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Does your tech budget squeeze out all other fun?

4 years ago writer Parenting + Technology London, UK

By Star Lawrence

Yes, in short. The quaintly named ‘phone bill’ may even tempt you to put off a doctor bill or the rent, according to one collection agent quoted by Margaret Rock, mobile industry reporter.

One in three US households with an annual income under $30,000 now has a smartphone-type device. The average tab for smartphones in 2011 was $1,226. The increase for other things such as food, clothes, and shelter? $67. So that money is coming from someplace.

Ask Jamie Hill, a single mother of three living in Gilbert, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. She has three kids, 21, 18, and 14 - and three smartphones with call and data plans through Verizon.

‘Each smartphone costs me $30,’ says Hill. ‘This is for two gigs of data. We have 1,400 minutes each—but we rarely talk, we text and download data. That adds up.’

Hill gets warnings when one of her kids is about to break the data bank. ‘I may say stop watching videos or playing games,’ she adds. ‘Those are data hogs.’

Hill also pays $7 a month for insurance on each phone, which came in handy when she dropped hers into the bathtub. But she had a $99 deductible, so she didn’t skate on that entirely.

‘Usually,’ Hill says, ‘my bill is $290 a month, sometimes more.’ That’s $290 a month that could be spent on entertainment, clothes, or, y’know, household bills.

One in six American users have experienced the sudden appearance of ‘truth time’ on a teen’s text-a-thon or movie watching. If you stream just 30 minutes of video a day over a 4G connection, it can run your Verizon bill up by $120.

Just one hint? According to Consumer Reports, nearly half of unlimited data plan customers at AT&T would not even notice if they switched to the 300-megabyte plan a month for $20.

Bytes can be less of a bite.

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