacing the SIM card may do the trick. If that option does not work for you, Ting has a store where you can sell/swap your old phone for the same or different phone that will work with them, which seems to be the route most people go. As of February 2015, Ting can be activated on ANY phone, not just Sprint phones - your phone just needs to be unlocked from the previous network. To see what SIM card you need to purchase, enter your MEID here.
The only other downside to Ting is come time you want to upgrade or decide that you need a new phone, not being locked into a contract means you won't get that upgrade for that discount service providers offer. Instead, you'll have to purchase the phone outright. But, since you're reading this because you're in debt, you should know that sticking with a perfectly good, working phone that's just %.8472 larger than it's brand new counterpart is a sacrifice you're willing to make to keep you on the path to paying off your student loans. If you're phone is actually broken, it's easy to find the phone you're looking for much cheaper on Craigslist or a local Facebook yard sale group.
Lastly, if you're a heavy data user, or a heavy phone user in general, Ting might not be beneficial to you, but it's definitely worth checking out their savings calculator to find out. If you're $100k in student loan debt like me, consider changing the way you use your phone so you can save with Ting because it's certainly a significant amount of savings.
If I've convinced you to make the switch, sign up through my referral link and get yourself $25 off your first bill - I did the same and my first bill was free with money left over to spare.
Seriously. Do this now if you can.