Category Archives: Spending

Cell Phone Shopping

I’ve been blessed or cursed depending with your point of view with a work issued cell phone now for the last several years which they allow me to also use as my personal cell.  This eliminated the need to carry two phones around and also meant I haven’t paid a personal cell phone bill in years.  After leaving  my current employer it was time to get a new personal cell phone.  Someone well timed my wife also needs an upgrade to hers as well.

It’s amazing to me that most people tend to go about getting a new cell phone with one simple question: do you prefer Android or Apple?  Well somewhat crude it does tend to start you down one path or the other.  In my case I’ve actually used both over the years and I have to admit I’m an Android fan.  Why?  Mainly because I like the greater degree of control that Android OS offers, but also the fact I personal feel the price of an Apple phone isn’t worth it for the features and performance it offers. After all a iPhone retails for over $900 each $1300 each for the newest model. My wife also agrees which makes this first decision easy: Android it is.

Now with that done the next question to address if what do you need your phone for?  For me and my wife that is mainly texting, with a not too many calls and not a lot of data usage. In addition, this is a bit more complicated because of two other reasons.  First since my old phone is used for work and personal it means I only have a rough idea of what I would use a personal phone for since the usage was all mixed together.  The second is we are planning on cancelling on landline soon and transferring those calls to my wife’s phone which means we aren’t entire sure what she is going to need for calls.  So in the end after looking around at various plans and providers we decided to go prepaid and skip a contract for the moment. After we get a better idea of our usage we might consider a contract in the future but for now we want to go as low cost as possible and some flexibility on usage.  In the end, I found a prepaid option with Koodo that has good network coverage in our province (my wife was previous with Rogers which coverage sucks for most rural locations near us so we removed them from the list of options) and also has a basic plan with unlimited texting (and texting photos) for $15/month per phone.  The bad news was that didn’t include any calling minutes or data, but with their prepaid plan you could buy boosters for talking minutes and data usage that don’t expire.  Thus we can buy some boosters to start with and see how we actually use our phones for over a while and then decide to shift to contract or other option in the future.  So in a word: flexibility.

So skipping the contract on a new phone then has the implication of we aren’t likely to get a phone for free or discounted.  So now we need to buy new phones out right for each of us.  I decided that my previously issued work iPhone 5s was fine so for my usage so I used that as a template for specs when looking for a new phones for us to buy.  I also decided early on I wanted to avoid Samsung as a manufacture for our new phones.  Why? Well that is because we have several Samsung tablets in our house for the last few years and it drives me a bit nuts that the customized android OS uses so much bloody memory.  I mean that thing has so much bloatware on it you end up spending more time managing memory issues than anything else.  So after looking around for options that will work with Koodo’s network we decided on the LG K4 2017 for both of us should meet our needs.  Then after shopping around I found them for $100 each over at Best Buy’s website (which was $20 less than Koodo’s site).  So with free shipping the new phones arrived at our house a few days later.  The bonus I wasn’t expecting with the phones were they already included SIM cards for Koodo so that saved us another $20 each and they offer when you active your phone you get a $20 credit on your account.  So adding that together we saved like $60 for each phone.  Nice way to start.

Then we setup the accounts online and picked out a boosters to start with which is where we learned we qualified for a few other goodies like an extra 100 anytime call minutes for registering a credit card to our account and when you sign up for auto payments your account get credited back 10%.  Then we added in some boosters to get us started.  I picked up 100 anytime call minutes and 1 GB of data to start, while my wife picked up 500 anytime call minutes and 1 GB data to start (keep in mind she is replacing our landline so we expect her to get more calls).  So all in we spent another $85 for our first month of texts and all the boosters.  After this our monthly cost will be $30/month for both phones (keeping in mind we get 10% of that back as a credit on the accounts).  This is actually close to our current costs as my wife’s text plan was only $5/month and we spend $20/month on the landline.

Now we just have to sit back and see how long our minutes and data take us to use up.  I’m guessing a fairly long while as we actually keep our data off entirely when we are at home.  Instead we use the existing WiFi in the house.  Even when I leave the house I actually keep the data off until I need it for something.  I personally don’t care to be notified when every email arrives or when someone ‘likes’ a post of mine on Facebook so it stays off most of the time (beside I disable most notifications on my phone anyway).

So that is our initial plan for our new cells phones for a total start up cost of just over $300 and around $30/month operating costs to start with.  Not too bad.

Spending More on the Right Things

I swear some people think my life must be like a monk.  They confuse the fact that I don’t spend a lot with not spending anything at all.  So to clear that up: yes I spend money.  When you think about it, everyone does it so that isn’t so odd.  Yet perhaps the major difference between a lot of my spending and other people’s spending is I’m usually thoughtful on what I spend my money on.

Yet this does not mean I never impulse buy.  In fact, yes I splurge on impulse items once in a while.  Just once every few months rather than twice a week.  For example, my latest one was I was at the bank to deposit a cheque and I recalled that the local HMV location near me was shutting down soon.  So I wandered over there saw a sign stating that it was it’s last week and all the DVDs and Blu-rays were 50 or 60% off.  So I walked around the store and found a few items and bought them (Mr Robot Season 2, Contact and I Robot..if you were wondering).  Did I need them? Nope.  Did I plan for them? Nope.  Did I want them like a two year wants a piece of candy? Hell yes!  Yet prior to that I really can’t really recall a similar impulse spending event for the last six months.  At the very least I usually have a 24 hour cooling off period prior to buying something.

Then on the other hand I sometimes think things out too much.  I recently had decided to seek out a faster internet speed package from my telecom provider since after months of trying to deal with the issue I came to the conclusion: our internet is too slow for what our house uses it for.  Prior to that I had done numerous technical troubleshooting sessions to see if I could squeak more speed out of out internet, but didn’t improve things all that much. Yet in the end I decided I wanted a faster connection it comes down to this…my kids grew up and spend a lot more time online and my wife started to watch Netflix more.  So I was increasingly battling my family for times to download some files or watch Netflix myself.  So I called in and confirmed my options and found out that I could increase my internet speed from a max speed of 1.5 MB/s to 5.0MB/s (yes nearly 3 times faster)  for an additional $3/month.  After that I turned to my wife and said, “I’m a bloody idiot. I should have found that out ages ago and just upgraded.”  Now I can download a large file in a fraction of the time prior and while my wife watches her show on Netflix.  I was just in the habit of making do with what I had that it took me a while to realize the solution would be to pay the extra monthly fee and upgrade.

So in the end there are two sides of spending: the not thinking about it all all for impulse buying and over thinking something for months that costs next to nothing.  Either end isn’t particularly useful so try to stay somewhere in the middle to achieve a happy balance. That is usually where I spend the most of my time but even I screw up. So where do you tend to fall on that scale for your spending?

Using What You Already Own

My wife and I use our spending cash to handle all the little things your typically buy yourself like a cup of coffee or a lunch out.  We both get $200/month each to fund whatever we want and if you don’t use it we are free to save it up for something else.  Essentially, it our way to ensure we have some money to spend guilt free without having to check in with it other.  The only expectation between us it we will use it to buy the odd bit of groceries for the house.  For example, some milk, eggs and bread.

Now January usually is a low spending month, after all, you just got a lot of stuff after Christmas so you typically don’t need much, but this month I have by accident taken it to extreme.  I have spent less than $25 of my spending cash for almost the entire month.  How did I do this?

Well I can tell you I wasn’t doing some super controlled spending challenge, or pinching my pennies till they squeaked.  Nope, it happened partly by accident and the other part of it was on purpose.

The first reason this low spending occurred is: my default state in life is to not spend money.  Pardon?!? I know it’s a bit odd, but perhaps I should approach this from the other side.  I know many people who consider that you have to spend money to have fun in life.  For example, to have fun with friends you must go out to a restaurant, pub, movies, etc.  Or to enjoy time as a family you must go out swimming or go to a movie at the theater.  Our lives are basically the opposite of that: how do I do things I enjoy without spending money (or very little money).  So to hang out as a family we go sledding with the kids at a local hill that is a five minute drive away and then we have hot chocolate with way too many marshmallows when we get home. Or we have friends over for supper and play games afterwards while the kids watch a movie in the other room.

The second reason is a bit of conscious exercise that I plan to do this year which is simple put: use the stuff I already own.  It may seem odd, but I noticed people tend to have the habit of always seeking out things they don’t have.  We want the new shirt or shoes; we want the latest movie, video game or a new book.  Yet we tend to ignore the huge pile of stuff we ALREADY own and don’t use much (if at all).

So to show a bit more respect to those previously spent dollars I’m making an effort this year to use what I already own.  I want to reread my favorite books, re-watch my favorite movies and TV shows, and use the recreation gear I already have (like roller blades and golf clubs).  I want to use our good dishes for the occasional Sunday supper.  I want to dig around my house and rediscover what I have forgotten we own (like the old Wii games or the video games that are already on my hard drive) and do projects with materials I already have.  Or cook with those spices and other food items I bought for one or two recipes and largely forgotten about.

Rather than looking for more without, I’m going to look for more within.  If nothing else, it should be a fun year.  So do you remember to use what you own?  If so, do you find it helps you spend less without much effort?