I’m not always frugal

So last week sometime, I was headed to Wegmans while my trusty Nexus 5 was charging up in the seat next to me.  I noticed a faint burning smell, but attributed it to the random ghetto smells of the neighborhood I was driving through.  Soon, the music my phone was playing shut off.  I looked over and the whole phone had shut off.  I reached over, picked up the phone, and held the power button down to turn it back on.  No such luck.  While I was holding it, the burning smell increased in intensity.

Sniffing closer to the phone, I definitely smelled a much stronger smell of electronics burning.  I unplugged the phone…but it was too late.  The charging port was black.  The tip of the cable was now smoking and melting itself.  I immediately thought of the $350+ bill this is going to cost me.  Worse, since the Wegmans app is where we keep track of our shopping lists, I had to run back to the house and grab one of my retired Swagbucks (like Perk) phones that could at least run the app for me.

Fiddling around with the phone, I thought, “You know what?  This isn’t that bad…”


I really didn’t need it to do much (or so I thought).  After writing about my experiences with Ting, I believed I only used the phone for:

  • WiFi browsing/calling/texting
  • Occasional, infrequent cellular usage when I needed something special
  • Emergency usage

I even enjoyed not being able to install some apps on such an old phone.  It meant less time with my focus on the phone, and more time being spent in the moment.  So, I ordered a SIM card from Ting so that I could use this $13 refurbished phone on their service.  Things started to go downhill from there.

While I waited for the SIM to ship, I continued to use the phone as my daily driver.  I learned that the phone would not ring for incoming calls or texts whatsoever, until I opened Hangouts again.  Perhaps it was running out of memory, and couldn’t keep Hangouts open in the background to await incoming communications?  This is on WiFi as well, so I definitely had service.  I also was unable to install the USAA app, which I need to use to cash checks and deposit them straight into my checking account.  Otherwise, I’d have to do a very roundabout way.  The last major issue was that the phone was unable to install any offline navigation app…so I would be using data if I ever needed to navigate.  I wanted a more modern phone.  Yes, it’s a want…not a need.

The SIM card arrived, but I learned that the phone was still locked to Metro PCS…making it impossible to use on Ting.  Bummer.  I was out $14 for the SIM, and now I have to buy a new phone anyway.  Now the trouble is, do I cheap out or go all out?

I definitely went all out.


Why?  Several reasons.

  • I have low impulse control when it comes to technology
  • I wanted it
  • I have low impulse control when it comes to technology

But really, be that as it may, while the phone was $299, I’m nurturing my interest and love for technology.  You know where I’d be if I never bought myself good technology?  I wouldn’t know how to build my own PC, make websites, host my own server, root phones, or automate phones.  My house wouldn’t have some fancy and cheap DIY home automation.  I definitely would not be employed as a Software Engineer.

I’m not saying that if you buy this $299 phone, you’re going to get hired as a Software Engineer.  I’m saying that if you’re interested in something…a hobby or a career that you really love…go ahead and spend some money on it.  If I was Fred home-maker who just needed a device that rang when his kids called and to occasionally respond to email/texts and browse Reddit…I would not suggest a higher-end phone.  But me?  I’m going to use this phone.  It’s going to be my hub for communicating to my home automation.  My hub for depositing checks and depositing every single piece of information that I need to hold onto…whether it’s in Evernote or Rememberthemilk.  Once I’m done with my initial course in Java this semester, I’m going to start writing some basic Android apps…just because it’s fun to me!

Everything else in life?  I’ll cheap out on.  Used furniture, rice and beans for lunches, never eating out, walking/biking most everywhere and all of the other things you typically here around the FI blogosphere.  Technology though (and maybe it’s just something I have to let go) is my weakness hobby and career.

I did, however, also not cheap out on service

Device aside, I do think that I went a little overboard with service.  I switched plans from Ting to Project Fi, Google’s own wireless carrier.

Ting usually cost me anywhere between $6-$16/mo.  It was $6 if I could go an entire month without turning on my cellular service (staying on WiFi) to avoid calls and texts that would put me into the first “tier” of pricing for each.  Typically, I was unable to do this and ended up paying $3 for a minute-long conversation and $3 for getting texted once while on cellular service.  No matter how you use, once you’re in that tier (by using the phone or texting once), you’re paying that much.  Still, that’s fine.  You get what you pay for and $16/mo is the cheapest thing I could find.

How is Project Fi’s pricing?  It starts at $20/mo…which gives you unlimited talk and text.  Then, you pay for the data that you use at the price of $10 per 1GB of data.  So, if you used 200MB, your bill would be $22.  I’ll know how much data I typically use later…but I’ll try to keep it bare bones.  For now, let’s just say my bill will be $22/mo.

This brings me to about $6 more per month.  What’s that $6/mo getting me?

  • Unlimited talk and text.  Yes, finally, I will be able to be in communication wherever I go.  With Ting, I would keep my costs down by turning on Airplane Mode and only living off WiFi.  Now, I will just turn off mobile data so that I can still receive calls and texts.
  • The coverage of two networks, Sprint and T-Mobile.  Both pretty crappy networks, but the hope is that it will make a big, Frankennetwork!  My phone will automatically switch networks based on the coverage that is better.
  • Free texting and same data rates when going international.  International calls are $0.20/min.  Now when I hope to take that Panama trip, I can still get directions to places.

Whether or not those things are worth $6/mo, I’m not sure.  It’s still very cheap, though.  I’m going to give Project Fi a shot for awhile and if I don’t see the value, I can always go back to Ting.  There are no contracts for either (and I still have that Ting SIM I can’t return!).

That’s really what being frugal is all about – directing your money to things that will enhance your life and getting the most value out of what you pay for.  Or, maybe I’m just fooling myself and trying to make myself feel better for getting a “latest and greatest” phone.  While I do think that I’m trying to make myself feel better, I don’t think I’m fooling myself.

I’m in a little trouble here, because this post sort of directly challenges my post on “When enough is enough.”  Yes, my needs are taken care of without this phone or the tiny boost in service.  I could very well learn to live without such niceties, but I think this is one area that I’ll splurge a bit on.  I think a lot of people, including me, get caught up in saving money so much that they’ll even neglect to nurture their passions or hobbies.  I don’t need the nice phone, but the added functionality will be used every day and I have my personal fun tinkering with it.  So I think the lesson that I have to learn it to unleash my savings death grip a little on my bank account when it comes to things that I’ll really enjoy.

What are your guilty spending pleasures?  Do you think you’re just fooling yourself that you’re actually ‘frugal’?

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  1. February 21, 2016

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