You don't need a cell phone
Matt over at Steadfast Finances had a piece recently on cutting down telecommunications expenses. He points out that most of us pay between $100-300 a month for land line, Internet and cell phone. (This assumes $25-100 for a land line, $35-45 for Internet and $40-110 for your mobile phone.)
He mentions three options for cutting down on expenses. The one I like most is the option of the Magic Jack. Apparently, he's had a good experience with it. And this is definitely one way to cut down on costs.
His other two suggestions? Kill the land line, up your wireless minutes.
Let me see... Our options are a $25 land line or a $50-110 (I haven't met anyone in ages who actually has a $40 cell phone) cell phone. Now, I haven't taken a math course in 13 years, but even I see some basic issues here!
First, let me say this post is not intended to criticize Matt. His is actually the second post I've seen in the past week with the same advice. So he just happens to be the most recent example.
Now, getting back to the matter at hand. I know you all love your cell phones. I get it. I do. They're awesome and shiny and fun.
But, if you are really looking to cut costs, why oh why would you choose a cell phone over a land line?
I haven't met anyone in ages who pays less than $50 a month for a monthly plan. In fact, with data plans, most people hover a lot closer to $100 than to $40. Yet, in the other post (which I wish I could recall) a reader was cutting costs as a newly single mom by getting rid of her land line. Meanwhile, she and her kids had cell phones.
Once again, I feel the need to point out some basic math here: $60 a month (the cheapest you can generally get with a three-line family plan) is a lot more than $25.
I guess I should take a minute to state what I hope is the obvious. If you aren't hurting financially, if you've budgeted for a cell phone and data plan and can still save money each month, I'm not talking to you. That's a luxureed, and that's just fine.
Similarly, if your company covers some (or all) of your cell phone service, by all means. Or if you are one of the few folks who is not really based out of a home office, but instead is on the road -- hey, that's legitimate.
The rest of us, though? We don't need cell phones. We want them. We find them useful. But for all of you who are about to protest that you absolutely need your phone, just know that I'm skeptical, to put it lightly.
Most people work in an office -- either at a company or from home. Offices have phones, and home offices can have phones. A cell is convenient, since you can be reached in transit to either place. But is it convenient enough to justify a $25-75 premium? I honestly don't think so.
For those of you who protest that you'll miss calls, most answering machines can be accessed remotely nowadays. At worst, you can usually get a $25/month land line package that includes voice mail. Again, a cell phone is a convenience, but hardly the necessity we tend to claim.
The one I understand best is that parents want to have a way to reach their kids, or to have their kids reach them -- especially in case of emergency. But that's when a prepaid phone can come in handy. At least once a month, some store is offering one of these devices for free after rebate.
Of course, no matter what I say, most people will guard their cell phones with their life. They will insist that their phone is absolutely a necessity, and no amount of arguing (logical or otherwise) will dissuade them.
Then again, it's easy to rationalize something you already have. I think the true test is whether you could justify the expense if you didn't already have it.
If you didn't have a cell phone, how would you feel about the expense? If you had the extra $50-100 a month to put against debt or into savings, would you still sign up? Would you really give up $1,200-2,400 you spend in the two years of a contract?
Maybe the answer is yes. I don't know. No one can dictate your priorities. But it is a convenience, make no mistake.
This misconception that people have fostered -- that, for the average person, a cell phone is, anything other than optional -- drives me crazy. It's a luxury, and it's okay to have it. But don't pretend otherwise. Don't talk proudly about how you're cutting down costs by getting rid of the far cheaper option.
Incidentally, two years with a land line will run $360-600. Even if you have to pay to cancel your cell phone, that's a pretty big chunk of change to save.
But I understand that I'm in the minority here. Most people consider their cell phone a life line, if you'll forgive the quasi-pun. So I'm interested in hearing from people who have chosen a cell phone over a land line.
That said, I feel the need to embed this hilariously angry little rant by one Foamy the Squirrel. (If you haven't heard of him, shame on you!)
Caution: The following video has a rather gratuitous amount of swearing!