How Carefully Do You Track Your Mobile Spending Habits?

Between the big three carriers and the plethora of MVNOs, there's no shortage of plans and prices to keep track of. But how many of us actually bother to do that in a market awash with unlimited (or near unlimited) plans?

I was inspired by today's launch of Aldi's mobile service, the inventively named AldiMobile. The promise of AldiMobile -- and indeed any MVNO -- is better value than the existing big three of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. There are still only three choices when it comes to the eventual carrier network in terms of actual network availability and performance, but there's no shortage of additional MVNOs, which means that, despite the introduction of Critical Information Summaries, there are more plans, costs, fees and details to track than ever before.

What I'm left wondering, though, is how many people do this at a particularly fine level.

I'll use myself as an example. While I test plenty of phones and mobile devices, they (mostly) come with carrier supplied SIMs, especially for exclusive phones. My day to day calling and mobile data is handled via a Telstra SIM that may be in any of about half a dozen phones depending on my writing and travel needs. Right now, it's sitting in a Motorola RAZR M. I recharge it monthly for $30, which gets me $220 "worth" of calls and 400MB of data, as well as whatever I want to spend the $30 on. Typically it banks if I recharge within the month, or I may spend it on a data pack if I'm away from Wi-Fi for an extended period of time over the month. The thing is, I don't call out all that much, so the $220 worth of calls may as well be an infinite number of calls. At a prepaid level, Telstra doesn't do unlimited calls, but if you're with another carrier or MVNO, there are plenty of "unlimited" call plans out there.

Call and SMS costs are quickly becoming relatively arbitrary things while mobile data still remains relatively expensive, and a clear cash cow for telcos. I do track my data usage, because that's expensive and I rely on it a lot, but I don't much track my calling costs, because I've never even come close to hitting that limit. Perhaps I'm an unusual case. Do you track the cost of every single call, or does your plan come with far more than you could ever use?

Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


    I'm struggling to work out if this article is asking for comment or making a statement?

    Mobile data is a cash cow. Right now I spend $150 a month on mobile, because I want 4G. Over $100 a month of that is data, but between 2 providers I do have 21Gb of 4G for that money.

    I'm only on a $29 plan (Virgin) with an extra $10 data pack that gives me 2.25Gb a month and I never come close to maxxing out any of it. I probably only make about $60-$70 worth of calls, $10 worth of SMS and less than 1Gb of my data allowance, even though I never have my phone on wi-fi. The main reason I got the data pack was so I could tether my PC and Playbook to it but I don't even do that very often.

    The real question, is how much do you spend 'through' your mobile - and do you track that?

    I'm with Virgin, my plan is no longer available, but it's the Big Cap BYO 29. It costs $19 pcm and I get $450 of calls & texts and 2.25Gb of data. I get $10 off for supplying my own handset. The reasons I haven't moved to any of the other MVNOs or the telcos themselves are; cost, lack of 4G (Koganmobile doesn't get Telstra 4G - does Aldi?) and international calling (Virgin includes international calls in the cap). My handset is a Samsung S3 4G I bought on eBay for $500, so my TCO for 2 years should be about $1000 or so.

    What I really want are for the operators to make their plans more intelligible (if I pay $19 for my plan, then it's worth $19 - not $450) and for international data access to become affordable. How does it cost so much to move IP from one country to another?

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