Get Set to Dial!

In today’s wireless world, many teens cannot live without being connected. Cell phones are fast becoming the portal from just simply staying in touch to managing entire social lives.  There’s a plan for everyone, yes even chicas who have to have all the latest chisme. If you are like most teens, you probably have a part-time job or no job at all. Either way, you can still find and afford a phone. First, talk to your parents. Some teens may be reluctant, but if you need them to help you out with costs or get their approval, then they are the first place you should go. Discuss and write down what you want in a phone before you decide on a plan or on a prepaid phone, this way you don’t have to commit to one right away. Plans differ from prepaid phones in many ways and are specific to an individual’s needs.

How Prepaid Phones Work Prepaid phones are used by purchasing minutes from companies such as Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile to Go, Alltel Prepaid, Ampd and many more. These come in the form of cards with a preset number of minutes. The card has a code on it that the user dials to adds minutes to the phone. These cards can be purchased at any major store, and are specific to the brand of the phone.  The appeal of these phones is that you don’t have to worry about surprise bills with overage costs.   Unfortunately, once the minutes are used up, the phone can no longer make any more calls until the user buys more minutes.   This can be bad if you don’t keep up with the minutes and when it’s time to buy a new card. With text messaging, minutes are deducted from the card every time a message is sent. This is also true for using the Internet, downloading ring tones, games, and extras.

How the Plan Phones Work Phones that come with a plan have a preset amount of minutes every month. If you go over the minutes, the phone is still usable, but users must pay a fee for going over the preset minutes.  Text messaging is also preset or the user can opt to have no messaging at all. Once again, extra fees can add up quickly if you go over the set amount of messages. Internet plans are expensive because they are unlimited.  This means that a user can get on the Internet as much as they would like, but must pay monthly. Also if your parents have a cell phone plan, ask them if they can add you as another line. Most contract companies do this for less than starting a whole new plan. They may also discount the price of the phone as a promotion. Although there are no unlimited plans for prepaid cell phones, there are inexpensive unlimited plans out there. The Cricket Company has an unlimited plan that includes talk, United States long distance, picture messaging, video messaging, Internet, and text for one flat rate of $45 dollars a month. On the other end of the spectrum, the same plan is available with T-Mobile for a steep $99 a month.

Ask Yourself Questions It is important to ask yourself questions like, how much do I talk on the phone? How much do I want to pay a month? How much do I want to pay for the phone?  Is this phone going to be for casual talk or just for important phone calls like emergencies? Do I text message, and if so, how much? Do I need a basic phone or a fancy phone? If your parents have a cell phone plan, ask them if they can add you as another line.  Keep in mind not to overwhelm yourself in the future by choosing something you can’t keep up with financially.

Read the Fine Print Okay, now to the fun part. So you have figured it out, you want a prepaid phone, you want a cool new phone to turn anyone envidioso. When it comes time to actually choose a phone, look at the price! Prepaid phones come in a variety of trendy styles and start as low as $19.99. Phones attached to a plan can sometimes be free depending on what type of plan you open. Phones from Cricket, can cost as low as $29.99. Be careful when choosing and read the fine print.  Sometimes the phone must be paid for up front, and a rebate is mailed in order to your money back, therefore making the phone free. For example, a phone advertised as 29.99 may actually cost $89.99 before the rebate is mailed in.  You need to make sure you have the full amount available  up front,  hold onto the receipt, and remember to mail it in for your rebate.

How to Keep up With Costs Now that the precious new phone is in your hand you are ready to take on the world, right? Not quite. Decide how you are going to pay for the minutes, if prepaid, or plan? If you have a part-time job, set aside money from your pay check. Remember, this money is off limits! Sometimes it helps to purchase a prepaid wireless card right away, so that you won’t contemplate on what to spend it on (hmm new shoes or cell phone?). What happens if you don’t have a job? Work out a deal with our parents. Do things around the house in exchange for minutes or monthly bill. Think about it, if you do these chores for money, then you would probably be spending it on your phone anyway. Work out some sort of a deal, keep up your grades, do chores, babysit, or walk dogs. Remember that if you make a deal, then you must commit. Part of having a cell phone is responsibility.  If you don’t hold up your end of the bargain, then this reflects on your readiness to have a phone.

On your mark, Get set, Dial!Take care of your phone and be responsible. Remember that having a phone is a new and exciting responsibility that can give you independence. Use this new freedom wisely by choosing the right wireless setup for you. Now, you are one high-tech Latina on your way to talking and texting glory!

By Vanessa K. Brown

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