family frugality thoughts

My Childhood Story

This story below was originally written to be shared at my church.

When I think back to my childhood, I have fond memories of my parents, my interaction with them, the priorities they modeled. Now that I am an adult, and a parent, I even remember painful moments of discipline as a net positive experience. I come from a relatively large nuclear family. Two parents with ten children; eight boys & two girls (I am the second oldest, if you attend Edgewater Covenant Church you may know Uriel & Cuyler, they are the fourth & the sixth, respectively). My parents were married on July 7th, 1973 are are still married today, nearly forty years later.
My parents met at a church youth winter retreat, married young as relatively new christians who wanted to do life differently than they had experienced it,


Wireless Consolidation


I am in a wireless contract with AT&T due to my appreciation of Apple’s hardware and software design; I have an iPhone. One thing that displeases me is the lack of choice. I would prefer that I’d have to pay for the services I use and not for those I do not use. For example, I use a lot of data. I use messaging a lot with my wife and occasionally with others. I use the voice part of my phone when I am called, but it is the lowest quality audio and connection I ever have had with any carrier. I am interested in doing more with fewer devices and contracts if at all possible. The things I am interested in accomplishing usually have to do with eliminating unnecessary redundancies.


I don’t mind having three or more ways to contact a person from my iPhone if I am charged like any other utility. The problem is that voice is data, SMS texts are data, and data is data. I am charged for voice I do not want, and I am limited as to what kind of data I use in what ways. If SMS messages were to cost something relative to the cost in bandwidth, they would be really cheap, then voice would be a bit more expensive, because of data latency standards needing to be higher to facilitate a conversation, and the most expensive things to do would be upload or download files or stream uncompressed video. How many people would just use text only communication devices if that were an option? I imagine $20 per month would not be unreasonable for a text-only device unlimited service plan. Every middle-schooler and high-schooler could afford to keep in touch with friends. People with iPod Touches could add a texting plan and not worry about having a phone otherwise. Voice plans would be for businesses and customer service troubleshooting at home.


As it is, I am paying a lot, and getting a lot. I want less- and more in some ways. The problem is that cell phone companies are still pushing the starting point higher for the monthly plans they offer. There are new laws that prohibit texting while driving, and I understand the reasoning behind that, but the benefits of texting as a primary form of communication is both time shifting and immediacy. When I get a voice call, there is data spent for formalities and “how are you doing” and “we will have to hang out sometime, yeah that would be great” kind of stuff. When I get a text, it does not start with “To whom it may concern:” no, it says exactly what the point was of the communication. I like that. Most people realize when texting isn’t enough and switch to a call when necessary, unless they are both really fast at typing, such as my wife and I, who are often interrupted by kids or work on even the shortest of calls. I think that voice calling is pretty unsatisfying anyways. If you want an emotional connection with a friend, meeting in person is always best. A culture of texting could highlight the need for in-person community gatherings and face-to-face meetings. I got a little off of my main thought there, but I hope you understood the line of thinking I had.


Well, the original thought was that I don’t think I will renew my iPhone contract when it is up. I may change my mind (if iPhone #4 makes my MacBook pro seem primitive in utility), but I want to try out an ‘a la carte’ version of this wireless services spending where I spend as little as possible on what I want to discourage, and more on what I want to encourage. For example, cheap ‘burner’ AT&T phone with no data or texting plan until my wife’s iPhone plan expires, and a Verizon MiFi portable hotspot with an iPad wifi model 16GB or my laptop for all the stuff I really want to pass the time while on break or lunch at work. It is pretty close to the same monthly cost for me with a few more abilities for remote web publishing, due to the enhanced functionality of devices larger than my iPhone. Also, my iPhone will still work as well as it did on wifi if not better. I just won’t get voicemail or texts on it. Let me know what you think if you also have been contemplating something similar.


Update: I realize that this plan neither creates fewer contracts nor allows for fewer devices, yet somehow I see it as being beneficial. Perhaps by having browsing and texting not intrinsically intertwined with my phone I may be less distracted by it during the day. Thoughts still welcomed.