AT&T “family” plan: an economical choice

As of today, I have been on an AT&T family plan for 4-and-a-half years. And just to be clear, none of my family members is on my plan. My plan consists of myself and 4 friends, who are not the same friends with whom I started my plan in the fall of 2008. To date, I have been extremely pleased with my family plan, and have saved my friends as well as myself thousands of dollars through maintaining it. When we started the plan back in 2008, we were college students, so the extra savings really helped.

Below I will do a little basic, simplified math to show you how much my friends and I are saving per month with this plan, as opposed to each one of us having an individual plan with AT&T.

As of today:

AT&T’s cheapest individual plan costs $40/month.

ATT individual plans


But who uses a cell phone in this age without texting? Let’s add $20/month for an AT&T text messaging plan. Without a text messaging plan you’d pay 20 cents per text, so it makes a lot more sense to enroll in a plan. AT&T used to have a $5 for 200 texts per month option, but it’s now gone and the only option is the unlimited plan costing you $20.

ATT texting plans

That’s $60 in total.

AT&T’s family plan with unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling: $60/month for 2 lines. 3 additional lines cost another $30.

ATT family plans


Unlimited texting for the entire plan is $30. The total cost is $120. Since there are 5 people, the plan costs $24 per individual.

Total score:

Individual: $60/month per person

Family plan: $24/month per person

Does it strike you that having an individual plan costs more than twice as much as having a family plan? The margin used to be a little smaller in 2008, but even then I realized a family plan would be a no-brainer.

The costs I quoted above are as of now, and do not include taxes and fees assessed by the government. The actual amount you’d pay is about 20% higher when you add those taxes and fees. But you’ll still save at least $30 a month by having a family plan. Over a year, that’s enough money for a round-trip ticket from Seattle to New York City to visit my friends.

Notice that I didn’t take into account data plans because AT&T does not offer family data plans; each person in my plan is responsible for his or her own data plan.

You may wonder, how do you make sure that everyone pays his fair share of the family plan’s monthly bill? Of course paying for a family plan takes slightly more effort than paying for your own individual plan. For my plan, I pay the full bill and get reimbursed by my friends. We know each other and trust each other, so reimbursement is not an issue. I’ve built a simple Excel spreadsheet to calculate the cost to each member, but most of the time each individual amount can be estimated easily: most of the bill is the fixed monthly amount, and you add the individual charges on top of it, adjusted 20% upward for taxes and other charges.

cell phone calc


You don’t have to have a family relationship with other members in your plan. I don’t recommend getting a family plan with strangers, but for people that you know well, it makes economic sense to form a family plan with them. If your actual family use AT&T too, definitely drag them into your cost-saving plan.

The bottom line is, if you are already having AT&T as your cell phone service provider, you’ll save a lot of money by enrolling yourself and people you trust in a family plan.

Found any loophole in my math? Let me know!

On to saving for my next trip to New York …..



One thought on “AT&T “family” plan: an economical choice

  1. Hi Richard, thanks for your blogged. I am using H2O wireless (2nd tier of AT&T) and paying $30 month with no taxes because of prepaid. This includes unlimited talk, text and 500 MB of data starting Dec 2013. This way you don’t have to be stuck in the family… 😉

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