How To Fuel Your Phone Addiction Without Breaking the Bank

Too Many Phones

So you love phones, you love tech, you wish the picture above was you (probably with much better handsets, but the same idea applies), but there is a slight issue; your gadget fund is pretty low these days. If you are like me, your gadget fund wasn’t looking good before the economy took a crap, so now it’s seriously pretty dismal. But again, if you are like me, every time you hear about one of these awesome new phones coming out from your favorite manufacturer you feel that little twitch and can’t help but think “I might be able to afford that if I just don’t eat for a month or two…” and seriously contemplate trying it.

Well,  guys and gals, I’d like to share some little tips I use to be able to play with the phones I want, without going on a hunger strike. Hope this helps quell that inner geek for some.

I. How to Justify Getting a New Cell Phone to Yourself (and to Your Loved Ones)

Ok, so first off, we might need to reinforce the inner geek craving of the new phone with some actual “needs” etc to make it a bit easier to consider (and explain why we have a new phone every 3 months to our girlfriend/friends/loved ones that just can’t seem to understand).

1. First you need to understand why phones are as expensive as they are (we’re only talking about no contract phones in this post so those who are eligible for contracts read this then the How Contracts Work post for more information on contract phones).

Most phones come standard with a few things built in; a camera, a GPS, a touchscreen, an MP3 player, a Video player, a task manager/calendar, access to internet surfing, email, and let’s not forget a phone/texting device.

Now even though most phones are around the $500-$600 range, think about the features as separate gadgets and what they usually cost (don’t quote me on these prices, they aren’t exact):
Camera – $50 (5.0MP or lower)
GPS – $100-$200
Touchscreen MP3 Player/Video Player – $150-$200
Internet Tablet – $200 and up
PDA – $80
and you get the idea…

So $500-$600 for something will all these features combined, doesn’t sound too bad. Consider how much you pay for a laptop usually? You don’t question that when it’s $1000 or more, well phones are starting to get pretty close in capabilities.

2. Your girlfriend/loved ones like to tell you that you have a bad habit of buying new phones too often. This one’s easy, ask your girlfriend how much clothing (or just shoes for that matter) she bought over the last 3 months then explain to her how much you actually paid for the phone (we’re getting to the saving money part soon, and it’ll be easier to explain and justify it after then lol). That usually ends it right there.

3. Other thing to think about is how often you use your cell phone. Most people have it within arms reach at almost all times of the day. Think about that. What other thing you own do you keep around you THAT much. Not too mention, how often you actually use the phone (again if you are like me, it can be quite a lot). You don’t even use your car as often as your phone hour for hour most likely (and how much did that cost?).

Ok, so now that we have begun coaxing ourselves and those around us into the justification of our “habit”. We can move onto how we can afford it.
(PS. I am not responsible for any breakups, disowning, or any other consequences of sitting a loved one down just to explain to them your terrible gadget addiction).

II. How to Save Money on Your Phones When You Buy Them

1. Buy Contracts When Possible

Read How Contracts Work and you’ll understand that a contract is basically a loan on part of the cost of the phone. You should be getting an amount equal to or greater than the cancellation fee off on the cost of the phone when signing a contract, this way even if you cancelled it would be the same as if you never signed the contract and bought the phone at retail price.
This goes especially if you are already with a company you like and your contract is just ending. Renew it as soon as you are eligible for the full discount on the phone. If you go out of contract and wait months before you sign the new one you are just delaying when you will be eligible again.
And again, don’t be scared of the contract. So long as you are getting at least the equivalent of the cancellation fee when you sign it, go for it because even if you cancelled you would pay the cancellation fee and be at the exact same price if you never signed the contract in the first place.

2. Buy Unlocked Phones (for those on GSM networks).

Ok so there are ups and downs to buying unlocked phones. The biggest downer is that they usually don’t have your company’s 3G frequency built in so no 3G for you, but I have a feeling that is going to slowly start to change very soon (we’ll see how well the N900 sells being the first unlocked phone with T-Mobile USAs 3G in it). I use Wifi more than 3G anyway, so for me not the biggest issue (and emails etc work fine for me on EDGE which always works on an unlocked phone). But up to you.

Now the upside to buying an unlocked phone (and the reason it can save you money) is that they hold their value much better than branded phones (the ones from your carrier). An unlocked phone that costs $600 when it comes out will probably be selling on eBay for $500 or more 3 months later (so long as a phone successor comes out in that time). Where as a branded phone usually loses its value the minute it is released (people start buying them with contracts and selling them for an extra $100 to make a quick profit but this drives the value of the phone down from its actual retail price).
The reason you want your phone to keep its value is because that is the easiest way to fuel your gadget habit. Buy the phone with no contract for $500-$600 then 3-6 months later (when another phone you want comes out and your already bored with this one, you’d be amazed at how strong your addiction is when this happens) sell if for $100-$150 less than what you paid for it. $100-$150 spread over 6 months is less than $25/month. Then you use the money from that phone plus another $150 for the next toy phone you get and so on. Would you pay $25/month to have the latest phone every 3-6 months? Yea, me too.

In the above scenario though, make sure to keep the box, all plastics, and buy a case for the phone. This way it is in as close to new condition when you decide to sell it and people are willing to pay more for it used in that condition of course.

Also always try to sell your phone before it’s “sequel” comes out or is even announced if possible, otherwise your phone can lose its value really quickly…

3. Use Our Community Buying Forum

I had to plug this in here somewhere, if it works it will be a great concept and definitely help fuel everyones addiction I think 🙂
Check out this post for what I mean by Community Buying and then goto the Forums and look for your phone in the Community Buying Forum and sign up, no obligation (but please serious buyers only).

4. Refrain from Buying a Phone the Week it Comes Out, If You Can…

I know it is hard to do, and you might actually fail at this step a few times, but if have the willpower, don’t buy the phone the week it is released. Most phones’ prices are jacked up by the suppliers for the week it comes out. Simple economics, supply and demand. They know that most people have been waiting for the phone for a while and are ready to pounce on it the moment it is released so they keep the phone prices as high as generally tolerable by most (and this may not be the supplier’s fault, sometimes the manufacturers do this to them and so they have to continue it on to the customers). Then after the first week you’ll notice the price start to drop and by the end of the first month it came out it will plateau to the price it is supposed to be.

That’s it for now guys, will update later.
In the meantime, you guys have any tips you use to save money when fueling your addiction you want to add?

13 thoughts on “How To Fuel Your Phone Addiction Without Breaking the Bank”

  1. This is just the article I need to show my friends. They think that I have a problem when it comes to buying cell phones. I am going to print this out and show them. thanks Unlockr!

  2. Great post TheUnlockr…

    On one point I will add a little more…

    II. Part 1-

    “Renew it as soon as you are eligible for the full discount on the phone. If you go out of contract and wait months before you sign the new one you are just delaying when you will be eligible again.”

    I just learned not to long ago that on some carriers you can renew a contract & wait to actually use the upgrade till a phone you want comes out… I haven’t tried it… So if you are ok with the phone you have and want to wait to use the upgrade under your renewed contract, talk to customer service on starting that new contract while you wait for a better phone to come online for that carrier.. Not sure what the time limitations might be… Make sure that the contract starts at signing and not at the time of upgrade… And make sure they note what your up to in your account… Never hurts to ask…

    1. Y314k,

      Thanks! Nice addition, never heard of them letting you do that, but that would be a good thing.
      What you can also do if they wont let you do that, you can use your upgrade and get a new popular phone and then sell it on eBay (you should get what you paid plus your cancellation fee) then use that cash to buy the phone you want with a no contract price when it comes out.

      1. i know this is an old topic but now companies like best buy and radio shack have trade and save programs where they buy your old phone back for a discount on new phones i traded my iphone 3gs which they gave me 200 dollars for (store credit) for the iphone 4 for 399 which after a month i was fed up with dropping every call some one i met on craigs list paid me 800 dollars for it which i made 600 dollars bought the aria out right for 429 and still had some spending money

  3. i have a better solution… its what works for me ..


    you get contract pricing or better, sometimes multiple times a year… then you also have contests where you win the newest phones for free! and you save buku on the cell service its self by half or better for most companies! 🙂 Many times you can also get phones before they are availible to the public, like the moto cliq i won, which ill prob trade for the Racheal when it comes out. 🙂
    I go through 2-5 phones a year and i might spend 500 total 🙂

  4. I have one problem with all this…I sometimes like my phones too much that I don’t want to sell them even though I know I will never use them again. I have a bunch of classic SonyEricssons laying around and i can’t bring myself to sell them. Damn me, lol.

  5. I work i for tmobile u can wait to use your upgrade till whenever ur ready its yours use it when u need it

    1. JSmith,

      Not saying you aren’t still eligible but if you use the upgrade immediately then you will be eligible again faster for the next upgrade. If you sit without using the upgrade (and are just sitting out of contract) for say 3 months then you upgrade, you get the exact same discount as if you upgraded the minute you were eligible 3 months ago so you now have to wait 3 extra months for the next upgrade. There is no benefit to staying out of contract (unless you plan to leave the carrier) so upgrade ASAP so your next upgrade comes along faster as well.
      Make sense?

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