[NOTE: Do not attempt without the express approval of a supportive, loving spouse who is willing to go along with your tech-loving cost-cutting split personality!]
Back in February, I challenged myself (and hopefully you as well) to question needs vs. wants, especially keeping in mind technology and digital services. With companies constantly releasing “must-have” devices and services, both the upfront costs and the monthly fees that accompany such products can make living within your budget especially challenging.
First up, our cell phone. More specifically, texting. I had said:
Unfortunately, there’s only one family plan and the individual plans wouldn’t cover our average monthly texting. However, I’m experimenting with apps like textPlus which allows free texting to other textPlus users.
My first impression of textplus was less than favorable. Now admittedly, I haven’t played around with it enough to give a comprehensive review, but to date, we haven’t switched over. So no money saved there.
Next up, if you’ll recall, was getting a credit for incorrect cable billing.
… Secondly, there was a package I NEVER signed up for (and never use) but was being charged $8/month for. I promptly canceled that one too and asked for a refund… The rep was friendly but said she couldn’t do that… So I called back the next day, spoke with [another] rep, and then that rep’s supervisor. I’m still waiting for a call from the supervisor’s supervisor.
Well, after some kind-but-forceful persistence, the supervisor’s supervisor did indeed issue us a credit of a couple hundred dollars. Just goes to show the importance of checking your bills and keeping companies accountable for their mistakes.
Third item — our home phone. I wrote:
With our home phone getting used less and less, I’ve been wanting to get rid of it (and its $26/month fee) for quite a while. I nagged my wife to death and she finally relented. So I ordered an Ooma. In a nutshell, Ooma is a device that connects to your high-speed Internet and your home phone and allows you to make calls at no charge…
We recently moved, so I figured I’d wait and set up the Ooma at the new house. So last week I did just that. I’m VERY happy to report that we now have a “free” home phone service. Setup took a little longer than advertised, but otherwise, it does everything it says it does and does them well.
We could add the extra features of Ooma Premier if we wanted to pay $10 a month, but we’re going to pass. But I might pair it with my wife’s cell phone/Google Voice so that whenever someone calls her, our home phone rings as well and she won’t use her cell phone minutes. But in the meantime, we’re content with saving the $26/month we were spending on a home phone.
But we weren’t finished quite yet. You know that move I mentioned? We decided that would be an ideal time to cut cable TV altogether. Yeah, I said it… no TV. Not only does it save money ($50/month), it saves time. Admittedly, this may not stick as we like college basketball and football. So we’ll see how it goes. If we get desperate, we could resort to watching TV on the computer. And we could always get a digital antenna and pickup signals the old fashioned way. Until then, we will keep our bare bones Netflix plan and/or use the nearby Redbox for our moving watching endeavors.
The point of all this is to get you evaluating true needs from wants. For the record, I’m not opposed to satisfying some wants if they’re within your budget. Just be honest with yourself about the motivation for the product or service. You might be surprised at how few needs there really are.
Matthew Pryor is in his 8th year with Sound Mind Investing, now serving as Director of Operations. He previously held the Development Director position for a crisis pregnancy center. He has also served on staff with Young Life in Virginia. He currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky with his wife and three children.