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Phone Cost and Should Kids Pay It


I think almost every person in debt struggles with the cost of phone service at some point or another. There just don’t seem to be any cheap AND reliable options. And then add to that, the cost the phones these days. Yikes!

The Situation

This was brought to the forefront in our home this week when Princess, who is super responsible and takes very good care of her stuff, accidentally dropped her phone and it shattered. If this was Gymnast who literally breaks EVERYTHING or History Buff who threw his phone to the ground to test the “shatter-resistant” claim, I would think nothing of it, they would just have to do without.  But Princess is devastated and this is highly unusual for her.

Princess and Gymnast have iPhone 5s (I think that’s what it’s called.) I got a really good deal on them earlier this year. I wanted them to have a way to stay in touch, especially since we were moving states and I was beginning to work outside the home.

The mom in me wants to get her a replacement as soon as possible. On the other hand, I want to make better financial decisions.

What are your thoughts?

She does have money, she has a healthy spending account and some savings. I guess my question is do I leave the burden of replacing her phone on her at 13 years old with no regular means of working and earning money. Do I match her in some way? Do I just replace the phone, knowing this was truly an accident and not a pattern at all?

I pay for her service (and her brothers’) and am under contract.The service can not be cancelled to save the monthly fees until she gets a new one. Although I think Verizon offers a way to put the account on hold for a certain period of time, but it extends the contract period.

I am torn. Your guidance is greatly appreciated.


  • Reply Peg |

    Have you looked into having the screen replaced? Staples (among others) provides this service. It generally runs about $100, much cheaper than a phone. Throw in a good case and screensaver for about $50. We tend to split these kinds of costs with or kids, partly to teach them the maintenance costs of expensive items like phones.

  • Reply Julie |

    I would check Verizon for any deals they are running. The phone I got my son in July ends up being free as they were running a deal where they give a bill credit every month for the phone fee. No it’s not an iPhone but it I’d a smartphone and works just as well. I don’t like paying for the newest for myself I sure can’t see paying for the newest and best for my kids. Look for deals. You may be ableto find a freebie like we did. They also offer used phones which we have also done with excellent luck. I can’t get over the price of the new Samsung 8s and new iPhones coming in 8-1000 .

  • Reply Shanna |

    I think 13 is plenty old enough to pay for her own repair, it isn’t a punishment, just a fact of life in your house that you have to pay for damage to your own things. The repair will be around $100 for a screen replacement (may be less in your area, I am in the San Francisco area). You can also ask on your local Next Door if anyone has a 5 to sell for cheap or give you that is set up for Verizon. You are really doing great with all the change in your life-keep rocking it!!

  • Reply AY |

    I would probably create a policy for future situations and let all the kids know. I’d also probably split the cost with her–13 is still pretty young to handle it all on her own though a great time to be learning responsibility!

    • Reply scarr |

      I really like this suggestion. This accident is a great teachable moment for all the kids.

      If you do help her by matching costs, you should for each kid, even if they are clumsy.

  • Reply Krista |

    The fact that you bought your kids iphones astounds me!! My 13 year old wanted an iPhone last year and 3 years previously an iPod. He worked hard and saved every last penny from Christmas and birthdays and did chores etc and bought himself the newest iPod at 10 and then an iPhone se at 13 all by himself! As for the phone bill he has to work around the house to pay for the equivalent of half the monthly plan. When he saved for the phone he also had to save enough to buy an otterbox so if there was an accident the phone is protected.

    Accident or not there is no way I would purchase a replacement phone. If you accidentally dropped your phone and it shattered who would replace yours?

  • Reply Faith |

    I agree with Peg! I’ve shattered my screen several times in the last few years and I take it in for a screen replacement. There are probably phone repair shops in your area. You can call around for a price comparison. If they try to up sell you on tempered glass I would pass.

  • Reply Victoria |

    13 is young to be taking all responsibility but maybe it’s a teaching opportunity to look at the options and decide together. For example, a screen fix costs x, so she would pay x% and you cover the rest. Or a new phone (not Apple) is x, and as a family you would give up 1 after school activity in order to cover the cost. And then if she wants apple she pays the difference between that and a bog standard phone.
    I used to have similar things when I was young. Mum would buy school shoes but if I wanted boots I had to use Christmas money. Partly it depends on how much money you have, but it is also a good teaching lesson. It’s not a punishment and you shouldn’t use it as such, but a fact of life when you don’t have money to throw around.

  • Reply Cory |

    Any kid with a smart phone ought to have it in a otter box defender or life proof case. Lesson learned.

  • Reply Juhli |

    I’d put the service on hold unless she is often in situations where no one else has a phone. Then I’d put the word out to see if anyone has an old phone sitting in a drawer. We just took my DILs 5s and with the addition of a $1 sim card it works fine for my husband. If all else fails and you decide she really needs it then get the screen fixed and buy a protective case.

  • Reply Lizzie |

    Personally I’d pay for half of the replacement or repair and tell her she needs to pay for the other half out of her spending/savings account. I think that would still teach responsibility while at the same time acknowledging it was an accident and that she usually takes good care of her things.

  • Reply Walnut |

    Have your daughter do some research and give you a proposal on what option is best and who should pay for it. If you’re paying, she might opt for a new phone, but if she has some skin in the game, she might prefer to fix the phone for a lower price. Is the phone unusable with a cracked screen? If not, she can continue to use it cracked. I promise – she wouldn’t be the first.

  • Reply Joe |

    Very unfortunate. I echo suggestion of getting screen fixed + adding biggest, bulkiest case you can find. For the iPhone 5S though, screen replacement cost may be fairly close to a new refurbished phone. So shop around a bit.

  • Reply Megan |

    I would probably do some sort of splitting of the cost where I took the majority of the cost. I would definitely have a conversation with her and ask what she thinks the outcome should be but in the end have a plan to present her to get her input on. She can help you research screen repair places and new phones. She can be aware of the costs and realities that way. She is old enough for that but I don’t think old enough to be responsible for the the entire cost.

  • Reply MB |

    This is tough. At her age, most parents get their kids a phone to keep in touch with them. I know I did, but I also see that kids who don’t have the ability to text are at a social disadvantage and miss out on a lot. My experience is with kids who are members of the High School band. The band communicates using a specialized app called, appropriately, Band. Schedule changes, new music to learn, ETA back at the school after event for parent pickups are some of the things the app is used for.

    I like the above ideas of having her do research and come up with some proposals. Then together you can make a plan.

    Questions to ponder:
    Is Princess having a smart phone important enough to utilize an emergency fund for repair or replacement? (I believe people who respond “no way in any circumstances may not realize how technology is being used for good, business and organizations)

    Is a non-smart phone a viable option until a new smartphone can be saved for?

    Good luck and what an awesome teaching opportunity.

  • Reply Laura |

    I believe you made your older son pay for his own phone repair? Accident or not your daughter should pay for hers. I think it is good to have the same rules for everyone. You can pay for good cases for everyone’s phone. Nobody, especially kids, should have a smartphone without a good case.

  • Reply Kili |

    A lot of great suggestions here (have her research options… Look for used phones…. Buy a brand that’s less expensive….get a case with the next phone)

    I also agree that that’s a good moment to come up with a general rule that applies to all the kids.

So, what do you think ?