Note: Prior to reading this article it may be important for the reader to know that my cell phone doesn’t take pictures, I do not text and I am seriously considering cancelling my cable satellite because of a $2 a month tax increase.
For what some people consider a routine cell phone bill I consider a decent car payment.
I recently counseled a single mother who is a licensed LPN and brings home a decent wage. However she is seven months behind on her mortgage and the gas company has shut off her service. Despite this and her contemplating giving her house back to the bank, she takes pride in the fact that she is current on her cell phone, cable and Internet. She thinks she doesn’t make enough money. Cable, Internet and cell phone usage was costing her nearly $400 a month. Her reaction to my suggestion of either cutting back or out some of the above mentioned items in her budget? Let me say it was less than enthusiastic.
When did we become so financially dependent, and I will argue psychologically also, to our phones and television? We place the same degree of importance on our cable and Internet and cell phones as heating and cooling our home or putting food in our refrigerator.
I hear from clients that “cable is their only form of entertainment” so contemplating living without it would be like not having air. Phones are not used to talk to people anymore; they are so 24 hours a day someone can text, tweet or email us and have our undivided attention whenever they need it. Heaven forbid we actually go to the grocery store, to work, drive a car or take our child to the park to play without using our cell phone. When did these become things that we “cannot” live without?
Everyone has a different idea of a “must-have” in his or her monthly budget. Should someone want to spend $400 a month on technology “must haves” and they are paying their bills on time AND they are making a monthly contribution to a savings account, then I see nothing wrong with that.
But the prices of these items keep increasing (thanks in part to a competitive cell phone provider industry and the fact that we happily go along with them) and many of us consumers refuse to reduce these expenses. Instead some forgo paying a bill that is rightly a necessity or use it as a reason why they cannot pay back a debt.
With technology ever changing we keep raising the bar on these must-haves and raising our monthly expenses along with it. (Someone asked me once since my phone didn’t have a camera option how did I take pictures? “With a camera”, I replied.) We have to DVR our television shows that we may or may not ever watch and we have to download applications to our cell phones to remind us to pay our cell phone bill.
Technological advancement is a brilliant thing. Our ever-growing financial dependence on it is not.
Morgan Gee is a Certified Credit Counselor with Chestnut Credit Counseling Services. Chestnut Credit Counseling Services is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.