Lesser-Known Cheap Basic Prepaid Cell Phone Plans on Every Network – Starting Under $10 a Month

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(Updated 2021. T-Mobile absorbed Sprint, so no more Sprint MVNOs. Tello is now a T-Mobile MVNO, but is still quite affordable. Ting Mobile has new flexible plans that work well for occasional data users, and you can now choose from either the T-Mobile or Verizon network.)

You can get unlimited talk and unlimited texts for $10 a month or less on every major network. That’s less than my bare landline used to cost. The major networks sell wholesale minutes to lesser-known MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals. Below are the best options by network below (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile) along with an alternative. I sort by network because that usually makes it easier to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), though every MVNO will have a form where you can check compatibility via identification number (IMEI or MEID). Here are the cheapest plans with unlimited talk & text and 5G/LTE high-speed data.

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links where available. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may be compensated.

T-Mobile NetworkT-Mobile Network Color: Hot Pink

  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Tello Mobile also has an unlimited talk, text, and no data for $8 a month. You need to choose a custom plan to find this option. Upgrade to 1 GB of data at only $10 per month. New user promo: Get 50% off their first 3 months.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + Flexible Data. Ting Mobile has an unlimited talk and text for $10 a month plus pay-for-what-you-use data for $5 per GB of high-speed data. This may work best for those that want to always have access to data at a reasonable price, but no data during most months. Ting data can also be shared across multiple lines ($10 per line base). Ting now runs on both the T-Mobile and Verizon networks. For T-Mobile, you should be directed their “X1 SIM card”. New user promo: Bring over your own phone and get a free $25 service credit.
  • Higher price, but not MVNO. Alternatively, you can go directly with T-Mobile Connect and get unlimited talk and text with 2 GB data for $15 a month.

Note: I personally use Mint Mobile, which offers unlimited talk, text, and 4 GB data for $15 a month – see my Mint Mobile review for tips and details based on my experiences.

AT&T NetworkAT&T Network Color: Blue

  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Good2Go Mobile offers unlimited talk and text for $10 a month. Upgrade to 1 GB of data and pay $15 month. Buy the SIM card from Amazon for $5 and get $5 credit included.
  • 3 GB LTE data, more expensive. Alternatively, Red Pocket Mobile offers unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB data for $19 a month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. Be sure to choose the AT&T network (GSMA) when you sign up.

Verizon NetworkVerizon Network Color: Red

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + Flexible Data. Ting Mobile has an unlimited talk and text for $10 a month plus pay-for-what-you-use data for $5 per GB of high-speed data. This may work best for those that want to always have access to data at a reasonable price, but no data during most months. Ting data can also be shared across multiple lines ($10 per line base). Ting now runs on both the T-Mobile and Verizon networks. For Verizon, you should be directed their “V1 SIM card”. New user promo: Bring over your own phone and get a free $25 service credit.
  • I previously listed US Mobile, which also advertises unlimited talk and text for $10 a month, but they actually tack on a mandatory $2 month “access fee” on top of the usual taxes and fees. I don’t know of any other provider that does this, as it is basically a secret way to make the price really $12 a month.
  • 3 GB LTE data, more expensive. Alternatively, Red Pocket Mobile offers unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB data for $19 a month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. Be sure to choose the Verizon network (CDMA) when you sign up.

(Note: Now that Sprint has finally completed its merger with T-Mobile, some T-Mobile MVNOs can now access Sprint towers and some previous Sprint MVNOs are switching to T-Mobile MVNOs.)

Here are the cheapest plans with unlimited talk & text and 5G/LTE high-speed data.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Mint Mobile Review: Now $15 a Month for 4 GB, $20 a Month for 10 GB 5G/LTE Data

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Update 2021: I just renewed with Mint Mobile again. I’m still happy with the service, including the new faster 5G speeds and increased data limits (added automatically without raising the price). I now pay $20/month for 10 GB 5G/LTE data (up from 8 GB). I also consolidated all the important info from my previous Mint Mobile posts into the full review below.

Full review:

Mint Mobile is a prepaid cellular MVNO which runs on the T-Mobile network. They offer very competitive pricing on 5G/LTE data plans, as long as you “buy in bulk”. To switch, they will send you a SIM card to place in your existing phone. New customers can get the lowest price for the first 3 months for a lower upfront commitment. After that, you’ll need to renew for 12 months. Here are the current plan options:

  • 4 GB 5G/LTE Data + Unlimited Talk/Text for $15/month
  • 10 GB 5G/LTE Data + Unlimited Talk/Text for $20/month
  • 15 GB 5G/LTE Data + Unlimited Talk/Text for $25/month
  • Unlimited* 5G/LTE Data + Unlimited Talk/Text for $30/month (*Throttled after 35 GB)

I like that Mint Mobile acts like Vanguard in that I keep automatically getting more for my money without me having to be a new customer. $15 a month used to get me 2 GB of data, then 3 GB, and now 4 GB. $20 a month used to get me 5 GB of data, then 8 GB, and now 10 GB.

After you run out of 5G/LTE high-speed data, Mint Mobile plans still include “unlimited” slow data at 2G speeds (128kbps). This is nice to keep your messages and e-mail even if you accidentally binge-watch something on Netflix over cellular. All plans also include free international calls to Mexico and Canada.

Bring your own phone. You can bring your own unlocked GSM phone including both Android and Apple iPhones. Input your zip code first and then they will help you check your phone compatibilty. The most reliable way is to look up your IMEI number in your phone settings. Alternatively, they are offering the new iPhone SE for $15 a month, which means you can get a new phone + service for $30 a month total.

eSim now available. If have an iPhone that supports eSim (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR to the current iPhone 12 line-up), you can now switch to Mint without even waiting for a physical SIM card. Look for the eSim option during the sign-up process. Android support is supposed to come mid-2021, but unfortunately there are currently no plans to support the Apple Watch.

Number porting tip. Don’t forget to collect the following info from your existing carrier before starting the transfer process: Account number, Account PIN/password, and zip code on bill. Other than that, I was able to swap SIM cards and activate everything in under 10 minutes.

Upgrade to a higher data plan later and only pay the difference. During the pandemic, I found myself eating through a lot more cellular data. After I bumped into my data cap (3 GB at the time for $15/month) for the second time, I contacted Mint to upgrade to their next tier (8 GB at the time for $20/month). They allowed me to upgrade to the higher data plan for the rest of my 12-month term by only paying for the future difference. I did not have to retroactively pay to upgrade the entire term, or even renew for a new term.

What’s the catch? Any drawbacks? I did not experience any “catch”. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have kept renewing with Mint for three years in a row. If I’m being picky, here are potential drawbacks:

  • As with all MVNOs, you don’t get the roaming that you get when you pay full price from the Big 3 carriers of Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile. However, I never noticed any ongoing issues with cell coverage. The only time that I remember lacking service was during a large public event (remember those?) – a music concert in a stadium.
  • As with any time you switch carriers, the porting process can sometimes be a hassle. You’ll need to call your existing carrier and get a secret passphrase, which might involve a phone call and some hold time. Mint tries to do everything online, but does have a phone number and human reps if needed.

How’s the 5G data speed? If you have a 5G-capable phone and 5G towers around, you can get download speeds that rival or perhaps exceed your home internet connection. I did various tests with the SpeedTest app and sometimes had blazing 5G speeds (200 Mbps+), while sometimes the 5G with only one bar was slower than normal LTE (50 Mbps). Supposedly, Mint will automatically allow to connect to whichever is faster, 5G or LTE.

Can I use my phone as a WiFi hotspot? All Mint plans include free hotspot tethering up to your data allotment (5 GB hotspot on unlimited plan).

7-day money back guarantee details. It is important to note that their “7-Day Money Back Guarantee” starts at activation, not order date or ship date. So activate, and make sure the coverage works for you within those 7 days. If not, you can request a full refund online (minus shipping if any). You don’t even need to ship back your SIM card.

Bottom line. Mint Mobile works best for my needs, as I get unlimited talk, text, and 10 GB of 5G/LTE data for $20 a month. Other recs? If you want to unlimited talk and text only, you can find from Tello for only $8 a month (now a T-Mobile MVNO). If you want unlimited data on Verizon towers, look into Visible Wireless at $25 to $40 a month.

Also see:

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links above, I may be compensated.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Consumer Reports: Top 10 Most Reliable Car Brands and Models 2020

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Consumer Reports provided some updated results from their 2020 Car Owner Survey in the public articles Who Makes the Most Reliable Cars?, 10 Most Reliable Cars, and 10 Least Reliable Cars. There are a few minor surprises, including a new brand in the top spot. Here are some highlights and a partial excerpt of the Top 10 most reliable brands.

  • Most reliable: Mazda is the new #1, up from #2 last year.
  • Most improved ranking (in the Top 10): Honda and Buick.
  • Biggest ranking drops (overall): Mini and Lincoln.

A few quick thoughts:

  • Despite providing these brand rankings, Consumer Reports recommends that you shop by vehicle and not just by brand. Reliability problems often occur with a new model with a new engine and/or drivetrain system. This is why Toyota is very incremental with their changes – to maintain reliability.
  • The best new car for Uber/Lyft/DoorDash etc. drivers must be the Toyota Prius. Top reliability scores + top gas mileage + reasonable depreciation = lowest per-mile cost of ownership. (A used one might be even better, as the battery actually has a working life of 10+ years…) If you drive a lot and just want to get from A to B at the lowest per-mile cost, buy a Prius.
  • Everyone seems to love their Teslas, but the reliability scores are rather poor. Is it because most Tesla cars are still rather new and Tesla is fixing all these issues under warranty? I also wonder what parts exactly are breaking down since electric vehicles cost less to maintain overall partially due to having much fewer parts than internal-combustion vehicles. You would think the reliability would be higher by default.
My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Consumer Reports: Electric Vehicle Total Cost of Ownership Savings Breakdown

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Consumer Reports is well-known for their annual survey of customers about their cars’ reliability and ownership costs. While electrical vehicles usually cost more upfront, they also cost less to fuel, maintain, and repair than traditional gas-powered vehicles. But CR has now released much more detailed data about real world results. Here are some highlights from their summary article and full report.

A CR study shows that total ownership cost savings can more than make up for an electric vehicle’s typically higher purchase price.

Maintenance costs. Here are the average maintenance and repair costs over vehicle lifetime.

  • BEV (Battery-Electric Vehicle): $0.03/mile
  • PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle): $0.03/mile
  • ICE (Internal Combustion Engine): $0.06/mile

The difference increases with the age of the vehicles, breaking down roughly to 2 cents per mile for the first 100k miles and then 4 cents per miles in the second 100k miles.

Fuel costs. Most EVs cost on average $800 to $1,000 less to fuel up for each 15,000 miles. This adds up to $8,500 to $11,200 savings over the lifetime of the car. (Prices vary, but most are within 10% of this average. Places where gas costs more is also often where electricity costs more.)

Resale value. It’s basically a tie. Both compact and luxury cars of both EV and ICE types lose about 55% of their value over first 5 years, on average.

Here’s my super-simplified take. Take any EV upfront price premium, and offset it with:

  • Maintenance and repair savings. About 2 cents per mile savings in the first 100k miles, and 4 cents per mile savings after that.
  • Fuel cost savings. Calculate yourself using your miles driven, local gas price, MPG, local electricity price, miles/KWh. Lots of fuel calculators out there.
  • Depreciation. This will likely be a wash, so no savings.

In the end, that EV price premium is still the most critical factor to your bottom line, but it is nice to have some hard numbers especially about the difference in overall maintenance and repair costs.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Coinstar Promo: Redeem $30 of Coins Into Amazon Gift Card, Get $5 Bonus Credit

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Here’s a way to both help keep physical coins in circulation and get a little bonus for yourself. If you redeem $30+ worth of coins into Amazon gift cards at your local Coinstar kiosk, they will add a $5 Amazon promotional credit code (valid on products sold by Amazon). Promotion expires November 30, 2020 and the promotional Amazon credit expires December 21, 2020.

You also don’t have to pay any fees using the Amazon gift card option, whereas the cash option hits you with a big 11.9% fee (the last time I checked it was under 10%!). I would have a hard time paying that fee… I’d rather pay the money directly to my kids for rolling up those coins! There are still some banks and credit unions that offer free coin counting services for customers.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

DIY Home Office Idea: Amazon Door Desks

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One of the reasons that Amazon, Walmart, and Costco have taken over retail is their relentless focus on low prices. This is both obvious and not-so-obvious, as it means turning down easy profits in the short-term in exchange for growing customers. Amazon operated on a “let’s barely break even” basis for years while it mowed down the competition.

One of the symbols of this lean culture is the “Amazon Door Desk”. The story goes that Jeff Bezos needed some desks but traditional ones were too expensive, so he made desks from unfinished doors and some 4x4s instead :

It was the summer of 1995, back when Jeff Bezos could count his Amazon employees on one hand and those few employees needed desks. Bezos’ friend and employee number five, Nico Lovejoy, says Bezos himself found a scrappy, cost-effective solution right outside their doors.

“We happened to be across the street from a Home Depot,” said Lovejoy. “He looked at desks for sale and looked at doors for sale, and the doors were a lot cheaper, so he decided to buy a door and put some legs on it.”

With that, the Amazon “door desk” was born. What neither of them knew at the time was that the scrappy, do-it-yourself desk would turn into one of Amazon’s most distinctive bits of culture. More than 20 years later, thousands of Amazon employees worldwide still work each day on modern versions of those original door desks.

Another employee later improved the basic design with better hardware. They even have instructions on how to build your own Amazon door desk. Unfortunately, they don’t offer details on the parts needed for bracing the 90-degree connections, but here’s what I found based on the pictures (why don’t they sell this as a kit on Amazon?!):

With many more people working from home and kids distance-learning, this may be a good weekend project. I estimated the total cost at under $150, lower if you have access to some reclaimed building materials. I recently scored some donated 4x4s from my neighbor, but no door. Having the legs cut yourself (most stores will cut to order) also lets you adjust the table heights for kids or other specific ergonomic needs.

You’re not being cheap by making your own desk, you are using the same equipment as a trillion-dollar company! My own work desk is a 15-year-old office-supply folding table with scotch tape on it to stop the cheap laminate from peeling. My frugal side is a bit disappointed, as one of these Amazon door desks would have probably lasted even longer.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Charlie Munger: Huge Compilation of Annual Shareholder Letters, Interviews, Op-Eds, Speech Transcripts

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Charles Munger is probably best known as the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and longstanding investing partner of Warren Buffett. However, he has also been the CEO and/or Chairman of the Board of multiple other companies. This means there many additional sources of knowledge and wisdom beyond just BRK shareholder letters. I recently discovered this huge 1,000 page compilation (PDF) of everything Munger, including annual letters from Blue Chip Stamps, Wesco, and Daily Journal as well as his op-ed contributions and transcripts of speeches. Found at ValueWalk, the PDF includes links to most of the individual sources inside as well. Thanks to all the folks that worked hard to preserve this material.

There was no table of contents, so I started making a list of all the goodies inside:

Annual Shareholder Letters and Meeting Transcripts

  • Blue Chip Stamps, Annual Shareholder Letters, 1978-1982. Blue Chip Stamps was merged into Berkshire Hathaway in 1983.
  • Wesco Financial Corporation, Annual Shareholder Letters and/or Meeting Notes, 1983-2010. Wesco Financial was officially merged into Berkshire Hathaway in 2011.
  • Q&A sesssion with Charlie Munger July 1st, 2011. An event paid for by Charlie Munger after the Wesco merger.
  • Daily Journal Corporation Annual Meeting Notes and/or Transcript, 2013-2018.

Speech Transcripts, Op-Eds, Interviews, Etc.

  • Opinion Pieces, 1984.
  • Speech by Charlie Munger to the Harvard School, 1986.
  • Resignation of Mutual Savings from US League of Savings Institutions, May 30, 1989.
  • A Lesson On Elementary, Worldly Wisdom As It Relates To Investment Management & Business, 1995.
  • Practical Thought about Practical Thought?, 1996.
  • Investment Practices of Leading Charitable Foundations, 1998.
  • Foundation Financial Officers Group Master’s Class, 1999.
  • A Perverse Use of Antitrust Law, 2000.
  • Philanthropy Round Table, 2000
  • Optimism Has No Place in Accounting, 2002
  • The Great Financial Scandal of 2003
  • Herb Kay Undergraduate Lecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara Economics Department, 2003.
  • Munger speech at University of California, Santa Barbara, 2004.
  • The Pyschology of Human Misjudgment,
  • Charlie Munger – USC Commencement Speech 2007
  • Sacrificing To Restore Market Confidence, 2009.
  • Basically, It’s Over. A parable about how one nation came to financial ruin, 2009.
  • Wantmore, Tweakmore, Totalscum, and the Tragedy of Boneheadia: A Parody about the Great Recession, 2011.
  • A Conversation with Charlie Munger and Michigan Ross Dean Scott DeRue, 2017.
  • Charlie Munger, Unplugged, 2019.
  • Foreword to the Chinese Edition of Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger (by Louis Li).

This should keep me busy for a while!

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Online Shopping: Are You Being Tricked By These 15 Dark Patterns?

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During these stressful times, many of us are doing a lot more shopping online (unfortunately for local retailers). The competition to get you to spend as much as possible has evolved to take full advantage of all of our psychological weaknesses. This Wired article discusses The Subtle Tricks Shopping Sites Use to Make You Spend More, including the deceptive tactics called “dark patterns”. They linked to an academic study Dark Patterns at Scale: Findings from a Crawl of 11K Shopping Websites, which carefully broke things down into the following 15 dark patterns which usually target at least one cognitive bias.

If you’ve bought anything online recently, you should recognize many of these tricks, but there were a few that were new to me. I was intrigued and tested out many of the sites myself. I no longer plan to shop at certain retailers like Proflowers and CellularOutfitter due to their use of certain shady tactics.

“No, I don’t want become smarter and wealthier”

  • Confirmshaming: Using language to steer your choices
  • Cognitive bias: Framing effect

“YES! vs. no

  • Visual interference: Steering users using visual design.
  • Cognitive bias: Anchoring, Framing effect

“Uncheck the box if you prefer not to receive lots of spam”

  • Trick questions: Steering users using confusing language
  • Cognitive bias: Default, Framing effect

“Do you really want to cheap out on the flower bouquet for your mom?”

  • Pressured selling: Most expensive option is the default.
  • Cognitive bias: Anchoring, Default Effect, Scarcity Bias

“Free shipping with (trial) membership!”

  • Hidden subscription: Charging a recurring fee which isn’t clearly disclosed.

“⏲ Sale ends in 00:15:36 ⏲”

  • Countdown timer: Suggests that deal or discount will expire soon using countdown timer
  • Cognitive bias: Scarcity bias

“Only 3 left in stock. Order soon!”

  • Low-stock message: Suggests that limited quantities are available
  • Cognitive bias: Scarcity bias

“🔥 Selling Fast! 🔥”

  • High-demand message
  • Cognitive bias: Scarcity bias

“‼ Sale ends soon! ‼”

  • Limited-time message
  • Cognitive bias: Scarcity bias

“43 other people are viewing this item” or “Joseph in Maryland just bought these masks!”

  • Activity message: Informs that someone else did an activity or purchase
  • Cognitive bias: Bandwagon effect

“These yoga pants are the most comfortable ever! – Jane from IA”

  • Testimonial
  • Cognitive bias: Bandwagon effect

“Care & Handling Fee: $2.99” (Looking at you, Proflowers!)

  • Hidden cost: Adding new fees or charges at the last page of checkout, after you have submitted address and payment details.
  • Cognitive bias: Sunk cost fallacy

“You must create an account to continue.”

  • Forced enrollment: Must create account or share information to complete task
  • Cognitive bias: Sunk cost fallacy

“Oops, how did that item end up in your shopping cart?”

  • Sneak into basket: Additional products placed in shopping carts without consent, like accessories (CellularOutfitter) or warranty/insurance.
  • Cognitive bias: Default effect

“Please call 1-800-NOT-OPEN between 1:34 and 1:36 AM to cancel.”

  • Hard to cancel: Easy to sign-up, hard to cancel.
My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Lesser-Known Cheap Cell Plans with 5G/LTE Data on Every Network – From $15/Month

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Updated 2021. The world of cell phone plans is constantly changing, but you can save hundreds of dollars per year by shopping around and using a lesser-known provider. Every major network sells wholesale minutes to MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals.

This list includes unlimited talk and text plans that include 5G and 4G LTE data. If you don’t need data, here are the lesser-known cheapest unlimited talk and text only cell plans. Many of these advertise “unlimited data”, which means they throttle speeds down the 128 kbps (2G) after your LTE allotment runs out. Here are the best options by network below (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile). I sort by network because that usually makes it easier to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), though every MVNO will have a form where you can check compatibility via your phone’s specific identification number (IMEI or MEID).

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links where available. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may be compensated.

T-Mobile NetworkT-Mobile Network Color: Hot Pink

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 4 GB LTE Data. Mint Mobile has an unlimited talk, text, and 4 GB LTE data plan from $15 per month. Their intro offer is 3 months at $15 per month. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $15 per month price. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. You can also upgrade to 10 GB of data for $20/month. They offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment.
  • Less data, slightly cheaper, less upfront committment. Tello Mobile has an unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB data plan for $14 a month. You don’t need to buy a year upfront. You need to choose a custom plan to find this option. Their 4 GB plan is $19 per month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets.

Note: I personally use Mint Mobile – see my Mint Mobile review for tips and details based on my experiences.

AT&T NetworkAT&T Network Color: Blue

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 3 GB LTE Data. Red Pocket Mobile GSMA offers unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB data for $19 a month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. You can choose the AT&T network (GSMA) when you sign up.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 10 GB LTE Data. Red Pocket Mobile GSMA offers unlimited talk, text, and 10 GB data for $30 a month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. You can choose the AT&T network (GSMA) when you sign up.

Note: Unreal Mobile has good prices on the AT&T network, but they are run by Freedompop which has treated me unethically in the past with poor customer service and misled me about their “free trial”. I can’t recommend them here.

Verizon NetworkVerizon Network Color: Red

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 3 GB LTE Data. Red Pocket Mobile CDMA offers unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB data for $19 a month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. You can choose the Verizon network (CDMA) when you sign up.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + Unlimited LTE Data. Visible Wireless has an unlimited talk and text plan with unlimited LTE data for $40 per month. It’s also owned by Verizon. They also have a Party Pay feature where if you can join with a group of two, three, or four, you can get it down to $25/month ongoing. Each person manages their Visible account and their bill separately. You can join a Party at any time after becoming a Visible customer. Try the r/VisiblePartyPay subreddit to join a Party with strangers (which is within the rules). Note that if someone drops from your party, you will have to go back and fill that spot to keep the discount.

If you don’t need data, here are the lesser-known cheapest talk and text only cell plans.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Internet Archive / Open Library: Borrow Hard-to-Find Books For 1 Hour

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The Internet Archive (IA) is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of “universal access to all knowledge.” They have a lot going on, from the Wayback machine that archives websites (including this one) to old video games to TV shows to books (also through Open Library).

As a regular user of the local physical library, I often read a book but later recall part of an idea or quote but not the entire context. Since I don’t own the book, I can’t just flip through it and look it up. Recently I’ve often been able to scratch that itch by instantly borrowing the book for an hour via IA.

How can I do this? They operate under the Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) theory of copyright law. My understanding is that they obtain a physical copy of a book, scan it, and then lend out that digital copy on a 1-to-1 basis. Using encrypted digital files, they can ensure that only one person is actually “reading” that book at a time. Once that person returns the book, then another person can borrow it, and so on.

Controlled digital lending is how many libraries have been providing access to digitized books for nine years. Controlled digital lending is a legal framework, developed by copyright experts, where one reader at a time can read a digitized copy of a legally owned library book. The digitized book is protected by the same digital protections that publishers use for the digital offerings on their own sites. Many libraries, including the Internet Archive, have adopted this system since 2011 to leverage their investments in older print books in an increasingly digital world.

They either allow a 1-hour or more traditional 14-day loan period depending on their inventory:

Patrons now have a choice in selecting the loan period when they borrow a book. Patrons can choose a short-term access for 1 hour, or a longer 14-day loan. If we only have 1 copy of a book, it is only available for 1 hour loan. If we have more than one copy of a book, it can be checked out for either 1 hour or 14 days, depending on availability. If there are no copies available for 14-day loans, users can join a waitlist.

However, four major publishers are currently suing the Internet Archive over this practice. I am not a legal expert and can definitely understand how they wouldn’t want the latest bestseller distributed this way as they currently charge libraries a much higher price for lendable eBook versions than physical versions. I can also understand that some authors feel that they are losing book royalties. I certainly wouldn’t want unlimited, unrestricted free digital copies everywhere. But one-to-one for books bought when there was no digital version? Don’t traditional libraries theoretically cut into book sales too? Or do they actually help book sales? Or is the public benefit that makes it okay?

In my experience, every scanned book I’ve read on the Internet Archive would be rather painful to read over longer periods and the text is non-searchable, so the site does not replace my local library nor my regular purchases of new and used books. But I can see how if the convenience improves any further, it could soon make a significant impact.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Economics of Shared Living: How Much Money Do You Save With Roommates?

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For most households, the biggest expense is housing. A time-tested way to reduce your housing costs is to share a place with others, but usually we think of a bigger house as the result of a bigger nuclear family. However, even young professional adults can choose to boost their savings rate by embracing shared living past the college days, and families can save big money by embracing the multigenerational households that are popular in other cultures.

In the article The “N” Factor and Retirement Planning, Scott Burns focuses on the financial impact of having kids but also shares a interesting way to estimate how the size of a household affects how much it spends overall:

Here’s the algorithm: The cost of living for a household is the square root of the number of people in the household. So if you are single, your cost of living is the square root of 1 or… 1.

But if you are recently married, your cost of living is the square root of 2, or 1.414. Yes, two can’t live for the price of one. But they can live for only 42 percent more than the price of one. Economists call this “economies of shared living.”

The article is focused on families with children, but here I am shifting it to talking about individual adults. Therefore, I’d rather talk about it in terms of the amount you are saving through shared living as a percentage of your previous level

Theoretical savings from shared living. If you’re single and live by yourself, your total cost of housing may be $2,000 per month.

  • Get one roommate, save 29%. Your cost goes down to √2/2 = 1.414/2 = 71% of living alone, or $1,420 per month.
  • Get two roommates, save 42%. Your cost goes down to √3/3 = 1.73/3 = 58% of living alone, or $1,160 per month.
  • Get three roommates, save 50%. Your cost goes down to √4/4 = 2/4 = 50% of living alone, or $1,000 per month.

Does this match up with actual rental prices? Using rental data from Abodo.com, I found the average rents for a one, two, and three bedroom rental in four major metro areas from around the US: Austin, San Francisco, Atlanta, and New York City. For example, if a 1-bedroom costs $1,366 in Austin and a 2-bedroom costs $1,725, that means your per-person share is $862.50, which is 63% of the cost of a 1-bedroom. This should provide a quick check for this rule, even though we are just looking at housing. It turns out to be pretty close:

According to the √N Rule, the biggest relative benefit comes when you stop living alone, at a savings of nearly 30%. This magnifies the savings ability of a dual-income couple, with possible double the income and 30% less in housing expenses.

Burns applies this to the savings that parents can feel after their kids move out of their house. As a result, retirees may be able to survive on much less than might be expected based on other rough rules of thumb.

Bottom line. Shared living is a powerful way to reduce your housing costs. As rents rise, this may result in more single adults sharing a house, or increased rates of multigenerational family living. Consider shared living as an available option to save more money and increase your financial stability, as opposed to only a last resort. Put another way, “Cooperation is a wonderful but generally overlooked substitute for money.”

[Revised and updated from original post from many years ago. I’m cleaning up my archives and updating selected articles.]

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Planned vs. Perceived Obsolescence

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The Story of Stuff (embedded below) is a short animated film about the lifecycle of material goods. Even though it was released over 10 years ago, the overall message of anti-consumerism and sustainability still applies to our current world. There are debates about specific statements from the movie which you can find on the film’s Wikipedia page, but I’m not here to defend the entire video. I believe that people should be able to watch something with a critical mind and not necessarily agree with every single point.

Here I am focusing on the discussion of planned vs. perceived obsolescence, which is approximately at 12:35 if you wanted to skip directly to that part.

Here are the definitions from the film glossary:

Planned obsolescence: designing and producing products in order for them to be used up (obsolete) within a specific time period. Products may be designed for obsolescence either through function, like a paper coffee cup or a machine with breakable parts, or through “desirability,” like a piece of clothing made for this year’s fashion and then replaced by something totally different next year. Planned obsolescence is also known as “design for the dump.”

Perceived obsolescence: the part of planned obsolescence that refers to “desirability”. In other words, an object may continue to be functional, but it is no longer perceived to be stylish or appropriate, so it is rendered obsolete by perception, rather than by function. Fashion is all about perceived obsolescence, and it could be said that perceived obsolescence is the number one “product” of the advertising industry.

Non-Consumer Alarm! In other words, companies have made easy it is to identify “non-consumers”, which usually comes with a negative connotation in our society. Let’s take cars. (Is it ever “cool” to drive an old car that isn’t a collectible?) Models change very often, even if just slightly, so it’s very easy to tell if you have an older car vs. a newer model. My wife and I have been half-jokingly told by our friends and co-workers that we need to buy nicer cars that better match our job titles and/or income levels. Yet even the newest cars pretty much do the same stuff. I could be driving a 15-year-old well-maintained Camry and add a smartphone for GPS/music/podcasts, and a blindfolded passenger probably couldn’t tell the difference.

The next time you are in public, look at the visible stuff that people own. Notice how easily you can figure out whether it was bought within the last few years.

Bottom line. I still buy stuff. You probably still buy stuff. However, we should at least acknowledge the pressure to own the most current version of everything, even if we are replacing something that still works. Cars. Cell phones. Water containers (Hydroflask). Headphones (Airpods). Kitchens that “need” remodeling because they are outdated. Shoes. Winter jackets. Purses. Clothing.

[Revised and updated from original post from many years ago. I’m cleaning up my archives and updating selected articles. Funnily enough, this post is getting increased attention because a lot of students have been assigned homework after watching this film as part of their “distance learning”.]

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.