Why We Turned Our Cell Data Off for 3 Weeks

posted by Andrea | 07/11/2019

Last month, Dave and I got a notification from Verizon saying we only had 10% of our data remaining — even though we were only a few days into our month! 

A couple days later, I checked our account again and we only had 1 % of our data left! 

YIKES! 

We thought it might have been because I was trying to send videos of Nora’s dance concert to our families via text message… or maybe because Dave was home for summer vacation. 🙂

Whatever the case, we had 3 choices moving forward. 

1. Go over our data for the month and pay the fee.

This was obviously the easiest choice — and not too expensive as it only cost $15 per extra GB of data for the remainder of the month. This fee would be a one-time fee. 

Since we’re on a super-low 1 GB plan to begin with (Grandfathered in from YEARS ago) we knew there was little to no chance we’d use more than 1 extra GB, and $15 would be all we had to pay. 

2. Purchase extra data. 

After speaking with customer service, we realized we could add 1 extra GB of data to our plan for less than $5 per month… BUT we would never be able to go back down to the 1 GB plan again (since we are Grandfathered in). 

Initially, that seemed like a logical choice as it was “only” $5 per month… but then I started doing the math and realized that would add up to almost $60 more per year — which could turn into hundreds of dollars of extra payments over the next few years.

And like I mentioned earlier, we’ve previously NEVER come close to using a full GB of data each month, so it’s most likely completely unnecessary to have twice as much data right now. 

3. Turn our data off for the rest of the month. 

One very obvious, completely free, but not so convenient option was simply to turn the data off within our phone’s settings. 

This would make it impossible to use any more of our data, and ensure we wouldn’t have any extra charges or penalties.

Of course, it also meant our phone were now basically “dumb phones” unless we were connected to WiFi.

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Based on the title of the post — I’m sure you can guess which option we chose! 

We turned the data off on our phones for almost 3 full weeks… and we realized a few things in the process. 

We rely on our phones A LOT… maybe too much! 

Even though we don’t travel long distances in the summer, our family actually goes many places during the day — and this little data experiment helped us to see just how much we relied on our phones for directions, information, coupon codes, payment options, etc. etc. 

Without data on our phones, we had to be much more prepared and plan ahead if we were going anywhere since we didn’t have our smart phones with endless amounts of information to fall back on. 

This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a change we had to get used to — sort of like back when we were in high school and needed to print off a MapQuest to get anywhere new! 

We like not having our phones with us all the time. 

I do not think it’s horrible to keep cell phones with you at all times — in fact, I do usually take mine wherever I go as I use it for a camera, to read books, to figure out where I’m going, and just for basic safety purposes. However, it was interesting how much more often Dave and I left our phones on the counter, in the diaper bag, or on the charger when we knew we couldn’t get data… and it was kind of nice for a change!  

As much as I hate to admit it, living without data on our phones made it very obvious just how often we used our phones throughout the day, simply for checking email and social media — 2 things we could no longer do unless we were connected to WiFi. 

Of course, there are many MANY times when having access to data is extremely helpful, but there are also many times (as we now realize) when we just used our phones as a way to “kill time” when we could have been engaging with people around us. 

We take a TON of pictures! 

After we turned the data off and stopped carrying our phones around with us as much, we also stopped taking nearly as many pictures (which is not great in my opinion). 

For the 3 weeks our data was turned off, I have significantly less pictures of everything — and I’m certain it’s because I didn’t have my phone with me throughout the day. 

As much as I love documenting our life in film, and then making digital photo albums with our pictures, it was sort of refreshing to just sit back and watch instead of always looking for opportunities to take pictures. 

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Now, obviously it would NOT have been a big deal for us to pay the $15 fee to go over our data plan for the month. We truly didn’t turn our data off to save $15. I promise!

Dave and I simply decided that since it was summer vacation and we knew we didn’t really NEED our phones, it would be a fun (and eye-opening) experiment for us… and it was! 

I certainly do not think everyone should or could do this type of experiment — but I do think Dave and I will try to leave our phones on the counter more often… especially for the summer!

Have you ever turned your data off for an extended period of time? What did you notice? 

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36 comments

  1. Blondie

    07/17/2019

    I have actually only had data on my phone on a couple of occasions over the past 4.5 years and it works for me. It’s rare that I’m not at home, work, church, gym, or family/friends’ houses and they all have wifi. The rest, you just have to be prepared; I have a notes app on my phone that doesn’t need to connect to the internet where I keep shopping lists and stuff, and screenshot emails I might need in case I can’t connect. And when I do want data, like when we go on vacation, I just go to an app on my phone and buy 1 GB for $5.

    We use a company called Republic Wireless and I cannot tell you how much I love it! They have a technology that uses wifi for calls, texting, and data whenever it is available and the cell network only when it is not (and it switches seamlessly between the two). We live in an area with poor cell service as we’re too close to the lake and Canada, but now that we receive our calls via our home wifi we never have problems anymore!

    There’s also the part where I pay $15/month for calls + texts only and my husband pays $20/month for calls, texts + 1 GB data. You do have to own your phone, but then you just order a SIM card from Republic and set it up!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, Dave’s family uses Republic Wireless too. They do have some issues with low signal at times, but otherwise are very happy with it!

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  2. Liane

    07/17/2019

    Never exactly turned it off and we have T-Mobile unlimited data but we travel a lot in our motorhome to remote places with no cell service. It was on one such trip this spring we discovered WiFi calling. We were in a remote canyon campground and needed to contact family in the area we were planning to visit. The WiFi calling on our iPhones was handy, but only useable since the park provided WiFi.

    I honestly don’t know how I’d be able to do it on a day to day basis since I’ve become so reliant on cellular for so many things — mapping on CarPlay in my car, handsfree calling, my shopping list app (AnyList), controlling my HVAC, alarm system, sprinklers, lights, door locks, calendar reminders and number one — paying for groceries and gas. We use our iPhone or Apple Watch exclusively for gas and grocery purchases. I honestly could not mail a paper check to anyone let alone write one. We have no checks, no printer and no computer any more. No landline, either. And we only patronize shops that accept Apple Pay or we use cash for haircuts, pedicures, produce stands etc. I even use my phone to get cash from atm machines. So it would be extremely difficult to not have data! That said, here’s what I don’t have on my phone: email. Do it at home only. Social media of all types. I’ve deleted those off my phone after closing my accounts. I’ve lost touch with some people after deleting Facebook but they all have my email addresses and all our numbers so if they want to reach us they could. I really don’t miss those apps and they are huge data wasters and time consumers as well.

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  3. Sara

    07/16/2019

    Have you considered leaving Verizon? There are so many third party carriers that save you so much money. If you are just keeping verizon because of their cell service, there is one third party carrier called Visible. It is a new one out. Unlimited everything for $40. But if you are willing to leave Verizon. Then we like Tello. It uses Sprint towers. If you are ok with T-mobile service, I highly recommend mint mobile. You can prepay a whole year, which is only $15 a month. So awesome!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh my — we might need to look into those other options. We ONLY use verizon for cellphone service! Thanks!

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  4. Jane

    07/16/2019

    I have a flip phone with no data. Eventually we will join the current century and get smart phones. So I’m curious, if you use the wi-fi connection on your phone that would count against your data, but if you use your home wi-fi, or the free wi-fi at the local coffee shop, that would not count against your data?

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    Liane Reply:

    You can use any WiFi, free like at Starbucks or even at a friend’s home without data. But the phone needs to be sophisticated enough to use WiFi. Our old flip phones did not connect to WiFi at all. Be aware some places like Starbucks WiFi is under control of Google and any browser use is scrutinized. It’s not secure browsing, so don’t use it to pay bills or use your calendar (captures locations). Public WiFi is a bad idea for internet use and to enable WiFi calling (rather than using the WiFi to access sites or check baseball scores or social media) you have to first log in to the provider and agree to the terms of that provider. Meaning: Allow them to essentially track what you do and what apps you use. I personally don’t wish to give google permission to track me so I never ever use Starbucks WiFi.

    If you enable the WiFi personal hotspot feature on an iPhone in order to tether a laptop or tablet, that data is in a separate “pool”, at least with T-Mobile. That data has caps, and will slow down tremendously when you go over.

    Our iPhones and Watches shift to WiFi automatically when we are at home or at someone’s house when we auto connect to their WiFi. Each app on your phone has an individual setting to enable or disable cellular.

    Important to know though for iPhone WiFi calling is that it’s a separate setting and even though the phone will automatically connect to known networks, it won’t use WiFi calling if that is not deliberately turned on

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    Jane Reply:

    Thanks for the info!!

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  5. jb

    07/16/2019

    I have AT&T and have never heard of this!!! Never, have i been warned of data shortage! Sounds like a scam to me for Verizon to reel in more money!! I would switch!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — that might be just a little hasty 😉
    I’ve been with Verizon since I was 18, I don’t think ONE potential incident in 16 years is cause for too much concern. That said, I WILl definitely keep monitoring my usage!

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  6. Danielle

    07/15/2019

    We recently had the same issue and I was surprised we went down so much…we are also on Verizon!

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    Andrea Reply:

    hmmmmm… I’m starting to wonder if there’s something going on with Verizon. Ever since I published this post last week, I’ve gotten SO many emails and comments from people saying the same thing! crazy!

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  7. Christine Thudium

    07/12/2019

    Seriously, you should never, never, ever be in your car without a phone. All the what if’s: Flat tire, out of gas,caught in a bad storm, on a road during a flash flood, a child wanders off, a creepy person is following you, you find someone else’s separated child. Yes, it is a convenience, easy to surf when you are waiting for some reason, but the main reason you should have it is safety!

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  8. Lynn

    07/12/2019

    We were running out of data a few months ago – and I was able to put our plan on some mode with Verizon that won’t charge us when we run out of data but allows us to use the internet – it isn’t fast – but we still have data! So when the kids use too much data and we all get that text saying we have 10% left and 10 days – they know to keep usage to a minimum and when it runs out (which it has at least twice) the data is slower – but you still have access to it. And no extra charges!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    interesting, I might need to look into this!

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  9. Jenny

    07/12/2019

    I’ve noticed recently that my phone disconnects from wi-fi at home. I don’t notice and will be watching Facebook videos or streaming music and end up using data a lot faster.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, Dave said this happens to him too — so strange!

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  10. Lindsay E.

    07/12/2019

    The SAME thing just happened to us – now I’m convinced this was a Verizon conspiracy, haha! We opted into the extra data for the month, mainly bc my husband is a surgeon and his mobile phone is a literal lifeline these days, especially since pagers are essentially defunct. I can see where a little data hiatus could be refreshing and a fun challenge!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    hmmmm… I certainly hope you are not right about this. That would be super shady if they were actually being sneaky with data usage. I wouldn’t put it past them though!

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  11. Robyn

    07/11/2019

    That is great! I am surprised though to hear you say you feel like you rely on your phone so much but yet rarely come close to using 1GB for two people?! That is not a lot of data! I feel like we would go trough that in a few days just using our phones normally. Do you typically check email And social media and maps and all that and still not use 1GB?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    well, I just feel like we use our phones a lot for things that don’t use data too (texting, pictures, video, etc.) which are all great ways to communicate and capture our daily life — but not really necessary all the time. Sometimes, I think it’s nice to just leave the phone and be “present” without trying to capture every moment or communicate with every person who happens to send a text to me.

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  12. Jas

    07/11/2019

    I’ve tried keeping my data turned off, but there are some apps I like to use on the go like Google Maps for driving, apps I use to pay for parking, messaging apps, etc. and it just got annoying to turn it on and off.

    I recently got an app called NetGuard that lets you prevent specific apps from using data and that has been a game changer for me (it’s for Android – there is an app called NetGuard for iOS but I think it does something completely different) . I just allow data for the apps I want to use outside of the house and prevent all the other ones. The nicest change for me is that I usually let my daughter play games or watch videos on my phone while I’m driving, so now I can just prevent her apps from using data and still let Google Maps use it for navigation. Don’t have to worry about her using up a crazy amount watching YouTube or something.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I hear you! It’s super annoying to turn it on and off again.
    Thanks for the tip about the App — I’ll look for something similar for apple products. Sounds great!

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  13. Teri

    07/11/2019

    Good for you guys! It is always eye opening to change things up and try something new! Since I tend to be home and/or around WiFi most of the time, I turned off data to most of my apps so they only use WiFi. I kept data on for phone, text, maps and a browser. If I go somewhere and want to read, I bring my Kindle or iPad where the book is already loaded. Even using WiFi, I still pick up my phone too much throughout the day though. Enjoy your summer!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, it was eye-opening for sure!
    cell phones (and the internet) sure are convenient, but it’s also nice to just be without technology for a bit!

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  14. Mary

    07/11/2019

    There has been something weird with Verizon recently. We get notifications that I’ve used nearly all our data but when we log on to our account, we have used very little data. Strange.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Interesting! Our data really WAS low though. We logged in and even called to verify — still not sure how we could have used SO much data in just a few days though!

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  15. JJ

    07/11/2019

    You are so good about making lemonade!

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  16. Allison

    07/11/2019

    I just returned from Europe where I was for 6 weeks with no phone at all other than when I had free wifi access. I make a point to rarely pick up my phone when I am on vacation anyway but sometimes need it for directions. If you have wifi and save addresses as a favorite in google maps, you can generally access directions without data as long as you have your location turned on because it the phone acts as a very simple GPS requiring no data. I learned this a few years ago so maybe this will help someone else save on data charges.

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — sounds fabulous!
    Good for you for keeping your phone put away!

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  17. Debby

    07/11/2019

    Last week I was on vacation with my husband and adult daughters. I left my phone in the condo most of the time because one of those three had theirs with them. I also have the oldest phone so their cameras are better. I enjoyed it so much. I didn’t go on social media very much and finished the book I was reading. Now that being said my new phone comes tomorrow!! LOL

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Half the time, I feel like I need my phone just to tell the time, so yes, if we go somewhere, I often just let Dave take his phone. It’s so freeing!
    Enjoy your new phone (we got ours earlier this week!)

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  18. Jess

    07/11/2019

    I didn’t turn off my data but I did put my phone on silent for the duration of summer. Since I have most of the summer off from work, there isn’t a reason for me to be attached to my phone. Notification dings are a trigger for me to pick up my phone so by doing this, I have looked at my phone far less over the last month.

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    Andrea Reply:

    good for you — enjoy your quieter summer!

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  19. Evie

    07/11/2019

    To save money, I have a plan on my smartphone that has for $25 only unlimited talk and text, no data. (It is the $30/month plan, actually, but with autopay it’s $25/month, $27.15 per month including tax).)

    I never need data around home or out in my small town, but if I’m going out of town for the day or longer and need data, I call AT&T via 611 and buy an add on package for $5 + tax that gives me 250 MB data that doesn’t expire for a month and is available to use immediately.

    This works perfectly for my needs and for my retired teacher’s not very swanky budget. I think this makes my smartphone even smarter!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    good to know… thanks for sharing Evie! I’m not sure Dave and I could work with no data right now — but this might be helpful for other readers!

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