Do you ever wonder how we made it out of childhood without cell phones? When I was a kid, mobile phones were the size of my entertainment center and could only be used in a car. Only the 1% had mobile phones, and you had to be able to curl 320lbs to pick them up.
I had to remember to carry change around when I left the house so that I could call my mom from a payphone if I needed to reach her, and sometimes I had to call her when I got to the mall with the number to the payphone there so she could reach ME. I can’t even tell you the last time I saw a payphone, and The Nerd was baffled when I told him about the good ole’ days when you had to sit next to the wall to talk on a phone with a 4′ cord tethered to it.
The Workaholic freaks out if he texts me and I don’t answer within 7 seconds. My mom has a coronary if she calls three times in a row and I don’t pick up on the first ring. I don’t know how she survived my childhood or how marriages survived before cell phones.
What did parents do when they didn’t have access to their children all hours of every day? The fact that most tweens and teens have cell phones these days is great for parents, but do kids feel like they’ve lost some freedom? I guess maybe they don’t know the difference, but I know I loved being free from the confines of my parental units.
As a parent, I love that I can have access to my kids at all times, though I don’t always want them to have access to me, ifyaknowhaddimean. There are so many options for keeping our kids connected, where do you turn? The Workaholic uses Verizon and I have an AT&T account with my mom. We would pay over $60 extra per month to add The Nerd to The Workaholic’s wireless service plan, and around $50 to add him to my mom’s plan, perhaps more if he went over on data.
The real problem with suiting your child up with a mobile leash becomes not access, but budget.
When The Nerd turned 11 last year, I realized that I needed to get him fitted for a cell phone. There are times when I need to run to the store and leave him home. There have been a few times when I wasn’t going to be home before he got home from school. Sometimes he wants to go to the toy aisle in Target by himself while I wheel the screaming babies around the food section, haphazardly throwing groceries into my cart. Believe me, I wish I could join him.
I’m not comfortable doing any of that without some way to reach him, and we don’t have a house phone.
Can you imagine what the you from 20 years ago would think about not having a house phone?
I searched high and low for a wireless service plan that would fit within our budget and allow us to keep the same quality of life. That might sound funny to some people, but for a family that already lives within a tight budget, $50 a month could mean that we have to decide between enjoying a night at the movies as a family or paying for a service that makes us feel safe in regards to our Tween.
We eventually decided that it just didn’t fit in our budget, but my step dad added The Nerd to his bill and has been paying for it as a gift to him. This phone is hilarious. It’s a clamshell phone that is more prehistoric than the first cell phone I ever had back in 1999. I can’t figure out how to text on it at all, and the battery life is atrocious.
I was walking around Walmart recently and saw the Walmart Family Mobile section. I was intrigued by the $39.88/month unlimited talk, text, and web services. That’s way less than we pay for our wireless service plans with all the same bells and whistles. For $29.88/month you can get unlimited talk and text. The bonus is that there is no contract. If we run into an emergency one month, we can choose to turn his cell service off if it is one of the things that needs to be cut from our budget. Because, uh . . . breve lattes from Starbucks can’t be cut from the budget. Ever.
There were quite a few phone options including an iPhone, but I decided that he didn’t need an iPhone so I looked for something that wouldn’t break the bank. I found the T-Mobile Concord, which was on Rollback for $79.88. It is 3G & WiFi capable, with a 2MP camera, email, text, and web, plus a 3.5″ touchscreen. You also need a Walmart Family Mobile Standard & Micro SIM Starter Kit, which is only $25. If you have an unlocked compatible GSM phone, you can even use your own phone without having to buy a new one.
When the babies and I got home from Walmart, The Nerd was excited to learn that he is finally going to have a smartphone of his own and I’m glad that I can still grab a few lattes from Starbucks each month.
Setting the phone up was insanely easy, as was getting service for it. My favorite thing? I didn’t have to wait at the store while The Stinky scaled the walls and swung from the ceiling as The Muffin endlessly regaled me with the same shrieking question. It was as simple as driving home, letting the babies fall asleep on the 1.8 mile ride home, and setting service up from the comfort of my iPad while they snored away on the sofa. You can find all of your Online account management and information on their website which is so cool given this is a contract-free account.
My absolute favorite thing about this is that you have to purchase a Walmart Family Mobile “Extras Pack” for the user to purchase ringtones, games, and other extras. You don’t have to worry about your account being charged thousands of dollars because your fickle tween decided that s/he didn’t like the song on her ringtone anymore or that she needed to purchase more coins to keep playing whatever the game of the week is.
Now The Nerd has his own smartphone and I don’t have to worry about it crapping out while I’m at the store or while he’s at a friend’s house. Seriously, y’all – #FamilyMobileSaves!
I’ll check back in in a few months with information on how it’s going with his new smartphone and whether or not he’s been a good enough boy to keep that unlimited web access.