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Frugal Hacking the Cell Phone Bill

Today, I would like to introduce a special guest poster:  My technical support and my better half: Mr. Frugal  Physician!

One of the things we discovered when we started doing a monthly budget was the exorbitant amount we were paying for cell phones.  On top of that, we were financing out our phones (why??!!).  Mr. TFP has been the test pilot for our change over to our new budget cell phone and new phone carrier, which cut his cell phone bill cost from $140/month to an average of $70/month.  He is here to share his experience and insight on his frugal living hack.

Without further adieu…

Hello, I am Mr. Frugal Physician.  If you would permit me to bend your ear, for the next few paragraphs I would like to share with you our discovery of a new cell phone carrier that has drastically reduced our monthly cell phone bill cost.  This is a carrier whose name you already know.  You probably use their other services every day. But, you may not know they are also in the cellular service industry. They are Google’s Project Fi.

Wait! Google has cell service!?

Why, yes they do.  I asked myself that same question when the Frugal Physician first told me about them. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. It seems like Google owns just about everything nowadays, including YouTube, Android, HTC, Waze, and over 200 various other businesses through mergers and acquisitions.

So what exactly is Project Fi?

Well, at the highest level they are a phone carrier much like Verizon, Sprint, or AT&T. But they have a few key differences that set them apart and, in many ways, make them a better choice.

What makes Google Fi More Frugal

The main benefit is the payment structure.

There is a monthly fee of $20 for unlimited talk and text and a variable fee for data. Now, I say variable because you only pay for what you use, which by itself is an amazing change from the normal carrier plans. Additionally, you will only ever pay for up to 6GB of data use.  Anything over that point is free. Each gigabyte of data used is $10 so for a single device you will pay a maximum of $80 per month, if you are a heavy data user. 

In comparison, I was previously using a Verizon 10GB data plan and paying about $140 a month! You can add up to 5 additional phones to this plan for $15 each and you will all share an increased data cap/fee cap. For example, a family of 4 would pay $65 a month for service, talk, and text with a data fee cap of $140 bringing the total, if you max out the data use, to $205 a month.

There are no commitment or early termination fees at all.

Help with minimizing data usage.

To help with lessening data use and its fees, Google has added a piece of software called “Wi-Fi Assistant” that will automatically connect you to any WiFi hotspots you come across while out and about and use these for all your calls, texts, and data use.

But all of this must have a catch right?

Horrible service or something?  Well, no actually. In my experience so far, my connection has been great and I haven’t dropped a call. Data speed has also been indistinguishable from other 4G coverage plans. One of the ways they accomplish all of this is through agreements with three major cellular partners, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US. Cellular, that allow Project Fi phones to switch to the best carrier or signal for the region you are in at any given moment.

Sign-up is also a breeze through the Project Fi website. In about 15 mins you can sign-up, choose a new number or keep your old one, set up payment, and transfer your contacts. If you have a compatible phone, they will then mail you a new SIM card, with instructions on how to change out your existing one, and your phone will automatically sync and activate as soon as you put it in. In full disclosure, I already had a Google Pixel so this was the process for me.

The Project Fi app, which comes with the service, is a great and easy way to monitor your account and contact support if you need it. 

Major Drawback

This leads me to the major drawback of the service. It is only available, currently, on a select number of phones. These include the Pixel series of phones, the Moto G6, the Android One Moto X, and a couple of others. All of the phones are available on the Project Fi website.  So, if you are in love with your iPhone and would never consider switching, though I strongly suggest you do, you are out of luck here. If you do happen to purchase a phone from them, or just have another phone you don’t want anymore, you can trade it in for a credit towards your monthly bill.

In Conclusion

I encourage those frugally minded to at least check out the website and see what it has to offer. The website is https://fi.google.com and if you do decide to move to the Fi network use this link, https://g.co/fi/r/FJT9JH,  to sign-up and you and I will get a $20 credit after your first 30 days. Thanks for reading and maybe you’ll see me around again in the future!

-Mr. Frugal Physician

Update: This blog was published at 6:30am on 11/28/18.  At 11am, Google announced that they are changing Project Fi to Google Fi and will accommodate iPhones and most Androids . Obviously, this means Mr. Frugal Physician is a pretty big deal! 

. Ready to sign up? Make sure to use our link to help us out.

Standard Disclaimer: Not meant to be individualized financial advice.  Pictures from Unsplash. Contains referral links.

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