I have slacked off and failed to charge our son for his cell phone use for the past five months. Why? Because I forgot how much each megabyte of data costs, and Consumer Cellular* charges by the gigabyte, and that meant I needed to do math and I just haven’t felt like it.
Hubs would be displeased.
But I sat down this morning, pulled up the last five invoices and ran the numbers. The boy owes us $79.66 for January-May.
How did I arrive at that figure? Let me start from the beginning.
The boy has been asking for a cell phone since he exited the womb. We held firm to our refusal until he turned 14 in September and entered high school.
And we have no regrets. Our girls, 10 and 12, do not own cell phones. The elder mistakenly thought that “fourteen” and “freshman” were the magic words that unlocked cell phone ownership. I laughed in her face and replied, “You and your brother attend the same school, and will until he leaves for college. Therefore I have no need for you to carry a phone, because I can reach either of you via him.” Bwah-ha-ha!
But yes, she’ll likely get hers when she enters high school. That’s how kids and teachers and the entire developed world communicate. We get that.
A cell phone is a never-ending, monthly-recurring charge. Once you start it, you’re never going to stop. So when do you pass the baton to the kid and make him/her responsible for the bill?
How about right away?
We’ve told our kids they can have a cell phone when they can pay for it, independent of the salary we give them to cover their basic needs. The boy has had a job for the last two years. He walks our elderly neighbor’s dogs every weekday morning and twice on Saturdays. He pulls in $50-60 a week. That’s better than I do with my books. (Cough, cough, click the link, support a starving artist?)
The next consideration has to do with minutes and data sharing. Hubs cogently pointed out that while the extra line on my account only costs $10, the kid (and before long kids) will be sucking up my minutes and data like a toddler sucking at a half pint of chocolate milk. We needed to incentivize seeking out Wi-Fi and dis-incentivize streaming Netflix, YouTube, and Pandora via cell tower while riding in the back of the bus.
Hence the math I had to do.
My monthly plan through Consumer Cellular* gives me 250 minutes of phone time for $15 and 5 GB of data for $30. So, the boy pays $0.06 for every minute he talks on the phone (to anyone other than me), and $0.006 for every MB of data he eats.
He watches those numbers carefully, friends. He occasionally asks me to pull up the online statement to see where he’s at for the month.
It works great. And he ends up paying around $15-18 a month for the privilege of having a cell phone. When my daughters get their lines we’ll probably have to up the minutes and data plan, but they’ll be covering that extra charge.
Just wanted to share this little family plan with you, in case you’re pondering how to handle cell phones and kids. This is how we do it. It’s certainly not the only way, but it works for us. And we think it’s teaching our young about responsibility and finances.
If nothing else it shuts down the “I want a cell phone!” whining.
“You got a job yet? No? Then there’s nothing I can do for you.”
*Consumer Cellular did not pay me anything to reference them in this blog. I just really like them and think everyone should consider switching. They’re awesome. (P.S., Consumer Cellular, if you liked this post, I’m open to talking about remuneration of some sort…)