How my wife and I save $930 a year on our phone bill

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Phone costs are ridiculous

I think you’d agree that cell phone service costs are insane.

When I was 20 I decided I was throwing away way too much money every single month just so I could use a phone.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Spending a huge amount on your monthly phone service, paying through the nose for data, getting locked into a contract, or being slapped with fees if you decide to cancel your service?

Wireless providers are sharks, and plenty of people are dumping money into their phone plan. It only gets worse if you have to pay for a family plan.

If you’re sick of being had by your wireless company, I want to share how my wife and I ended up saving $930 a year on our cell phone bill with Republic Wireless.

But first, a little background:

A boy and his cell phone

I bought my first phone when I was sixteen years old. I paid for it with my first paycheck from my first job because I wanted to be able to communicate with my friends.

Actually, that’s a lie.

I bought my phone because I wanted to flirt with a girl from my math class.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was going to cost me $65 a month to flirt with her. At the time, I didn’t have any other expenses and I really wanted to flirt with her. So off I went, doing my best to make her fall for me.

She did.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Fast forward two years and my phone decided to die with no warning. Off I went to the mall to buy a brand-new Motorola Droid.

The Droid was one of the first Android phones and was the first smartphone I ever owned, and I loved it. What I didn’t love was the extra $30 a month for data.

But, in the beginning, most data plans were unlimited and I didn’t have a stable internet connection, so I decided $95 a month was doable.

It helped that I still didn’t have that many expenses. I was living with a friend for free and didn’t buy a car until I was 22, so all my money was disposable income. What was $95 a month when I could flirt with girls, keep in touch with my friends, and use the brand-new Facebook app?

I finally had enough

I had my Droid for almost 2 years, then spent some time serving as a missionary and had a phone given to me by my church. Thanks to a hefty early cancellation fee when I left to serve my mission, I realized that I was paying a ridiculous amount of money for my phone, and I decided I was done.

I was sick of seeing a phone bill that cost more than internet, TV, or even car insurance. I started looking for something better.

Eventually, I found Republic Wireless:

About Republic Wirelessrepublic wireless logo

Republic Wireless is a small mobile virtual network operator with a heavy focus on VOIP calling over Wi-Fi. A mobile virtual network operator is a cell company that leases bandwidth from a larger carrier like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile.

In Republic’s case, they started out leasing bandwidth from Sprint and then roaming to Verizon towers if you left the Sprint service area. Today, they lease bandwidth from both Sprint and T-Mobile.

What makes Republic unique is that they have a “Wi-Fi first” policy. They try to route all their calls through Wi-Fi and only run them through a cell network when you aren’t connected.

They also aim to have a seamless handover between Wi-Fi and cell networks when you leave a Wi-Fi area during your call. The technological aspects aside, running their service, this way is a cost-saving feature, and Republic aims to pass those cost savings to you as a customer.

How I found out about Republic, and why it took me ages to switch

Although I’ve been a customer for over 2 years now, I didn’t sign up for Republic the first time I heard about them.

When I started college, I was hanging out with a friend of mine and talking one night. We were talking about budgeting and finance, because I’m a nerd like that, and I was complaining about how expensive cell service was. Back then I was paying $45 a month for Virgin Mobile, and although I still thought I was paying too much for my service, I was happy that I had unlimited data and wasn’t paying $95 anymore.

Just as I was getting riled up, my friend whipped out his Moto G and told me he paid almost nothing for his phone through Republic Wireless. I had never heard of them, and I was skeptical about coverage when he told me how their service worked.

He told me I should switch, and I told him no. I didn’t want the annoyance of dealing with dropped calls and shoddy service. I stood by that for a while.

In fact, I didn’t sign up for Republic until I’d known about them for almost a year and had other several friends and my brother and sister-in-law tell me I should switch. I’m stubborn like that.

Eventually, I was out of town for a couple of weeks and ended up in an area where Virgin had poor service, so I decided that when I got home I’d give it a shot. After all, what did I have to lose?

The biggest selling point for Republic, in my opinion, is their price. At the time, they were offering unlimited talk and text for $10 a month.

Yeah. $10.

They also offered 4G data plans starting at $17.50 and moving up from there. I bought a Moto G from them and went with the $10 a month plan. I was giving up data, but I spent most of my time around Wi-Fi networks, so I decided I’d see how long I could go without it.

Turns out I could go quite a while.

PS, with their new plans, my wife and I would be paying $15 a month and $20 a month, respectively.

How we’ve saved $930 a year using Republic

I’ve been with Republic ever since, and my wife switched over when we got married.

If you figure that I was paying $45 a month and my wife was paying about $60 a month through her parent’s family plan, switching to Republic means that we’re saving $77.50 a month on our phones. I don’t know about you, but I can find much better things to spend my money on.

$930 a year adds up.

Fast.

That’s more than we spent on our last vacation:

our vacation
Paid for courtesy of our tiny phone bill.

 

How would you like to fund a vacation with the money you save from switching to a lower-cost wireless provider?

My wife and I are grandfathered into what Republic calls their 2.0 plans. We pay $10 a month for my phone and $17.50 a month for my wife’s. The 2.0 plans offer you a discount if you don’t use all your data, so my wife and I usually end up spending less than $30 a month for our cell service, after taxes.

Want proof?

Here are some of our cell phone charges for the last year:our phone bill from Republic

 

Back when I signed up you could only buy a phone from Republic because Republic loaded a custom ROM into their devices. Today, they let you bring your own phone or buy from them using their Republic 3.0 phones.

The trade off to having a wider variety of phones available is a slightly more expensive price.

My plan would be $15 a month, and my wife’s would be $20 a month, although she would double the data she currently has. We’d also lose the refund for unused data, which is a big reason we haven’t switched yet.

After taxes, we’d end up paying about $40-$45 a month for service.

Obviously, $45 a month for a family plan is still amazing, and we plan on upgrading after we graduate, but we’re cheap college students.

What we like about Republic

Price

So why do I stick with a no-name provider like Republic instead of paying for service from one of the big four carriers?

First of all, the price is absolutely unbeatable.

Even with their new plans, I challenge you to find a better deal, anywhere.

Want to know why I’m so confident?

We just bought new-to-us second-hand phones that are way nicer than our old ones. We were thinking about switching to Republic’s new 3.0 plans but wanted to see if anything better had come along in the time we’d been Republic customers.

I spent hours looking through dozens of wireless providers, including the big names like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon and smaller ones like Freedom Pop or US Cellular.

Guess what.

I couldn’t find a better deal.

Sure, I found cheaper plans, but all of them would have required us to sacrifice in service or options.

So I’m pretty confident Republic is where it’s at.

Service

Another thing I like about Republic is their coverage.

Since buying my first phone with Republic, I’ve been to no less than 9 different states, on both coasts, and our northern border, and not once have I been without service. When I first switched over to them I was a little nervous, but I don’t think about it anymore when I’m in a new state because it’s never been a problem.

I’ve also been in several out-of-the way locations, and I usually keep service just as long or longer than my friends on other carriers.

I’ve even had a few times where, thanks to Republic using Verizon towers to roam, I’ve been the only one with service.

Not bad for a no-name carrier.

I also like Republic’s Wi-Fi calling.

When you’re on a Wi-Fi network and get a call or send a text, Republic handles it flawlessly. They’ve also developed hand-over technology so that your calls don’t drop when you leave a Wi-Fi network and you’re talking.

Instead, you might have a moment where the sound dims, but it picks right back up. Most of the time I don’t notice it.

Change your plan at the drop of a dime

Another feature that I’ve used, and love, about Republic’s service, is that you can change your plan whenever you want.

Well, I should say you can change it once a month for free, but you get the idea.

Take me for example. A couple of months ago I was in Houston and needed to call I Lyft to get from the airport to my hotel.

Like I’ve said, I don’t pay for data, so that would typically be hard to do with an app that requires data to work. All I had to do was jump on my Republic app and switch my plan to one of the data plans, and I was calling a Lyft two minutes later.

I used data for a couple weeks until I was done with it, waited for my billing cycle to reset, and then switched back to the talk and text plan only.

I like this feature because I don’t have to worry about not having access to WIFI when I need to get on the internet and do something in a new place.

In my opinion, that’s a serious selling point for someone who doesn’t want to pay a ton on their phone bill but still wants to be able to use data in an emergency.

What we don’t like

Let me say again, my wife and I love Republic, but I’d be lying if I said that it’s not without its flaws, and I’ve noticed a few in the two years we’ve been with them.

Pop-ups and Xfinity Wi-Fi networks

Because Republic uses a “Wi-Fi first” policy, they try to make it as easy for you to connect to any Wi-Fi network you enter.

When you walk in range of an unsecured network, a small pop-up will come up on your screen and automatically direct you to accept the network provider’s terms. That’s all well and good, but it can be a frustrating experience when you get anywhere near a Xfinity Wi-Fi network.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Xfinity lets customers piggy-back on other Xfinity networks. That means that when I walk into an area with a Xfinity network I get a pop-up on my phone telling me to connect.

Every. Single. Time.

I am not a Xfinity customer, so I can’t connect. And, if there was ever any chance of me becoming a Xfinity customer, this experience has totally ruined it.

I will never buy internet from Comcast because they have never given me a moment’s rest from their merciless assault on my phone screen.

It’s also, in my opinion, one of Republic’s failings. I wish they would stop prompting me to connect to a network after I’ve declined to do so, over and over.

Personally, it’s a little infuriating to be in the middle of a text and have my screen grabbed from me, repeatedly, to try to get me to connect to a network.

I understand Republic wanting me to connect to Wi-Fi, but I’d much rather you wait until I return to the home screen instead of interrupting what I’m doing.

That’d be nice. Just saying.

Update:

My wife thought it was hilarious that I complained so much about this. She did some poking around and found out that you can disable this feature through the Republic app.

So basically, I just spent two years being infuriated for no reason. I am a fool.

Wi-Fi network woes

Another thing my wife and I don’t always appreciate about Republic is that it will occasionally hold our text messages, calls, and voicemail hostage.

What do I mean?

Some Wi-Fi networks are configured to block Wi-Fi calling.

When that happens, I’ll connect to the network and proceed into the dark zone of coverage, where I am in service, but the Wi-Fi network hates me and wants me to be miserable. Usually, I don’t realize it.

This isn’t really that big of an issue, and it’s not really Republic’s fault, but it can be something you’ll need to watch out for when you switch over. I’ve mostly had this problem at on my school’s network, and it seems to be something they do when the Wi-Fi network is nearing peak usage.

Not a big deal really, since it doesn’t happen most of the time.

Closing thoughts on our free vacations

Alright, our vacations aren’t free, but they might as well be with how much we’re saving on our phone bills.

In seriousness, my wife and I love getting our phone bill every month, and I hope that you will too if you decide to switch over.

We’ve been recommending Republic to our friends and family for a long time, and I think they’ve earned our business. They’re not perfect, but I’ve seen them make consistent improvements to their service and business over the two years I’ve been with them.

They’re the first wireless company that I’ve felt like cares about their customers, and I’m genuinely proud to give them my business.

If you use a ton of data, you might find a better deal for a higher price-point. But if you’re ready to switch most of your data usage to a Wi-Fi network and save buckets of cash on your phone bill every month, I wholeheartedly recommend you give Republic a try.

Also, I should note that I’ve had a few friends who really like Google Fi, so that might be an option for you if you want to save money on your phone bill but don’t want to go with Republic, for whatever reason.

2 thoughts to “How my wife and I save $930 a year on our phone bill”

  1. I switched about a year ago and have been very happy overall. Like you, I find I have issues with my texts sometimes not coming through while on wi-fi. It’s most noticeable with WhatsApp, where I see the little clock symbol showing that my message hasn’t actually sent through the network. However, I don’t think it’s a network throttling issue, because if I turn off wifi and then turn it back on, the problem seems to resolve itself. The best I can figure, it seems to be related to a wi-fi access point handoff issue. As you go walk around a campus, you’re constantly being handed over from access point to access point on the same network SSID (something you wouldn’t deal with outside of a large enterprise network). Somehow, that handoff screws up certain wi-fi services, which holds your messages hostage.

    1. Glad to hear you’ve been happy as well. I hadn’t thought about the problem being because of access point handoff issues, so thanks for pointing that out. I’m not a genius when it comes to network managements, so I’ve never thought about it that way. I’ll have to try doing what you suggest when the semester starts up again.

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