How Can You Afford to Pay Cash for a New Cell Phone?

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These days a cell phone is an absolute necessity. But the price of some phones is enough to make you crazy.

And having monthly lease payments on a cell phone is simply something we’re not willing to consider.

We only pay cash for quality used cell phones. If you want to live debt-free, you might want to consider doing the same thing.

People who know us, know that we simply don’t pay retail for much of anything. So we’re asked regularly, where are the best places to buy used cell phones online or in-person.

Question — How Can You Afford A New Cell Phone?

This is a comment about your Free MoneySmart Family Email newsletter. You had an article about lots of ways to save on cell phones and monthly plans without contracts. BUT, what do you do about buying a new or used cell phone?

New phones cost a lot of money. Some cost as much as $600 to $1200.

That is way out of our price range. Our family has used Go Phones for the past 6 years, but we need to upgrade. The T-Mobile family plan looks great, but how does one afford a phone? Where do you look when you’re buying a new or used phone?

5 Steps to Shop & Pay Cash for Cell Phones

We have several steps we take before plunking down our money for a new (used) cell phone.

1. Research

The first step is research. We really want to get the best value for the lowest price. To do that we need to know what the specs are for each phone.

When researching a phone we consider the following features:

  • Screen size
  • Processor Speed
  • Camera Resolution
  • Operating System
  • Front / Rearview camera quality
  • Storage capacity
  • Price
  • Age (no more than 2 or 3 years old)
  • Reviews from bloggers about problems associated with the particular model.
  • Cost for replacement parts: batteries; backs; cases; and charging cords

We also talk with friends about the phones they are using. We ask what they like about it, and what issues (if any) they have experienced with the phone.

2. Checking Prices

Once we’ve decided on a specific phone model and specs, we check several sources to determine a good price.

We’ve purchased several used cell phones from private sellers on eBay, paying anywhere from $45 to $300 depending on the type of phone we wanted.

You could also check out CraigsList and OfferUp or talk to friends who are upgrading and offer to buy their old phones.

We’ve written a blog about 10 of the Best Places to buy used cell phones. We compared the prices of two different phones (Samsung Galaxy S8+ and an iPhone8+) from different resale sites.

Used Samsung Galaxy 8+ cost chart from resellers
Used iPhone 8 plus cost chart from resellers

3. Setting a Budget

Once we’ve seen the pricing from several sites we set a target budget. Let’s say a particular phone is selling for between $180 and $300. We’ll look at how much money we have saved for purchasing technology and decide what we want to spend.

RELATED ARTICLE: Best Budget Tracking Systems

If we decide that our budget is more than what we have saved, we start looking for ways to generate extra money.

4. Earning Extra Money for a Cell Phone Purchase

Here are several things we’ve done:

  1. Sell Old Phones and Technology – read this article about the best places to sell old cell phones.
  2. Earn Extra Money with Swagbucks: We make lots of purchases through Swagbucks and earn cashback. Every month we have enough accumulated SB points to get a discounted $25 gift card. To buy a new phone, there have been times when we’ve stockpiled several months of $25 gift cards for eBay and then purchased a phone. Learn more about Swagbucks here.
  3. Host a Garage Sale: Selling things you don’t need to buy things you want is always a good idea. Get tips on how to host a profitable garage sale here.

Taking time to research various phones and their features, limitations and user reviews will help you make a better decision. 

5. Inexpensive Places to Buy a Used Phone

  • Family and Friends
  • CoWorkers
  • a listing of 4 star and above, unlocked phones by carrier
  • Refurbs on Amazonmost refurbished phones come with a warranty
  • Facebook: SwipSwap and Marketplace in your area

RELATED ARTICLE: Best To Buy Used Cell Phones and Save. This related article goes more in-depth about sources for buying used cell phones.

We’ve had a wide variety of phones and never once paid retail. We’ve had Nokia, StraightTalk, AT&T, Nexus and LG, plus our kids have had a few others like Google and iPhones.

Selling Your Old Phone

And one more bonus to buying a gently used phone is that when we have upgraded, we’ve always been able to sell our used phone for a fair price. We used that money to offset the cost of the new phone.

We’ve sold all of our used phones on eBay. And of course, before selling we did our research to find out how much it was worth.

We also always keep a spare phone in the house in case one of our phones gets broken.

We’ve got some friends who are cell phone “flippers.” Every year they buy a discounted new phone and sell the one they have been using. By shopping smart they’re usually able to sell their old phone for the same price or more than they bought it. 

This keeps their cost of ownership at zero. However, the downside of this idea is that it takes time every year to research a new phone and to sell your old one.

How can I afford to pay cash for a new cell phone?


As you can see there are several clever ways to be able to afford a new or used cell phone without borrowing or leasing.

The key to success is in researching your options and having the cash saved before you buy.

How do you afford a new cell phone?

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