Save $1,400 a Year by Ditching Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T (But Keep Your Phone)

Ditch your cell phone plan
Jon Fingas under Creative Commons

How’d you like to never pay another dollar for your cell phone service again? It’s not a scam or a “one day in the distant future” promise — it’s a reality you can have right now.

Wall Street Journal reporter Ryan Knutson knows firsthand that it’s possible to enjoy a $0 cell phone bill and still live a normal, smartphone-carrying life. For 30 days in January, he disconnected his iPhone from his regular AT&T service and relied solely on free Wi-Fi.

He was still able to do everything he normally did — meet up with friends, find his way around, send texts and make calls. It took a little more planning and flexibility on his part at times, but when you consider the sky-high fees many of us fork over to our cell phone providers — $120 or more per month! — it definitely seems like a route worth considering.

How to Live Without a Cell Phone Plan

Foregoing traditional cell phone service is becoming easier and easier, thanks to a host of services and apps that fill the gap traditionally dominated by big-name players like AT&T and Verizon. Just as many people avoid hefty cable bills by mixing and matching services like Netflix, Hulu and Sling TV, you can cobble together everything you need to enjoy your smartphone without paying big bucks to a service provider.

Want to make a call to someone? Try Google Voice, Skype or Apple’s FaceTime app if you have an iPhone.

Want to send a text? WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger both work on Apple, Google and Android devices and allow you to send real-time messages without paying for SMS service.

Want to check your email or browse the Internet on the go? Just tap into one of the many free Wi-Fi hotspots, whose numbers are increasing every day. For $5, you can purchase the app Wi-FI Map Pro, which can guide you to nearby hotspots even when your phone is offline.

Yes, There Are a Few Drawbacks

While free Wi-Fi is available in more places than ever, we still have a ways to go before it’s universal, so for now going service-free does come with some minor inconveniences you should be aware of before you make the leap.

Some places still don’t offer free Wi-Fi, and for those that do, you often have to ask to get the password (it’s not the end of the world, but it can be a pain).

If you’re outside or in a car, you’re not likely to find a hotspot, so you’ll have to wait to check your phone till you get to your destination (again, this isn’t the end of the world, although for some of us who are glued to our screens, it might feel like it). You’ll also need to call your destination ahead of time to make sure they offer free Wi-Fi.

There are also security concerns; public Wi-Fi isn’t always as well-protected as traditional cellular networks, so you may want to avoid doing any banking transactions or sharing sensitive information until you’re home and can access your own wireless network.

Are You Ready to Unplug From Your Provider?

In addition to saving you tons of cash, going service-free has the added perk of teaching you what it’s like to unplug from time to time. When you walk down the street, you find yourself noticing what’s going on around you. When you’re in a Wi-Fi-free zone, you’re forced to entertain yourself with conversation, reading or your own thoughts.

Eventually, when you’re having dinner with friends, you may find yourself sneaking peaks at your phone under the table less often, even if there is Wi-Fi available, because you get used to what it’s like to occasionally be without Internet access.

It’s the kind of detox more and more of us could stand to use these days.

Not sure you’re prepared to cut the cord just yet? You may want to consider other options like these low-cost carriers, which provide you with traditional cell phone service for a fraction of the cost.

Your Turn: Could you ditch your cell phone provider and live off free Wi-Fi?

Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.