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Out of grad school, I tried taking extreme measures to pay down my debt. I remember buying a book called “The Ultimate Cheapskate.” I learned a lot but it was exhausting. My mindset on money has evolved over time and I’ve learned that a more sustainable approach for me is to spend money on the things I love and relentlessly cut back on the things I don’t.


We all value different things and therefore will choose to spend our money accordingly. I am a true believer that you can have anything you want in this world — fine dining, high-tech gadgets, annual vacations, a second home, a fat bank account, etc… There are a couple of caveats, however.
  1. You cannot value everything — at least not all at once
  2. You need to be serious about having a plan. It will not just happen.
Right now, I value being debt free and having the ability to travel while I am young. I firmly believe that my money decisions reflect that (this is one of my favorite pictures from my travels as an educator — we’re en route to the Isle of Skye). I am so serious about those values that I am paying $20/month for my cell phone plan. Just because you have enough money in your checking account each month to pay a $100 cell phone bill does not mean you should (unless you value it that much, of course).
Your values aren’t really your values unless they cost you something.


In my career as an educator, my employer paid for my cell phone bill (Thank You!) I saved a lot of money over that time and even paid off some debt. Although they no longer do so for employees, it was an incredible perk while it lasted. We all had the opportunity to take advantage of unlimited talk, text and data. When I changed careers, I had to pay my own cell phone bill for the first time in 7 years!
As you can probably attest to, “unlimited” has become an expectation for all cell phone consumers. A quick Google search helped me find an article I had read I read in Money Magazine that I believe they publish every year called, “The Best Cell Phone Plans of XXXX.” I learned that the expectation didn’t necessarily align with usage.
The average smartphone owner is using 2 to 3 GB per month.
It didn’t take me long to decide on a new carrier. Since my phone was already on the AT&T network, I chose a carrier that would work well on that network: Cricket Wireless. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t really know any Cricket users and I didn’t have high expectations. But I was in a career transition and was serious about not using my savings if I didn’t have to. My cell phone bill was exactly $35/month. You would have never known I had Cricket until I just told you. It worked well for me for a few reasons.
  • I connect to a secure wireless network while at home and at work.
  • Since I have xfinity at home, if I’m ever in the range of a home or business that uses xfinity, my phone automatically jumps onto the xfinity wifi hotspot (secure w/ app)
  • I’ve found that I never go over my data limit considering that I almost always have access to WiFi. With Cricket, that data limit was 5 gigs. Now I’m on a plan that gives me8 gigs of data.

Since then, I’ve actually used a couple of other phone plans — Xfinity Mobile (unlimited for $45/month) and Mint Mobile. I am not advocating for Cricket or any other company as much as I am for reevaluating what many of us have just come to expect – whether it be your cable or cell phone bill or both. Cut the cord, anyone? As you’ve likely seen, some cell phone providers are offering more reasonable prices for unlimited family plans. Others are now bundling internet and cell phone service. For now, my plan works well for me and something similar might work for you as well.

This is one of my favorite conversations to have! Let’s chat.


  • planning your first or next trip to Europe
  • retiring early
  • driving a nice car
  • saving up for a new home
  • helping your kids pay for college
  • …the list goes on
But remember, you cannot value everything at once (unless you can). Again, this post is about more than just your cell phone plan. Take a look at where your paycheck goes each month — there may be some hidden charges in there like my rented modem. Are there ways to make adjustments to help you reach your goals? Spend money on what you love, not on what you don’t. 
Schedule a meeting and we can begin the conversation.

This article has been edited after being originally posted in February 2017.

Jesse is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and earned his Master’s in Education from Harvard. In his education career, he served as a teacher, counselor and Director of Alumni for YES Prep Public Schools. He is a member of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) and takes pride in helping fellow educators better understand their pension and plan for their future. Learn more about Jesse.