What Would You Do: Should I Get a Smartphone?

Welcome to What Would You Do! Today’s post is a new series of posts I would like to continue into the future. Basically the premise is someone (in this case myself) has a question and they are looking for advice. I am looking to you all as the readers to provide input to what you would do in their similar situation. If you have a question you’d like to be featured in a future What Would You Do please send me an email at moneylifeandmore (at) gmail [dot] com. Let’s get on to the today’s question!

Today’s question is: Should I get a smartphone?

I have wanted a smartphone on and off for quite a while. Currently I have a basic camera phone that is 3 years old. I am lucky because my parents let me stay on their family plan and I reimburse them for the cost of my line being on the plan. Right now I pay about $15 a month for my cell phone bill. I don’t have texting and I don’t have any extras, just 200 minutes a month which I rarely go over. So let’s get into my thoughts on the issue.

So why do I want a smartphone?

I’d like to be able to use apps on the go. Currently I have a Kindle Fire tablet. It is great whenever I have WiFi  but I can’t use the price comparison apps, google maps, or any other everyday apps that require data access when I’m on the go, like the app from 1800Contacts or my local bank app because it doesn’t have wireless data capabilities.

I like the idea of being able to browse the web on my lunch break with a smartphone. This would mean that I could leave my office instead of using my employer’s computer to check my email and do other personal chores online on my lunch break.

I feel like I would post and take pictures a lot more because I could upload them directly to the internet rather than fumbling around with a memory card.

I’d feel like I was caught up with the times. More and more people are getting smartphones and they’ve been around for a few years. Even though this is a keeping up with the Joneses mentality, it is still a reason.

I can definitely afford it. I am pretty strict with my budget but $30 a month definitely wouldn’t do any damage to my budget.

Why don’t I have a smartphone yet?

The biggest reason I don’t have a smartphone yet – the cost. While I could easily afford the cost I don’t want another monthly payment. I rarely spend my monthly spending allowance and it just adds up month after month. Adding only a data package would run me $30 more a month not including any taxes they tack on to that. I would also like to have texting but I currently have a free texting app on my Kindle Fire that I could use on any smartphone I buy.

Once I get a smartphone I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to a regular phone.

They don’t make any good non smartphones anymore. The only types of phones that look work upgrading to are smartphones.

A big part of me wants one because everyone else has one. I know this isn’t a valid reason but whenever I see someone else with one I wish I had one too.

I feel like there is little time where I actually truly need a smartphone and its data capabilities. For the most part I am normally at home or at work and I have internet access at both places. While internet access is partially restricted at work, if I need to get something done I can do it as long as it doens’t involve Facebook, Twitter, or a streaming music website.

If I get a smartphone my girlfriend would hate me because she has wanted one for even longer than I have. Her budget is a bit tighter right now because she is working on paying back her student loans and she can’t afford it. Eventually when we get married we’ll combine finances but we haven’t done that yet.

So there you have it. Both sides of my internal argument and I don’t know what to do! Help me and leave your opinion in a comment below. While “You should totally get one” and “No they’re a waste of money” comments will be taken into consideration the types of comments that will be most helpful will have an argument behind the position they take. Thanks in advance for your help and I look forward to reading your responses!

I have a couple follow up posts that you may enjoy if you liked this one! Check out the Should I Get a Smartphone Update, I Got a Crazy Deal: Samsung Galaxy Skyrocket, and iPhone 5: How Cell Phone Companies Can Afford To Give You a $450 Discount.

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. Honestly, telecom is only going to get more expensive for services. I’d enjoy the $15/month for as long as possible.

    BTW, I don’t have a smart phone. You are not alone.

  2. I don’t have a smartphone but I do wish I had one. You shouldn’t want one though because other people have one…you should want one because they’re awesome. I’d love to be able to check blogs, my comments, and ESPN scores when I’m out and about or waiting on somebody. I think it makes life a little more convenient and also allows you to be more efficient.

    With that said there are some serious issues with them and they’re often abused.

    All things considered, I’d say you should get one. You could also buy one for your GF and get it as her Christmas gift. There is nothing saying you have to combine finances to get her a phone and pay for her plan for a year. ….just sayin’

  3. Sounds like the only question is not whether you get a smartphone but when! Since the chief downside you cite is the cost, maybe you can find a place elsewhere in your budget to cut spending and open up some room for the smartphone cost without affecting your saving rate.

  4. I would get one. I have an ipad that is wi-fi only and I use my phone a lot more. I got my family to switch to Sprint since I have an employee discount and the data is unlimited. Check out their family plans – unlimited minutes a month to any cell, unlimited data and texting, 1500 mins to landlines each month. My plan has 5 lines on it – me, my BF, mom, brother, sis and we never use the 1500 mins for landlines. It all works out perfectly. We all have smartphones. I pay about $60, BF pays $60 and mom pays $90-$100 which is really cheap for 3 phones with almost unlimited everything. She was paying way more than that with Verizon.

    I thought I didn’t need a smartphone but now I use it all the time. I have a post called how my smartphone saves me money…may be beneficial for you 🙂

    Let us know what you decide!

  5. We are in the same boat. I currently use my fathers old old blackberry that I can call and text on and that is it I’m on his plan for 15 dollars a month as well. I will need a more reliable phone once I start traveling 2 hours a day for school in the fall so I will be waiting to see what you do. A currently have an iPad with cell coverage, so I am not in a rush. I’m scared I will waste all my time on it once I get it! Let us know what you decide to do

  6. Yes.

    That is all.

  7. I feel for you! I have a smart phone and wish I could go back to a regular one. I agree that they definitely aren’t good choices out there for them, though. I also agree that the price of data probably won’t go down. I am so used to getting email pushed to my phone now, and using GPS, and internet when needed – there is no turning back for me. I think you should hold off as long as you can because your budget will never be the same again 😀

  8. @JP – I totally understand that is why I still don’t have a smartphone yet.
    @Jason – Great points. I think the only way the girlfriend wouldn’t kill me is if I did buy her one too!
    @Kurt – I don’t think my budget would take a big hit but I just hate the idea of having another monthly payment.
    @From Shopping to Saving – Thanks for the post recommendation. I’ll check it out. I like the idea of Sprint but unfortunately I’m in a smaller town and I doubt they have good service here.
    @Crystal – I’ll definitely let you guys know what I decide but it may be a little while before I make a solid decision.
    @sherrian – It astounds me that it cost $30 a month for 3 GB of data when my internet bill at home is probably about the same for unlimited.

  9. I would also consider going with a secondary cell provider as the big 3 will cost you $100/month easy after all the taxes and fees are added. I read yesterday that Cricket will get the iPhone this month and offer a contract-free plan for around $50/month which includes 2GB.

  10. You’re exactly right when you say “once you have a smartphone, you can’t go back.” I made the switch so I could have navigation and a quality camera. It’s worth far more than the $30/month. I read during my lunch break (and bathroom break!) and do most of my commenting/emailing from my phone. It’s caused me to be more responsive and productive.

  11. @Noah – I have been considering Boost Mobile but you have to pay for the phone up front. It is something I would consider though.

    @funancials – That was my thoughts. I think I could probably write it off as a business expense as well if my blog ever generates some income…

  12. I don’t have a smartphone and don’t really have a desire to have one. There have been maybe 3 or 4 times that my husband and I have been out and about and thought “well it would be nice to be able to look such and such up”, but I just can’t justify the cost for it. We have the smallest phone plan possible with no texting as when we had texting we never used it. We have actually been thinking about getting rid of our family plan which runs us about $59 a month and going with one prepaid cell with the smallest number of minutes on it and then going with a home phone set-up through our computer, we did the math and figured the cost would be about $80 a year.

    That being said, if someone can afford it in their budget and they really feel like it would be of a use to them (and not just because everyone else has one) then I say go for it!

  13. If you want to keep your out of pocket cost low, get a last-gen phone. You’ll have the web and not spend a ton of money upfront on the latest/greatest tech.

  14. Ornella says:

    Hey Lance,

    Did you shop around? Technology has it’s place in our lives. And you are right, you will never be able to go back. I’m similar to you. It took me I think a couple of years until I finally gave in and bought myself a touchscreen phone with an all data package. Since my contract was up and my phone carrier had a deal going, I was able to get my phone for free. Even now I would like to get a better phone with more memory and faster speed (since phones slow down after a year of usage).

    If they smartphone will enhance your life and make things easier I say get one. You don’t sound like you are a big time splurger. And it’s obvious you are more involved with technology than you think. I mean you do have a blog.

    Personally, I don’t use a landline. I do use my phone for internet (even for business purposes), texting, emailing, etc.

    Well, I hope my comment helps you out a little bit.

    Take care, Lance

  15. My husband and I keep talking about getting a smart phone and have gone through the same reasoning as you. We got new dumb phones when we renewed our contract but they kind of suck. I visit a lot of homes in my town for work and would like to have a GPS so I don’t have to keep writing down directions. I would definitely take and post more of my own pictures too. If we do get a phone, only one of us will get one (likely me!)

  16. I have no desire to get a smartphone. I am a little behind on the times. I don’t really care for cell phones or social media. I don’t think smart phones are necessities at all, it just comes down to personal preferences.

  17. I couldn’t imagine being without a smart phone now. But yeah they are not cheap. If I had to go on a really tight budget I’d probably be ok turning off my data plan and just using my ipod for listening to music.

  18. I am like untemplater. I use my smart phone for everything work and personal related. They aren’t cheap now but they save me a ton of time because I am able to be that much more organized with it. Everything I need or need to do is at my fingertips.It’s like a whole bunch of tools and devices rolled into one.

  19. @ Tara – I used to not have a use for them but I feel like there are many more opportunities for me to use them now so that has factored into my decision.

    @Average Joe – I plan on getting a free or near free phone, definitely not more than $50 if I get one.

    @Ornella – Thanks for your thoughts. I’m not a big splurger and I think that will factor into my decision as well.

    @Jessica – I hope if you guys get one you get it! It sounds like you need it more.

    @Katie – I used to be that way but now i’m finding ways I could use them all of the time.

    @Untemplater – Luckily I have some room in my budget so if I decide I want one I know I can afford it.

    @Miss T – I think it’d probably save me some time but I’m not sure how much… we shall see what I end up deciding.

  20. I don’t have a smart phone either. I feel like I can’t justify the reoccuring expenses.

  21. @LifeInTransition – That was my thought too but right now I’m leaning toward getting one. I’ll have to post when I make a final decision.

  22. And here I thought *I* was the only person left in America who still hadn’t joined the smartphone revolution. For me, I simply don’t want or need to be that connected all the time.

  23. You definitely aren’t the only one. I don’t have to be always connected so even if I do get one I won’t always have to have it with me… at least I think 🙂

  24. I couldn’t live without my Black Berry (I know RIM sucks but it’s best keypad to WORK with a phone 🙂 ). I like my BB because I can easily handle all my emails during the day and I don’t have 50 emails waiting in my mailbox when I go home. I’m lucky as I also get my job email on my BB so it makes my life so much easier 🙂

    the trick is to determine when you use your smartphone and when you put it aside. For example, I leave my BB on the kitchen table as soon as I come home.

  25. I too have been on my girlfriends plan for $12 a month. I have been paying her $20 just to help her out a bit and didn’t mind.

    However, I did finally break down and get a smart phone last year… but I did it in the cheapest way possible…

    A Prepaid smart phone. I bought one in November 2011 for $99. I planned to activate it in Feb 2012, but lost my phone in December… so I activated early..

    I just bought a new smart phone with updated Apps and wifi for $99 again in November.

    With the roll over I expect this phone to last me thru May 2014.

    In which case that phone will have provided me 29 months of service for a grand total of $198. Crunch numbers and that comes out to a monthly cost of $6.60. I won’t complain…. but I don’t think I will be able to re-up into these $99 deals. I was not expecting that this year and was pleasantly surprised.


  26. The Mr. Money Mustache forums are full of interesting alternative plans to make smartphones more affordable, but I have to admit that I just have a smartphone through a major carrier that is tied into a family plan.

  27. Virgin Mobile USA is one of those companies that offers smartphones like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy with their service for as little as $35/month. No contract, either. That includes the data. You don’t have to buy a separate data plan. You also can port over your own phone number.

    But you have to pay a lot for the phone itself. That’s the trade off. Plus, you’re dealing with last year’s model or older. So if you want the current iPhone 5, you’ll have to wait when the latest iPhone comes out. In the long run, though, it’s cheaper.

    I don’t have a smart, either. I’m thinking about one day getting an iPhone, but it’ll just have to wait for now. But Virgin Mobile is great. Runs on the Sprint system.

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