My wife, Julissa, and I have had some real discussions over the past few weeks about our need to be connected, our use of technology and what kind of value it brings to our lives. We’ve decided to make some changes that will not only save money, but also bring our lives into sync with our beliefs and priorities.
Now, don’t be mistaken, we’re not Luddites or techno-peasants, but one day it dawned on us that we’re spending way too much money on phones, internet and cable TV. In fact, we’re squandering money, money that could be used to grow our business, fund our retirement or leave a legacy for our children.
“So,” you ask, “how much money could you possibly be spending that would make any real difference to a retirement fund or an inheritance?”
Probably about as much as you. We have two bills and they encompass our business technology needs and our personal needs at home. Our cell phone plan is with T-Mobile and we have 3 lines with unlimited voice, data and text. Two of those are for me and Julissa–our business phones–and one is for our son, for personal use. We believe the phones we use for business are necessary. We field business calls all day and night, we use data for internet and navigation, we text routinely with clients. We work from home, but are usually out with clients or in meetings at the office. Though it would not be impossible (there was a time when NOBODY had a cell phone,) we would be hard pressed to not have cell phones. The line for our son is not necessary, but we want him to have it, so we’ll keep it. The cost of our plan is about $190, but with all the extra charges, fees and taxes, it is $240 a month.
Our home service is very basic. Our provider is Time Warner Cable, and we have broadband internet, a home phone, and basic cable with no premium services like HBO or any of the sports networks. Our monthly bill for the bundled plan is $160, but with fees, taxes and other charges, it is usually $180 a month.
Our monthly cost to be connected is about $420 a month. Over $5,000 a year.
That’s just nuts!!! I don’t even know how that happened, and like you, I’ve just kind of accepted that it was necessary for all these years. But, really, there’s no way I should be paying that much money each month, even if it is justified for business. Can you think of any better ways to spend $420 each month? What about the opportunity cost?
That’s a car payment. That’s 2 times our annual property tax, which pays our portion of our public school bill, our road and street maintenance, and our county and city government. That would paint the interior of my home each year, or pay all my home maintenance bills. I have investment properties that cost me less to maintain each year. I could pay off the mortgages on them much quicker and increase the amount of residual income we have coming in each month. Or, we could buy another one and use that money to establish a maintenance fund and vacancy fund. We could help fund a co-op vacation home at the beach, or buy a time share, or save for a trip to Tuscany. We could make the maximum contribution to an IRA. We could increase our tithing and offerings and help those who are close to us that need our help.
There are a lot better ways to spend $5,000 than pushing it out over a radio wave or a Cat-5 cable.
So, we decided to do that–find ways to decrease our cost to be connected and use the rest to make a difference in our lives, the lives of our children and the lives of our friends. We came up with a plan, and it’s pretty simple:
- Eliminate our home phone and basic cable and replace it with Google Voice, books from the library or Kindle, and internet TV services like Netflix, Hulu and Xbox Live, then;
- Get rid of our monthly cell phone plan as we can (that whole 2 year commitment thing) and transition to prepaid plans.
Our goal is not too unrealistic. We want to cut our expense in half. We want to save about $200 a month, $2500 a year.
Sounds easy, right? I hope it is. In the next couple of posts, I’ll report on what we had to do to reach our goal and how easy or difficult it actually was. I’ll also report on what difference it made in our daily life–whether the high price of being connected is worth it or if the changes we made resulted in any dissatisfaction with what we’re getting.
You know, in the grand scheme of things, we do enjoy the quality and convenience being connected brings to our personal and business life. We just think that we’re paying too much for it. In a very practical sense, there is no tangible gain for what we’re paying; no real property, no physical asset. Though we recognize the need for it and the value it brings, the cost of it is out of balance with the other costs in our budget, and way out of proportion to the other things we want to do that make a real impact in our community.
Proverbs 13:22 “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”