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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Needs vs Wants- Cell phones


Once upon a time, people sent messages by runners, couriers who transported letters using only the power of their own two feet. When these messages needed to get passed from one city to another, sometimes it could take as long as a few weeks for the messages to arrive, and even longer if the message needed to cross a body of water.
Then, the postal system was devised, and people no longer needed to rely on their own couriers, but could pay postmen to deliver their letters for them.

Along comes Alexander Graham Bell and revolutionized our modes of communique; he invented the telephone. At first, these weren't widespread, and people would call a neighbor who'd scurry to bring the intended to the telephone from another building.
Later, more and more people got home telephones, to the point that it is rare today for a person in the civilized world to not have a phone line.


There wasn't always voice mail. If you wanted to reach someone, you'd call them and hope they were home. If not, you'd try again and again until you'd reach them. People would not expect to call someone and find them immediately, no matter where they were located. If someone was out and about and needed to make a call, pay phones became available for that purpose.

Nowadays, we live in a world where many people would say they need a cell phone. Need? Not really. If humanity existed for thousands of years without them, they could hardly be considered a basic necessity. It is quite possible to survive without this device.



Yet, while I say that these cell phones are not needs, I definitely understand their appeal. We live in a world of instant gratification, where we expect that, should we want to reach someone, we should have a way of doing so. We want our dentists, plumbers, electricians, and dentists to have cell phones. We expect that they have one, and if they do not, we consider them to be unprofessional. My husband's boss expects him to have and use his cell phone (and no, the company does not pay for it). My old boss would expect me to call her from the road if I was running late. Not having a cell phone is quite detrimental to professional success today, in many cases.
In addition to their role in businesses, cell phones are usually a given when it comes to social acquaintances. When getting together with people, we call them from one cell phone to the other to determine where exactly to meet, update them on changes in our schedule, and call them when problems arise in addition to many other uses.

Theoretically, I could get rid of my cell phone. In fact, over the weekend, my husband and I were discussing just that, how one of our largest expenses after rent was cell phones. Yet, the prospect of ridding ourselves of this tool is a bit daunting for me.
People survived just fine without cell phones, but they also traveled less. They were usually home or around friends and family, so had little need for cell phones. I, however, live far from a city; in order to run most errands, I often will be gone for hours at a time, far from any accessible land line. Should an issue arise, sans cell phone, I would have a hard time contacting people (such as my husband) because pay phones are harder and harder to find (at least locally), as the assumption is that people will have a cell phone.
Additionally, as a mother who travels without a male companion, especially when traveling with my young children, I feel it is important to carry a mode of instant communications, for the sake of safety and emergencies. (I also happen to live in a location where many people get injured and die in car accidents and other unnatural causes, so I think that it is important for myself and my husband to have modes of instant communication, where we can keep tabs on each other, should any incidents occur.)
Lastly, as someone without a car, I depend on public transportation, which leads to my time being dictated by the schedule of the bus company; without cell phones, I would have no way of contacting my husband or anyone else to update them about transportation delays and consequent scheduling changes.

Here I've listed the reasons why I, personally, do not cut off my cell phone entirely. In short, I want it for emergencies and to allow people to contact me. However, using my phone for chitchat is a waste of money; on that I will agree; calling land line to land line is much cheaper.

Today, I'm heading on a trip. A trip to the city and to the main office of my cell phone company.
I'm changing my phone and my husband's phone to my country's equivalent of TracPhones. We will pay 25 dollars per phone and get our line to stay open, without needing to pay monthly fees. Incoming calls on these phones are free; any outgoing call will need to be made with prepaid purchased minutes. These minutes are expensive, but if we are not making phone calls, these minutes will remain unused, and we will pay less over all on phones than we are currently paying.

Do you have a cell phone? A basic plan or a more extensive plan? Do you think you're making a frugal decision in regards to cell phones, or do you have reasons for splurging on cell phones?

1 comment:

  1. We have used trac phone, one for hubby and one for me, for about eight years. Even these phones are an added expense but provide a security we feel worthwhile. When he is out of hearing on the tractor or chain sawing in the woods I can check to see if he is O. K. Also after my two flats on windy country roads in a week!! Not bad tires by the way but a piece of old turtle shell and a large nail. To us the phones are worth it.

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