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?

Minimalism Gives Us Options

Yesterday, I read a great post by Frugalwoods called 19 Reasons Why Frugality Is The Best Thing That’s Ever Happened To Me. I realized as I was reading that everywhere the word frugality was used, I could easily insert minimalism instead. Which is only fitting, since to me, minimalism and frugality go hand in hand. The last reason on Mrs. Frugalwood’s list was that frugality gives you options and freedom. That’s the truth if I ever heard it! And it got me thinking about how minimalism (and frugality) have given us some pretty good options of our own.

First, a little background…

Two years ago we moved to Tennessee to help care for my mom. At the time, she was having problems breathing and had repeatedly coughed so hard that she fractured 7 vertebrae in her spine. During one of her many trips to various doctors, they found a spot on her left lung that they thought might be cancerous. To add insult to injury, through the cancer screenings she found out that she also had a genetic blood disorder that would require monthly phlebotomy. When we arrived in June 2015, we had no idea what to expect but we felt certain that the prognosis was not going to be good.

Fast forward to present day…

While still not the picture of health, my mom has much improved. The spot on her lung was not cancerous, though it is still something that will need to be monitored every 6 months. Her spine has healed and after a horrible experience with osteoporosis medication, she is eating better and taking only a calcium supplement for better bone health. She will always need to monitor her hemochromatosis (iron overload) but the phlebotomy procedures have slowed from monthly to every 12 weeks. She’s back to working 2 days a week (mostly for social interaction and spending money) and she is running a lot of her own errands these days. A few weeks ago, she even wanted to go camping with us. And we all had a blast!

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Last year, I cut my work schedule down to just 4 days per week so that I would always be available to take my mom to her doctor’s appointments on Wednesdays. For most of this year, Wednesday has been a true day off – no appointments, no errands, no obligations of any sort – and it has been really nice. We’ve hiked. We’ve picnicked. We’ve gone letterboxing. We’ve gardened. We even spent a few Wednesdays just doing nothing. It’s been great!

When I spoke about this to an acquaintance the other day, she asked, “Now that your mom is doing better, are you considering going back to work full-time?” Without missing a beat, I answered with a resounding no. A puzzled look crossed her face and I could see the wheels turning. It was the same puzzled look I received from my boss last fall when I tried to quit my job completely and I knew even before she said anything what the next question was going to be.

“How are you going to manage long term on one part-time income? Don’t you want things for yourself? Like a house someday? I thought you loved to travel? What about retirement???” 

I couldn’t help but smile at her barrage of questions. I have to admit, I love confounding people. I love watching their expression as they try to figure out how we do all that we do while only one of us works part-time (and for a non-profit organization, no less!). I especially love it when Facebook friends post comments insinuating that we must have won the lottery or retired early. It makes me feel pretty proud of us.

The truth is – we do pretty darn well living on 80% of my old income. In fact, we barely noticed a change in our lifestyle at all. We still live in our same apartment. We still eat what we want. We still go places. We still have hobbies. Heck, we even bought and paid for a newer car this year and are on track to kill two more student loans. As for wanting things for ourselves – well, the things we really want, just can’t be bought anyway. And we owe all that to minimalism.

Minimalism made it easy for us to pack up our belongings and move to Tennessee in 2015. We didn’t have a house to sell or jobs that tied us to one location. We had money saved. But most of all, we had freedom – the kind of freedom that can only come by owning your own time.

Minimalism doesn’t mean that every day is going to be a walk in the park. If you’ve followed us for a while, you probably know that coming home hasn’t been all that easy for me. There are days I still wish we were back in Florida, looking for sea turtles and sand dollars, while walking along our favorite beaches. I know that we will go back one day. But for now, our goal is to be happy where we are. Keeping our Wednesdays work-free goes a long way toward that goal. Living minimally (or frugally, if you prefer) has given us the option to work less and enjoy more time together and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in this world.

What options/freedoms has minimalism or frugality afforded you?