Hey, you know what’s great about this site? It’s mine, and I can write about whatever topic I want, from high school to books to poetry to handkerchiefs. So today, I want to fill you in on what is turning out to be the smartest use of our money in a long time: Ting Mobile.

On a Lifehacker post months ago, there was a discussion on which cellphone carrier you should be using. In the comments somebody wrote something really short and vague, along the lines of “I skip all these companies and just use ting instead”.

So, being a Google-maniac, I type in “ting cell phone” into the ol’ search box, and up pops a service I had never heard of before, but had been around for over a year: Ting.

Owned and operated by established tech company Tucows, Ting’s cell phone plans are based on a few basic ideas:

  1. Mobile companies should not bother with hidden fees and be really transparent about how much they charge you.
  2. You should be allowed to customize your cell phone plan to pay for what you actually use each month.
  3. Contracts are for suckers.

Needless to say, I was intrigued. The whole reason I was looking into a new cell phone company is to see if there were ways we could save money. Our background: my wife and I were using our old HTC Evo Shift phones (mid-range phones from a few years ago, terribly out of date and performing at a snail’s pace) on a Sprint contract that wasn’t up for upgrades until September. We were on a family plan with my brother and sister-in-law with unlimited data, unlimited texts, and something like 1500 minutes per month.

We were happy with it, and with Sprint’s coverage in our area. But our cell phone plan was about $104 per month. I know plenty of people who pay more than that, but still – isn’t there a way to cut that down?

Enter Ting. With Ting, you have “buckets” for minutes, texts, and data used each month. Your usage is tracked, in real time, on the Ting website and your Ting app (if you want it on your phone), and it keeps a running estimate of what your bill will be. They charge $6 per device, and then you combine your usage on one account and are charged for the buckets you fall into by the end of the month.

So I pulled out our last cell phone bill, dug into it to find our usage breakdown, and did the math. Ting has a savings calculator where you can enter in your average usage and it would tell you how much you’ll save every month with their service.

That number was all I needed to hear.

Here’s a list of all the reasons why Ting has worked out so well for us, and why we recommend Ting to anybody who’ll listen to us talk:

  • Unlocked phones are actually cheaper. Yeah, this is the immediate pushback I get from anybody when I talk about it: “I just can’t justify paying that much for a phone.” But you know what? Unlocked phones are a good thing. See, because they’re unlocked, the phone company isn’t subsidizing them. That means, while you pay more upfront, your phone bill is going to be crazy-low. And once you add up your total cost over two years (the average cell phone contract), you’re going to save a lot of money. My wife and I agreed to save up for the brand-new, top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy S4 phones. After taxes, these phones were $600+ apiece. Sure, that’s a lot to come up with. But with our average usage, our cell phone bill is only $40 a month. So even if we had gotten free phones with Sprint, over two years our total cell phone spending is $2,506.32. With Ting, including the cost of our phones, at this usage every month, our two-year total is only $2,220. That’s a savings of $286.32. But the S4 isn’t free with Sprint, either – it’s $150 apiece at the subsidized price. So an apples-to-apples comparison means we add another $300 to the total cost of using Sprint, bringing the Sprint total to $2,806.32. That means our total savings over a two-year period by switching to Ting is $586.32! And had we gotten the S3’s, which are still great phones, or any other of the less-pricey phones available, we’d save hundreds more. Plus, the reason we invested in the S4 phones is that, hopefully, we’ll keep these phones longer than the “standard” two year period, because the performance should keep up. The longer we keep these phones, the more we save.
  • Ting uses Sprint’s network (with a Verizon backup). Coverage is, of course, really important to any cell phone user. Ting uses Sprint’s network for coverage – and any area where there isn’t cell/text coverage, Ting uses Verizon’s network. Since we’ve been using Sprint for over 4 years now, our switch to Ting has been almost seamless in terms of coverage. No complaints here.
  • Crazy-good customer service. I’ve emailed Ting several times to deal with minor issues, and every time they’ve gotten back to me within an hour or so. Ting also has “no-hold” customer service, meaning if you call during 8am-8pm EST, Monday-Friday, you’re directly connected to someone. Heck, their online forum even helped me root my phone within minutes! And when shipping my white S4 was delayed, they paid for expedited shipping as a courtesy, which was a nice gesture on their part.
  • Features that should be free for every cell phone user. Want to tether your phone to your laptop and use your mobile data to connect to the internet? Knock yourself out. Do it wirelessly by using your phone as a hotspot if you want. Go ahead and set up usage alerts to notify you when you’re about to use too much data or minutes. You can even lock down individual devices for certain usage amounts each month (great if you have a teenager and don’t want them to skyrocket your bill). Not happy with Ting and want to cancel your account? It’s easy and free to do. Ting seems to refuse to make you jump through any hoops, and they are very connected to their user base. That’s a great thing.
  • Bring Your Own Device. The BYOD program is a great way to make the switch without incurring the upfront cost of the unlocked phone.
  • Completely fair rates for usage, especially compared to the main cell companies. Just read this article about how much you’re overpaying for text messaging. With Ting, we are in the medium bucket for texts, so we pay $5 a month for 1000 texts. But what if we go over that amount? No problem – we just get bumped up to the next bucket. The large text bucket offers 2000 texts… for $8. That’s a $3 difference. It’s fair pricing, and it’s not gouging the customers. Big carriers want you to think that unlimited texts for $15 a month is fair. Yeah, right.
  • The time-cost of monitoring your usage is insanely small, thanks to Ting. So in exchange for not having unlimited usage, we do have to keep an eye on how much we’re using each month, just so we know how much to budget. But Ting’s “Dashboard” on your account page gives you charts showing how much you’re using, how close you are to the next bucket, a daily breakdown of your usage per device (so you can figure out when you’re using it the most), and even estimates your final bill based on your average daily usage. The Ting app does almost all of that as well. Monitoring our usage takes 10-20 seconds a week and eliminates billing surprises. That’s a fair trade-off to save $60+ a month in my book!
  • Knowledgeable support. We’ve had problems with phones in the past, and calling Sprint is essentially calling someone to be told to reboot your phone. With Ting, we had a few minor issues, only to receive emails with step-by-step instructions, as well as an explanation of what happened and why it won’t happen again. They are proactive, and it makes me feel a lot more secure in our decision to switch.
  • Complete cell phone management without leaving the house. Simply by entering in a little info online, we bought brand new phones, had them shipped to us for free, activated the phones, and ported our numbers over (which took less than 6 hours). Ting makes it insanely simple to do, and that idiot-proofing is great for anyone who is a little unsure of not having a physical store to go to.

As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of Ting. They’ve treated us well so far, and you can’t beat that price.

If you want to make the switch and start saving some serious coin, all while supporting and working with a cell phone carrier that actually acts like they care about their customers, click here to learn more about Ting. By using the links in this post, I’ll get a referral bonus, but you’ll also get a $25 credit that you can use towards a new phone or service with Ting. Check it out today.

Got any questions about Ting Mobile? Do you use them? Share in the comments!