The Tako family had a rough day on Tuesday. We lost a soldier in our battle against household spending. After six long years of faithful service my cell-phone died on Tuesday morning. It did so with very inconvenient timing. I use my phone as an alarm clock, and that means when the phone died my morning alarm did not go off.
Yeah, I know — first world problem.
It’s one of those things you take for granted until it stops working. Then, your morning goes to hell. We had to rush-around getting everyone to school on-time that day.
After finally getting the kids dropped off, I spent around an hour trying to resurrect the phone. I invoked all the dark technical arts, lit several black candles, and there was definitely some “arcane chanting” around the alter called my workbench.
All attempts at resurrection failed, and I officially declared the phone “dead”. Rest in peace my friend.
I was feeling pretty sad at this point… not only because replacing the phone was going to cost money, but because I had been really happy with my six-year old Samsung Galaxy Note2. Sure, it was scratched, beat-up, the camera didn’t focus properly, and occasionally it would crash, but none of that mattered.
What mattered was that the phone was reliable and durable. And already paid for too! I know it’s strange, but I have a certain love for old things that are exceedingly reliable. I could care less about bigger screens, faster processors, and the gorgeous curves you find on the new models. Those things are nice to look at, but will they last?
Probably about as long as a marriage to a trophy wife! (Which is to say… not long!)
In this case, I didn’t have a choice — My phone was completely dead. My first instinct was to start shopping for a new phone, but it had been SIX YEARS since I last shopped for one. I didn’t know which models were any good after being “off the market” for so long.
So, I asked Twitter for suggestions:
As you might expect, there were LOTS of good suggestions from the Twitter community. Almost bewilderingly so… there are TONS of great models to choose from!
Then I got to thinking — What if this first-world inconvenience is really just an opportunity staring me in the face. What I really should be asking is: “Do I actually need a cell phone?”
Expenses Are A Choice
Recently I saw a study published in the news that stated you must earn $100k/yr in the Seattle area in order to be “broke”. While studies like that are
comedy for money-nerds interesting, I believe people forget that expenses are largely a choice.
My family lives on half that amount, and we’re a family of four with a child in daycare (which is hugely expensive). So it’s certainly possible to live on a lot less than $100k here, and we still live a darn good life. It’s ALSO possible earn $100k/yr and feel broke exactly like the study suggests.
What’s the difference? It comes down to the choices we make. While it might not be “popular” to believe expenses are under our control, I strongly believe this is the case. We can say “yes” or “no” to most expenses. Or, in the case of others they’re at least very controllable.
For example: the Tako family could *choose* to live in a less fancy house. We need shelter, but we certainly don’t need a house that’s as big or as fancy as the one we have right now. The same goes for food, clothing, energy usage, and a whole host of other services that people take for granted.
Yes, including cell-phones!
After my cell-phone died on Tuesday, it really got me wondering — What if I could just go without for awhile? Could I do it? After-all, it’s not like I have tons of people calling me anyway. Would it even matter?
Will I Miss It?
I’ll admit right now that living without a cell phone is an unusual choice. Not one many people would make. That’s why I think it’s important to try — because it is so unusual. The things we take for granted are often the ideas that should be challenged or questioned the most.
Time for a little experimentation!
Before I decided to do this though, I wanted to sit down and understand what the impact might be. Are there good replacements or work-arounds for all the stuff my cell-phone does today? Spreadsheet time!
Here’s what I came up with:
While there are plenty of alternatives, a few are definitely more inconvenient. For example, I can use Google Voice to make and receive phone calls, but I need a PC to do so. This means I can only make calls when there’s a wifi connection. I can take my laptop to the library or a coffee shop and still make or receive calls using free wifi.
It’s kinda-sorta mobile, but not exactly the same thing.
I admit this will be a little inconvenient, but I rarely make or receive phone calls anyway (this is why I have a $10/year cell phone plan). The impact to me should be minimal.
So far, I’ve been without a phone most of the week and I can honestly say I’ve hardly noticed. The only time when I actively *wished* I had a phone was when I was “killing time” waiting for my kids to finish in the restroom. (They take forever in the bathroom!)
Starting The Experiment
Yep, I’m turning this into one of my experiments. A little “cell phone-withdrawal” experiment. I’m going see how addicted I am, and how long I can last without one. Maybe I’ll get “pushed over the edge” by all the inconveniences. Maybe not! I want to last at least a month without caving-in and buying a new phone.
Is this experiment a little ridiculous? Maybe! I certainly have enough money to pay for any phone I could possibly want, but this experiment isn’t about maintaining the status-quo or using dollars to solve problems. It’s about pushing me outside my comfort zone into places I will find inconvenient. On purpose!
I find that a little discomfort can be a wonderful teacher. In my opinion, there’s nothing like going without to make you appreciate having the simple everyday things in life, like cell-phones.
Inconvenience can also be an opportunity for major savings. While I don’t pay all that much for cell phone service to begin with, the cost of a new phone is still a major expense. One I think often gets overlooked in the name of convenience.
Convenience frequently comes at a high-cost. In the case of objects like a cell phone, it’s something we take for granted these days. Remember — A cost taken for granted is a cost not fully optimized!
Wish me luck everybody!
What’s the longest you’ve gone without a phone in recent years? A week? A month? A year?
[Image Credit: Flickr]