Get a prepaid iPhone 4 (8GB) for $349.99

You'll need to take a drive to RadioShack, but it's worth it if you want a no-contract, low-monthly-fee iPhone. The 16GB 4S model is $449.99.

Available in black or white, RadioShack has the no-contract iPhone 4S for hundreds below the regular price.
Available in black or white, RadioShack has the no-contract iPhone 4S for hundreds below the regular price. Apple

It's hard to reconcile my "cheapskate" title with my iPhone ownership. I do write about the latter for a living, so it's a legitimate expense, but, man, do I hate being locked into a two-year contract at around $80 per month.

I'm stuck with that for now, but you've got options if you want an iPhone on the cheap(ish). For a limited time, and only in stores, RadioShack has the prepaid, no-contract Virgin Mobile iPhone 4S (8GB) for $349.99, or the 16GB iPhone 4S for $449.99. Sales tax applies in both cases. Bought directly from Virgin Mobile, those models would cost you $549.99 and $649.99, respectively.

Update: Well, either I screwed up royally (entirely possible given the bug I woke up with this morning), or something has changed. RadioShack's $349.99 deal is for the 8GB iPhone 4, not the 4S. But the $449.99 deal is indeed for the 16GB iPhone 4S. What's more, those same prices are now available directly from Virgin Mobile. My apologies for the mistake! Should have known better than to post while feeling like death.

Now, obviously you can buy a contract-subsidized iPhone 4S for as little as $99, which probably makes you question my description of $349.99 as "cheap." Ah, but don't forget the service: you'll pay a bare minimum of $60, $70, or $80 per month (depending on the carrier) for a minimum of two years. Best case: that $99 iPhone will run you between $1,540 and $2,020.

Virgin Mobile, on the other hand, has plans starting at $35 per month. And if you sign up for automatic payments, that rate drops to $30. Now you're looking at $1,070 for that same two years.

The one thing I would strongly advise is to check the coverage map, as Virgin Mobile (which runs on Sprint's network) doesn't have the best reputation in that area.

Still, it might be easier to forgive the occasional spotty signal when you're paying half (or even less than half) what other carriers charge. The bottom line is there's never been a cheaper option for owning an iPhone, and that makes this a deal worth considering.

Also, for what it's worth, I'm pretty happy with my iPhone 4S. It's far from perfect, but I've yet to find another smartphone I'd trade it for.

Bonus deal: You already know you can get a 2TB USB 3.0 hard drive on Black Friday for $64.99 , but that's if you're willing to stand in line and risk a sellout. For a few dollars more, Staples has the Buffalo DriveStation Axis 2TB USB 3.0 external hard drive for $79.99 shipped (plus sales tax where applicable). That's a crazy-good price on a big, speedy drive -- and you won't have to stand in a single line!

Deals found on The Cheapskate are subject to availability, expiration, and other terms determined by sellers.

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