Better Me, Better World

During the month of December we schemed and dreamed about the kind of project we wanted to do in the upcoming year. Coming off an interesting (though less than spectacular) look at personal happiness in 2017, we knew we wanted something that was exciting, something that would make a visible difference in our lives, and something we could both get behind with enthusiasm. For a while it seemed we were on two divergent paths. We wanted to reconnect with minimalism and again the idea of a no-spend year got bantered around, as did uber-frugality and buying a tiny house. Yet at the same time, we also wanted to step up our pet project – reducing food waste – and see if we could do something more on that front. After going back and forth on the pros and cons of each, we came to the realization that the two paths are actually connected. We can do both.

And so a theme was born – Better Me, Better World.

Our recent Happiness Project really drove home the fact that for a project to be successful, it has to be specific and measurable so on each side of the equation, we set some goals.

Better Me
Goal: Live simply. Prove that we can live a happy, healthy, and prosperous life with less. 

  • Set a budget and stick to it. Strive for no unplanned spending.
  • Buy used when possible.
  • Eat a mostly plant-based diet, with no more than 10% of meals containing meat.
  • Do something active 3 times a week.

Better World
Goal: Zero-food-waste. Prove that one couple can have an impact in reducing global food waste.

  • Plan meals.
  • Continue food rescue – focusing on making reduced-to-clear/quick-sale items the first point of purchase when grocery shopping.
  • Buy local foods.
  • Grow a garden.
  • Compost year-round.

For our Food Waste Project, I set up a separate page to give a little background information and outline the bigger picture of what we’re hoping to accomplish this year. If you’ve followed any of our past dumpster diving expeditions, you’ll want to check it out for sure. We tallied our dumpster finds and even we were astonished! That page lives here: 2018 Food Waste Project.

We’re definitely excited about 2018. We’re sure that it will be full of fun and adventure, lots of laughs and learning.

What’s on tap for you this year?

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?