Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ready to Sever Cellular Dependency


Cell Phone Dependency | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Thousands of dollars worth of
useless equipment and accessories.
For a decade or so, we’ve been signing two-year contracts so we only have to pay about $600 to upgrade our phones every other year. We have yet to have one of our high-tech, expensive phones last two full years. A device that supposedly retails for over $300 without a discount should last at least two years if not longer. 

That’s just one of the reasons that, while everyone else continues to struggle to keep up with the latest handheld technology, I’m ready to bow out of the game and sever my dependency on cell service. 

My current smartphone is about 18 months old. It has no water or other damage. The battery works. The screen is intact. But there was an automatic upgrade that messed up its ability to charge properly. Then it stopped working altogether for no apparent reason. 

Upon examining my phone, the service rep at our local cell phone store suggested we switch to a new plan that would provide us with new phones annually. It’s a “leasing” plan, she explained. Upon reviewing the plan, I noted it would cost us more each month for the same services we receive under our current plan. She pointed out that if I convinced others to also join using the code they’d give us, we could lower our monthly rate. Basically, I’d have to sell cell phone service for my carrier to several more people just to break even. I was not interested in the “leasing” plan that seemed to work like a pyramid scheme.

She asked if we had an old phone at home that I could use. All of our old phones were purchased through a different carrier, so none of them—even if they were operational—could be activated through this carrier for use on our current account. Convenient for carriers. Costly for consumers.

If I had insurance, I could have my non-working phone replaced with a refurbished phone. I would only have to pay the $150 deductible. I did not purchase the insurance, because the cost of the monthly insurance premium plus the deductible would have been enough for me to buy a brand new model with the latest technology. But I could not afford either the insurance or the brand new model.

The cellphone industry appears to have everyone convinced its services and devices are a necessity. They have us believing it would be unsafe and impractical to live without smartphones and constant connectivity. 

But as I walked out of the store with my useless device, unable to afford to do anything about it if I wanted to continue to be able to pay our monthly bill, I realized I don’t need another phone. I don’t need to line the pockets of cell phone industry executives with gold while I struggle to balance our household budget. I don’t need to be accessible 24/7. I don’t need to access apps, read posts, play solitaire, or post updates and photos online from anywhere at anytime under any circumstance. 

When our contract is up, I so not plan to renew it. Rather, the plan is to cancel our service. By severing our dependency on cell phones, we will save over $250 per month for our family of five, plus another $600 every other year to upgrade, plus at least $200 each year for accessories. That’s $3,500 a year we can instead spend on our children’s educations. And when they graduate from college, we can use that money to upgrade the house, go on vacations, and spoil our future grandchildren. 

We’ll still have Internet access and a phone line at home. We will still be accessible via Facebook, email, and a landline. And that’s enough. It is a lot more than we had 35 years ago. We survived just fine back then. Actually, I think we might have been less stressed out and a little happier, too.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
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