Updated on 02.15.10

Dealing with Dissatisfaction

Trent Hamm

What do you do if you’re dissatisfied with your cell phone? You find that it endlessly frustrates you. It’s constantly interrupting you. It doesn’t have the features you want. Quite often, you just want to throw it in a desk drawer and forget about it.

Quite often, in this situation, people will go shopping for a new cell phone. They’ll feature-hunt, find one that matches what they think they need, and go out and buy a replacement.

Quite often, though, that’s money lost.

Why not step back a little bit more? Do you need a cell phone at all? Or, perhaps, maybe you only need a prepaid phone for emergencies or occasional mobile calls? If you find that the regular ringing of the cell phone is annoying you and you often just ignore it or turn it off, why are you paying for that service and that expensive phone?

What do you do if you’re dissatisfied with your television? The screen seems to be starting to go bad. It’s not giving you images in HD. It doesn’t “wow” you when you go into the room. In fact, you find yourself watching it less and less.

Sometimes, people will head to the store and pick out a nice new flat screen as a replacement in this situation. They’ll go home, install it, enjoy it for a while, and then find that it’s gathering dust, just like the one before it.

Why not step back? Do you really even need a television at all? Maybe you watch the few television series that you enjoy on your laptop or desktop computer instead – and you get your news there, too. If you’re just not using it as much, why are you buying an expensive replacement?

What do you do when you’re dissatisfied with your living room decor? The colors have been the same for a while and it’s just time for something fresh.

Do you start looking to replace all the furniture in the room? Do you spend your time sitting on that couch flipping through home decor magazines and websites, dreaming of how the room could look better?

Why not step back? Quite often, a room can look fresh and new with just a few simple changes, like a fresh coat of paint or a few alterations in the decorations. After all, repainting the walls and matteing a few photographs to hang on the walls is a lot less expensive than a new living room set.

When you’re dissatisfied with something, it’s rarely a good idea to just go buy a replacement for it. Stop for a bit and ask yourself why you’re dissatisfied. It might be that the item isn’t functional, but it might just be that you don’t really need that function in your life.

The best solution to dissatisfaction is, in the long run, rarely found in the wallet.

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  1. I don’t think the solution to a possession not performing the tasks you’d like it to is to dispose of the item all together.

    I think the right thing to do in these instances is to evaluate why you’re frustrated & if why you want the extra features. If you hate your phone because it’s not an iPhone, but you rarely find yourself needing the data capabilities, it’s silly to buy an iPhone. However, if you always need to check your email for work and you can get a credit toward the phone when your contract expires, it might be a worthwhile upgrade.

    If you never watch TV, then upgrading it is probably not the best use of your money. However, if you do watch TV, and most of the time are watching sports, that HD picture quality may improve your experience.

    If your couch is frayed, with scratchy foam sticking out all over, and it makes your living room look like it belongs in a cardboard box, a new couch may be in order.

    I could see how wanting to take a step forward could be delayed, but I don’t see how it necessitates taking a step back.

  2. Evan says:

    It is an interesting view on the situation. I know that when dissatisfied I look to blame someone else first (I know that is a personal issue right there lol).

    Problem with the Cell Phone? Call Sprint
    Problem with TV? Call phillips
    Problem with the Couch? Call someone (not sure who The Wife got that one lol).

    I find that if you are dissatisfied there is always someone on the other line to complain to. If that fails, that is when I look to see if I did enough research on the product, but like you I am unlikely to just purchase a replacement.

  3. Leah says:

    This post reminds me of Amy Dacyzyn’s (sp) particularly cruel advice with kids. She would get her kids small ice cream cones from McDonald’s. When they start clamoring for bigger cones and not appreciating what they got, she would just go to Mcdonald’s more often.

    It’s fine for an occasional treat, but it’s not the stance I’d take on everything. There are definitely times when people could do to cut back. But there are also plenty of times where considered, thoughtful money spent means a better experience. For example, say you blog. You want to have pictures, but you’re not pleased with your camera transfer software. You could scale back and just not worry about pictures . . . or you could go out, buy a card reader, and be over the annoyance already.

    I think the thoughtful, careful, measured use of money to make life easier is just fine. I don’t make a lot, and I used to pinch pennies until they bled. At some point (mostly via the Happiness Blog writings), I realized that there were areas where I could spend a little, glean great happiness, and not significantly set back my financial progress.

    The key is to not spend indiscriminately in all areas in search of happiness via the act of spend.

  4. SockSaver says:

    Funny thing about the living room, I was unhappy with the “same ole look”. Today my granddaughter and I re-arranged the furniture. That’s all(except for a major vaccumming and dusting). It looks larger now. Who knew? Just a little time and energy.

  5. Anne KD says:

    I’d rather ditch the house phone line and keep the cell. My cell is the main phone that I use, and the Bluetooth ear thingie I bought for it makes my life considerably easier. Not only can I work around the house while on the phone, but I can use the phone wherever I am. I don’t have a lot of people calling me and I make sure most people know that email is the better option for contacting me.

    We move our furniture around pretty often. I’m still working on painting- changing the interior of the house from dark cave colors (previous owners) to colors that make us happier. Paint is cheap, and painting the rooms myself keeps the color-changing project cheap.

    My car is still going really really well- 9 years old, great mileage. Sure, I’d love to have a car that’s bigger and has a place to plug in my iPod so I don’t have to suffer with the local radio stations’ playlists. But my car is paid off, doesn’t leak, too many other reasons that outweigh the perceived negatives mentioned above.

  6. I thought I loved TV but gave it up when I needed to buy a converter box. I love the extra space I have in my small living rm now.
    I had an iphone but when I wanted to cut back my budget a pre-paid plan with a basic phone was only $20/month (which included the phone) vs. $75/month with the iphone.
    At the time they seemed like HUGE sacrifices but I don’t even think about them now. I think it took me about a week to adjust.

  7. Kathy says:

    My father bought a Blackberry. I hate the thing. It is very, very non-intuitive. I spent 5 minutes with it and wanted to shove it in a drawer.

    Needless to say, when my phone broke, I did not look at Blackberries to find a replacement. I went with the Palm Pre (as an upgrade from a Palm Treo 755p which was an upgrade from the Treo 650 which was an upgrade from a Handspring Palm Device (and a Kyrocera phone) which was an upgrade from a Palm Pro from US Robotics.)

  8. vern says:

    Cell phones were invented so people could talk to no one about nothing.

    I’m in my 40’s and have never owned one and I don’t plan on it any time soon. My friends get a little irritated about this sometimes, but they get over it.

  9. Todd says:

    This fits nicely with the article the other day about so many things wearing out at once. A few years ago, when I was dissatisfied that so many of my things were worn out, I decided that I simply had too many things. I had so many electronics, appliances and pieces of furniture that something major was needing replacement almost monthly. I couldn’t keep up. So I did what you mention here–I reevaluated what I needed and got rid of about 30% of my furniture,electronic devices, etc. Now I have many fewer things that need replacing and when I do replace I can get the best quality thing I can afford.

  10. Shevy says:

    Wow, I totally disagree with your conclusions today.

    If your phone doesn’t perform, figure out what you want and need it to do, then get a phone that does those things. That’s what I did. I got rid of my Fido phone, a fairly basic model that got horrible reception. I replaced it with a (free) Blackberry Pearl that I adore. For about $10 or $15 more per month my phone now gets good reception, has free unlimited calling for the 5 numbers nationally that I chose (i.e. the numbers I call or get calls from the most), has an unlimited data plan (including texts) and means that I can access the internet at my rural home (where I’d otherwise need to pay $35/mo for a satellite connection). Then I cancelled my landline, saving $50/mo. I couldn’t do that previously (even though the only people who called it were telemarketers) because I couldn’t get a good enough signal in my city house (in a major metropolitan area) to complete a 2 or 3 minute call!

    We’re currently having issues with my husband’s old TV in the living room (snow, colour changes in the corners of the screen) so it only gets used when there’s a serious conflict. The rest of the time we watch my TV (in our bedroom). The downside for me is that my hubby will watch sports and reality TV 24/7 and our 7 yo will watch as much kiddie programming as we’ll allow. I rarely get to watch anything I want to any more and the TV is pretty well always on. We aren’t running to buy a new TV but, when we do (when we have the money for it), it will be a flat screen HD TV. My hubby wouldn’t consider anything else.

    As for home decor, I buy 3 or 4 shelter mags per month and they get read over and over and over. I should say that I studied interior design and have repeatedly used photocopies of pictures from them in various presentations. I don’t throw them out or cut them up, but store them neatly in wooden magazine boxes. I spend a lot of my free time figuring out exactly what I want both my homes to look like and it’s relatively cheap entertainment (maybe $30/mo max for the mags). Obviously, it costs more money when I actually start to renovate or buy or replace items, but it’s carefully thought out spending, not impulsive. So, looking at magazines *saves* me money. The one way I could reasonably save more money is to get subscriptions to one or 2 of the magazines. The other ones aren’t really any cheaper by subscription than at newsstands.

  11. Ari Herzog says:

    If you want to save money on your cell phone bill, track your past few months’ worth of used minutes in comparison to the number of allowed minutes on your plan; and if you have used far less than your allotment, perhaps you can lower your plan minutes and therefore lower your monthly cost.

    I did that a few days ago while talking to Verizon Wireless as the rep fixed a different issue; and I wound up saving about 50% per month in both minutes allowed and dollars spent by going down to a lower plan.

  12. Great post, Trent! My wife and I have found ourselves in the very situtions you speakof…and have inevitably spent MORE money–money we didn’t have. It’s kind of like a trap…
    Since the recession has bitten us, we have really learned to step back and get the most out of what we DO have.

  13. Gidon says:

    My HP J45xx 4in1 printer/fax/scanner/copier is VERY frustrating, I bought it for about $100 to replace the 56xx that served me wonderfully for a few years, started working slowly to not at all, and would require about $50 of non-waranteed work to maybe get it better. The 56xx is not being sold anymore, the J45xx has a few crazy bugs=features that drive me nuts!

    I can manage with the J45xx, it’s sill under warantee and is out at the shop just now, but I am extremely tempted to get the 56xx fixed too.

    Should I fix things that I am satisfied or buy something new that I would assume that Ill be more satisfied with?

  14. Amanda B. says:

    Flag on the post:

    Excessive use of “Quite often”.

    Fifteen yards, repeat first down.

  15. The older I get the more I realize I need less things to make me happy. For example, I hate watching tv. Literally, I hate how it consumes time and puts empty thoughts in my head. However, watching movies I find to be quite fun and I enjoy sharing that time with my husband on occasion, maybe a couple nights a week.

    Instead of throwing away our tv though we simply got rid of cable and the temptation, and spending is completely gone. It saves money, time and our attention spans.

    I like the idea of getting rid of something old instead of replacing it. Thanks for the post!

  16. Kate says:

    Your statement, “Do you really even need a television at all?” is revolutionary thinking.
    Think about how many things we could all accomplish without it: time to spend with family, friends and neighbors—time to volunteer in your city, church or schools—time to get out and exercise, garden or help a friend in need. Last summer our neighborhood was without electricity for 48 hours and for those few hours neighbors came out of their houses—they said,”Well we can’t watch TV/computer so we decided to come outside…” It reminded me of my childhood when summer evenings were spent outside playing and chatting with neighbors.(We only had 3 channels and reruns were in full swing!) I know there are many factors at play now but I do think TV hinders us from connecting.

  17. Amy H. says:

    Didn’t Amy Dacyczyn just go to McDonald’s LESS often?

  18. Leah says:

    #17, you’re completely right (re my comment #3). Whoops — less often.

    And I suppose it is a good strategy, but when I first discovered the tightwad gazette as a 13 year old, that seemed to be the most awful tip in the world.

  19. J says:

    @Anne KD — I plug my iPod into a cassette adapter in my car. If you don’t have a cassette player, you can also use a FM modulator that will “broadcast” your iPod’s signal where your radio will pick it up by tuning to a certain radio station. There are wireless and wired versions of FM modulators, and in my experience I’ve found the wired ones to work better, although they are more expensive.

    Sound quality is (by definition) as good as a cassette tape or FM stereo, but you have control over what’s playing. You can also charge your iPod in the car, too, using a cigarette lighter adapter.

    The best part is that nothing to do this is fantastically expensive, especially when compared against a new stereo or a new car.

  20. Rebecca says:

    I think reevaluating things that don’t meet your needs are important. A few months ago, I was totally fed up with our land line phone bill/internet bill. We didn’t have cell phones, and it was costing us $90 a month. We were also having the challenge of not being able to go out and leave the kids because 2 of our 3 are disabled and without a way to get a hold of us, no one was totally comfortable watching our brood. But a cell bill on top of the land line was outside our budget. So we started pricing, and found a cell plan for 2 lines, and a separate internet package, total cost about $100. So although it it a bit more than we were paying before, our money works far harder for us. Our internet is faster, which helps my husb work from home, we can leave our kids with a sitter knowing they can reach us anytime. Any I text my husb at work throughout the day to stay in touch, something we didn’t before.

  21. Wayward says:

    Timely article, Trent…seeing as how I just got an iPhone last weekend. I’ve been vacillating on whether or not to upgrade to one for some time. The clincher for me was work—Seeing as how I’ve been on the iPhone app development team at work for about 8 months now, I really should be using one. I’m hoping to get at least a partial reimbursement on the data plan cost (and the cost of downloading our competitors’ apps), but if not, it’s well within my budget.

  22. Dissatisfaction is an effective tool in my life. I almost like it becasue it usually leads to exactly what the author states.

    I either get rid of the source of dissatisfaction, or I find another, usually cheaper, solution.

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