Maddie here! Cell phones are an essential expense in modern life. Because your au pair needs to call you in case of an emergency, you need to provide a cell phone (if they don’t have one already) and pay for a basic plan. These are one of the costs we talk about in How Much Does an Au Pair Cost.
Do you require your au pair to drive? If so, you will also need to pay for some amount of data for GPS navigation if it is not available in the au pair’s vehicle. You may also want your au pair to be able to take pictures and send them to you at work.
Cell phones can be expensive. The cost of the phone, the accessories, and the usage plan really add up. But there are a few ways to keep these costs in check. These are my tips for controlling cell phone expenses for your au pair.
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1. Talk to your au pair about cell phone expenses before arrival
Set expectations for cell phone expenses with your au pair before he/she arrives.
You can ask your au pair to pay for part of his/her phone bill, but make sure you’re super clear with that upfront. Remember to include the expectation that they need to pay for international calling, roaming, and in-phone purchases. You also need to be clear upfront if you expect your au pair to replace the phone if he/she breaks or loses it. Good communication is key!
For years I included my au pair in my family phone plan with unlimited talk and text. Data on this plan was shared across four phones and my au pair had 2G per month.
I sent my au pairs this information in the interview process and let them know extra data would cost them $15 per gigabyte.
When they arrived I showed them how to view their data usage and talked about the use of wifi when available.
I also set up text message alerts for when we reached 75%, 90% and 100% of data allocated for the month. None of my au pairs paid for data more than once.
Abbie has unlimited data on her family plan, so she pays the extra $20/month for her au pair’s extra line. This is a much easier way to go if you have the option.
I know another host family who contributes towards their au pair’s pay-as-you-go phone plan. I would worry that my au pair will run out of minutes/texts/data but they have yet to have any issues.
2. Don’t buy your au pair an expensive phone
You don’t have to provide your au pair with the latest and greatest phone on the market. I don’t even have the latest phone model. They do need a phone that is good enough to perform necessary the functions (call, text, navigation, pictures, etc.)
When my au pairs first arrive, I give them $150 towards whatever cell phone they want. My au pairs have wanted pricey iPhones and this allows them to pay the difference towards the phone they choose. I recommend refurbished phones from amazon.com. They are certified and have a 30-day return policy (just in case). When my au pairs leave, they take the phones with them (my part of the cost is a farewell gift).
Abbie took the opportunity to get herself a new phone and reset the old phone to factory settings for her first au pair. It became the family phone. When the first au pair left, she gave back the phone for the second au pair.
A third option if you don’t want to upgrade yourself and pass your old phone down is to buy a family phone for your au pair that stays with the family. You can also buy pretty reasonable phones on amazon.com, gazelle.com, or other sites for $150 to $200.
For both of us, accessories are their responsibility. If they break or lose the phone, it is also their responsibility.
One word of caution: When bringing your own phone to a plan, make sure you research your carrier’s stores. Some stores are resellers and not actual stores. The resellers will do things like charge you $20 for a SIM card where if you drive to your carrier’s store maybe a little farther away, the SIM card is free. And if you buy a basic phone from your carrier, the reseller store won’t be able to give you the same protections as a core store. Call and ask ahead, or check your carrier’s website.
3. Disable international services on your au pair phone
Although I have never had any issues, I have read horror stories of au pairs running up phone bills with international calls and/or roaming charges. This is really easy to prevent if your au pair is on your family plan. All you need to do is call your carrier and disable international services for the au pair line. This completely removes the ability for your au pair to rack up a bunch of unexpected charges.
But just because you disable international services doesn’t mean your au pair will be completely cut off from her family. Most au pairs will already have WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Viber, Line, and others that they can install on your phone and make international calls using a data or WiFi connection, not minutes.
All of our au pairs have always brought their own phone with them with the SIM card removed, and then only use the phone over WiFi only. Your phone is the one they use for day-to-day communication needs. But they like having their own phone and apps when they’re relaxing at night in the house.
How do you do it?
How do you manage cell phone expenses with your au pair? Have a question about cell phones for au pairs?
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