What a $5.00 Cell Phone Taught My 9 Year Old

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My 9 year old begged for her own phone for a over a year! Finally I gave in! See what a $5.00 Phone taught my 9 year old! You might be surprised! I certainly was!



My Emma…gotta love her. Somedays I would love to duck tape her to the wall, but hey, I still love her…lol. Anyhow, for the last year, she’s been begging me for a phone. She doesn’t really need one, she just wants one. All of her friends have them and of course, that means my Emma must too. Unfortunately for her, Mr. AIC and I don’t really see why she does need one. One of us is almost always home, we are the ones that pick her up and take her to friends houses or after school events, etc. Aside from that? I know my kid and at 9? She’s is nowhere near responsible enough to have something as expensive as a cell can be. I mean this is the kid that got a DS for Christmas a couple of years back and had it broken within 2 weeks (easily fixed but still).

I know, that was a couple of years ago. Okay then? This is the child that last year received (2) very expensive and very large Lego sets for Christmas. Those Lego sets? Destroyed less than a week later. Trust me when I say that even now, a year later, she is nowhere near ready for a phone. She however, didn’t see that when she was constantly asking me if she could have one and very constantly not taking no for an answer. Goodness me, but if that kid listened half of the time she was told no? I’d have a very, very well behaved kid…lol.

Anyhow, there I am, walking through Kroger about a month ago and I happened to see a clearance rack of Tracfones and my mom brain started ticking away. I got extremely lucky and found one for just $5.00! Uh $5.00 phone? Sure thing! I grabbed it, but didn’t grab any minutes. It came with $10.00 in minutes so I was good to go on that! I basically got the phone free and the minutes half off so I was more than happy to pick it up for what I figured would be a quick lesson for Emma.

I get home and I tell Emma that I have a phone for her. I kid you not ya’ll…she made a sound that was so high pitched that only my neighbors dogs could hear it. She squeed. (Is that how you spell that?) Yanno what I mean…”SQQQQQUUUEEEEEE!!!”

I had her do an extra chore or two to earn her phone and once she got it, she was off and running and so were the lessons. She immediately started texting her bff…which continued..for all of about 10 minutes. Why 10? Because Tracfone when you don’t have a monthly plan with them? Charges a CRAZY amount of minutes per text. Half a minute to send and half a minute to receive so $1.00 per text…mind you, she only had $10…lol.

In she popped and asked for more minutes.

Out she popped after she was told no b/c I had told her that the phone was only to be used for emergencies when I gave it to her. I informed her that she would need to wait until her next payday and buy her minutes herself. She wasn’t too happy with that…lol.

24 hours later…did you catch that? TWENTY FOUR HOURS later. I heard the question I knew I’d be hearing.

“MOOOOOOOOMMMM!!! Do you know where my phone is?”

“Yes child. Yes I do. How do I know? Because I found it this morning laying in the front yard where you left it.” 


Being the mean mom? I didn’t tell her that of course…lol. I let her sweat it.The next day, she shocked me. She cornered me while I was sitting on the porch and looked at me with that sheepish look that she gets when she thinks she’s gonna get into trouble.

“Mom? You were right.”

Ohhhhh!! Praise the Lord & Pass the Ammunition! The day has finally come!! I may have marked that day on the calendar because I’m pretty sure that over the course of her life that may be the only time I EVER hear those words out of her mouth.

“Oh yeah? What was I right about?”

*Sigh* ” I wasn’t ready for a phone. I lost it right after you gave it to me and I ran out all of my minutes quicker than I should have. I should have kept my minutes in case I was at ***insert BFF’s name here*** house and needed to talk to you.”

At that point, I got up and gave her the phone back, but I still relish that she learned the lesson I wanted her to. Oh and she promptly laid the phone down and walked away leaving it where it was. 2 weeks later I noticed it under the porch…it now has a permanent home in the junk drawer until she’s ready for it.

She hasn’t asked for one since though.



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Stacy Ott-Barr
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Stacy Ott-Barr

Stacy Ott-Barr is the face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family.By the age of 30, Stacy had overcome an alcohol addiction, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Stacy is passionate about homeless advocacy and addiction education.  Her first book, also called Six Dollar Family is available on Amazon.

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  1. mariehickman says:

    I loved this post. It’s so importnat to let the leash out a little bit and ever so gratifying when they said “You were right, Mom!” It’s a good lesson in self-regulation. You can never have enough of those!

    My 13-year-old is Mr. ADHD and lost three TracFones in 6 months. His friEnds all have smartphones, of course. I told my son he could have one IF he didn’t lose his TracFone for a year. A year came to pass and – aside from losing it in the tangled jumble of covers on his hazardous waste of a bed once or twice – he hung onto it. I surprised him with a smartphone this past Christmas and he said, “you know, Mom,” I like my flip phone. I don’t need a smart phone.” I was shocked, sad and yet elated at the same time.

    • Marie, I’ve told her the same thing about all of the electronics that she wants. For instance, she is convinced she needs an iPad. When her b-day rolled around this year, she had a Best Buy gift card to spend so I allowed her to pick up a cheaper tablet. We’re 2 weeks out from her b-day and the charging port is broken already plus there’s a small crack in the corner. She won’t be getting an iPad…or a phone anytime soon…lol.

  2. This is just priceless!!! I’m going through the same thing with my son wanting a phone because everyone else has one. There really is no need at the moment but I love the lesson learned. Now…if I could only find a $5 phone. 😉

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