Free, huh? I’m sure you’re doubtful. But imagine if you could shed that crazy monthly cell phone contract you most likely have every month. How much could you save a year? Hundreds…? More?? Have a landline as well? Are you paying for some stupid Vonage crap that’s ripping you off every month? I can help solve both of these problems.
No, this isn’t a scam. You really can get absolutely free monthly home and cell phone service through different means, and I’m going to break down how it’s done as simply as I can. It truly is shocking to me the amount of people that are completely oblivious to these options. They’re either skeptical they are for real and don’t bother pursuing the options or poo-poo it and say it’s not a good value. But…last I checked, you can’t beat free.
OK, what’s the catch? There always is a catch, and yes, the catch in this case is…you do have to buy some upfront hardware and fees. I’m sorry, nothing is truly free, but seriously, this is about as good as you’re going to get folks. Let’s break it down.
Free monthly cell phone service
During Black Friday ’15, I made this post on how to get free RingPlus service. In this case, it was a limited time promotion. But, the cool thing is…these promos aren’t really that limited. They pop up at RingPlus.net all the time. In fact, there’s one going on…right now! In this instance you can get 3200 minutes, 3200 texts, and 3.2 GB of data a month. That beats the hell out of the Black Friday promo. Again, so what’s the catch? Well, two things:
- You have to buy your own phone and it needs to work on the RingPlus network. RingPlus is on the Sprint network, so phones from Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint will normally work. On the main page of RingPlus, you can check to see if your existing phone is applicable.
- In general though, the device normally needs to be not activated; not associated with an account. Prepaid or unlocked phones are what you’re looking for. So be on the lookout for sales on phones.
- You have to pay a one time fee to set up the account; normally $15-$25.
The fine print
If you go over any minutes, texts, or data; any overage will draw from that initial one time fee (it’s called a Top-Up). If you run out of money, you need to buy another “Top-Up”. If you never go over, you never pay an additional dime, and you never should need to. That’s it! That’s the gist of it. For many, many more details, I highly advise checking out this ever changing Wiki, there’s great stuff there that I won’t go into, but I’ll try to pick out some highlights:
- The way RingPlus makes money is through their various add-ons that are totally optional (and their more expensive plans…that aren’t free). They also make money off of advertising. When making a call (that is, when you’re dialing a number), you may hear an ad. If this is a dealbreaker for you, I’m disappointed in you.
- There are ways to turn this off through some tricks…you can set up a radio station to listen to instead (I chose a classical station). See the Wiki for details.
- Certain plans require “Member+” which requires additional fees. I believe it’s a $99 one-time fee to lock in some of the higher echelon caps. Sometimes this is worth it, sometimes it’s not. My plan does not need Member+. It just really depends on what you want.
- MMS (multimedia messages) aren’t free. They’re 4 cents each. This can be disabled through settings so you can’t receive them; see the aforementioned Wiki for more information.
- This is the only thing that draws from my account. I just need to remember to not send pictures through text. If this is a dealbreaker for you, I apologize. What I do is just send pictures through email. You just have to be aware that it’s not free!
- I believe MMS is free on Wi-fi though.
- RingPlus is a cellular service on the Sprint network. It’s main claim to fame in the cheapass community is to get free (or very, very cheap) cell phone service.
- You need to buy your own phone. Here is an example (and actually the phone I use). Phones go on sale all the time, and especially on Black Friday. Again, check the Wiki, it normally has pointers to phones. I didn’t cover this in detail, but…the phone choices are quite varied. You don’t have to buy a $20 phone like I did…you could, God forbid, use an unlocked iPhone. Unfortunately, that goes against everything I stand for. So…moving on…
- Promotions pop-up every so often. I advise searching on Slickdeals.net and / or set up alerts for RingPlus on there. I listed one such deal as an example above.
- I recommend having a phone that is unactivated in your possession and when a promo comes up, activate it. If nothing comes up…return the phone.
- There are so many other finer details that I won’t attempt to go into. Again, I urge you to read this highly detailed Wiki for more information.
I have been using RingPlus for almost 6 months now. I spent $20 on a phone. I spent $15 on the Top-Up for the Leonardo 2 plan; which gives 1.5 GB data, 1500 texts, 1500 minutes – more than enough for me (I actually bought two lines…I have an emergency burner I can use at any time!). If you break down the cost of the cell service over 6 months, it is $5.83 / mo. In 12 months it will be $2.91 / mo. In 24 months, it will be $1.45 / mo. OK, so it’s not completely free. But if you can beat that, I’d be shocked. The farther you go out in time, the closer to $0 a month it becomes. I love it. Again, once you’ve paid the one time fees, there’s nothing else! It’s a beautiful thing.
So…what about home phone service? There’s a way to get that nearly free as well.
Free monthly home phone service
You may have heard of things like Vonage, Magic Jack, etc. These are all doing the same thing. There’s a piece of hardware that connects to your phone and your router. A phone call goes from your phone to the VOIP device through your router and over the internet to call others. Then you pay $20-30 a month to a company for this service. Pfff, lame.
So…what if I told you that you could buy your own generic VOIP hardware? And not pay anything, zero, nothing a month to have your own VOIP phone service? Well, I’m about to tell you how: Obihai combined with Google Voice.
Much like RingPlus, there’s still some upfront costs. You need to buy the device that is normally provided to you when you buy something like Vonage. This device is an Obihai. Here is one example of one that was on sale (including a great Wiki section). Generally, you find one of these on sale in the neighborhood of $30 and then you set it up. It’s actually incredibly easy and all the instructions are included with the device. The trick to making this free is to link a Google Voice account to it.
What’s Google Voice? Come on. I hope you know what Google Voice is! I’m sorry, that was mean. Google will give you a free phone number. No catch. It’s legitimately free. However, you need to tie it to a device…are you putting things together yet? You’re going to associate it with the Obihai. There’s a whole bunch of stuff you can do with Google Voice, but we’re going to use it with the Obihai (you can associate it with your cell phone, for instance if you want; basically, GV allows you to “hide” your real number if you so desire – want to give out your number, but not your real number, well GV’s got your back, but again, that’s outside the scope of this post).
- Buy an Obihai device. Find one on sale. I recommend Slickdeals. Should be $30-40.
- Set up an Obihai account; you can do this once you’ve bought the hardware and register it online.
- Set up a Google Voice account. Not much to it, the website should step you through it. You should be able to tie this to your Gmail account / general Google account, if you have one. You’d better have one…what’s wrong with you?
- In the Obihai account portal, link your Google Voice account.
- The Wiki section in this post will go over any finer details that I glossed over, but everything about should cover it, but seriously…it’s super easy.
- Warning: There is one main caveat to note. E911 service is NOT included from Google Voice. If you want to be able to dial 911 from VOIP service, you need to buy a 3rd party service. You can do this. There are many options, but one recommended by Obihai is Anveo. I’m using this. I think it’s $12/year. That’s acceptable to me.
- Optional: You may need to buy some handsets if you don’t have any already. I already have mine. I’m not including this in the cost of purchase, as I assume if you want home phone service, you actually…you know, already have a phone.
I’ve only used Obihai for a month. Previously, I had home phone service through VOIPO.com. They charged $150 for 2 years (which is $6.25/mo). But I knew I could do better than that…I actually bought the Obihai on sale over a year ago, and I’ve just been waiting for my VOIPO contract to expire. Thoughts?
So far, no issues. Call quality is fine, and there’s a whole bunch of optional features you can pay for if you desire. I don’t care. The takeaway here is: it’s free. It’s completely free. Some may scoff at the notion of even needing a “home phone”. I say: are you kidding? Why wouldn’t I want something that’s free?? I like redundancy guys.
If you can get an Obihai for $30, and you sign up for E911 service yearly, over 24 months, the monthly cost of this is $2.25 / mo ($1.25 / mo if you don’t want E911 service). Again, if you can beat this…please tell me. I would like to know.
And there you have it! That’s how you get free monthly home and phone service. I’m doing both of these, and I can personally vouch for them. If you have any questions, or need something explained, let me know and I’ll be happy to clarify.
Seriously guys, do you have any idea how amazing it feels to pay NOTHING for phone service?! I am saving at least $40 a month here; close to $500 a year for really doing nothing complicated. $500 that will continue to pay dividends year after year.
Boom! I hope I just blew your mind.
Disclaimer: I get nothing out of this. There’s no affiliate links here. I get no referrals at all, in any way. I’m not associated with any of these companies. I just cannot in good conscience not tell people how to pay next to nothing for basic services.