Monday, March 12, 2012

You buy time with money by using less.

We finally downgraded out cellular service this weekend. I only ever (begrudgingly) accepted a smartphone and data plan in the first place because my last employer asked me to do so in order to increase my overall availability.

I can't say that it wasn't fun and, at times, exceedingly useful, but I honestly don't believe I would have taken that step without an outside request nudging me forward. While commuting, I used my Android heavily to keep in contact with people I didn't have time to interface with, but most of the time I think it was just a distraction from things I enjoyed more such as reading or a good conversation with another human. The root of the problem is that, at my core, I still just want a phone to be a phone. The last two days without my pocket buzzing every 10 minutes with new notifications, I feel as though I've succesfully reinstalled a barrier I wish I had never taken down.

The monthly cost of data services were easy to say goodbye to as well. Overall it was only a $50 savings, but that's still a lot of money to me and I don't think I got $50 worth of joy out of it the same way I would get $50 worth of joy out of eating out with Brandy or buying a really big bottle of whiskey. In August our contract is up and we will either switch providers and downgrade to one cell phone or we might do away with cellular services entirely if the mood strikes me right.

My future transitions may include Google Voice, which has intrigued me, with the ability to buy my phone number (which I've built up for years on resumes and among friends) and forward the text and voice messages to any number I want. I have plenty of time to decide what will work best, whatever it is I doubt it involves getting a smart phone for the whole family, which is what the wireless companies seem to want me to buy.

In addition to this cost cutting, we cancelled our membership at the local pool. I had more trouble giving this up, even though it was a larger savings, because it gave me an opportunity to expose Coughlin to swimming on a regular basis. After looking it over and realizing how infrequently we would be going with the birth of our new daughter, it makes more sense to pay the cost of a full-price visit until Ilana is old enough to go along. At that point, we will probably renew our membership so that we can take both kids.

With these changes, our largest regular expense, our mortgage, accounts for 57% of our regular monthly expenditures. I don't count taxes in this since I'm not able to control that expense and seeing the true percentage of that burden would only cause hopelessness and anguish which I cannot afford right now. Our mortgage payment is somewhat reasonable for the house and property we have when compared with rent costs, but it could be a lot better if we were able to refinance. Since our mortgage wasn't securitized and bought by one of the federal agencies, there are no programs which allow me to reduce that expense, even though our interest rate is fairly high by today's standards (it was very good at the time). That is, there aren't any programs for us unless we stop making payments. Something which I have moral objections to as long as I'm able to make the payment and which would unnecessarily ruin our credit as well. It's an option that I can keep in my back pocket in case of a really big problem, but I don't suspect things to get quite that bad in either case.


  1. Simplifying is good, to a point.
    I don't know whether you are currently taking advantage of the *numerous* tax breaks afforded the home-based business owner, or whether you consider the time investments associated to be worth the monetary savings, but it's another set of options toward reducing your tax obligations... It also has the potential to increase your income, which, if any percentage were to be applied to your mortgage, would bring that onerous obligation down faster.
    As you said above, we can "spend less" only to a point: A point beyond which I suggest we look at "earn more".

  2. I also agree that it makes sense to simplify. My wife has a $14 cell phone which works great for her and I have a smart phone with data plan. Due to the nature of my business, the smart phone has become an unfortunate "must" for me at this time. It's also great to use the map when we're traveling. She also uses the smart phone for entertainment when we're traveling, that's nice too. Being that we don't have a land line, the cost of our cell plans are somewhat reasonable. That being said, we got rid of our cable TV a couple of years ago and now exclusively stream Netflix and watch DVDs which was another cost saver. Since we don't have kids at this time we use the savings to travel when we have the chance and I find much more enjoyment in that over having cable TV, etc. Good times!