Living cheap - Saving on your mobile bill (part 1)

15/05/2020
Being cheap is great, but it normally comes with a lot of sacrifices to get within your budget. Here's how I save money on my phone and subscription whilst gaining more for my money.

Setting the scene

Todays world is digital obsessed, be it the mobile computer/phone/surveillance device we carry in our pocket, the bigger version of this device at home, our laptops, our smart tvs, they all mount up against the bank balance.
Subscriptions, charges, micro-transaction, these devices and services really do eat into the wallet. Phone service, the cost of the devices, maintenance and replacement. It all adds up.

The problem lies in people. People tend to want the best, the new, the shiny. Marketing trains people to want new, it's your job to buck the trend if you want to save money. If you think about it, it's all pointless in the end, when your old phone can do everything the new one can pretty much do, but if you are in need of a new device, here's how you can save a few bob in the process by just looking around.

Devices

Our devices are one of the biggest purchases we make. Phones can easily run up £600/£700 for a top of the line model, going at high as £1000+! And bizarrely enough, we on average buy new ones every two years! 1 But most people never buy their phones outright, instead they bundle the cost of a phone with a service plan. These plans are really a chain around you, holding you down to two years of overpaying for a device, whilst offering limited quotas on service. They're more than likely always a bad deal, even the ones that seem great on paper. Let's pick apart similar deals available for the newly released iPhone SE across the top 4 networks here in the uk.

24 month contracts

Provider Quotas Duration Cost
Three Unlimited call + texts, 4GB data 24 months £30 a month + £19 upfront (£739 entire duration)
EE Unlimited call + texts, 4GB data 24 months £34 a month + £30 upfront (£846 entire duration)
02 Unlimited call + texts, 5GB data 24 months £35.42 a month + £30 upfront (£880.08 entire duration)
Vodafone Unlimited call + texts, 6GB data 24 months £34 a month + £49 upfront (£865 entire duration)

Lets have a look at what our 5 minutes of deal searching got us. Three is by far the cheapest, being £105 cheaper to the nearest competitor. The most expensive is Vodafone, at £880.06!
So just by looking, we've saved a cup of coffee a month off our phone bill. But this is still a contract, still shackled. We can do better.

To buy the phone upfront costs £419 directly from Apple with the ability to go down to £279 if you trade in an "old" iPhone 8. For this example, we'll use the £419 price.
If we deduct £419 from £739 (the lowest deal) we have £320 to play with for 2 years worth of service (£13.3 a month). It doesn't seem a lot does it? But lets see what we can do.

Pay monthly

Provider Quotas Duration Cost
Three pay monthly Unlimited call + texts, 4GB data 24 months £12 a month
EE Unlimited call + texts, 250mb data (what a joke) 24 months £13 a month
02 Unlimited call + texts, 5GB data 12 months £13 a month
Vodafone Unlimited call + texts, 5GB data 24 months £15 a month

All these pay monthly (sim only) contracts are garbage. You're basically paying the same amount as you would do if you just got a regular contract with a phone. I can't think of a reason why these deals are so bad, other than to push you towards a more expensive plan. You're also locked into a contract for a long time, what's the point? On we search.

Pay as you go

In years yonder (most likely because I was a child) PAYG was what you used. £10 topup, convert to an addon got you 300 texts for the month. You were wise with your limited quota. Luckily, it's a lot better today.

Provider Quotas Duration Cost
Three (pdf because their site shows nothing) Unlimited call + texts, 4GB data 1 month (addon) but can top up whenever and have no service £10 a month
EE 100 mins + unlimited texts, 4gb data 1 month (addon) but can top up whenever and have no service £10 a month
02 Unlimited call + texts, 3GB data 1 month (addon) but can top up whenever and have no service £10 a month
Vodafone 250 mins + unlimited texts, 3gb data 1 month (addon) but can top up whenever and have no service £10 a month

Well, we have cheaper and better deals from pretty much all the providers compared to their contact offerings. Three is again the best, matching it's sim only deal but being £2 a month cheaper.
But there's no contract, you are free to leave whenever you want. You are not also stuck to your plan. You have some spare cash and want more data? Just top up £15 and get more data! Ran out of data and can't afford anymore? No overages! Can't afford your bill this month? Don't top up and people can still contact you. Cheaper, with more freedom. Why do people get sim only?

Can we do even better?

So our current self made mobile plan is currently:

  • Phone: £419 upfront or £16.99 a month for 24 months if you have to get it on credit
  • Service: £10 Three PAYG with 4GB addon
  • Total cost over 24 months: £659 (£80 saving)

This is even before we've looked at MVNO's and second hand/other/older devices. I'll talk about that in part 2.