Reason Prevails over Spending Temptation

July 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Spending

You may recall that Mr. ToughMoneyLove had a little cell phone vs. water episode during last week’s vacation. After a brief period of anxious withdrawal, I enjoyed several stress-free days of life without a phone in my pocket.

Upon my return to the working world, I had to dispense with the idea that I could remain in a cell phone free life. I won’t bore you with all of the reasons but here is a biggie: I have a few important clients who have become accustomed to calling my cell phone at random times. Cutting them off would be bad for business. ‘Nuf said.

So I took a trip to the AT&T store to have them confirm that my three-year old phone with the weak battery was in a terminal condition. It was.

The Spending Temptation

At that point it would have been very easy for me to utter the magic words “iPhone 3GS,” plunk down $300, and be done with it. My wife owns an iPhone and loves it. It now has decent integration with our firm’s network resources, and has all of those cool “apps” available. Believe me – I was tempted. But I decided to look at other options. I gathered information at the AT&T store and then headed to Best Buy. They have most of the phones that AT&T sells and often has deals that are better.

I found a touch-screen LG phone on sale – for $50 – that was very similar to my deceased phone. It was a Windows Mobile device just like my old phone. It integrated 100% with our firm’s network and application resources, even better than the iPhone. It was smaller, had full voice commands (which I love), pocket versions of all Office applications, and integrated WiFi and GPS. It was not as “cool” as the iPhone and no gigantic “app store” was available. But I had done fine for three years with a Windows Mobile phone. Did I really need to spend an extra $250 to have access to features and apps I didn’t actually need in my pocket?

Before I finally answered that question, I asked the Best Buy sales person to power-up the LG phone so I could test it. Alas, they had none in stock. I had to leave town on business the next day. Was this yet another a sign that I should pull the trigger on the iPhone?

The Spending Decision

Again, I resisted the temptation. I dropped my SIM card in an old flip-phone that my son had used until the display failed. But I could place and receive calls with it. It bought me some additional time to resist the temptation of the iPhone.

Upon my return, I visited another Best Buy that had the LG phone in stock. I tested it and found it acceptable. For some applications, a stylus would be required but I am used to that. I bought it and put it right to work. Had it synced up to my office in ten minutes. So far, so good.

Does part of me still wish I had an iPhone? Sure, the gadget freak part of me does. But I believe I made the right call.

When making a spending decision for a product like a cell phone, it seems you have several choices at the interface of behavior and personal finance. In this case, the choices might be: (a) proudly telling yourself (or your friends) about having bought the latest $300 iPhone with access to 250 cool apps; or (b) proudly telling yourself or your friends that you found a $50 phone that has everything you need plus you have $250 leftover in your pocket. I resisted the temptation of (a) and chose (b).

If you are an impulse shopper (which I try not to be), you never really consider (a) or (b) at the pre-purchase stage. You buy now and maybe later you start thinking about it. That rarely works.

Finally, I need to throw a quick shout-out to son #1 for recently having made a similar decision. He is also a gadget guy and really wanted one of the new iPhones. Instead, he found a fully featured phone offered by Amazon – for free, with service activation. He resisted and saved big. Good for him. We need more of that discipline at all stages of our lives.

Do any of you have similar stories?

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6 Responses to “Reason Prevails over Spending Temptation”
  1. My Journey says:

    The Wife had the exact same situation as you this week. She dropped her phone, which was out of warrarnty but too soon to extend our contract in water. She REALLY wants a blackberry, and being the husband I am I said whatever you want because I know she isn’t crazed with material items.

    Well it turns out if she upgraded to a blackberry (bought on ebay) she would have to upgrade her contract from 50 bucks a month to 80 PLUS WHATEVER THE PHONE COST!

    Instead she got a refurbished PDA Smart Phone (Moto Q9C – windows based) and gets literally every option of a blackberry for the same monthly price.

  2. Dangerman says:

    Although I agree with your point generally… don’t forget that an iPhone 3G can be had for only $99. The $300 is the very most expensive model. So really you only saved $49 and still got a way worse phone.

  3. Dangerman: I considered the 3G but it does not have voice commands which I find highly useful as a safety feature when driving. It only has limited memory (8GB) whereas the LG will take microSD cards. It was a close call.

  4. Rick Beagle says:

    You know, this is an excellent post, and good for you!

    I am constantly startled at how many people purchase technology just for it’s perceived “coolness” factor. Honestly, if you are not fourteen years old, you should buy technology that is appropriate to you.

    Good lesson, thank you for sharing.
    Rick Beagle

  5. lurker carl says:

    Rick absolutely right. Most techno-gadgets are used by youngsters for showing off to strangers or making friends jealous. Price is not considered until the bill comes due. But when your income depends on a modern communications device, you need to stay in sync with your clients’ expectations. Since my livelyhood does not, I’ll keep my Tracfone.

  6. Revanche says:

    I’m actually coming at this from the opposite end of the spectrum: I was given the original iPhone by my employers almost two years ago, and tried to find every which way around activating it but couldn’t when my existing phone fell apart. I’ve always hated the inflated monthly bills and am trying to plan for my contract’s end in February.

    Shall I continue with the phone until it dies, or try to find a comparable phone for a lower monthly bill and better plan? Or can I downgrade to a simpler phone without all the bells and whistles? I have to admit that the mapping function has been invaluable in my latest travels.

    My goal is to find a good compromise wherein the phone is modern enough to serve my needs but is not primarily a tech toy.

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