October is usually a pretty good month for me. The weather gets milder here in the islands, football is in full swing, and I generally feel somewhat optimistic, for unknown reasons. Said optimism usually passes quickly with reality but I enjoy the moment while I can. Financially, October is one of the more better months for me. Even if my regular income is low I wind up with some extra funds thanks to some other factors. This week, said factors are kicking in and the bank account is actually not so embarrassing anymore. The question remains, what to do with all the loot.
The ideal answer would be nothing. Let the brazillions sit in the bank and use only when needed. Very tempting but I do have some things I want to take care of. One of which is to eliminate some minor debt I have been dealing with. Yes, I know. I always preach no debt. In this case, it was sorta kinda unavoidable…namely, my iPhone contract with Sprint.
I pretty much need my iPhone. It has proven to be one of the few things I rely upon for a variety of things. I pay bills with it, do some banking, email, keep an eye on the websites, test apps when I am actually app building, and even on occasion, make a phone call. In a pinch, I could go without the computer and rely just on the iPhone for a short period of time if I had to. So, in order to have one of these amazing machines it is unfortunately necessary to deal with one of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, namely either Sprint, ATT, Verizon, or T-Mobile. I’ve had the pleasure of using all four at one time or another over the past 10 years or so and to be honest, there is very little difference between any of them. They all offer pretty much the same services in the same price ranges with only the occasional promotion making one a more better choice over another. I’ve found the coverage and signal strength to be the same, customer service sucks with all of them, so one could throw all four names in a hat, pick one, and be just as well off as with any of the other three. As of this moment, I am using Sprint because at the time I was ready for a new iPhone and they had the best deal on unlimited text, talk, and data. It’s been a good deal but I am coming up on the end of the contract next spring and decided to use some of my October windfall to make some changes.
As with most of the phone contracts, in order to make an iPhone more affordable when one doesn’t have $700 to drop, one can spread the payments out over a two year span, which is what I did. The data plan gets included and so for the next 24 months, one can look forward to making a phone payment. In my case, $27 a month plus the $90 plan and a plethora of unintelligible fees and taxes.
In addition, I added on a second device, an internet hotspot last winter. If you have been following the Fritter over the years you know all about my trials and travails regarding the simple act of getting a reliable and affordable internet connection. For those of you thinking of living on a boat, it is damn near unpossible to find said internet connection unless you want to tie into the GREAT SATAN, also known locally as Comcast. I tried everything and none of it worked. Finally, out of desperation, when I was still on the boat, I went for a hotspot device from Sprint with 12 gb of data per month. Yes, I go through a lot of data. It worked, mostly, but it did work and let me relax somewhat when it came to getting online. But, like the iPhone, I had to sign a 2 year contract and pay monthly for the device, which still has over a year to go. Now for the ugly part.
All tolled, the iPhone with the data plan, the hotspot device and it’s data plan, I’ve been dropping almost $215 a month to be online. Which added up over the year comes to $2580. Yikes! Yes, it hurts. And it’s been a struggle to get through every month. But, now, I can make some changes and get this down to something a bit more manageable.
I have high speed internet here in the house of hell. Yeah, I know, I might leave at anytime but for now, I have internet and it works pretty good. Plus, it don’t cost me anymore. So, there is not much point to paying for all the extra data if I don’t need it. Thusly, I began to make some changes.
Firstly, I was able to downsize my hotspot data from 12gb to 3gb per month. This drops the bill by $45. I can’t close it out completely yet as I will have to pay a hefty “you can’t stop now” fee of $350. And, I would rather keep the hotspot as a back up or if I suddenly have to leave. Later on, I can adjust the data needs back up if I have to. For now, 3gb will do fine.
Next, I am going to pay off the iPhone. With just 5 more payments left I can get rid of the $27 a month bill and own the phone outright. As for the data plan my options are limited. I really don’t need unlimited everything if I’m not using it but as far as I can tell, if I want to make phone calls, I will need to keep the plan. But I will unlock the damn thing once it’s paid off.
Nowadays, when you buy an iPhone from one of the major carriers, said phone is locked. This means it will only work with the carrier from whom you purchased said device from. The phone contains a sim card which controls the phone and links it to the carrier. But now, it is possible to unlock the phone from the carrier. When you unlock your phone, it means you can use the phone on other carriers if you get one of their sim cards. This comes in handy for people traveling overseas who don’t want to pay the high charges of the domestic carriers or if you really like the phone you have, but don’t like your carrier, and don’t want to drop any money for a new phone. Or in some cases, which I want to try, you want to just use the phone as strictly a wifi device without tapping into the expensive cell networks. This is how the iPod works, an iPhone without the phone part.
If my cunning plan works, I will eliminate the iPhone payment, reduce the hotspot plan, maybe pay off the hotspot device, and in the end reduce the monthly bill from $215 a month to less than $100, maybe more. I can always upgrade later on if things don’t work out but for now it’s all about cutting back on some monthly bills and this is the biggest next to rent and food. Remember my cardinal rule: No debt. It just causes nothing but trouble and even this little bit has been a pain in the posterior for me.
Everyone is offering yearly upgrades on the iPhone now. You can do the payment thing as usual or buy the whole thing up front which may be an option for me later on when the iPhone 7 comes out. But for now I want to keep my trusty old iPhone 5S going for awhile longer. I just put the new battery in last month and it does all I need it to do. If I can get the same performance using just wifi and save $100 a month, more better.
When all is said and done, I will still have a large sum of October money in the bank going forward which I will need to hold onto. It was real tempting to just take a wad of it and buy that one way ticket to the Pacific and believe me I sweated over the decision. Flights from Miami to Hawaii are really attractive right now. But, once I got there I wouldn’t have enough to last but a few weeks. Heading west will remain a last option should the feces strike the wind movement device again here at the white trash inn, so for now I will try to wait things out in Key West. I have one more year of tight living and then, if the government gods deem it suitable, by 2017 I will be defecating in overgrown crops. Things should be way more better enabling me to travel between the two islands almost at will and really start enjoying life.
For the moment, I will do what I can to reduce or eliminate the debt and monthly bills. Downsizing is not just about getting rid of physical things. It works with finances also. The lower the monthly bills, the easier it is to get through the month and maybe even have some money left over at the end. Always downsize when the opportunity presents itself. You’ll be glad you did.