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Frugal Family:"Foneless"

Are you ready to add a cell phone to your child's list of "must have " school supplies ?

The pay telephone, which once could be found on virtually every street corner, is slowly but surely becoming obsolete. The "crying dime" - the coin in your pocket your parents made you carry for a pay telephone in case of an emergency - is a laughable cliche. These days, nearly everyone on the planet carries a cell phone, and if you don't, you could be setting yourself up for trouble.

The last time I tried to locate a pay telephone was indeed the last time; they are simply not to be found. In an emergency situation, like a flat tire on a dark street, a lost child at an amusement park, a harmless walk in the park suddenly turned scary - a cell phone can save the day, and possibly a life.  If you get caught without a cell phone, there remains but one option open to you: reliance upon the kindness of a stranger to loan you their cell phone. This course of action is not adviseable. I've come to the conclusion that a cell phone is a must, not only for adults, but for children as well.

In my search for the most practical type of cell phone for kids, I've come across several options. The first option, naturally, would be to get on a plan. In most cases, this would mean an expensive phone and a monthly bill. Many people are wary about giving a child an expensive phone, and alot of folks simply do not want the worry of an additional monthly bill. If this is the route you choose to go, however, I've found the best deal to be with Virgin Mobile, which offers a plan that includes unlimited text and 300 minutes for a mere $25 per month. All that remains is for you to purchase the phone, which can be done online through the company or by way of eBay or Craigslist. 

If you'd rather buy a simple, inexpensive prepaid phone, prices are lower than ever. Rite Aid carries TracFones for $9.99, on sale now for $7.99, which comes already equipped with 10 minutes. This may not seem like alot, and in fact it isn't, but in an emergency situation it would be the best $10 you ever spent. You can also purchase the minute cards for this particular phone at increments of $10 (hard to find,) $20 or $30. Rite Aid and Family Dollar were the only local stores at which I was able to locate this particular phone. Rite Aid also carries the Pay Lo phone, which is a mere $15, with minute cards available in different denominations.

A few other local stores which offer a wide variety of prepaid phones at low prices include Family Dollar on Clinton Street and CVS on Diamond Hill Road. The prices range from $9.99 to as high as $50. While some initially seem like way better deals than others, that is not always the case. Be sure to check out the minute cards before making your decision. Some minute cards cost more than others, and cards for certain phones simply cannot be found for less than $20 and $30. The retail clerks are extremely knowledgeable about the stock of phones they carry, and will be more than happy to advise you on what may be the best deal for you.  Family Dollar offers the Verizon prepaid phone, which includes ten minutes of air time, for $30, while the AT & T Go Phone is only $10.  CVS is offering the Net 10 Phone on sale this week for only $9.99, with cards ranging in price from $20 to $50 monthly plans. The Pay Lo Phone is a mere $15.99 at CVS, with cards available for as low as $10. That adds up to less than $30 for a device that could save your child's life.

Again, the point of purchasing these phones is not so your child can text his friends all day in school, but to keep tucked into their backpacks when an "In Need" situation comes up. Therefore, the amount of minutes you buy is not necessarily the most important consideration.

There are many differrent options available to you and your family, and it doesn't have to cost a bundle. Don't buy the first phone that catches your eye, but then again, don't wait too long. You don't want your child to be caught "foneless" should that emergency situation ever arise. 

Jason D August 24, 2011 at 07:29 PM
Deactivated cell phones that have battery power can call 9-1-1. This is mandated by the FCC.

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