How we got paid $11 for 3 months of cell phone service

cell phone

Let me start by saying this isn’t a scam. We were able to make money on a month’s worth of cell phone service using many of the things I’ve described in this blog.

We’ve used Total Wireless for our cell phone service. There is no reason to go into a lot of detail here because you can read about it in other blog posts (here and here and here). The result is that we pay $62.27 a month for 2 lines and 15GB of shared data.

You’re probably thinking that sounds like I’m paying them, and that’s true. However, I recently determined a way where I could get paid for a month of cell phone service.

The Math

This might get a bit confusing, but essentially I found several deals that when piled up on top of each other, I actually made money for a month worth of cell phone service. To start, Total Wireless was offering 30% off of a phone and month of service bundle. I also was able to use eBates to get a 11% refund through the Total Wireless site. Here is how the math works out.

  • $199 iPhone 6
  • $60 2 line 15GB shared plan
  • $259 subtotal
  • -$77.70 30% off Total Wireless discount (Code found on slickdeals.net)
  • $181.30 discounted total
  • $13.99 taxes
  • $195.29 total paid by us to Total Wireless

At this point, we were out $195.29, but received a month of service and an iPhone 6 in exchange. Now comes the fun part.

  • $219 iPhone 6 sale on eBay
  • -$28.55 eBay and PayPal fees
  • -$6.50 shipping
  • $183.95 total received from the sale of the phone

If you do the math so far, you’ll see I’m out $11.34. Still not a bad amount to pay for a month of cell phone service.

The Missing Pieces

Remember how I said I used eBates to get a refund? That amount came out to be $15!

So when you subtract $15 from $11.34, you’ll see we were actually paid $3.66 for a month of cell phone service!

I didn’t just buy one iPhone 6, but actually purchased 3 of them and did this 3 times to get 3 months of service. The second phone I sold on eBay for a little less and actually spent $0.16 for the month of service. The third phone I sold through a Facebook garage sale site, and made over $8. When you add it all up, I made over $11 and got 3 months of cell phone service in exchange!

Experimenting

Before putting down this much money, I did a small experiment a few weeks earlier by buying a refurbished phone for $9.99 and using the same discount code along with eBates. I was able to prove that even if I didn’t sell the phone, I would still save $8.88 on a month of service. I did end up selling the phone for twice what I paid for it. After fees and everything, we saved $20.14 on a month of service. That’s when I decided to research doing larger deals to see if it would work.

Pretty crazy, right?!?! What do you think? Would you try something like this? Let me know in the comments below.

November 2017 – Mortgage Payoff Update

mortgage blackboard

At the end of November, our remaining payoff balance is at 27.06% of our original mortgage that we took out in 2007. That’s a reduction of 2.14%.

How much longer until the payoff?

Once all of October’s payments are applied, we’ll have reduced our mortgage balance by about $2910 this month. We are on track to be below $36k by the end of the year, which was the goal we set earlier this year. Like I said before, we’ve made some temporary adjustments to our payoff schedule. If we kept our accelerated schedule, we’d have 11 payments left. That means our mortgage will be paid off on November 1, 2018.

This month, I had some extra money come in from side work which helped us to boost the payoff a bit more. Once we’ve got a reasonable padding in our savings account, I plan on putting anything extra directly towards the house again. The padding should be built up by the end of December at the latest. After that, we’ll be making much larger payment against the principal.

Budget Series

I’ll be continuing the series that covers our budget. The next category we’ll be covering is personal care. What is “personal care”?

Photo by Got Credit

You Budget How Much For Entertainment?

movie camera entertainment

In this post, I’ll be discussing how much we budget on entertainment each month. Lots of things could fall under entertainment and depending on where you live or the types of things you value as entertainment, you may want to budget a more.

Get to the point already!

We budget $50 for entertainment each month. This amount has been very consistent for a long time. We decided to start budgeting for it to make sure we could plan a date night.

How do you stick to it?

We generally do a pretty good job of staying within that amount. Occasionally we’ll go over, and sometimes we stay under. We’re generally able to stay under it though because we’re usually pretty busy with other things, or find things to do that doesn’t cost anything. For example, we purchased season passes this year to Cedar Point. That can provide a lot of recurring enjoyment without affecting the entertainment budget.

What all does it cover?

This category covers A LOT! Below are a few of the items that would fall under this budget category along with some notes.

  • Movie rentals
    • Library movies are free and they can transfer any movie we’re interested in from another branch to our local branch.
  • Movie theater
    • We have a theater that isn’t too far from us that has tickets half of what you would pay at the “fancy” theaters.
  • Babysitting
    • We pay our babysitters pretty well because we want them to come back!
  • Other extracurricular activities, i.e.
    • SkyZone
    • Tickets to get into a park
    • Expenses related to entertainment like getting ice cream

Checkup

How much do you spend on entertainment each month? Do you have a hard time staying under budget? Let me know in the comments below.

October 2017 – Mortgage Payoff Update

mortgage blackboard

At the end of October, our remaining balance is at 29.20% of our original mortgage that we took out in 2007. That’s a reduction of .64%.

How much longer?

Once all of October’s payments are applied, we’ll have reduced our mortgage balance by about $873 this month. We finally crossed the $40k mark and are slowly working towards $30k. Like I said last month, we’ve made some temporary adjustments to our payoff schedule. If we kept our accelerated schedule, we’d have 12 payments left. That means our mortgage will be paid off on November 1, 2018.

Last month, we started saving up money for some potential changes in the future. In order for us to have a reasonable idea on a potential mortgage payoff date, I’m determining the payoff date based on if we applied all the money we’ve saved up “just in case” and added any extra money that should be coming in from other sources over the next 12 months. I have to be pretty certain that the money is going to come or else I don’t add it.

Budget Series

I’ll be continuing the series that covers our budget. The next category we’ll be covering is entertainment. Everyone needs to have some fun money, but how much do you really need?

Photo by Got Credit

Total Wireless Improves Again!

Total Wireless Logo

In the short time we’ve been on Total Wireless they’ve almost doubled the data amount we receive each month (from 8 GB to 15 GB). Originally when I had talked about our switch to Total, we knew that our data speeds were capped at 5 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. That has since changed!

I run speed tests occasionally to see how well my phone is connecting. When the speeds were capped, it was reflected when doing the speed test. I’ve since been able to get speeds well over 5/1 Mbps depending on where I was at.

My fastest download speed clocked so far was 73.15 Mbps. The fastest upload speed was 28.72 Mbps. Those are well above even my home internet speed. Of course that’s not always what I get, but I tend to believe that when it’s slower it’s due to my signal and not because it’s being capped.

This is just one more reason to give Total Wireless a try. It’s coverage is almost as good as Verizon (since it uses Verizon’s network), but at a considerably lower price.

You Budget How Much For Clothing?

clothing

In this post, we’ll be covering how much we spend on clothing. Not everyone shops for clothes each month. We tend to avoid it at all costs until it’s necessary.

Get to the point already!

Just like the fuel and restaurant budget, we budget $200 for clothing each month, for a total of about $2400 per year.

How do you stick to it?

How much we spend varies from month to month. For example, when the seasons change or a special event is coming we might spend more than $200, while other months we may spend a lot less. Luckily with YNAB the amount we have left at the end of the month will carry over to the next month’s budget.

What all does it cover?

This is a pretty self-explanatory budget category. It covers clothing and just about anything we wear. That can include coats, shoes, swimsuits, and more. We will sometimes use it for other things as well such as bath towels or bedding. They’re all made of cloth right?

There are certainly ways to keep this budget in check. One way is to hand down clothing from older children to younger children. Another may be to shop for clothing from places like Goodwill or consignment shops. We rarely buy clothing unless it’s on sale or we have discounts. We tend to do a few large purchases a couple of times a year, or when we’re desperate.

One major win for us is that we don’t buy clothing unless we need it. That means we’ll keep clothes for a long time until they’ve essentially worn out. We’re not “shoppers”, which means we don’t tend to browse clothes until it’s time to replace them. This helps us in keep our clothing budget in check.

Checkup

How much do you spend on clothes each month? Where do you tend to buy new clothes? Are you a shopper or someone who avoids it as much as possible? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo by mynameisharsha

September 2017 – Mortgage Payoff Update

mortgage blackboard

At the end of September, our remaining balance is at 29.84% of our original mortgage that we took out in 2007. That’s a reduction of .64%.

How much longer?

Once all of September’s payments are applied, we’ll have reduced our mortgage balance by about $870 this month. We didn’t reach $40k like we had hoped by October 1. We’ve made some temporary adjustments to our payoff schedule that I’ll explain below. Right now, we’ve got 42 payments left with the adjustments we made. That means our mortgage will be paid off on April 1, 2021.

You might be wondering why the extension in time and increase in the number of payments. Essentially, we’re preparing for a potential transition in the future. We don’t know all the details on what it will be yet, but we’re preparing anyhow. One way of preparing is by piling up some extra cash. Once we’re through this time, we’ll take all the extra and apply it back to the mortgage. At that point, it will hopefully wipe out the rest of the mortgage or get us very close. For that reason, our large payments will be reduced for the next several months.

Budget Series

I’ll be continuing the series that covers our budget. The next category we’ll be covering is clothing. How much do you spend on clothing each month? What all does clothing cover? It sounds like an easy one, but we include some items in that category you may not think about.

Photo by Got Credit

You Budget How Much For Restaurants and Dining Out?

In this post, I’ll be discussing how much we spend on restaurants and dining out. Depending on where you live, the cost to eat out probably varies a bit. However, there is one way to make sure you stay under budget – eat at home! It’s healthier anyway.

Get to the point already!

Just like the fuel budget, we budget $200 for restaurants and dining out. This amount has been pretty consistent what we’ve used for this category.

How do you stick to it?

The short answer – we don’t. We oftentimes go over. That wasn’t always the case until about a year ago. Before then we’d sometimes go over, but could stay under more easily.

What happened a year ago that made us start going over? Volunteering at church. The group we volunteer with oftentimes gathers at Chick-fil-a for lunch and/or dinner various times on the weekend. That can eat up our restaurant budget pretty quickly with a family of four.

Under normal circumstances this amount is enough for us to eat out at a nice restaurant a couple of times a month, fast food 4-5 times, and maybe a date night.

What all does it cover?

Just like the grocery budget, the dining out budget can cover some items outside of just going to a restaurant. Whether it’s a sit down or fast food restaurant, it’s covered. It also covers quick visits to get some ice cream or frozen yogurt. Finally, it covers things we might buy while for immediate consumption. For example, if we were to go get a slush or pick up a bag of chips at a convenience store to eat right then, those would count towards the restaurant budget.

Checkup

How much do you spend on restaurants and dining out each month? Do you have a hard time staying under budget? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo by Sean MacEntee

August 2017 – Mortgage Payoff Update

mortgage blackboard

At the end of August, our remaining balance is at 30.48% of our original mortgage that we took out in 2007. That’s a reduction of 2.22%.

How much longer?

Once all of August’s payments are applied, we’ll have reduced our mortgage balance by about $3020 this month. We’re marching towards $40k and will be there by October 1. We’ve only got 14 payments left! That means our mortgage will be paid off on November 1, 2018.

If you’ve followed this series each month, you might be wondering why we’re still at 14 payments and the payment date has been pushed back. I had originally planned on teaching a class at a local community college this fall. However, due to circumstances beyond my control (you wouldn’t believe them if I told you), I wasn’t allowed to teach the class. They’re going to try to correct the issue so I can in the future but hopefully, the mortgage will be paid off by then.

I had to put those adjustments into the forecast which pushed things back another month and added the payment back on. In addition, we started homeschooling this fall with our two daughters. That means they are involved in activities which have an extra cost. I’ve had to trim back the mortgage payoff by a slight amount ($115 a month) to fund those activities. Unfortunately, that means the margin we had to make sure that we don’t add any extra payments has dissolved. I’m hoping to recover it in the next few months by picking up more side work.

Budget Series

I’ll be continuing the series that covers our budget. The next category we’ll be covering is restaurants and dining out. Everyone likes eating out, but how much is too much? What do we consider dining out versus groceries? You’ll learn soon in the next blog post.

Photo by Got Credit

Wireless Plans from Total Wireless Improved!

Total Wireless Logo

I originally reviewed Total Wireless a few months ago and we have been pretty happy with it overall. The service is good (it uses Verizon’s network) and the price is right ($57 for 2 phones). So I was surprised when I recently went out to see if any competitors had anything better to offer. To my surprise, Total Wireless got even better!

Original Plans

The single line plans haven’t changed, only the shared or family plans.
  • 2 phones – $60/month 8GB shared data
  • 3 phones – $85/month 12GB shared data
  • 4 phones – $100/month 15GB shared data

The 5% auto-pay discount applies to these plans as well. Finally, if these data amounts weren’t enough for you, you could get an extra 3GB of data for an extra $10/month. The plus side is that the extra data you buy would roll over every month so you keep using it until it’s all gone!

New and Improved Plans

The prices stay the same, but the data gets SO MUCH BETTER! Below is a summary, but you can view the details here.

  • 2 phones – $60/month 15GB shared data
  • 3 phones – $85/month 20GB shared data
  • 4 phones – $100/month 25GB shared data

You can still get the auto-pay discount and if you need the extra data, it’s now 5GB for $10/month instead of 3GB.

One of the things I hear the most when I talk to someone about changing their cell phone provider is that they don’t want to have less coverage. You can’t get better than Verizon’s coverage nationwide. If you haven’t checked out Total Wireless yet, what are you waiting for? (Tell me in the comments below.)