So, I heard a rumor today that my father is planning, at some point in the near-ish future, to disband our Verizon Family Plan. Which is to say that right now my father, brother, sister and I are all sharing minutes on a single plan and thus sharing the costs. The total phone bill for each of us comes out to between $25 and $35 (depending on texting plans &c.) and because the bulk of minutes used are “IN-Network” we never get near our “anytime” minutes limits. Like, we use a couple hours of anytime minutes a month between the four of us. Anyway, these rates are obviously somewhat lower than the cheapest plans offered by any of the major carriers.
I was looking at Verizon’s site, to see what rates I could get there if I wanted to stay Verizon, get the cheapest voice-only plan, I can go from $25/month to $39.99 (plus taxes and fees of probably $10 or $15) a month… and I still probably wouldn’t touch the 450 Anytime minutes included in that plan, since almost everyone I call would still be “IN network”. I would have to start a new contract (my old contract was up in the spring – it took several years of planning, but it is possible to get out of a mobile phone contract without paying an Early Termination Fee), and I’d probably want to get a new phone (mine is actually a 3- or 4-yr-old model now), but that wouldn’t be too bad in combination (aside from having to pick from the terrible, terrible, Verizon-compatible phones), and it would only be ~$30 more per month than I’m paying now (plus whatever cost for a new phone, though discounted by the contract – the highest priced phone on their site right now is ~$300 with 2/yr contract, spread out that’s only ~$12.5 add’l, or a total increase from right now of ~$45 per month, including taxes, fees, and the cost of a high-end handset). It’s more if I want data/texting/et cetera. It looks like voice plans with texting and photo messaging (which I would like to use, but am trying to keep from using right now, since they aren’t included) are +$20/month (totaling an additional ~$65/month) and another +$20/month (which would bring it to +~$85/month) for their video and internet and email -like thing… that I’m pretty sure I’d never use, since it’s closed-network. But maybe I’d twitter?
Alternatively, if I’m going to have to go on my own, agree to a contract, pay more, and buy a new handset anyway, there’s the iPhone. People treat me like I’ve got the internet plugged directly into my brain, and with the iPhone, it’s the next best thing. And I wants one. So. Costs: $599 for the phone ($647.52 with tax, equivalent to about $27/month for two years (and yes, if I put it on plastic, there’s also interest. Shut up.)) Which we will discount completely here, since that’s roughly what I’m paying now into the shared plan, and to compare to the “additional costs” above we thus only need to compare the actual monthly cost of the AT&T plan. (Yes, I just twisted the logic to show that the iPhone is the equivalent of free.) Plus activation fee. $36, I think. Maybe $32. Anyway. Then, the cheapest individual plan is $59.99/month. (Based on internet research, when this comes out right and with nothing but taxes and fees added, it’s ~$76/month.) Which sounds to me like getting an iPhone and switching to AT&T would only cost me about $11/month more than switching to an individual Verizon plan and finally replacing my old&busted phone.
Except… What about the minutes, and the fact that now relatively none of the people I call would then be “in network”? How many minutes do I use? How many of them are night and weekend minutes? I looked through the last six months of Verizon bills online for a while earlier. My usage is crazy, all over the board. There were two months that together I used around 4000 minutes in. Looking very, very closely just now, though, I see that (including all “PEAK” calls, including “IN Network” calls, I never went over the 450 minutes allotted in the cheapest AT&T plan: Feb/Mar: 340mins, Mar/Apr: 206mins, Apr/May: 218mins, May/Jun: 207mins, Jun/Jul: 191mins, Jul/Aug: 117mins — Can you tell where Mandy moved to Phoenix? Between this, the 5000 night/weekend minutes/month on the plan, and the rollover minutes cover me? Almost definitely. What about texting? The AT&T plan only includes 200 text messages, whereas the Verizon plan I am comparing it to includes unlimited texts and picture messages… obviously with the iPhone I can email Pictures or just upload them directly to the internets… and I can Twitter and Pownce and more through the Unlimited web, so no need to SMS, there… that should be fine.
I thought it would be outrageous… and … well, the total cost over two years would be over $100/month, but going to an individual plan with Verizon would cost about $90/month (if I were to get a high-end new phone instead of a cheap one – I could get a cheap one and Verizon would average out to about $80/month for the next two years (I could cut that town to voice only and whittle it down to about $60/month… and I could live on beans and rice, too…)). Writing it out like that, any individual mobile phone option looks pretty expensive. Especially compared to the $25/month I’m paying now.
But if the rumors are true, and dad is splitting up the plan, it’s not really a choice between $25/month, $60/month, $90/month or $100/month for the same experience. It’s a choice along a range from $60/month for voice only on a crappy phone and ~$100/month for the full iPhone experience. There are a variety of phones and options on the sliding scale in between, but if I’m going to get a crappy phone I’ll probably get a crappy plan to go along with it and if I get a shiny new phone I’m going to want a plan that supports its shiny new features and if I get a plan with exciting features and new ways to connect I’m going to want a non-crappy phone which allows me to connect. Which is to say, some of the points along the line are notched; it’s easier to hit $60 or $100 than some balance point with a half-featured phone and a middling plan that costs something in between.
And I suppose I’m giving me my answer here. As I’d been running it over on scrap paper or in my head earlier (even earlier in this post), it had been easy to convince myself that (Especially considering how long I’ve been waiting for an iPhone to be invented, and how much I want one.) comparing Verizon to iPhone was a no-brainer, the iPhone is close enough on cost to justify the difference. Except that here, at the end, I can see that there’s a $40/month difference (as much again as the difference between my current shared plan cost and the cheapest individual plan cost) between accepting a “free” phone along with the cheapest voice-only plan and that enticing, shiny, new Apple product and corresponding minimum plan. It seemed easy to convince myself to pay a theoretical $10/month extra, but $40/month extra?
The money is there, it comes from a pool for “groceries, eating out, movies, DVDs, CDs, video games, and whatever else” that I keep trying to re-assign to this or that thing. And the up-front cost of the iPhone (or whatever phone I get) does have to go on credit – I don’t really have much in the way of cash on hand or savings at any given time – but I have the credit, no problem, and I’m good at making my regularly scheduled payments. I could put the phone and the billing (regardless of carrier) on the same card, work out the amortization for the actual cost of the phone to two years at interest, add the regular cost of the bill, and add that to the regularly scheduled payment I’m making now and it would just become a “normal” part of my regular bills and the math would be close to what I’ve laid out above.
Oh, and as long as I’m at the bottom of a really long, boring post full of speculative math, greed, consumerism, et cetera that I doubt anyone will read, there’s this: The third or fourth thing that crossed my mind after hearing the rumor that my father would be canceling/breaking-up the family plan was that he’s getting ready to kill himself. We used to have all our cars on the same car insurance, but a month or two ago he had it separated out and he and my brother and I all pay separately now (and higher rates, much like with the phones). He’s been talking about taking me off the business account we’d set up to handle financial transactions re: our furniture. Now the phones. It took a while to get everything together, originally, and it seems like it is mutually beneficial, but the thought certainly crossed my mind that dad is making sure that we’re all separated out so that when he goes we aren’t adversely effected because our lives, our accounts, aren’t tied into his anymore. So they can’t come after us for his debts. Ooh, or maybe he’s considering bankruptcy? Or maybe it’s a coincidence. Just a flicker of a thought across my already-suicidal mind. These are the things I think of.
Alright. I’ve literally been up all night now, studying calling plans and phones and options along with my normal internet catching-up. I should get some sleep. Or … something. The sun is up. I suppose if I go to sleep now, I’ve lost an entire day. Spent it all night, working on these thoughts, on the internet, on intangibles. Will my weekend feel too short because of how I’ve broken it up, because of how short tomorrow/today will feel after I arise? Will the new week come too soon? Have to wait and see.