here are many reasons why one might want to break off from their parent’s phone plan. For one, it gives you a sense of independence and financial freedom. If your parents like to pressure you into doing things on the basis of money, ie “we’re paying for it, so you have to do xyz,” then assuming the financial burden yourself might alleviate their control in your life. Secondly, the bill itself may be cheaper. Sure, you’re the one handling it–but if your entire family is struggling financially, then perhaps switching to a private plan might aid in lifting your whole family up financially. Finally, having your own phone plan gives you a greater sense of privacy in your life. Have you ever heard the rumor that your parents can see everything you search in your history via their phone bill? Well, it’s not true. Thankfully. However, they can see the purchases you make through your phone, which is also a bit of a yikes. 

So, here’s how to break off on your own. 

Step 1: Figure out what the Family Plan Means to You 

You might not know what a good thing you have going until it’s gone. 

A few things might surprise you about your current phone plan. For one, you don’t own your phone number or your actual phone, even. All of this belongs to the technical owner of the accounts, usually the person who set up the plan. 

You can always purchase a new plan and a new phone without the owner's permission, however, you cannot break apart from your family plan without the permission of the owner. This is why breaching the topic to your parents/guardian/owner of the plan is so important. 

Google Fi and Mint Mobile don’t require permission to leave however–and you can always research your plan to see if there are any loopholes that you can use to get yourself out of a tricky situation. 

One last thing to consider is: Do you want to keep your old phone number? That’s unfortunately up to the account owner. However, if they agree, you can conduct a “transfer of billing,” which should take care of the situation.

Step 2: Breach the Topic with your Parents/Guardian—Carefully. 

It’s generally a good idea to give your parents a heads up, even if getting your own plan will help them financially in the long run.  

If you have been surviving up until now on your parents’ family plan, then, naturally, informing them of your decision to switch will be a part of the process of doing so. 

When breaching the topic, first, express gratitude for them having allowed you to use their plan for so long. Then explain the reasoning why. This can be anywhere from wanting more freedom, to wanting to feel more like an adult (probably the safest answer, tbh). 

If you find they are absolutely unwilling, you can purchase a burner phone (aka a very cheap, but still functional phone) for around $100 and renew your plans via specific cards that you are given (which, after you enter a code, allow you to make calls) If your parents aren’t open to discussion of any kind, or are particularly authoritarian in their interactions with you, you may just want to purchase a burner phone and let them know that you’re off the family plan after the fact–returning the old phone to them. 

To be quite frank, a lot of this conversation revolves around whether or not you are currently living under your parents roof. If you are, you have a lot less power than someone who isn’t. Ultimately, if you are an adult, your parents cannot stop you from getting a new phone and plan -- so you can get off your parents' phone plan whenever you'd like.

Step 3: Consider the Logistics of Getting Your Own Phone Plan 

Not everything about getting a new phone plan is fun.

Many people, when getting a new phone or plan, want to ensure that they keep the same basic things the same, such as: phone number, pictures, notes on the notes app, and other assorted saved files (email, schoolwork, etc). 

If you are getting a new phone to match your phone plan, you will have to have a transfer of data in order to keep those things the same. 

Transfer of Data from One Phone to Another 

It's a little bit different depending on what kind of device(s) you have -- transferring Android to Android is different from switching from Apple to Apple.

Whether you are switching from Apple to Apple, Android to Android, or Apple to Android (and anything in between!) There are plenty of resources out on the internet available to help walk you through the process. 

Step 4: Ensure that you are Financially Stable Enough to Make this Decision 

Phone plans don’t come cheap. Well, sometimes they do. But not generally.

This isn’t the small decision you may think it is. The ultimate deciding factor in whether or not you do anything in this life essentially whittles down to this one requirement: Do you have enough money? With phone plan costs already being unreasonable, and only rising, it’s a perfectly valid question to ask yourself. 

According to Allconnect, “With prices rising on the cost of a phone and mobile plans, how much does the average mobile plan cost these days? According to JD Power, as reported by CNBC in June 2023, the average monthly cost of a cellphone plan is $144. At over $1,700 a year, it's not an insignificant cost.” 

If you’re thinking to yourself, “This is way too much!” Don’t panic yet. Plenty of wireless services provide student plans at a cheaper cost, and not every phone plan will cost exactly the same. There are always ways that you can decrease the cost of your plan. For example, you can purchase a plan with the following features, and this should decrease the overall cost: 

  • Use Wi-Fi instead of your plan
  • Find a low-cost carrier 
  • Look at current plan to see if you can save on subscription services
  • Check to see what the benefits of using your current credit card as a payment method are 

Step 5: Purchase your plan! (Aka execute the plan!) 

It’s time to make the final decision. Image Courtesy of Christiann Koepke.

Sincere congratulations if you have made it to this step! Purchasing a phone plan is no small decision, as is evidenced by the insane costs listed above, and can altogether be a confusing process. Luckily we’re in this together. 

To begin, you’ll want to head to your local Tech/Cell Phone specializing store–the same one that you purchased your phone at is preferred. Come equipped with any information that you may need regarding the phone (including SSN, Apple ID, and various passwords as well as verification's of purchase and identity). 

Second, address the clerk at the front desk by saying: “Hello, my name is ___ and I purchased this phone in ____. I was wondering if I might be able to purchase an individual phone plan for it while maintaining my current phone number and data?” 

They will likely take it from there. The people that you meet in these stores are typically very adept at handling tech, and can answer any of the hyper specific questions that you may have regarding your specific plan, transfers of data, and how payment works. 

(Step 6, aka “The Hidden Step.” How to Avoid Scammers) 

In the wonderful world of tech ownership, scams lurk around every corner. Learn how to spot them, before it’s too late. Image Courtesy of Lindsey LaMont.

Step 6 is the step that you hope you never have to address one-on-one. Everyone knows that scams are prevalent in the “real-world” of tech, but just how prevalent are they? And if you receive a dubious looking phone plan bill in the mail, how can you address that? 

To start, here are a few common phone-bill/plan scams and how to recognize them: 

1. Voicemails requesting Immediate Callback 

How to Recognize: High-pressure tactics are often employed by scammers. They don’t want to give their victim time to contemplate whether or not their urgings are legitimate. To combat this, delete and report the voicemail if you can. Anything from a “tech company” urging you to act fast, is just trying to worm your information out of you. If you’re up to date on everything, including bills, you have no reason to worry that these calls are legit. And even if you aren’t totally sure if you sent in that last envelope of money, still don’t rely on shady voicemails to make your decisions for you. 

2. One-Ring calls from Foreign Countries 

How to Recognize: If a foreign number from a country that you don’t know anyone in, calls you and then, after a single ring, hangs up…Don’t call back! Your phone will be charged for making an international call, and you won’t even have the satisfaction of talking to someone from a foreign country! 

3. “Slamming”

How to Recognize: This is a particularly virulent type of scam, and it comes from the people you trust most. “Slamming” is what happens when a phone company switches you to their random service (without your knowledge or say-so–without so much as a notification!) The only way to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you is by reading the fine print of your phone plan very thoroughly. Free-trials can have dubious little footnotes that cover this sort of thing, and so it’s always a good idea to ask questions, read reviews, and be wary. 

If you’re still lost, you can always count on the Federal Trade Commission for help.

And That’s all There is To It! 

This article may have felt long and involved, but that is ultimately just because we want to ensure that you do not make a decision and move on to the next step unless you are sure of yourself and your decisions. 

When you get right down to it, purchasing your own phone plan is very easy. All you have to do is 1) Figure out logistics 2) Tell your family 3) Consider different plans 4) Manage your financials and, finally, 5) Purchase the plan. While scams might await you around every corner, don’t let this deter you from breaking off on your own. Most scams are easily recognizable if you know what to look for, and shouldn’t bother you too much. 

And that’s all there is. Enjoy your new phone plan!

Nov 29, 2023