ecoATM: A Sustainable Way to Earn Instant Cash for Old Smartphones

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I’ll admit, I’m a little out of practice when it comes to small talk (thank you maternity leave, and quarantine).   Yet, when I found myself discussing my collection of unused cell phones in the middle of an Atlanta United MLS game, it wasn’t because of my out-of-practice social skills.  Rather, it was an example of a meeting of the minds.  The cool breeze from the retractable roof of Mercedes Benz Stadium, the sound of fan cheers for the home team, and the ambiance of the private suite created a perfect backdrop to enjoy meeting a curated and diverse group of guests of ecoATM, who invest in people, their communities, and the planet.  

ecoATM is a global smartphone and mobile device trade-in leader who is the official smartphone trade-in partner of Atlanta United.  During the final four home games of the season, one of which I was able to attend, fans were given the opportunity to donate used smartphones at designated stadium drop-off locations.  ecoATM then donated 40% of revenues from smartphones dropped off by Atlanta United fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to Cell Phones For Soldiers, a national nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing cost-free communication services, devices, and emergency funding to active-duty military members and veterans. According to Chief Marketing Officer, Tony Rome, “Our partnership with Atlanta United and Cell Phones For Soldiers is a powerful way for fans to support our troops and move used devices from sitting in a drawer to powering new dreams. That’s sustainability in action.”

What makes ecoATM different from other trade-in options available is that they leverage technology to develop a safe and secure solution to help increase the recycling rate for electronic devices. While yes, there are other trade-in options on the market, some of which may even offer a higher payout, it is rare to find an option that gives you cash on the spot… hence the ATM part of their name.  

Are you looking to clean out your junk drawer? Do you have a device so old that you are unable to trade it in with your mobile carrier?  Is it important to you that your unused smartphone does not end up in a landfill?  Could you use cash in your hand today?  If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you should consider ecoATM as a safe and reliable option.

Before heading to one of the thousands of ecoATM kiosks across the country,  I recommend that you get a price estimate on their website or lock in your price offer on the ecoATM app.  That way, you know upfront how much cashback you should expect for each device you sell.  To get the actual price (and not an estimate), you will be asked to connect your phone to the kiosk so it can check the electronics while doing a visual evaluation. Once the evaluation is complete you will be offered a price. A popular and fully functional device will get a higher price than an older or damaged device but they also claim to pay the best prices they can for phones that are damaged or don’t work.  You then have the choice to accept or reject the offer.  If you accept the offer, you get paid…in CASH… on the spot.  That sounds like a good way to add a little extra to one of your sinking funds, don’t you think?

Meeting the team from ecoATM was such an eye-opening experience because the concept aligns with money and environmental sustainability values that I already invest time and energy into. According to the Pew Research Center, 91% of American adults own a cell phone, 55% own a smartphone, but only 20% of unwanted cell phones are recycled each year.  I am an avid recycler but I have never thought about how to responsibly get rid of unused devices.  Some of my devices are so old that having the opportunity to sell or recycle in a way that doesn’t further contribute to eWaste inspires me to take a “don’t trash it, cash it” approach to my debilitated smartphone collection.

How I Ditched My Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

When I purchased my first home 12 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing.  I saw the house on a Tuesday, put an offer in on a Sunday, and the road to homeownership began 5 days after my 24th birthday. Because I wasn’t really planning on buying a house at that time, I didn’t have a sinking fund for a house down payment. I simply had my regular savings funded my money I earned in my first real job out of college. Oh, and did I mention that all of this happened in the middle of the recession?

For a little financial transparency on my homebuying process, I took out a 30 year FHA loan on a foreclosed home that needed many repairs and renovations. My loan was equal to the purchase price, plus a little extra for repairs, minus my less than 20% down payment.

Because I purchased a home with less than 20% of the home’s purchase price, I was required by my lender to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) as a condition of my mortgage loan. According to article 5 Types of Mortgage PMI, “when a borrower makes a down payment of less than 20% of the property’s value, the mortgage’s loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is over 80% (the higher the LTV ratio, the higher the risk profile of the mortgage for the lender)”. PMI was create to protect lenders in case higher risk homeowners default on the loan. While it sucks to pay extra PMI on top of my monthly mortgage payment, this condition did allow me to become a homeowner even though I could afford the 20% at the time.

After 12 years of paying private mortgage insurance, I called my lender today to get it cancelled. I did not need a script that some people try to sell online. I simply called on a whim and asked to cancel my PMI. To be honest, I was not expecting it to be cancelled but rather I was expecting them to tell me I had to get to a certain balance to qualify. I personally believe what helped sway the decision was the fact the value in my home, like many other homes in the US right now. Since the equity value increased it lowered my mortgage’s loan-to-value (LTV) ration and I am now able to save a little more each month on the mortgage.

Other Ways to Avoid PMI

Save 20% Before You Buy a House. It is easy for people in the personal finance community to dish out this piece of advice to potential homebuyers but depending on the circumstances, saving 20% on a home price can be difficult. The Statista Research Department explains that “after plateauing between 2017 and 2019, house prices in the United States saw an increase in 2020 and 2021. The average sales price of a new home in 2020 was 389,400 U.S. dollars and in 2021, it reached 408,800 U.S. dollars”. To purchase a house for $408,800 with you 20% down payment, you would need have $81,760 in liquid funds available.

Are You A Veteran or Active Military? One of the many benefits of a VA loan is that you are not required to pay PMI. This is beneficial because you can buy a home now without having to first save for a down payment.

Getting a Small Loan to Cover the Down Payment A homebuyer may be able to avoid PMI by piggybacking a smaller loan to cover the down payment on top of the primary mortgage. I personally wouldn’t recommend this option, but again, others in the personal finance community do.

5 Things You Should Do Before Starting the SMC Money Challenge

It is important to challenge yourself every now and then. This helps you push beyond what you have previously done before. The more you challenge yourself and succeed, the greater your confidence in your ability to do it again next time. Good habits form and eventually they become lifestyle changes. When you accept a financial challenge, like the SMC Money Challenge, it doesn’t just help you grow your skills and knowledge, it helps you grow your belief that you can. The 2021 SMC Money Challenge begins January 1st in the #SMCmoneytribe FB group but before you start, here are some of my favorite ways I kickstart my money goals at the beginning of each year.

the beginner’s guide to hacking a money challenge

  1. Download & Print your money tracker for the year. Sometimes it is easy to forget the progress you are making.  In the SMC Money Challenge, there will be weeks where the progress seems minuscule and other times where the progression of better money habits and actions is obvious.  Using the tracker will help remind you at the end of the 52 weeks just how far you’ve come.
  2. Pick a S.M.A.R.T.E.R money goal.  Are you paying off debt, saving for a rainy day, putting money in a sinking fund for a specific purchase, or investing? Now is the time to make sure your goal(s) is clear and attainable.  Is it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound, evaluate, and reviewed?
  3. Tell Your Money Where to Go.   If you are using the challenge to pay off debt, I recommend that you make a principal payment toward your debt instead of putting that money in a savings account or sinking fund (that is one of my easiest tricks for paying off my student loans 11 years ahead of schedule).  However, if you are using the money you save in this challenge for sinking funds or boosting your emergency fund, I would consider opening a high-yield savings account and transferring your challenge money into it each week instead. 
  4. Set a Reminder.  Add a reminder to your phone or calendar to remind you to check-in.  By saving something every week, you get to practice your savings habit over and over again.  Remember, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.  YOU WILL NEED A REMINDER if you want to make it through ALL 52 weeks.
  5. Invite a Friend. There is nothing better than getting support and supporting people you know, IRL (in real life). Iron sharpens iron. Glow up together with your friends to become real #squadgoals.


Often women are left to fend for themselves with regards to money matters. As an active member of the #SMCmoneytribe, you will no longer have to walk the path toward financial freedom and a fabulous lifestyle alone. Should you get off track, you can always catch up or start over, we just ask that you don’t give up on this challenge, your goals, or yourself. YOU can do it and you have an entire TRIBE of people cheering you on!

How To Jumpstart Your Money Goals with the SMC Money Saving Challenge

Hey there, goal-setter!  I see YOU.  You are looking toward the new year and you are ready to make some changes.  You recognize what worked for you financially and what didn’t this past year and you are finally ready to do something your future self will thank you for.     

If this sounds like you, keep reading because the SMC Money Challenge may be just what you need…


The SMC Money Challenge is back for its SEVENTH year!  This challenge is a weekly savings plan that works for everyone, no matter one’s level of financial literacy or income.  Hint Hint: accept the challenge, your future self (one year from now) will thank you! Every week you will cross off a number between 1-52 and apply that amount toward your money goal(s).   Bonus boxes are also available for those looking to push themselves to save even more.  SMC Money Tribe member, Cari, took advantage of the SMC Money Challenge bonus boxes on her money tracker and saved $15,000.00 in last year’s challenge. In the past three years, SMC Money Tribe leader, Danielle YB Vason and her husband used this challenge to pay off $44,000.00 in debt. Now, imagine what your money success story will be.

How to Jump Start Your Money Goals In the New Year from Personal Finance Blog, She Makes Cents


The SMC Money Tribe is a community of goal-setting women who accepted the challenge to invest in their money and lifestyle goals with the best accountability partners out there- other women who are also shifting mindsets while tackling debt, saving money, and replacing bad money habits with smart money moves.   

Those who accept the challenge are most successful when they also join the SMC Money Tribe Facebook group for weekly check-ins to share their progress, ask questions, and cheer each other on.  By saving something every week, you get to practice your saving habit over and over until it becomes a lifestyle.  Remember, personal finance is 80% behavior and 20% knowledge.

SMC Money Tribe member, Cari, took advantage of the SMC Money Challenge bonus boxes on her money tracker and saved $15,000.00 in last year’s challenge.  


Mark your calendars, the SMC Money Challenge begins Friday, January 1, 2021.  After that, weekly check-ins will open up every Thursday at 11:00am (EST) and will stay open until Friday night on the SMC Facebook Group.  During that time, SMC Money Tribe members are expected to invest in their goals by actively participating in weekly progress updates, money chats, and mini-challenges.  Interactive content related to the challenge will also be available on the @shemakescents Instagram page.


  1. Follow @shemakescents on Instagram
  2. Post this image below in your Instagram Story  (you MUST tag @shemakescents to I can see it).
  3. Join the SMC Facebook Group (this will be your home base for the tribe to ask questions, support each other, and hold each other accountable).
  4. Download your 2021 SMC Money Challenge Guides- Instagram version or Print version (Challenge Hack: Use the Instagram version to share your progress with the tribe & print the main version to add more private information to track your more personal goals at home).
  5. Set a calendar weekly to save your money & check-in


Often women are left to fend for themselves with regards to money matters. As an active member of the #SMCmoneytribe, you will no longer have to walk the path toward financial freedom and a fabulous lifestyle alone. Should you get off track, you can always catch up or start over, we just ask that you don’t give up on this challenge, your goals, or yourself. YOU can do it and you have an entire TRIBE of people cheering you on!

How I Reached My 2020 Money Goal Despite A Financial Pandemic

At the beginning of 2020, I set a goal to get my mortgage balance on our rental property under $40,000. I wrote the goal down on a post-it, shared it in the #SMCMoneyTribe group on Facebook, and dedicated one month of my SMC Money Challenge savings toward a large principal payment on my mortgage. Four weeks later, the Coronavirus pandemic hit followed by a financial pandemic and I forgot all about my BIG GOAL. At that point in 2020, my focus was trying to find toilet paper and make sure my family was fed.

Top Atlanta financial blogger, Danielle YB Vason, shares how she reached her 2020 money goal despite the financial pandemic

I started the year with “discipline” as my power word but “pivoting” became more appropriate. I had to pivot when some of my income sources became unreliable and my 2020 money goal got further and further out of focus. Then one day, after months of quarantining, I found my little post-it displaying my BIG GOAL. I took a moment and thought about how it would feel to have my mortgage look like most people’s new car payment. I thought about the long term money goals that my husband and I have for our family of three (plus 2 fur babies). Then…I thought about what it would feel like if it was paid off completely. Could I reach my goal by getting my mortgage under $40,000.00 this year? I wasn’t sure, but I sure as hell was going to try.

Since I wasn’t planning on traveling anytime soon due to the Coronavirus, I pivoted and used my travel sinking fund to make a principal payment in addition to the monthly mortgage & escrow payments. Then anytime I had extra money from a sinking fund, I would send another payment. One principle payment was as low as $15.00 but I didn’t care because that meant I was $15.00 closer to my goal. On December 11, 2020, I sent my last principal payment of $80.00 and with that payment, I hit my BIG MONEY GOAL for 2020. My current mortgage balance is $39,977.20. I am so proud of myself and I can’t wait to see what 2021 brings.

I walked into 2020 with excitement and hope. I plan to leave it with excitement that I survived and gratitude for both the big and small wins of this year.


Invest in your money and lifestyle goals with the #SMCMoneyTribe by following along. You will be informed, inspired, and empowered to use your “cents” to live the #fablife.