Prepaid Phone Plans Vs. Family Plans

I had never even heard of prepaid phone plans until my husband and I found ourselves looking at family plans for just the 2 of us. At the time, it was only possible to have 5 family members on 1 plan, so we got “kicked off” of our families’ plans in our early days of marriage.

A move to a house with poor reception also forced us to look at a different company than we’d been using before. We weren’t super pleased with paying $90 a month for basic phones, 250 texts, and limited minutes. It just felt too expensive for what we were getting, but we had to wait for the contract to end to do anything about it. That’s when we decided to go with prepaid phone plans.

When is it cheaper to use a prepaid phone plan?

A prepaid phone plan might be for you if:

  1. You don’t have lots of family members on the plan. For now, it’s just the 2 of us.
  2. You’re okay with an older (and therefore cheaper) phone. You have to buy your own phone at full price to use a prepaid plan. It doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest, though.
  3. You don’t use an excessive amount of data.
  4. You don’t use a smart phone at all. This is obviously the cheapest option here. When I had a non-smart phone, my plan only cost me $25 a month and gave me unlimited texting and calling, just not data. Once I took the plunge and went back to a smart phone, my plan went up to $40 a month.

Other Considerations

A huge advantage of prepaid phone plans is that you can’t accidentally incur additional charges during the month. That used to happen to us all the time when we went over our text limit or accidentally opened the internet browser on our phones. A few tiny mistakes cost $10 or more per month. It might not sound like much, but when you have nothing, $10 is a lot! I really like paying the same amount every month with no surprises.

Buying your own phone can be a bit of a hassle, but there is no monthly payment once you do. As I mentioned before, I usually stick to phones that are a few models old. Buying used phones from family members who’ve just upgraded or looking for refurbished phones online can make even iPhones affordable.

To get the best deal, enroll in AutoPay. AutoPay is also the way to get the cheapest rates on a family plan.

In bigger cities, there are more options available for cell providers. Some are even cheaper than what I’m paying right now, but service may be limited when you travel.

prepaid phone plans
Remotes don’t make good phones unless you’re a baby. 😉

How much am I saving right now, exactly?

James and I each pay $40 a month for our plans, which include unlimited talk, text, and 8 GB of data. If you count the cost of the phones in that price, it adds about $8.50 a month per person (a $200 phone that lasts 2 years, on average). Total cost: $97 a month

For a family plan at AT&T using the same phones and the same amount of data, we would have to pay $120 a month, so that’s a savings of $23 a month or $276 a year. A few dollars here and there can really add up.

I didn’t include accessories. I’d buy those on Amazon no matter what.

What about a house phone?

We save a lot of money per month by not having one at all. I don’t think we ever will, either. I don’t see the real advantage when it’s so easy to get ahold of us directly by cell phone. Once we have a need for a “home” phone, we will probably get another cell phone. It’s going to be a few years before that’s relevant, though.


If you’re looking to save some money on your phone service, consider prepaid phone plans. All it takes is a quick look at your phone company’s website. You might be surprised at what you can save with just a few minutes of time.

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