Electronic Expenditures

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Two small occurrences yesterday, coincidental, put me into this train of thought — not a new thought, but one I’ve run through in various permutations before. We spend more money today on electronic services and devices that didn’t even exist a few years ago. They didn’t even exist, and now we “can’t live without them”.

The events from Thursday were: linemen attaching the Google Fiber box to our house, and a flyer from Verizon trying to get us to come back to them as our cellular carrier.

Both of the above events were related to changes were we made decision to downsize or downprice our electronic services. Because it is amazing how much of the budget they have managed to become.

Let me take the Verizon item first. I remember my first mobile phone (it was a car bag phone, so not exactly a “cellular phone”) was through Cellular One in NYS. But my first cell phone was with Sprint through a discount offer at work. For a long time we just had the one phone. Then we decided to bundle our cell phone with our land line and internet and “save” money by going to AT&T. We never had any real complaints about the service with AT&T, but we never got all the discounts on our bill we were promised. It got aggravating. By this point we were up to two cell phones.

So eventually we decided to unbundle. We got rid of the land line, went to Verizon for the cell phones, and chose Clear.com for our internet. By this point we had three phones. Then we got four, one for everyone, and upgraded to a plan that allowed unlimited text, but limited minutes.

At the same time the Clear.com rates went up. We had no problems with their service when it worked, but when a tower went down we could be without for a week. Not satisfactory.

Sometime last year Google Fiber offered to come through. We found that they would give free internet for 7 years just for buying the box in the house for $300 — even using the prorated plan of $25 a month to buy the buy we would save $20 a month the first year. The speed seemed to be the same we had, so why not. But it took them almost a year to actually push the lines out to us.  Just yesterday they brought the fiber out behind our house, and extended it to a box on the side of the house.  Now we just wait 2-3 weeks until they call and schedule the actual installation time.

Which is fortunate in another way. Clear.com is a part of the Sprint corporate structure, and they are retiring the service in November. So we needed something to replace it before then anyway.

Speaking of Sprint, back in December we transferred our burgeoning phone bill to Sprint as part of their half-price plan. They would give us the same plan we had for half the price, including unlimited texting and minutes. We had unlimited text before, but not minutes, so it actually became and upgrade. We had no data before, but the Sprint plans couldn’t have less than a gig of data a month, so we also got that. We just had to buy new phones. Paying for them makes the savings only 25% instead of $50, but eventually they should be paid off.

It took Verizon awhile to acknowledge what we did, and Thursday we got a flyer asking us to come back, telling us all the savings they would give us, on the plan, on the new smart phones we could buy. But even paying for one phone on their flyer would cost more than our entire bill with Sprint.

People say Sprint’s network isn’t that great. But for where we are, and what we do, we get what we need without complaints. And with a lot of savings.

All these electronics are sort of like the housing boom: convincing people that they always need more and more (I was going to say bigger and bigger — but for electronics it is usually smaller and smaller). The key is knowing what is enough. We took years to add texting — and I expect we will take even longer, if ever, to go to smart phones.  My wager is we will skip smart phones and got to the next thing that will come along to replace them.

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