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How to Upgrade Your Cell Phone and Save Money

Are you ready for a new smartphone?

With so many new and powerful smartphones coming out this year, including the strong rumor of an iPhone 5 and an entirely new line of BlackBerrys, there might not be a more exciting time to get a new phone.

At the same time, we know how much a smartphone can drain our wallets.

Yet they have seemingly become essential parts of our lives.

How can we balance that with a frugal lifestyle?

Wants vs. Needs

Sure, we all want that new iPhone. It’s going to blow previous iPhone models out of the water. You can bet that it will run lightning fast, and will have a beautifully vibrant display.

The screen will likely even be bigger than previous iPhone models, which means we have more space to tap, swipe, and watch. But do we really need all that?

Maybe the biggest Apple fans, along with assorted early adopters, feel that they need the new iPhone. People working within the tech industry might need it. But the average consumer can likely get by with something less.

buying used cell phone

We might need a smartphone, and we might want the new iPhone, but that doesn’t mean we need the new iPhone. Alternatives abound.

If we can come to grips with the idea that we don’t need the latest and greatest technology, even if we want it, we can make more responsible decisions.

What we need is something that works. Thankfully, we can find those relatively cheaply.

Buying Old and Refurbished Phones

Many cell phone carriers now offer trade-in programs, where you can receive credit towards a new phone purchase by trading in your old one. They’re not the only ones, either. Best Buy offers a trade-in program as well.

The idea is that instead of throwing away that old smartphone, you can trade it in for credit towards a new one. That seems like a frugal move, right? It sure is.

It’s even more frugal if you put that credit towards an already discounted phone. That’s like double dipping in savings.

Returning to our iPhone example, you can save tons and tons of money by going with an older iPhone model. You can get a used iPhone 4 for just $50, or a 3GS for a penny.

Sure, maybe the iPhone 5 will have more features than the iPhone 4. But the iPhone 4 is perfectly adequate for almost anyone’s needs. That might even be true two or three years from now.

It’s a phone that holds up well. So while the iPhone 5, and eventually the iPhones 6, 7, and 8, might be new and exciting, they’re luxury items. If you view a smartphone from the standpoint of what you need, the iPhone 4 is more than enough.

Where to Get Used Cell Phones

Thankfully, there is no shortage of places to buy a used smartphone. Essentially every major carrier has a line of used and refurbished phones that users can choose from.

These are often a fraction of the cost of the new model, saving you plenty of money up front.¬†You’ll still have to sign a two-year contract, but with that will come plenty of savings on the handset.

Unfortunately, you might find low supply from your particular carrier. For instance, if you look at T-Mobile used cell phones you’ll find scant few in their inventory. For those instances you can turn to third-party services, such as eBay.

Search eBay for refurbished t-mobile android phone and you’ll see 40 results. And those 40 results lead to many more individual auctions. That is to say, you should have no trouble finding a refurbished phone.

Fanny’s note: Be sure to read this article for tips on buying a used cell phone on eBay. Things to consider are whether or not the phone is unlocked, does it work with your carrier (GSM or CDMA), will your carrier activate it, etc.

There is a negative connotation associated with used goods. That’s why we come up with alternative terms.

It’s not a used car, it’s a preowned automobile. It’s not a used cell phone, it’s refurbished.

That negative connotation, however, takes away from the benefits of buying used.

Instead of caving to our impulses and buying things that we want, but perhaps don’t need, we can fulfill our needs as cheaply as possible. It might not be new, it might not be shiny, but it sure is useful.

When we’re addressing an expensive item such as a smartphone, shouldn’t that be our first priority anyway?

Joe Pawlikowski edits several blogs across the web, including his work-from-home project, A New Level.

Photo Credit: Yutaka Tsutano

1 Comment on How to Upgrade Your Cell Phone and Save Money

  1. John
    April 25, 2012 at 3:43 pm (2 years ago)

    Buying refurbished units is a great choice. Many times refurbished phones are simply all the good parts from bad phones put together into one. Why pay more really?