For some, the family cell phone plan is the greatest invention ever. Instead of managing four or five individual lines — and paying full price for each — family cell phone plans allow families to pool together and share a bucket of minutes. This saves the time of managing each account, and because of the discount cellular carriers give for purchasing more minutes, it can be cheaper too. Well, that is, until you find out you have a teenager who loves to talk and text. That realization usually comes in the form of a huge cell phone bill, which usually catches parents off-guard. What are they supposed to do? Cut off the teen’s cell phone?
Many parents opt to pay a higher price for more minutes and unlimited text messaging, but that can get quite expensive. For families looking to cut costs, it’s probably not a cost-effective option. But what are the alternatives? They’re not right in front of you for the most part, but rather tucked away in the prepaid sector of the wireless industry. There are plenty of prepaid wireless plans which can help save your family money and keep your teen talking and texting. For instance, T-mobile prepaid plans can keep your bills very manageable.
The most common form of prepaid wireless is pay-as-you-go. Users buy top-up cards, which they activate on the account. The corresponding number of dollars or minutes are added to the account, and users are limited to what’s available. In other words, there are no overages. Once the allotment is used up, that’s it until you top up again.
Parents can set a monthly budget for their teens, adding only that amount at the beginning of each month. Teens must then budget their minutes so they can use the phone all the month. They’ll learn this pretty quickly in most cases. Overeager teens will use all their minutes during the first week of the month, and then will be stuck without a cell phone for three weeks. This is something that parents can’t accomplish with most family plans.
Prepaid cellular not only teaches teens budgeting, but also moderation. Because there are set limits, teens must restrain themselves and not obey every impulse to send a text message or make a call. While some parents might not find this necessary (and for them there’s another alternative), others might welcome it with open arms. It can have far-reaching effects, like teaching them how to save (for a car, maybe?), but also short-term ones — like allowing them to come back on the family plan without setting off massive overages.
For parents who don’t want to impose such restrictive limits on their teens, there is an alternative. A number of prepaid companies offer unlimited plans, which allow teens to talk and text to their heart’s content, all for one flat monthly rate. While this won’t promote restraint, it will prevent your blood pressure from rising by seeing yet another monthly cell bill.
Boost Mobile introduced one such plan earlier this year. It costs $50 per month, and provides unlimited voice, messaging, and Web surfing. The cost includes taxes and fees, so it really is $50. The advantage this holds over other unlimited services is that Boost runs on Nextel’s network, which is nationwide. Other prepaid unlimited carriers include MetroPCS and Cricket. They can be superior to Boost in that they offer multiple tiers of service, most of which are below $50. However, they are not nationwide services, so they are not available in all areas.
Either of these options can help your family cut your monthly cell costs. As always, comparison shopping is the best here. Figure out exactly how much your teen is costing you per month by determining how much you, or you and your spouse, would spend on your cell phone monthly without your teen. Then subtract that from your normal monthly bill. You can then shop around to see what prepaid plans can help you reduce costs.
Joe Pawlikowski is the editor of Prepaid Reviews, a site which provides information and news on prepaid wireless services.