‘Bargain’ plan available for your cellphone

Published: Monday, April 29, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 26, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.

I’ve been told I am a cheapskate. Repeatedly. Not from just my wife and kids, though they’re the loudest, but from just about everyone I have met. Insulting? Not in the least. I am just one who focuses on value, and I am proud of it. Oh, and I tip well.

I am the guy who orders water because a $4 soda feels like financial assault. You might have seen me at the gas station lifting the hose to squeeze the last few drops of gas out of the line. Ain’t no gravity gonna steal my liquid gold! I don’t stop to pick up a penny from the ground, but my son does and it makes me smile. Catch my drift?

Hopefully all of this gives me the street cred to rant against one of the biggest fleeces happening today: the cellphone contract. Perhaps you don’t stop and look at the bill, but some of us do and the number of hidden fees and usage charges are enough to make someone with OCD (Obsessive Cheapskate Disorder) break out in hives. I itch just thinking about it.

Three phones in the family at about $200 a month comes to just less than $5,000 for the life of the two-year contract. That is probably the annual living wage for the poor soul who made the phones. Does all the blame lie on the likes of Verizon and AT&T? No, the government gets its share (as usual) with fees, taxes and surcharges.

The Apple and Samsungs of the world wrongly come out smelling like roses. You think you’re getting the most revolutionary devices for $200, but in reality they cost three times that. The carrier claims to pick up the tab, but, as you can probably guess, they overwhelmingly make up the difference by charging you an arm and a leg each month.

Confusing? Naturally. Most fleeces are just that. The bottom line is the average user ends up paying hundreds of dollars a year in the ruse.

Thankfully, solutions are now available. The big question is: Are you willing to pay full price for your device? If so, T-Mobile has a plan for you, and it might just shake up the entire industry, if it takes off. We are not talking about those cheap-o prepaid flip phones at Wal-Mart, we are talking iPhone 5 and others.

Here is how it works with T-Mobile. First and foremost, no contract to chain around your ankles every two years. If they stink one month you can hand them the shovel the next and take your business elsewhere. Next comes the discounted plan that is offered when you don’t subsidize your phone. T-Mobile’s new plan offers unlimited minutes, texts, tethering and 2 gigs of Internet for about $60 a month. The same plan on Verizon would cost about $100 a month. AT&T would run $85 but with half the data. We are talking about saving close to $1,000 over the life of a typical contract.

That’s a lot of cheddar, if you know what I mean.

While you do have the drawback of large upfront costs with the device, T-Mobile offers a payment plan that differs from the hidden costs of subsidies. Pay $100 upfront for the device and pay a flat $20 a month until the balance is paid. At that point, your bill is reduced.

Any proud OCD (Obsessive Cheapskate Disorder) person like myself sees the value in recouping $500 a year. It’s a vacation. It’s several nice dinners (with coupons). It’s an entire back-to-school wardrobe (at the thrift store). Either way, it adds up.

Verizon has already gone on record as saying it would not be opposed to such a model, which really means they see that subscribers are fed up with bills and saving 25 to 50 percent a month could mean a mass exodus for the big carriers.

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