$2,600 on a cell phone | spending | saving | debt | affordable living | cell phone bill | cell phone plans

Why I Needlessly Spent $2,600 when I’m Over $250k in Debt


I spent $2,600 on a cell phone plan over 4 years when I didn’t have to. My job came with a cell phone and it was made clear I could use it for my personal phone as well. My work phone was always the latest iPhone. So why would I continue to spend money on a cell phone plan with an older iPhone for the four years I worked at my old company? Couldn't I have better used that money?

I Could Have Used it to Pay Off Debt or to Build  Savings

$2,600 is no small amount of money and with the amount of debt I have any extra money is helpful to paying it off. But how much debt would it have really paid off after interest?

An extra $54 dollars/month towards my car loan would have resulted in a balance around $2,000 less than my current balance. Or I could have paid off my credit cards a bit faster.

Or I could have built up my savings and had a more robust emergency fund. One that earned interest (even if it was just 1%). That extra $2,600 could have grown to nearly $2,700. An extra $100 for free? But no, instead I decided to pay for a cell phone bill.

Related: How to Best Build Savings​

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Why I Chose to Spend the Money

A new work phone, meant a new phone number. I've had my current cell phone number for nearly 10 years when I started that job. Basically, I’ve had that number forever, ever since roaming was a thing and area codes mattered. 

​I've actually managed to avoid breaking or losing a phone and losing my number. Which means everyone I know has that number which makes life easy. 

I also knew this was going to be a job and not a lifelong career for me. I didn't want to be jumping between phones and phone numbers after who knew how long, turns out it was just shy (by three weeks) of four years.

Finding Work Life Balance is Easier When There is Separation

In addition to not wanting to deal with new phone plans, having a separate phone made it easier to take a break from work. I was able to actually check out when I was done for the day or the week or on vacation.

For example, when I went to FinCon last year in San Diego, I wasn't constantly checking my phone to see what was happening ​with work. I left it at home. I was able to really take a break from work and focus on the fun of FinCon and hanging out with friends.

Achieving that elusive work/life balance is much easier when work and life are separate, ​separate phones, separate laptops, and ideally a separate space. However, when you work from home, finding that separate space is much harder. Making the need for separate technology that much more important to find balance. 

Now That I’m Self- Employed I’m So Glad I Spent the Money

Having kept my personal phone made transitioning to self employment that much easier, plus I would have felt weird using my work phone to side hustle when I was still working at my 9-5. When I started driving for Lyft, I used my own phone. Additionally, when responding and following up on freelance writing leads while in the field, I used my own phone. Using my own phone gave me a line that separated work and my life and my personal work.

Related: Becoming a Driver for Lyft​

When I got laid off and transitioned to self-employment ​there was a lot for me to deal with. It was an overwhelming time. Actually, I'm finding my first year of self-employment to be a bit overwhelming. But it was nice that I didn't have to worry about having a phone. It was one less thing I had to deal with.

Wrapping it Up with a Bow on Top

Over the course of about 4 years I paid around $2,600 for my cellphone plan, even though I had a free cellphone to use through my job. I don't regret it, it allowed me to have work/life balance when my job had me working from home or on the road. Finally, it gave me one less thing to worry about when I moved to self-employment. 

Do you agree with my decision to keep a separate cell phone plan? Would you have done the same thing? Let me know in the comments!

Money tools & resources i recommend

Chime (for saving) works by starting a spending account (takes 5 minutes) and opting into the automatic savings plan. (Learn more about getting started with Chime).  Every time I use the Chime Debit Card it rounds up my purchase to the nearest dollar and puts in in savings. Right now they also offer a double round-up bonus on those savings. All those withdrawals add up over time. Chime is free to use, with no monthly fees. With Chime, you end up saving money without having to think about it.

Qapital (for building savings & reaching money goals) Qapital can help you reach savings goals. Once you have the Qapital App installed and a bank account (or in my case three) connected you set up a goal or goals.  Then you set savings rules for each of your goals. For example, I have a round up to the nearest $2 rule, a guilty spending rule -when I buy Dominos. Qapital is free to useBonus, when you use my link you'll get $5 after your first savings.

Qoins (for debt repayment) When you sign up for Qoins, you connect your bank account and then spend as you normally would. Qoins will round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and put that change towards an extra debt payment. Learn more on How Qoins Can Help You Pay Off Debt Faster

SoFi (for refinancing) If you have private loans or your debt to income ratio allows, consider refinancing with a company like SoFi. Learn more about what it's like to refinance with Sofi. Refinancing my bar loan with SoFi ended up saving me over $1,000. Use my link to refinance your student loan and you'll get a $100 bonus.

YNAB (for budgeting)There are tons of budgeting tools and apps, I turned to YNAB and finally got my budget under control. When, I became self-employed and had to figure out budgeting with an irregular income. I once again turned to YNAB and have finally gotten back on track, not to mention I LOVE all the new updates. If you want to check it out YNAB offers a free 34 day trial so you actually have time to figure out if you like it and if it will work well for you.

I spent $2,600 on a cell phone plan over 4 years when I didn’t have to. My job came with a cell phone I was allowed to use it for my personal phone as well


Liz is a writer for hire, specializing in personal finance, entrepreneurship, and legal issues. She shares her own journey to debt freedom and helps graduates dealing with above average student loan debt on her site, Less Debt More Wine. She currently resides in NC after calling Massachusetts home for nearly a decade.

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Maxine Gardner - July 14, 2017

I think you made right decision. Everyone should also take time out once a year to look at bills. I do this and amazing how much I have saved by canceling subscriptions I don’t need or reducing insurance costs

    Liz - July 14, 2017

    I’d say even more than once a year to review subscriptions is a good idea, it’s amazing how much you can save!

Jena - July 11, 2017

I had this dilemma myself a while back. I ended up ditching my personal phone, but I totally know the struggle that can come with that. And it ended up working out for you because you did change jobs. So far, things are good at my current job, so I haven’t regretted my decision. 🙂
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