How I Paid $37 For My iPhone 5s (Without Selling Out My Friends)

Step right up! Learn the secrets… the mysteries…. the mystique of…. smart money management? But seriously, I’m not here to hype you up or tell you how if you share this on Facebook and get 5,000 likes that you will win a free iPhone. This is my true story of how with a little bit of knowledge, planning, and cunning I paid $37 for my iPhone 5s. Yes, you read that right, do not adjust your internet browser. $37. Here, in short order, are 7 steps you can follow to see similar results.

Results may vary because it’s up to you!


1. Become A Mini-Techie… Temporarily

First things first, get educated! Now listen, I’m not saying to go buy a pocket protector, move into your mom’s basement, and learn about the special screwdrivers used to get an iPhone open. Geek certification not required.

Apple has become sadly very predictable because, well the press like it and so do customers. Every year since the inception of the iPhone Apple has released a new model. Until 2011, it was always in the summer (mostly June), and since then it’s always been in the fall (mostly September).

Simple logic dictates that in Late July or early August you better start paying attention. The best way to do that is to tune into Gizmodo. There are a lot of rumors that float around about the next thing concerning the iPhone and they do the best job of discerning the fallacious from the fo’ real and reporting on each with level-headed perspective and insight.

As the date of release approaches pay attention to the signs like leaked photos and inventory issues for current models. When you are getting about a month out or less it’s time to start Step 2 (if applicable).

2. Sweet Talk Your Carrier

Not eligible for an upgrade? Time to kiss your carrier’s butt. If you have any chance of getting that shiny new brick that lights up when it comes out and not paying $600+ for it you need to be eligible to upgrade. Work your magic. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish, especially if you have a been a customer for several years. A friend of mine miraculously got her upgrade status moved up a whole year, and my parents had their upgrade dates moved from January and March 2014 to September 2013 just mere days after the 5s and 5c release.

Unable to get them to comply or too far off to have any hope? Hang in there, there’s always next fall. Do whatever you can to find consistency. Even if that means going month to month for a while after your contract runs out until the next iPhone release. This will lock you into a sweet spot for upgrades.

Usually 2 weeks before the special press keynote Apple will send out invites confirming the date. You’ll know this of course by following Step 1 and at that moment you’ll need to execute Step 3…


3. Lock It Down

So you’re eligible for an upgrade and it’s almost time for the new release? It’s time to lock down the value of your current phone (iPhone or not). iPhones have the highest resale value of all smart phones on the market so they give you a great edge, but you can get some good coin for others too. Either way it’s going to help you out.

Go to and get a quote. Once you get that quote it’s locked in and you have 30 days to ship it. The past two years Gazelle has actually extended this period for iPhones exclusively up to two additional weeks. Whatever phone you’re sending in they’ll send you a prepaid shipping label and even a box to put it in. I’ve successfully down this twice in a row.

So clean that sucker up with some iClean and a microfiber cloth after you’ve got the new one in your hands, and of course don’t forget to wipe your data clean too and restore it to default settings using the tips Gazelle gives you.


4. Stay Up Late (Or Get Up Early)

You’ve locked in your Gazelle quote, and now you know when the iPhone preorder will be as the announcement keynote has just finished. It’s a good thing too because now that the new ones have been announced the old models have now plummeted in value. That 30 day lock-in is sweet.

iPhone announcements are usually on Tuesdays and usually go on preorder the Friday after at midnight… Pacific time… which is 3am Eastern. Maybe you already decided before the announcement that you’re going to live on locusts and honey and camp out at your local Apple store for a week or two. Congrats, you are certifiable.

Why? Because you can preorder it from the comfort of your home right on Apple’s website. Sure you may need to stay up late (lucky Californians) or you may need to set an alarm and get up at 2:45am (curses here on the East Coast) to be ready for the 3am shuffle, but it’s a very small price to pay. Stock goes fast and you could be waiting 2 more weeks or months to get the iPhone if you miss it. This would throw off the whole cycle we set up in Step 2.

It only took me 10 minutes to order mine. So suck it up!


5. Cover Your (Gl)ass

So you preordered and now it’s arrived. After backing up your old phone, restoring the new one from the backup, and sending the old one in to Gazelle you are now the owner of a lovely new very breakable iPhone. You need to protect that puppy if you want to retain its value.

Enter Otterbox. They have some of the best cases on the market. I owned my 4S for two years and dropped it somewhere around a couple hundred times. It never got scratched, dinged or broken. Even if you drop it in water they’ve got that covered too.

Otterbox has stupendous customer service (even Dave Ramsey likes them) and their warranty is awesome so even if it breaks you can follow their simple steps to get a quick replacement, even for the included screen protector!


6. Go The Distance

Discipline pays off. The tortoise always wins the race. Sound familiar? Listen, you can buy a new iPhone every year, but it’s not worth it. You may have heard of AT&T Next, Verizon Edge, and those other guys’ similar programs. But guess what? It doesn’t pay. Stick with your phone for the full contract. Maybe these programs will be better down the road, but right now they are a gimmick.


7. Rinse and Repeat

You’ve done it! It’s almost two years later and you are ramping up again for the next model. This is the time when you will reap the full fruits of your labor and it’s at this point both times that I paid so little for my new iPhones. Start at Step 1, continue through the steps, and reap the rewards of this saving cycle. Congratulations!

3 replies
    • Jeremy Edmonds
      Jeremy Edmonds says:

      Thanks Doug! Please let me know how your experience goes! I’m on track to use these same principles this fall for the “iPhone 6s” or whatever it will be called. I plan on blogging on the outcome of that as well so stay tuned and thanks again for sharing!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] years ago I published a post that got a lot of attention.  I shared how I paid only $37 for my brand new iPhone 5s.  The most common responses I got were “What?!? HOW?!?!” and “Are you […]

Comments are closed.