I want to have a little discussion on Minimalist Communications. I’m going to dedicate the next few posts to talking about several forms of communications and how we can apply our minimalist values to them. We have many different ways to communicate. I think we can generally agree that as minimalists, we aspire to keep things in our life that hold value and release those things that don’t. A big part of this for me has been eliminating duplication. I don’t need two sets of glassware and dozens of old ragged t-shirts.
How Many Phones Do You Need?
But this post isn’t about t-shirts or glassware. It’s about communications, and specifically it’s about phones. Most people that I know have a home phone and a cell phone. The home phone is usually a standard land line phone, but some have a phone through their cable provider. For us, it was a standard land line phone from the phone company.
In addition to the land line phone, Dream and I also each had a cell phone. And there we have the duplication. We had to different types of phone communications. We had our home phone and we had our cell phones.
A couple of years ago I went through a layoff, and was out of work for several months. During this time we evaluated all of our bills and decided to eliminate anything that wasn’t necessary.
We realized that the land line phone was ridiculously expensive when compared to our usage. A single basic line with caller ID was costing us between $40 and $50 a month. We rarely used our land line phone, and the times we did, we could have easily used a cell phone instead. Not only that, but we often had long distance charges that we wouldn’t have on a cell phone.
Meanwhile, our cell phones were running about $70 a month. We tended to use our cell phones more. They were just more convenient, we always had them with us, and all our contacts were programmed into them.
We were spending $50 on a home phone and $70 on cell phones. It was clear that we should consider getting rid of either our home phone or our cell phones. We decided to consider canceling our home phone. Here are some of the things we considered as we contemplated canceling our home phone in favor of using our cell phones for all our communication needs.
We considered the downsides to not having a land line phone
- The biggest was 911 being able to find us in an emergency. The land line automatically gives an address when you call 911. The cell phone doesn’t. Still, we have never dialed 911 from home, and don’t forsee a need to do so often. We estimated that if we ever do need to call 911, in most situations we will be able to give our address. As enhanced 911 (e911) becomes more prevalent this will become less of a concern. And finally, would we pay $50 a month just to have 911 show our address? The answer to that question is “no.”
- No phone in multiple rooms. Using a cell phone meant that we wouldn’t have a phone in the bedroom, living room, and office. We decided we could get by with walking to the kitchen where our cell phones lived, to make or receive a call.
- Our young daughter’s access to a phone in an emergency. This goes along with the 911 issue above. My daughter was 3 at the time, and at some point during the preschool years they learn to dial 911 in an emergency. When the time was right, we solved this by teaching her how to dial 911, and mommy or daddy, using the speed dials and also by 9-1-1 green button. Problem solved.
- We’d have to keep track of minutes. We had to do this with long distance anyway, since most of our family was just outside of our local calling range.
- We’d have to notify our contacts, bank, doctors, family, friends, etc. to direct them to a cell number instead of the home phone number.
We looked at the benefits to going cell phone only
Cost was pretty much the only factor. The land line was expensive for how little we used it.
The decision to cancel the land line home phone
There was only one real benefit – cost – but that benefit outweighed all the negatives. We’d be saving $50 a month by canceling the land line and using the cell phones that we already had. We did end up moving to the next tier in our cell plan to have more minutes, but that cost was still an overall savings.
Really, the biggest thing to overcome was fear. Since the day I was born, there has always been a land line phone in the house. It was a little scary to sever that connection. Even though we had the cell phones for communication, we still felt uneasy about cutting that hard wired connection. The fear was unfounded though. We’ve been land line free for about two years, and haven’t missed it.
In my next post I’m going to talk about the future of the cell phone, the Internet capable smart phone; phones like the iPhone, Android phones, and Windows phones.
I’d love to hear from you on the topic of home phones and cell phones. I know from past comments that a few of you don’t use cell phones. Do you have a home phone, cell phone, or both? Why do you choose to keep either or both?