The longer I aim for a more frugal lifestyle, the more I realize a big part of it is consistently researching options. An experience I had this past week reminded me of that.
I’ve been a smart phone hold-out for years. At first, I sincerely wanted to wait until my cell provider offered the iPhone. That was before I realized I would have to pay for a data plan in addition to the new, fancy phone. As a telecommuter, I had no desire to be accessible on my phone, no intention of receiving email or social media notifications there. And since I don’t trust GPS directions, I saw no need to have a smart phone in my life.
Unfortunately, not everyone thought the same way I did. As more and more of my friends and family acquired smart phones, I began to encounter some frustration with my antiquity of a phone. Instead of leaving a question mark where an emoji would be, my phone relayed an entire text message as a series of unintelligible boxes. Any group messages I received were media downloads that took as long to come through as a photo. Not being able to reply all to group messages was also a pain.
Over time, people felt pity on me and offered to give me their old hand-me-down phones. While I appreciated their thoughtfulness, I also knew that a data plan would loom if I chose to receive the gift. So I refused.
I’m sure there are those who thought I was being stubborn. In reality, it was an exercise in frugality. When last I’d checked, a minimal data plan was still $20 more each month than I was currently paying for cell phone coverage. Why should I spend an additional $240 each year for something I didn’t really need or think I would use?
Initially, those thoughts were valid. The problem was that I maintained those thoughts for a couple of years, assuming that nothing had changed.
I was wrong.
Like most new technology, if you wait long enough to adapt, the prices will fall. In the amount of time I held out as a “dumb” phone owner, cell phone plans dropped in price. But because I hadn’t done the research, I didn’t know it. When the keys on the keyboard of my phone began to stick or only work once in every four or five touches, I looked into the cost of a data plan.
Imagine how foolish I felt when I discovered that a new cell plan WITH data coverage was less than what I was paying for my old cell plan. Approximately $20 less. In addition, since my mobile carrier offers phone upgrades, I got an iPhone 5C for only $0.99. Sure, I had to pay for a car charger and protective case, but those will pay themselves off with what I save each month for my usage plan.
I held out a bit too long and may have lost some money in the process, but I learned a valuable lesson. Do the research more often than once every couple of years.