That Week We Had New Phones

Even the most frugal folks make buying mistakes sometimes. I’d say that it was okay but I’m still waiting on the finally tally of our latest mistake before I know that for sure. At present, we’re up to $93.31.

For the past 3 1/2 years we’ve been toting around a pair of Samsung Galaxy S3 phones. These bad boys have traveled all over the place – from Manhattan to Mexico – taking pictures, posting to Facebook, and keeping us in touch with our friends and family back home. Mine has also had the added burden of facilitating weekly conference calls and handling umpteen million text messages from worried moms and crazy teenagers at all hours of the day and night. In other words, the S3 is workhorse.

A few weeks ago we had the bright idea to upgrade from workhorse to megapixel madness. Let me clarify that a bit – we had been talking about upgrading for more than a year at that point but in researching we could never find anything in our price range that met our must-haves. When my camera froze in the middle of taking pics of baby Addison in the pool, we moved from “talking about” to “doing something” and picked out a pair of LG G3 phones from an online retailer. They were rated 4.4 stars by CNET, were capable of wi-fi calling, and had a 13 MP camera for goodness sakes! How bad could they be??

And so began our journey down the rabbit hole. The phones arrived on Saturday along with our new SIM cards (the wrong SIM cards, by the way). Cost to return the wrong SIM cards – $6.61. Cost to order the right SIM cards – $24.00.

We quickly learned that wi-fi calling does not work on all networks, even when your new phone has the capability for it. This was kind of a sticking point. Being a Ting subscriber is great if you can keep your usage within their small to medium buckets. The best way to do this (when not using your phone is not an option) is through wi-fi calling. Once you reach the large to extra-large Ting buckets, you’re better off with a wireless carrier than offers unlimited talk/text for a set rate. So…we began considering a move to another carrier.

In the meantime, I got a blank text message from my niece. It was supposed to be a picture but for some reason MMS messaging wasn’t working on the new phone. Several hours and several resets later, we couldn’t get any messages. In fact, we couldn’t connect to the wireless network at all. Ting checked our account and found nothing limiting access to the network.

The proverbial straw though was the persistent pop-up for a system update. We updated I don’t know how many times only to have the box appear again within minutes, prompting for the same Android System Update. A little research and we found that this was a common issue with the G3 and the only way around it was to root the device (not happening!) or turn off ALL system notifications. Great! Thanks, LG!

On Friday, we boxed up the phones and sent them back to the store. Bubble wrap – $1.50. Cost of return shipping – $11.70. Restocking free – yet to be determined.

Thankfully, we still had our workhorses. Since the S3s were not in service with Ting, we decided to provision them through a different carrier offering unlimited talk/text. (When your mom who lives 3 miles away calls you every night instead of stopping by, unlimited calling is an absolute must.) Cost to move phones to another carrier – $49.50.

The lesson in all of this? I’ve got a bunch of them – take your pick. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Newer is not always better. Don’t throw good money after bad. Never make buying decisions when you’re frustrated. But my favorite one is this –

It’s a waste to buy things you don’t need. This whole episode was a reminder to me that minimalism is about getting more out of life with less. Less stuff. Less waste. Less impact. Less time spent on meaningless pursuits. We spent the better part of a week messing with a piece of technology that would have done very little to improve our quality of life (quality of photos, maybe, but quality of life, I don’t think so). We wasted time. We wasted money. We wasted resources (fuel to ship these things to/from, mailing materials, 2 SIM cards we can no longer use, etc.). And in the end, we were right back where we started.

We take really good care of the things we do own so the old phones are in very good condition. Sure they freeze up occasionally but then again so does this laptop I’m typing on right now…and the TV…and even our coffee pot. Such is the nature of technology. When the phones do die, we’ll replace them, and we’ll do it conscientiously and with a better understanding of what we need and don’t need from a phone. Until then, I’m marking this off of our list of things to even be concerned about.

Have you ever made a rash buying decision that you regret? What was the outcome?

A Tally of February’s Food Finds

On February 1st, we went to a Lunch & Learn at the Nashville Public Library on the topic of food waste. Little did we know then just how “involved” we’d become in food recovery over the next 28 days.

When I wrote the post Did I See You in the Dumpster?, we had just learned that the grocery store next door was tossing hundreds of pounds of good food into the garbage each week. Despite our efforts to redirect them to better uses for their unsalable (though not inedible) food, nothing was done, and the dumpster continues to fill daily with slightly blemished or browning produce. And we continue to monitor – and glean – when we can.

To illustrate the problem of food waste in our community, I am posting a list of all the items we recovered in February. Remember, we are one couple, looking in one dumpster of one small grocery store, at a rate of 3-4 times per week, for a period of 28 days. We found:

  • 2 red onions
  • 1 bag green onions
  • 3 yellow onions
  • 3 zucchini squash
  • 3 yellow squash
  • 6 dozen + 3 individual eggs
  • 2 pineapples
  • 2 bags of celery
  • 6 ears of corn
  • 1 bag of baby lettuce (4 small heads)
  • 5 heads of iceberg lettuce
  • 12 oz. bag of organic kale
  • 14 blood oranges
  • 3 pounds of organic oranges + 13 individual oranges
  • 1 pint + 1 – 6 oz. container of blueberries
  • 2 – 6 oz. containers of blackberries
  • 5 pound bag of flour
  • 10 oz. bag of almonds
  • 2 bags + 1 head of broccoli
  • 1 bag of cauliflower
  • 1 loaf of 100% whole wheat bread
  • 6 pounds of Cuties (tangerines)
  • 2 – 10 oz. containers of organic grape tomatoes
  • 12 pounds of apples + 10 individual apples
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 5 cucumbers
  • 6 limes
  • 1/2 pound of asparagus
  • 8 1/2 pounds of bananas
  • 15 pounds of Russet potatoes
  • 5 pounds of yellow potatoes
  • 5 red potatoes
  • 1 1/2 pounds of mixed baby potatoes
  • 1 serving of organic red grapes
  • 5 1/2 quarts of strawberries
  • 2 pounds of organic baby carrots
  • 2 pounds of carrots
  • 6 Anjou pears
  • 4 red pears
  • 1 honeydew melon
  • 11 peaches
  • 1 unopened bottle of hand soap

Needless to say, we had a lot of salads this month!

All joking aside, this was just a fraction of what was sitting in the dumpster – good food going to waste because it’s not quite up to consumer standards. I just can’t for the life of me understand why this food isn’t marked down to quick sale or donated to our local food bank. God knows we have folks in need here! There’s always a line of people waiting outside the food bank every morning to receive a box of non-perishable goods. While that’s great, just think of how many lives could be changed for the better if they also had some of these fresh fruits and veggies in those boxes.

We fed 7 people (including ourselves) with our found foods in February – 3 of whom currently receive SNAP benefits and can’t always afford fresh produce. The highlight of this experiment was seeing a small child pick out a tangerine from the bag we handed her mother and immediately sit down on the sidewalk to eat it. Her face as she enjoyed this fruit that would otherwise have been forgotten was priceless.

I wasn’t sure when we started this adventure just how long we planned to dumpster dive but Angie says that she’ll keep going as long as there’s food; which has prompted to me to think a bit more about how we can help on a larger scale. We’re thinking about starting a food share network in our community – maybe a Facebook group or a Meetup group – where folks can share their found foods or foods they bought but can’t eat in time or extras from their gardens or orchards. I only have to think about my mom’s neighbor and his wasted garden or the hundreds of pounds of pears that he mulched last year to know that an abundance of food exists in our community. Someone just needs to connect it with people who will eat it…and maybe that’s us. At the very least, it is something to seriously think about.