Biggest waste of money: Smartphones
Here are some of the biggest ways you could be wasting money when shopping for a smartphone.
Like any rational consumer, the last thing I want to do is overpay at the register. And that goes double for expensive items like smartphones.
Unfortunately, many of us end up paying way more than we need to for our portable Candy Crush machines. Worse still, some of the things we do to save money — by skimping on things like protection plans and service agreements — can end up costing us in the long run.
There are plenty of ways you can waste money on your smartphone or the stuff that goes with it. But these are the five biggest.
1. Not buying your phone outright
Most of us are accustomed to going to our carrier’s store, forking over $200 for a new phone, and signing a new two-year contract. That’s just the way it’s always worked. Lately, there’s also been the option to eschew that $200 up-front cost in favor of equal monthly payments over two years.
But there’s actually a better option than either of those: buying your phone outright. Yes, coming face-to-face with a bill for $650 might seem worse than paying $200 or a monthly fee. But those other payment schemes had some hidden costs that made them bad deals.
For one thing, opting for a two-year service agreement has meant locking yourself in with that carrier. Want to break your contract? You’ll have to fork over an early termination fee.
By paying outright for your phone, you open up the option of buying pre-paid, month-to-month data plans from companies like Cricket Wireless or Boost Mobile (which operate on AT&T and Sprint’s networks, respectively).
A two-year plan from AT&T for a 16GB iPhone 6s with 2GB of data per month will cost you — depending on how you configure it — from $1,924 over those two years.
Cricket Wireless — which, again, runs on AT&T’s network and should offer comparable service — will cost you just $1,620 over two years for 2.5GB of data per month and that includes the cost of the phone. Those are some serious savings.
2. Paying too much for cables
So your dog thought your phone’s charging cable was just a really stringy chew toy. No worries, you’ll just go to the manufacturer’s website and buy a new one. And while you’re at it, be sure to flush some cash down the toilet, because that’s essentially what you’re doing if you buy a replacement charger from your smartphone manufacturer.
Take Apple’s Lightning cable, for example. Buy the cord from Apple and you’ll end up forking over $30. Check out Amazon, and you can find cable certified by Apple for just $10. The only difference between the two is that you’ll spend too much on one and save with the other.
3. Paying too much for international roaming
When you travel overseas, you can bring back memories of a once-in-a-lifetime experience and stories you’ll be telling your grandchildren years from now. You can also bring back an enormous bill for the data, text messaging, and call-time you used while traveling.
The reason? When you travel overseas with your standard wireless plan, your carrier can — and will — bill you at insanely inflated rates.
Even if you sign up for your carrier’s international travel plan, you’ll likely pay too much. Verizon, for example, charges $25 per month per device for its Monthly International Travel Pricing service. That plan lets you pay $1.79 per minute for voice calls, $0.50 for every text message you send, and $0.05 for every text you receive, while limiting you to just 100MB of data.
Your other option: For $40 a month, you can get unlimited talk and text, but still just 100MB of data. Go over your limit, and you’ll be charged $10 per 100MB (under the $25 per month plan) or $25 per 100MB (under the $40 plan).
Here’s the thing, though. You can buy a pre-paid SIM card through a local carrier in the country in which you are traveling for way less and get more data out of it. For example, if you travel to London, you can get a 1GB SIM card for about $23.
The only catch: Before you go, make sure your smartphone is unlocked for international use. If you aren’t sure, check with your carrier.
4. Not getting a case
You just paid in full for a brand new iPhone 6s. But because you just spent $650, you didn’t want to drop an extra $20 on a protective case. Then two months later, as you’re trying to simultaneously carry that phone and your morning cup of coffee in one hand while unlocking your car with the other, you fumble it all. The iPhone loses, falling to the ground and cracking its screen.
Now you’ve got to either pony up for the deductible for your smartphone insurance plan to get a new handset; fork over a $100 to get its screen repaired; or (god forbid) buy an entirely new phone.
Yep, by not purchasing a $20 case that could have protected your phone from that fall, you’re now wasting a ton money to get it fixed. Not wise.
5. Paying too much for storage
For the most part, people agree: 16GB is simply not enough storage for a smartphone. Between all of the photos, music, videos, and apps we all have, that 16GB can disappear really quickly.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should throw your money away on the high-end 128GB model. The sweet spot seems to be a handset with 32GB or 64GB of space (depending on what your manufacturer offers).
That seems to be enough space for most people to store their apps plus all the media — photos, music, and so on — they need to immediately access. For everything else, there’s always the cloud.
And just so you know how much you’re getting screwed out of your cash when you buy a phone with a ton of memory: The price difference to you between a 16GB iPhone 6 and 128GB iPhone 6 is $200. The difference in cost to Apple? Just $53.