Sunday, August 17, 2014

Free Markets, Competition, Low Prices and Customer Satisfaction ... Saving Money on Cell Phones and Books

School days are right around the corner.

So when I came across the following savings opportunity for cell phones and books, I decided to share it.

Three Deals You Should Know About offers this common sense advice to the saver:

"Let's make a deal. You want to save money, but you're fed up with eating cheap cereal out of a bag. And you don't even think about drinking a "latte" anymore. Not even at home.

What else can you do? . . .

1. Change cellular plans.

There are new plans available and, unknown to most consumers, you can get pretty much the same service you have today for a lot less.

The reason? The big networks are desperate for revenue, so they're slashing prices. But they are doing it in a semi-secret way so only bargain-hunters know about it: by selling airtime on their networks to third-party companies which then sell it on to consumers cheaply under "generic" brand names.

Not long ago, one of those operators set a new bar in cheap plans: Free. FreedomPop, a new cellular company, is offering a basic monthly cellular package that involves no contract and which costs zippo dollars a month. Nada.

If you use less than 200 minutes of voice calls each month, send and receive fewer than 500 texts, and use less than 500 megabytes of data, it will cost you nothing.

You can upgrade to unlimited calls and texts for just $11 a month. There are various cheap data options, too, such as $20 for two gigabytes —enough for lots of email and basic web surfing. And it's far below typical rates for service when purchased direct from the major networks.

In an innovative move, FreedomPop also lets you "earn" extra data by downloading ads from the company's advertisers. You can also share surplus data with friends and family also on the FreedomPop plan.

FreedomPop doesn't have its own network. It resells airtime from SprintI've been using it for a month, mostly in Boston but also in rural New England, and I'm happy with the result. I had no problem with calls or texts, and when accessing mobile data I usually connect at high "3G" or "4G" speeds, depending on location.

The main caveat is that so far the service works only with a few smartphones (including Sprint-compatible iPhones). I bought the cheapest available, a Samsung Victory LTE, online from FreedomPop for $120. I consider that a bargain: I'm not locked into a monthly contract, and if I just use the phone occasionally the service is free.

Other third-party operators offering supercheap cellular service: Straight Talk and Simple Mobile. But FreedomPop may be the first to offer service for free.

2. Dump your Kindle.

And go back to reading books the old-fashioned way: on paper. . . .

Hard to believe, but paper books aren't just much nicer to read; they can also be cheaper. If you buy them secondhand, they can be much cheaper.

For instance, Stephenie Meyer's teen-vampire best-seller "Twilight" will cost you $8.99 on a Nook or a Kindle. A paperback in good condition: $3.29, with free shipping in the U.S., from
Mitch Albom's "The Five People You Meet In Heaven": $9.99 on a Nook or Kindle. From Thiftbooks: $3.19.

And if that's still too much, download for free all the classics you've always meant to read, from Project Gutenberg ( If you want something more modern, check it out of your library."

Summing Up

Makes sense to me.

If it makes sense to you, pass it on.

When free markets are at work, customers rule.

That's the way it should be, and that's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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