The Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans for Frugal People

If you’re stuck with one of the big carriers or are looking for an alternative to Republic Wireless, here are some great options.

Mint Mobile

I just switched to MInt.

The plan I’m on is $15/month for unlimited talk, text, and 4GB of data.

When you sign up, you pay for three months of service. After three months, the price either goes up to $25 or you can buy 12 months worth of service to lock in the introductory rate. I’ll be choosing the latter option.

The link to the website is below. Be careful though. These guys are aggressive with ads. Visit their website once and I’ll bet that Mint Mobile ads will start following you around the internet.

Red Pocket

I’ve been with Red Pocket for the past two years or so. Until my SIM card arrives from Mint, I’m technically still on Red Pocket.

Red Pocket will run you $20 a month for unlimited talk, text and 3GB of data.

But the best way to buy Red Pocket is with refill cards on eBay.

Just go to eBay and search for “Red Pocket.” You can frequently find refill cards that average out to $20 a month or less. I just checked and there was one for $15.

Just make sure that the first time you buy a plan off of eBay you order a kit that comes with a SIM card or that you order a SIM separately.


Before Red Pocket, I was with Cricket. Recently, I’ve actually seen physical retail stores pop up with Cricket. This is a little odd for me, because I’m used to doing business with companies that you can interact with online only.

I liked my time with Cricket, but I switched because I found cheaper plans elsewhere.

Cricket will run you $30 a month for 2GB of data. But, the family plan is $100 for 4 lines

Straight Talk

Straight Talk was the first plan I used when I broke away from the big carriers back in 2013 or so. It was great, I just found cheaper options elsewhere.

You’ll notice a theme that I’m not sentimental with these plans. I’m just looking for the best deal.

Straight talk is $35 a month for unlimited talk, text, and 10GB data.

Metro by T-Mobile (Metro PCS)

Metro PCS recently became Metro by T-Mobile.

I have no direct experience with it, but I have several frugal friends who have used it for years.

Metro by T-Mobile will run you $30 a month for unlimited talk, text, and 2GB of data.

Google FI

I don’t have any experience with Google FI, but at least it’s by a company you already know. That could be a good or a bad thing.

Google FI has a plan that gives you unlimited talk, text, and 22GB of data for $30/month.

There is also an option for people that use less data to pay $17/month and $10/GB, with a cap on how much you can pay per month which they call “Bill Protection.” If you usually use WiFi, this could be a good deal.

Republic Wireless

Republic wireless offers basic talk and text for $15 a month. If you want data (and you obviously do), you can get it for 1GB for $5 a month, bringing your total to $20 a month for 1GB, or $25/mo for 2GB.

If you pay for a full year of 1GB, it will cost just $200 instead of $240, bringing the average monthly cost down to just below $17.

What if I Run Out of Data?

The short answer is don’t worry. You won’t lose internet access.

What almost always happens with these low cost providers is that once you hit your monthly data limit, they stop giving you access to a fast connection. So instead of 5G or 4G LTE, you’re connecting at 2G until the next month rolls around.

Not fun, but not a disaster.

To avoid this fate, use WiFi as much as possible. Download your podcast queue at home. If you’re going on a road trip and planning on watching a movie, download it to your device before you go. Not only will this preserve data, but your video won’t start buffering when you lose connection in the middle of Kansas.

Buying Phones

The only real advantage of being with one of the big carriers like Verizon or AT&T is that you get the latest and greatest flagship phones at a subsidized price.

Of course, you pay handsomely for this in the long run, but it can help you avoid the sticker shock of buying a brand new iPhone off contract.

There are essentially three strategies for buying phones with a cheaper network.

Buy a Phone From the Network

I’ve never done this, but your network will usually have some “good enough” options at an affordable price. Think lower-end models from brands like Motorolla and Samsung

Buy Used

This is an option that I have used and recommend. The secret when you’re getting started buying used phones is to use a reliable website like Swappa to find a great deal and make sure you aren’t getting scammed.

Of course, you can also sell your phone which will effectively bring down the cost of your “new” purchase.

Buy a Value Phone

This is the strategy I used this year. Essentially, you just look for a phone that is priced low but punches above its weight class. This year (early 2021) it was the Google Pixel 4a which has a great camera at a low price.

Next year it will probably be some other phone.

Final Thoughts

The nice thing about switching cell phone plans is that once it’s done, you almost forget about it. The savings are just happening automatically in the background.

This is the core idea behind the Quick Wins frugality project: Set it and forget it.

It’s so much easier to save money when you do the work once and the savings just keep rolling in.

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