When The Going Gets Tough, Data Plans Get Going

When financial whitewater starts rocking your raft, the first things you start to bail on are your “wants.” That would encapsulate cell phone data plans, a MocoNews story on the Washington Post site reports.

Citing research by Strategy Analytics, the story says nearly half of cell phone users say they would drop cell phone internet access if things got rough:

Not surprisingly, consumers were much less likely to give up their mobile voice service completely (only 19 percent said they would)-but they weren’t opposed to scaling back (28 percent said they would). And it’s not just talk. In the past 12 months, 22 percent of U.S. adults have cut back on their mobile service to save money, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Home broadband would be among the last services people would do away with — only 10 percent of those surveyed said they’d snip the ethernet cord.

Which monthly service would you ditch given a financially-mandated Sophie’s choice?

Mobile Data Plans Most Vulnerable To Consumer Cost-Cutting [Washington Post]
(Photo: Greg Easton Photography)


Edit Your Comment

  1. pop top says:

    I’d love to give up my subscription to XBox Live, but I need it to stream Netflix. They really need to change that requirement. They could at least have a cheaper yearly subscription where you would only get Netflix access, but pay something like $1-2/month instead of $50/year.

    • He says:

      @squinko: If you get a Roku player, you’ll only pay $100 once instead of $50 a year.

      • Syrenia says:

        @He: I have a Roku player and love it. But we should also mention that Tivo can stream Netflix, in case squinko already has Tivo.

    • NewsMuncher says:

      @squinko: I figured out how to connect our computer to the TV because it’s asinine to pay for a service that you get for Free on the PS3… or might have had Sony made a deal with Netflix. It’s like holding your friends hostage: you can talk to them, but you can’t shoot (CGI)people with them. Sigh. But I guess this is how they pay for all the extra content that has shanghai’d my husband into trading his PS3 Fallout 3 game for an Xbox360 version. *Cries* when the PS3 is a better media player, simpler, less annoying product.
      I just want to agree with squinko.

      • pop top says:

        @NewsMuncher: Don’t get me wrong. I love XBox Live as a service, we use it all the time to stream movies and my husband uses it sometimes to play with friends, but we don’t do enough of either to justify the cost. I will look into that Roku player though. Thanks He!

        • Stephmo says:

          @squinko: You can generally get XBox Live 12 month (sometimes 13) at decent discounts –


          WalMart’s also been known to have them in their discount bins for $20-30. I have no idea what’s gone “bad” about them, but there they are. Just something to look into since you already have the hardware.

          • pop top says:

            @Stephmo: Thanks!

            @catastrophegirl – just add kittens: Hahaha, I just told my husband about them and he said to see if we can find them cheap on Amazon. Thanks for the warning.

            @falc: You’re not paying to get online, just paying to play games with others. It sounds shitty, but it’s a much better service in that regard than what the PS3 or the Wii has. You can do everything else with the Silver membership.

            • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

              @squinko: if you see one for less than $114 including shipping, brand new, go for it. otherwise that’s what both of the ones i bought cost. i kept looking for deals but it hasn’t happened yet.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          @squinko: i love my roku player so much that i got my sister and brother in law one – now they want a second one for upstairs. it’s a simple box that does one thing and does it very very well with no fuss.
          i’ve seen them on amazon and such – but the roku site is pretty much the best price, even after you add shipping.

    • joel. says:

      @squinko: You could also try XBMC. But that does involved a little bit of work to install on your XBox.

    • falc says:

      @squinko: the whole x-box subscription thing never made sense to me… pay money to get online? aren’t you already doing that thru your ISP? why in the world would you pay extra for something you get for free on every other platform.
      i have the Roku box and it is indeed awesome.
      plus an appletv w/ xbmc is great for getting content on the old tv box…

  2. aph3x says:

    I’d like to turn off my iPhone data planes (2 x $30) but AT&T tells me I can’t – for another year – Yay!

    • cartagenero says:

      @aph3x: I feel you buddy I’m in the same boat. I wanted to cut out $60 in my plan (2 iphones) but no can do…
      They should consider allowing you to cancel your data plan

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @aph3x: Im on my iPhone right now and my data plan has been worth it’s weight in gold. I’m in limbo with work right now and I have no access to the outside world. I couldn’t even read news online because I had no Internet at work. My iPhone has rescued me from being under a rock.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: I should clarify that there’s no wifi for me to access in my building either. Sigh.

      • MostlyHarmless says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: No internet at work?


        Where do you work? A chinese shoe factory?

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @MostlyHarmless: there’s Internet…I just can’t get access to it yet, which has left me bored and without much to do. There are extenuating circumstances so it’s not like they hired me to do nothing, but hopefully in a week or so I’ll be up and running. But if I didn’t have my iPhone I really wouldn’t have a clue about what was going on out in the world. Thank goodness for my AP mobile app and alerts.

          • MostlyHarmless says:

            @pecan 3.14159265: so… you are getting paid – in this economy – to check news stories on your fancy iphone…

            … are they taking applications?

            • pecan 3.14159265 says:

              @MostlyHarmless: Haha. I got here and everything was set up…but then it wasn’t and I’m in limbo. I do have work though.

              • LibraryGeek says:

                @pecan 3.14159265: This sounds like a the pain I went through when working for a defence contractor. The company requires an extensive background (done after the normal basic, background). So you get pulled in to take care of the paper work, training etc. But you cannot even touch a computer keyboard until your background is done. Luckly, I spent time at the client site and worked face to face so I was able to *do* something. I knew people who sat and watched other people work for several weeks. I also know that the company had people leave the job before they completed the background because they were so bored and got another offer. Anyway, yeah if I’d had an iPhone or somesuch, it would have been less painful.

          • Peter_Betts says:

            @pecan 3.14159265: There is always something that can be done. Not preaching…just the facts jack

            • pecan 3.14159265 says:

              @Peter_Betts: actually, per the field I am currently in, there isn’t much for me to do right now, since it’s a security matter. So it’s not like I’m twiddling my thumbs and being lazy; it’s that I’m waiting for access to be given.

  3. metsarethe... says:

    I’m not hurting, but I have definitely decided to try and pare down my monthly expenses. I just got rid of my 2 HD cable boxes w DVR service and have internet only. My bill went from 140 a month to 45. I also upped my netflix subscription from 1 to 3 out at a time, cost jumped from 10 to 20 a month. I don’t miss cable at all except for basebball games but with the wqy the Mets have been playin, I haven’t been missing much.

  4. menty666 says:

    Cable TV (not internet…that’s used to find a job)
    Data plan on the phone
    Maybe Vonage

    All those go over the side.

  5. bdsakx says:

    I could definitely live without my iPhone – in fact, I’ve been contemplating canceling it and just go prepaid. The extent of which I use a cell phone is so miniscule, I wonder why in the hell I bought it in the first place.

    • JohnAllison says:

      @bdsakx: I am doing that this weekend. T-mobile really has the best prepaid that I have researched. I’m buying their $100 of minutes pack and a sim card. Transfer my number and save some cash.

    • joe18521 says:


      It’s Apple’s marketing.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @bdsakx: I wish I could go prepaid, but mobile data is one of the LAST things I would ditch. I’d rather cut the cord at home first.

    • Collie says:

      @bdsakx: I unlocked my iPhone and went prepaid with T-Mobile. Works like a charm, and I have a iPhone without a data plan. I guess it is an iPod touch that can make phone calls. I wish they offered a data only plan.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @Collie: YES, THIS. That’s one of my biggest gripes- I barely talk, can’t anyone give me a really tiny bucket of minutes (or pay-per-minute, even) to go with my unlimited data plan instead of only having a “mobile broadband” thing ? I don’t buy basic phones anymore because I use my phone as a mobile internet terminal instead of as a phone, really.

        • JohnAllison says:

          @jamar0303: I would jump at such a plan too. Unlimited data and prepaid minutes. I’d pay $20/mo for edge, $30/mo for 3G, and $0.10 a minute.

          • Garbanzo says:

            @JohnAllison: I would be happy to pay $20 or $30 a month for internet everywhere. I’m hoping we’ll have that in 5 years.

          • jamar0303 says:

            @JohnAllison: That’s how it was in China- there were packages of data, text and voice that you could mix-and-match to create what you want. I ended up paying about US$9/month for 20 minutes, 60 texts, and 500MB of 2G data. Unlimited 3G data was available for about as much as US carriers charge, though (but their cap is 30GB, not 5, and they cut you off until next month instead of charging you overage). I wonder why US carriers can’t do the same.

    • anglematic says:


      I am on the other side of this. I barely use my prepaid phone, but I have a completely illogical longing for an iPhone 3GS, which i can’t really afford the plan for without cutting back on other things.

    • Garbanzo says:

      @bdsakx: I have a prepaid plan I’m very content with. Costs me about $3 a month on average. A couple weeks ago a coworker tried really hard to get me to say that I wanted an iPhone but I just kept saying what a horrible idea that would be. Turns out he had just gotten an iPhone the day before and was looking for validation that it was worth the money. Don’t know why he bothered with me since half our office is iPhone fanboyz.

      Anyway, if your cell phone use is miniscule I bet you’ll be pleased with the effect that ditching iPhone for prepaid will have on your budget.

  6. redskull says:

    I dumped my landline last year, and last month I finally got up the gumption to dump cable (unfortunately my TV doesn’t have a digital tuner, so until I get a converter box, I’ve got no TV at all for now). Unlike the other 99% of the country, I only use my cell phone once a week if that, so once the contract’s up, I’m dumping it as well in favor of a go-phone.

    But you’ll have to pry hi-speed internet from my cold dead hands. That’s the one thing I have to have.

  7. Skin Art Squared says:

    Actually already went through my lists several times last year and trimmed the fat. The things I nixed were:

    Fax service
    Home phone service
    All subscriptions (newspapers, magazines, etc)
    Pool cleaning service
    Weekly landscaper
    Eating out
    Shopping for the sake of shopping
    Jetski (not a monthly expense, but a big expense nonetheless)
    Health insurance
    Maid service (soon to be reinstated)

    And if I need to trim further, the next things on the list will be:

    DirecTV service
    Goodies for the dogs
    Phone plan drop to pay-per-minute only
    Maid service again

    That’s really all I can trim out. Internet is a fact of life. Required for business. As is office lease, various licenses, payroll service, etc. Shutting those down means I’m unemployed and homeless.

    • quail says:

      @BZMedia: You got rid of health insurance?? Are you covered under your spouse’s plan or something? If not, I worry that you’ll face bigger financial headaches if you suffer an injury or catastrophic illness.

      • Skin Art Squared says:

        @Gene Gemperline:

        I dropped the health insurance because I had no choice. Structural company changes and a move from Maui to California left me no option to keep it. I simply haven’t gotten around to setting it up again under the new deal. Wasn’t chopped because of hardship. I probably shouldn’t have lumped that in with the rest.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @BZMedia: Im not a dog owner but I can imagine treats for multiple dogs would get pricey. Maybe break a treat in half and split it between the dogs instead? I think my rabbit would mutiny if I stopped buying him carrots and parsley.

          • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

            @pecan 3.14159265: lately dog treats in my house have been scraping whatever is left on my plate into his bowl. he seems to get more excited about that than any old boring milk bones. and there’s always a piece of fat or something that i’m not going to eat anyway. win-win situation for all.
            i still give my dog the occasional denta-bone though because he has tooth problems and the denta-bones are cheaper than vet dental visits

            • pop top says:

              @catastrophegirl – just add kittens: Get an old toothbrush, some doggie toothpaste (or maybe baking soda and water?) and brush!

              • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

                @squinko: he only has 4 teeth left. he was kicked in the head by horses a couple of times [years ago, before i adopted him]
                also, he’s afraid of things like toothbrushes, the dark, the light, the fridge, the front door… i’m not going to wrestle with a 70 pound paranoid dog over teeth that are damaged at the root from broken jawbones – when he needs dental, he gets knocked out by the vet. we just try to make that not happen too often

    • Baccus83 says:

      @BZMedia: You gave up health insurance but kept DirecTV and reinstated Maid Service? What if something terrible happens?

    • pop top says:

      @BZMedia: Don’t take anything away from the dog! What did it ever do to you? ;)

      Also, chiming in with “why the hell did you get rid of health insurance” group.

  8. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    We pared down our cable because Cox has a stranglehold on our new area and even though we are paying more than we were on satellite, we pared down so we have basic cable with the expanded channels they know they can sucker you in on and We dropped DVR and we have the second tier of Internet. We pay about $110 a month. It’s managable and we get a lot of use from TV so it’s worth it for us.

  9. frank64 says:

    I was frugal when I had a job- no cable or landline. Now my cell and DSL are each both $30 and I really need them to look for a job. I don’t have a data plan on my cell and even shut off texing.

    The only other service I could cut would be Netflix, but a $17 it really isn’t going to make a bit of difference(and I like it).

    • JohnAllison says:

      @frank64: We recently dropped Netflix down to 1 dvd a month. We mainly watch their “Watch Instantly” feature. It would save you $9 a month, or $108 per year.

  10. quail says:

    Too bad the iPod Touch doesn’t have a microphone. It would make a great Skype Phone.

    With the cheap cost of netbooks and the iPod Touch, and all of the free wi-fi available it makes sense not to pay the premium for a cell phone data plan.

  11. chris_d says:

    OMG NO! No data plan? Next thing you’re going to start telling people is that they don’t need text messaging! Everyone knows that it’s impossible to live without text messaging!

    At least I know that I’ll never hear on Consumerist that you don’t really need a cell phone or that you could just go with a pre-paid per minute plan and not be like this guy:

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @chris_d: I think most people do need a cell phone. Not everyone needs a landline but cell phones do what landlines can’t – they go with you. I spend 10 hours of my day outside my home so like others, it’s important to be able to communicate with people right away, without using company resources to make personal calls. I’d say that people need the landline less.

      I examined a pay as you go and the savings were decent but not being able to port back to a contract stopped me from going that route.

      Say what you will about “needing” things but a cell phone has more benefits than problems. I would never pay for a landline. My phone is not only used for calls, it’s a mobile reading device and an source for entertainment.

      • Skin Art Squared says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: “I examined a pay as you go and the savings were decent but not being able to port back to a contract stopped me from going that route.”

        I’ve been on the fence for a while now about it. The savings are borderline. The only way it pays off is if you barely use your phone at all (like me). I calculated that it would in fact be at least marginal savings for me, but not enough to justify paying ETF at the moment. So, when ETF is no longer a factor, I’ll probably do it, but not before.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @BZMedia: I make calls daily. Not having a landline means every appointment is made on a cell phone. Most carriers charge for daily use and if I have to spend 20 minutes on hold with customer service, that’s costing me money. I can see the benefits but I really do enjoy having a smartphone and the ETF isn’t worth it. If push comes to shove we will drop unlimited text.

        • floraposte says:

          @BZMedia: Yeah, I started out with pay as you go, so it didn’t involve any additional fees. I pay the $100 per year in advance and never use it all, so I would probably actually do better with smaller incredments.

          • TexasMama37 says:

            @floraposte: We have prepaid with Virgin Mobile. It’s a plan that isn’t available anymore but we can continue with it as long as we keep it current. We top-up every 90 days for $15 on each phone (2 phones). Only once or twice have I had to add extra cash to my husband’s phone before the 90 days was up. So overall it’s costing us $10 per month for 2 phones. We rarely use them so it works for us. Plus sometimes there are sales on top-up cards at Target.

  12. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    I guess I’d trim back my cell phone plan. We don’t have cable; our landline costs us 50 cents a month (we pay the line charge and various fees to have DSL, and even with all that nonsense it’s cheaper than cable internet); we don’t have any home services; our only subscription is Consumer Reports (which I could avoid renewing if I needed to but I think I renewed for 3 years last time and paid it all then).

    Other than that all the monthly bills are utilities. Man, at a certain point I got real boring!

    I’ve gotten lazy about watching my grocery spending carefully, I suppose that’d be where I’d focus next.

  13. Skin Art Squared says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: “…I can imagine treats for multiple dogs would get pricey…”

    Indeed. A typical Costco run yields more dog supplies than stuff for ourselves. Chicken treats, bones, massive bags of food, boxes of biscuits…. right now they only get one treat each in the morning and a giant bone each every other day, but they’ll go through a 50 lb bag of food in a week and a half. The bones are the killer. I think it’s like, $25 a bag. If we run out and need to grab some at Safeway, it’s around $6 for just a couple bones.
    But we’re good in the toy department. I’ve got a huge outdoor storage chest full of dog toys. (that they could really care less about) ;-)

  14. Silversmok3 says:

    I wish I could cancel my data plan.But I don’t have a computer and am looking for a job,so my cell is the only way to stay connected to the world at large.No TV,home Internet,or netflix/game subscriptions .

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Silversmok3: Could you get a netbook for $300 or so and a low tier Internet plan for $30? it’s more up front but if you switched to a prepay phone then you’re only paying for Internet and the initial cost of the netbook.

      • joe18521 says:

        @pecan 3.14159265:

        I don’t think that would save him any money…The $30 internet service would offset dropping the data plan, and you’ll have to dish out $300 for the netbook. Not to mention any kind of possible contract with your internet provider and the fact that the home internet doesn’t travel with you.

    • rolla says:

      @Silversmok3: maybe you could get a netbook for cheap and tether it to your phone. Or take the netbook to free WiFi spots if you have them.

  15. CaptainKidd says:

    Heh, I did the whole nine yards and tossed the cell phones too.

    We dropped Netflix a bit over a year ago after doing some math and figuring out that it’d be cheaper just to buy the DVDs (which we’re not) at the rate we were watching them.

    Then AT&T started offering their TV service here and Comcast freaked out. They had door-to-door sales reps offering some amazing bundles. Now we have TV, internet, phone, and DVR for the price of what just our cell phones were costing so we did that and then dropped our cell service.*

    On a grad student budget with a family, we’re shedding ‘necessities’ like a dog sheds a winter coat. Suddenly there are nowhere near as many sacred cows as we once thought, about the only one is internet access.

    If I time things right, I’ll have graduated and gotten a job when the Comcast bundle discount expires and I can continue on at the new price. If not, well there’s a lot of stuff in the bundle that can be shed then.

    *We’ve got a prepay phone for emergencies. And that’s a subject of a future rant. I love how the prepay minutes expire after 30 days, basically forcing you into a faux subscription.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      @CaptainKidd: not all of them – virgin mobile prepaid minutes roll over if you add more. so you can get a big bundle at a big discount… then add just the minimum every 30 days to keep them ALL active.

    • Kiamat says:

      @CaptainKidd: And keep in mind that all cell phones can call 911 expired minutes or not.

  16. chiieddy says:

    Cable and Cable Internet. My mobile costs me less than $100 per month with full data for TWO phones and they are invaluable when on a job search.

    However, I can get dry loop for cheaper than cable internet, possibly even if I up the speed to try to match the comcast internet reported speeds I don’t come close to.

    I don’t need Cable TV at all. It’s a pure luxury. Just kill the cable would save me $90/month or more.

    • Five says:

      @chiieddy: Yeah, we grew up without cable and I see no need for it. Every month our phone company calls us up and tries to entice us into a cable package. They always get upset when we say no. “BUT WHY NOT? ONLY $5 MORE A MONTH!”

  17. joel. says:

    We’re not hurting too badly so we backed down our TV. It was cheaper to go to Dish’s just HD package and it contained the channels we watch, and just those channels. That seriously saved us about $30 a month for right now (promotion).

    Next, I switched to dry loop DSL with AT&T (small town IL, all we have). Supposed to save me $5 a month but is actually saving me $10 a month.

    We’re keeping Netflix because $13/mo (2 at a time plan) is reasonable for how much we watch.

    I think the next thing to go is texting. We don’t use it enough to justify what we’re paying.

    And at this point we REALLY need to cut back on eating out. That got out of hand the last couple of months.

  18. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    In order to save on bills I have nocked our cable tv down to the “Digital Starter” package on Comcast.. which means less channels.

    I also changed power companies at the start of the summer to a company with a lower rate.. this has helped a great deal. I used to pay 16c per KWH but then the company I had raised it to 19.5c.. now with my new company I pay 12.2c, which has kept my crazy Houston summer electric bill down around 100 a month. Where I was paying 200 a couple of months ago.

    Cellphone doesn’t make a difference to me because my dad has me on his family plan so he can call me whenever he wants to. (I don’t mind a bit)

    Next up to tackle is my water and trash bill.. it is supposidly allocated through my apartment complex, but it has more than doubled over the past year or so. $40 a month for water in a 1 bedroom apartment with only two people sounds insane to me.

    • CaptainKidd says:

      @Kimaroo: Had a similar experience with the water bill at my last apartment. Each building, of 6 to 8 apartments, had one water meter and the bill was evenly divided between the occupants.

      As The Blue Raja says in Mystery Men: All I’m saying is, when we split the cheque three ways the steak-eater picks the pocket of the salad-man.

      And boy were our pockets picked.

      • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

        @CaptainKidd: Well supposildy the bill is split among the entire complex, and they are supposed to split it according to apartment size/residency.. so I don’t see why mine is so high. When we first moved in only 2 years ago the highest it went was 15. Then the next year it was 25. Now its almost 40.

  19. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    We renegotiated out cable/phone/internet with Comcast, and saved a big chunk. We also dropped Verizon Wireless when our plan reached maturity. We went from a bit over $100 a month to just under $20 a month with Tracfone. And we’re still on the Verizon network, it seems.

  20. Bryan Fernandez says:

    Reading the above posts I can see why the economy isn’t going to recover any time soon. So many savers we got here. This isn’t helping Obama.

    • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

      @Bryan Fernandez: Don’t really have a choice when my husband’s job keeps cutting his hours back even though the business seems to be doing fine (They hired an extra person even.) And it’s not to dodge benefits either because they don’t offer any.

      Less money availible means cutting back.

      And frankly I don’t care if I’m helping Obama or not. lol.

    • Five says:

      @Bryan Fernandez: Dammit! I need to rehire my butler, STAT!

  21. JohnDeere says:

    i dropped my home phone service, but kept dsl, and dropped my direct tv. i now have a computer hooked to my plasma, and i dont even miss the sattelite. (i live in the stix and the only over the air channel i recieve is cbs and in the early mornings sometimes pbs) i have considered adding a second $19.99 dsl account to the same address so i can still torrent and hulu at the same time. would a second dsl be better than ugrading my current one? is 2 dsl lines at the same address even possible? next to go would be my verizon family plan, i think we could manage with some type of pay as you go, or even skype.

  22. Stephen Paul Colon says:

    We cut the landline and cellphone minutes, but not the cell plan entirely. We use it enough (especially with the landline gone) to make prepaid more expensive, but we don’t use anywhere near the 1400 minutes we had before. Data and texting stay because we dropped around 200 minutes in calls when we got texting (so texting saved money) and mobile email is a big part of my income. Altogether we’re down on the phone bill by about $40 from where we started, for those who don’t have data (I didn’t start with it) it’d be a $70 savings. Reducing the package on the TV and the speed on the internet (I barely notice it) saved about $60 a month, then canceling TV and going netflix-only saved even more. Tightening the belt on spending overall saved about $60, and after paying off student loans overall spending should go down a lot.