How Much Do You Need to Spend on (Good Enough) Smartphones?

We live in a world of smartphones, and they are highly useful tools. You can call, text, video chat, snap selfies, shoot a movie,, surf the internet, play games, connect on social media, read a blog, write a blog, watch a movie, do your banking, invest, budget, track your health, or do almost anything you can do on a computer…all on your smartphone.

I love smartphones, but I hate MY smartphone. Sometimes I find in my desire to save money, I go overboard. I was too cheap to buy a smartphone to suit my needs, but I’m having trouble figuring out what I need to spend to get one that isn’t top of the line but is GOOD ENOUGH.

Me And My Smartphones

I began my smartphone addiction when I worked for a company that provided all managers and administrative staff with Blackberries (and then Androids, and then iPhones). I fell in love, and fell hard. Having 24/7 email and internet was addictive.. Once Little Bit was born, I adored the ability to take pictures or video all of the time. (I might not carry a camera, but i sure as heck carried my phone.)

When I left the company, I found myself phoneless. Jon tried to convince me to just pick up a basic TracPhone, which is what he carried.

Nope, I needed my smart phone, and hey, he needed one too. I went down to Verizon, signed us up for two lines, and picked up two mid-tier Motorolas. When we renewed our plan, we picked up two more.

Jon fell in love with smart phones too. They are just too useful, too portable to do without.

Last year, we decided to switch from Verizon to Cricket. The switch saved us around $85 a month, but unfortunately, our year-old smart phones weren’t compatible with the network.

I thought I had done my homework. I wanted an Android (I don’t like iPhones). I wanted a decent camera, and liked the ability to add a micro SD card for additional storage. And, I didn’t want to pay a ton for the phone.

We picked up two Samsung Grand Galaxy phones. After rebate, they were $35 each.

Frugality for the win? Nope. Unfortunately, as I’ve since found, I was just cheap.

My Phone Problem

The Grand Galaxy is an okay phone. The camera is okay, although I think my older phone took better pictures. I can store plenty of pictures and videos on the mini SD card. The apps it runs work fine.

Unfortunately, our phones have very limited memory (8 Gigs) on the actual phone, and the operating system takes up HALF of it.

That’s not a problem for Jon. He uses his phone to surf the web and check email. He doesn’t do social media. Jon only added about 5 apps in the first week: Pandora, Google Sky Map, and 3 weather apps. I don’t think he’s added any since.

I, on the other hand, do use social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest take up a big chunk of my phone’s remaining memory. While I can move some memory storage to the SD card, I still find myself having to clear the cache whenever the phone wants to run updates. I’ve had to delete any non-essential apps or phone games I had (which frustrates Little Bit to no end), and can only carry one audio book at a time.

And I’m trying to explore new social media opportunities, but without being able to load them on my phone, that’s a bit difficult.

It drives me nuts.

I need a phone with more memory, but smartphones can be expensive. Want that brand new iPhone? It’ll run you AT MInimum $650. That Samsung Galaxy S7? Without a contract, you’re looking only $100 less.

No wonder most people buy their cell phones on payment plans.

I love my smart phones, but I don’t think they should cost more than my Kindle and laptop combined. On the other hand, should I really have spent less than I spend on a couple of trips to the movies for something I use at least 6 times a day?


How Much Do You Need to Spend on (Good Enough) Smartphones?

How Good is Good Enough?

One cell phone does not fit all. Jon is fine with our basic Android, which frustrates me to no end.For my inlaws, basic phones that call people work fine. I have friends who wouldn’t consider buying anything but an iPhone anymore than I would consider buying one.

You have to define your own Good Enough smartphone, just as you have to fit your own good enough car, home, or career. One set of priorities does not fit all.

For us, cutting edge is not a priority. Functionality is, but in this case I wasn’t wise enough to fully explore what functionality I needed before I bought. At $35 I’m not sure I wasted money, but I have been unsatisfied with my purchase and it’s my own fault.

Nine months of living with el cheapo phone has shown me that while I value  an inexpensive network and don’t need a top of the line phone, I do need at minimum 16 Gigs of memory (preferably 32) to run the myriad apps I want to connect to social media, store plenty of pictures, and run the occasional game. (Pokemon Go, anyone?)

With that as my baseline, I’m looking a lot more than $35. I’m looking at $200+ for my good enough.

Again, considering my cell phone usage, is a cell phone worth the same as a single out of town weekend?

Still Looking for Good Enough

I haven’t made a decision, but I think I’ll be casting a wider net this time. I want to check out the full spectrum of compatible smartphones, not just what Cricket offers. (After all, this time I only want to switch phones, not carriers. There’s no financial incentive to limit myself to the Cricket store.

My guess Is I’ll live with el cheapo phone until November, and then ask for a new phone as my birthday or Christmas present. That gives me another couple of months to make a better decision: a smartphone that might not be the best but fits the bill as good enough, even though it means spending more.

Any tips on buying a better phone? Have you found that you painted yourself into a corner by saving when you should have spent? 

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich. *

31 thoughts on “How Much Do You Need to Spend on (Good Enough) Smartphones?

  1. I, like Jon, didn’t want a smartphone, but my wife convinced me 3 years ago and I got a Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate (4 GB) for around $100. Considering I don’t do that much with it, it was good enough for me for a long time, although I’m now feeling the memory and storage constraints. Yet I don’t really want to spring for anything new. I can understand completely how going from a top of the line smartphone down to a basic one would be a rough transition, especially if it doesn’t really meet your needs. Considering your usage, it may be well worth the investment to spend on a better smartphone, especially if that means you can continue using it longer (rather than needing to “trade up” in a year). Good luck with your search!
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…Moving to Another City: Are You Ready?My Profile

    • Thanks Gary! I don’t feel I need a top smartphone, but I would like to not have to wrestle with memory every time I need to update an app.

  2. My partner is on GoogleFi, and his phone is very good with 32 GB of memory. Nexus 5X, I believe. It’s below $200 now. The camera is great!

    • The nexus phones are quite good – especially if you get a deal right before a new model comes out.

      My husband has a nexus 5 as well, and we’re both on a pay as you go plan through Air Voice wireless, spending about $4/month per phone on average.

      I have a moto g with 8 and definitely agree with the need of 16+ for future phones.

  3. I’ve tried out a few different smart phones and am not particularly attached to one brand or another. My problem though is that I have a lot of group text messages which works great when I have an iPhone because most other people do as well and it goes via imessage. But I’m hesitant switching brands away from the iPhone now and having difficulty sending or receiving group imessages. Perhaps there is a messaging app that fixes this problem, but I know it used to be an issue for me. Not real excited about paying $600-700+ for an iPhone when most of what I’m buying is the brand name…
    The Green Swan recently posted…How I Got FIRE’d Up: My Swan SongMy Profile

    • I’d look into the messaging, because yeah, Apple products are just pricy. But your issue is why people seem to either go with Apple or go with Android and stick with it…you get used to apps and conventions and maybe some paid content that you don’t want to lose when you switch phones. It’s unfortunate for Apple users that they really only have one provider and that the main options are around how old a model to buy.

  4. My iphone is so old and I really need a new one with a better camera. I am not big on keeping up with new phones but feel like I should get one asap because I am not into the new iphone with no headphone jack!

    • You’re probably good for a while…you can still pick up iPhone 5s, so the 6s and their variations will be around for a while for those who don’t want the 7 for price or headphone issues. Plus, lots of people seem concerned about the headphone jack, so Apple may go back to providing one in later models.

    • Waterproof is cool.
      So, yeah, I was wondering about used options, so I have a bunch of questions for you: Did you get a refurbished one? Was it guaranteed? Was it from an individual or a business?

  5. Hi Emily! Guess what? We do not own a smart phone and never will. We have five laptops of various ages, two are new this year, and I have a Kindle I use for not only reading, but for getting online when I am out if it is urgent. Therefore, no smart phones. We have two nice flip phones that do all sorts of things, like voice commands, texting, emergency warnings, balances at the bank, etc. We can go online with them, but do not feel it is necessary. Maybe we are too tight and too old to change!

    • I guess it’s all what you are used to. Jon uses his smartphone as his primary internet and email, even though he has a desktop, laptop and a Kindle Fire. But the phone means internet on the go, where everything else is limited to being at home.

  6. I got my first smartphone late last fall. We bought a cheapo $50 BLU and it was terrible! For a long time, my Hubby thought it was user error (I’m not great with technology…funny for a blogger, huh?). But then he grabbed it to try to do something simple and discovered how awful it was. Like you said, it wasn’t a frugal option. It was a cheap option! It’s important to choose carefully, especially if you hope to use it for a long time.
    Jamie @ Medium Sized Family recently posted…School Fundraisers: How to Get the Funds You Need (Plus a Giveaway!)My Profile

    • Good to know, Jamie. I read a list of the best unlocked phones on PC Mag, and they talked positively about the Blu as a budget friendly option, but the user reviews were terrible. I’ll probably give it a pass.

  7. I have a $99 Moto G with $30/mo service from Selectel, which runs on Verizon. I’m also having an issue with 8 gigs of memory. But since I got my IPad I’m using it more for apps and Internet. Also, myiPad can pick up the 5ghz signal where my phone only recognizes the 2.4 ghz. The 5 is faster and leaves room for our other devices to run on 2.4.

    Have you been to this site? Daley’s Frugal Guide. I found him a few years ago from MrMoneyMustache’s forums. It looks like he may not have updated in a while but his explanations of all the technical areas are excellent.
    Mrs Groovy recently posted…Did I Flunk My Own Positivity Challenge?My Profile

  8. I just picked up a Samsung Galaxy J7 and I love it way better than the Samsung Galaxy 5. The picture quality is better and so far it seems to work pretty good and I have IG, FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Asana, Ibotta, Shopkick, Target Cartwheel, Amazon, and I’m pretty sure they are more than I’m forgetting. Oh yeah, my roku and firestick remote apps because my baby boy keeps losing my remotes, lol. I also have an extra storage card. It was around $250 and I wasn’t really willing to go anymore higher than that.
    Latoya @ Femme Frugality recently posted…3 Steps to Become a Financially Independent WomanMy Profile

    • LOL, you’d have thought I would have realized that. I certainly pay attention to the amount of memory on my computer and tablet, but for some reason didn’t think nearly enough when Jon and I bought our phones.

  9. What about an older version of a phone you like? I mean, I used my iPhone 4 for a long time – till it literally got all glitchy and died – but plenty of people are all about the newest tech, so if they’re selling off phones that have only been used for a year or two, you might get a really good deal.
    Mel @ brokeGIRLrich recently posted…The Bucket List ConundrumMy Profile

    • We’ve generally picked less new phones, so I’m very open to the idea of picking up an older phone. The premium on brand new tech is way too high, and as we’ve seen with the Samsung Note 7, can get released with serious glitches.

  10. Great post! Cell phones can certainly be expensive, but if you buy them refurbished or used you can save a lot of money on a great phone. Thanks for sharing!

  11. It’s definitely difficult to juggle between the usefulness of a smartphone and staying on a budget. I think you’ll find a balance though, there are many options that don’t rely on purchasing outdated devices. Thanks for sharing!
    Heather recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

    • Yeah, we’re probably moving toward one of the Amazon devices since we are Prime members and we’re already used to the ads on our Kindles. Seems a good way to save money on a good solid device.

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