Updated on 02.22.15

This One Move Can Save You $1,000 a Year

It can make you more productive, too.

Man and woman using smartphones at restaurant

In addition to saving you money, ditching your smartphone can reduce distractions at work and help you be more attentive around people you care about. Photo: Matthew G

It lets you shop endlessly on eBay. It keeps you tuned into the latest water-cooler gossip on Facebook. It allows you to follow photo stories of people — some you know, some you don’t — on Instagram. You can watch endless videos while waiting for the train. Access your email everywhere you go, and an entire music library right at your fingertips.

Anyone can reach you any time in a seemingly endless number of ways. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Until you see pictures of teens and adults alike ignoring people in the same room because everyone is staring at their handheld devices.

Cellphones today have more memory and power than the biggest computers in the world did just a few decades ago. The technology advancements in the last 10 to 20 years have been nothing short of astounding. But every now and then we need to take a step back and ask whether our technology is working for us or against us.

So with life at our fingertips, what could we have to possibly complain about? For starters… the price we pay.

Cellphone plans that include data run about $150 a month with taxes, surcharges, and fees. Do the math and that’s $1,800 a year to use a smartphone.

Seems steep, doesn’t it? Especially considering you probably have Internet at home and/or at work. So is it really worth another $1,000 a year to have Internet on your phone, too?

Unlimited talk and text plans run about $55 a month, or $660 a year. That’s a savings of about $1,120 to use a phone with unlimited talk and text instead of a smartphone.

We’re living in an era when data, phone, and smartphone plan prices are bordering on criminal and haven’t gotten close to the point of being favorable to the end users (you and me). Cellphone providers are making huge profits, but the price of data hasn’t dropped to the point where an unlimited monthly data plan is a justifiable investment for most consumers.

Fortunately, there is good news coming as technology continues to improve and cellphone plans and data rates will become more affordable.

In the meantime, it’s time to ditch the smartphone and save yourself the extra $1,000 a year. That’s $1,000 a year in your pocket. Take a family vacation. Invest it. Pay down debt.

Power Off, Be More Productive

Give it a couple of years, and I bet smartphone rates and phone prices will come down to the point where getting an unlimited data plan and a cool smartphone won’t cost you hundreds of dollars a month. Until then, if saving money or paying down debt are your goals, pocket the $1,000 a year and think about all the other benefits of not having a smartphone:

  • Refrain from constantly checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat.
  • Actually enjoy and experience the moment instead of just taking pictures of it to share with others.
  • No more worrying about going over your monthly data allowance.
  • Be more present, become a better listener, and improve the quality of time with the people you are with.
  • Be more attentive in meetings.
  • Make more actual phone calls, and thereby strengthen relationships with the people in your life.
  • Checking email just a couple times a day will allow you to get more done in less time with fewer interruptions. Exhale. You are no longer on email 24/7/365.
  • More end-of-the-night time with your partner, as you won’t be on your smartphone in bed (it’s okay to admit it, we all do it).
  • A better night’s sleep, as studies have shown staring at illuminated screens before bed makes it harder to fall asleep and disrupts sleep patterns.

Like how this sounds, but not quite ready to take the leap? Consider that the $1,000 a year doesn’t even factor in what you paid for your smartphone.

Here is a small step you can take tomorrow: Leave your cellphone at home for the day or, if you work from home, turn your phone off for 24 hours.

Most people who try this are shocked to find just how programmed they are (even when the phone doesn’t buzz) to interrupt themselves and check their phones. And for what? To aimlessly surf the Internet, socialize, and check email?

We are the first generation to deal with smartphone addiction — and to pay $1,000 a year to use a technological marvel that didn’t exist just a decade ago. It reminds me of smoking. While I’m not a smoker, smoking also costs people thousands of dollars a year and is extremely addictive. Not to mention bad for your health.

Are smartphones the new cigarettes? I certainly wouldn’t go that far, but they are a new addictive phenomenon that has taken the world by storm.

And maybe you want to be part of it all. That’s fine.

But take a step back and a bit of time away to make the decision for yourself as to whether or not smartphones and data plans are a good investment of your money and time. At the very least, consider turning your phone off for 24 hours as a first step to see what it feels like.

Joe Sweeney is a social entrepreneur, committed to helping individuals and organizations grow and solve problems. Most recently, he was the co-founder and CEO at 100state, a nonprofit, startup community of entrepreneurs, educators, and innovators in Madison, Wis. Joe was recently named one of 53 entrepreneurs on Madison Magazine’s “M List: The New Who’s Who” for his work with 100state.

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