Life without a Cell Phone: It’s OK to be weird

For the last 30 days I haven’t had a cell phone. This whole thing started over my money/life mentoring trip to Vegas last month. I was standing in the hotel lobby and my phone slide off a book and hit the floor….never to turn on again. I had planned to be offline the whole weekend, so didn’t think much about it. When I got home, I found out it would be $118 to fix or $150-$250ish to replace. Hum…I started to wonder, “How much value is my cell phone really adding to my life?” I pay $33 a month for my service. But am I getting $33 a month of value from it? So I decided to conduct a little 30 day experiment. What is life like without a cell phone?

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I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t love cell phones. I tend to lose mine for days on end. Forget to charge it. Or drop it in bodies of water. I always own the cheapest possible version. This one was actually the nicest I’ve ever had only because my mom upgraded her phone and I got the old one for Christmas.

Pros and Cons of a month cell phone-free

Email I have always hated having email on my phone. It took a form of communication I actually really liked and ruined it. Email is awesome because I can read and respond to people at a time that is convenient to me. Having emails come through my phone while I’m checking out at the grocery store ruins the whole concept. So I never installed my email onto my phone. That is actually an option in case you are wondering.

Twitter I did like being able to snap a picture and share it in real time. It was easier to share. That alone added about $5 of value a month to my life.

Facebook I didn’t like having Facebook on my phone and deleted the app. Mostly because I spend too much time there on my tablet or laptop as is. On my phone it was suddenly a temptation to scroll through my newsfeed when I really wanted to be connecting to the real people in front of me. So I deleted it rather than let it cause negative value.

Texting I don’t text a lot. Sometimes I text with my mentoring peeps. Sometimes with other bloggers. Occasionally with Mr. Montana, my mom or best friend. But being as I don’t know where my phone is half the time, it’s not really the best way to get a hold of me in real time. No one that sends me a text has the expectation I will respond within 5 hours let alone 5 minutes. Now, Mr. Montana does still have his phone (which he does love!), so I still have that option if my kids are being crazy cute and want to snap a pic to text to my mom.

Phone calls I don’t really love talking on my cell. I’m just old school like that. I like calling on landlines.

Emergencies This would add about $5 in value a month. Being able to call if I am out and about and need to get a hold of someone. This might be the reason I look into cheaper on demand options. But I also live in Montana. And by that I mean, if I really need to make a call, I just need to ask someone to borrow their cell phone. 90% of the time, they would say yes. 50% of the time they would seem overjoyed to help. People are just like that here. If I’m stuck on the side of the road, someone will stop to help. The ratio between honest helpful people to scary jerks is about 1000 to 2.

Mr. Montana is rather protective about his phone, but I might be able to wrangle it away from him every now and then if needed. (If I promise not to take it near water!)

It’s OK to be weird

The point of this post isn’t if you should have a cell phone or not.

The point is: It’s OK to be weird.

It’s OK to spend money on things that are the most important to you. It’s OK to spend money on things that add a TON of value to your life. And it’s OK to cut an expense that everyone else has because it’s not adding value or is not important to you.

It’s weird not to have a cell phone. I’m OK with that. It’s weird to cut something so ubiquitous, especially if it only costs $33 a month.

If you are like J$ and loving rolling around in Lexus. It’s OK.

If you wash your zipplock bags. It’s OK.

If you LOVE eating out like the awesome guys at The Resume Gap as you take 2 years to travel around the world. It’s OK.

If you save 60% of your income so you will have more financial freedom. It’s OK.

If you add milk to your ranch dressing to stretch it (um, that’s totally me). It’s OK.

If you spend $5,000 on a classic car like Mr. Montana or almost $3000 to take a 6 week road trip with your kids like we did. It’s OK.

Know what the most important things in your life are, and the things that add oodels of value: Spend money there. And know what things don’t.

It’s OK to be weird.

I happen to like my ranch dressing thinned out with milk. It’s drizzles better on salad. The idea of scooping and smearing Ranch on lettuce kind of grosses me out.

At a point in my mentoring program process, after we have looked at the 5 areas of a persons life that is the most important, we look at the current budget. I ask 2 questions. 1. Are there any areas that aren’t providing a good value for the amount you are spending? And, 2. What areas are so important you want to spend more time and money there? Both are important questions.

If the most important value is creating more financial freedom, it’s OK if you are investing 50-70% of your income. If your health is a huge priority, it’s OK if you have a gym membership (that you are using!). If you really want to travel with your kids, it’s OK if you sell your home and buy an RV.

It’s OK to be weird.

Do you know what our largest spending category was for 2016? Giving. That’s weird. We gave more money away than we spent on food, or utility bills, or even travel. But that’s us. It’s one of our most important values and our spending reflects that.

The problem with spending is when we get it all backwards. I talk to people in the mentoring program about the things that are most important in their life. Then we go through exactly what those things look like. If we look at their budget and none of it lines up. That’s a problem.

Being weird isn’t the problem. Spending and living opposite to your values is the problem.

At one point or another we have taken heat/been criticized by people about: investing too much, giving too much, buying rentals, buying a classic car, driving a beater car, being too frugal, working too much, taking time off work, not traveling enough and traveling too much. Seriously.

And I’m not even talking about internet trolls. Real people that we know and care about have criticized these choices. Because they are weird choices.  But our choices and our spending perfectly line up with our goals, values and plans.

When your spending and choices get really on point with your values and desired lifestyle, someone will ask concerned questions. Someone will subtly criticize. When you are saving 50% of your take home pay. When you are investing in rentals and giving up your nights and weekends. When you walk away from a stable job to pursue a bigger dream because you have enough financial freedom to do that. Questions and concerns. Lots and lots of questions and concerns will come your way.

It’s OK. You’re just being weird. (aka, on point with what you really want to get out of life.)

So I’m canceling my cell phone service. Maybe I’ll find a way to get a great value with another kind of plan. If not, I’ll just be the weirdo who doesn’t own a cell phone. I’m good with that.

For conversation:

Any choices you have taken heat over because they are weird?

Do people have a hard time understanding some of your choices (frugal, investing, passive income, lifestyle priorities)? How do you handle that?

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38 thoughts on “Life without a Cell Phone: It’s OK to be weird

  1. Yes and yes! I’ve been criticized for so many of my choices – parenting was one of the first ones where I really got some resistance. We did things a little different than family members and I think they thought we were going to totally screw up our kids. But, we didn’t waiver and, eventually, the criticism stopped. And my kids aren’t screwed up. 🙂

    Recently, someone expressed their doubt/disapproval of our FI plans. This was the first time I’ve gotten that (but then I don’t share much irl). Basically it went like this – “you can’t do that you crazy lady, it’s not possible in today’s economic environment, particularly with healthcare”. Au contraire. I will find a way. 🙂

    • I never ever shared our FI or early retirement/work optional plans. Until we put in notice at the 9-5. Then the flood of questions and concerns came all at once. It was actually much more challenging than I anticipated. But now I just tell people I’m a freelance writer. Which is true. I make some money writing for a start up company. But mostly I tell people that (they don’t know I blog/speak/coach/mentor, ect) because it’s easier. It puts their minds to ease that I have a “real job” and they can move on with their life.

  2. I probably wouldn’t carry a cell phone either if it weren’t for my aunt being in a nursing home, and feeling like I need to be on call. I shut it off at night anyway, so maybe that’s not a good excuse?

    They haven’t come out and said it, but I know some people in our lives think we’re weird for wanting to downsize and live in the country with no neighbors. We’re WEIRD!

    Love your new photo!

    • In general I’m either at home, with Mr. Mt (who has a cell phone) or connected to wifi (and get fb messages) and the other 5% of my life, I’m ok being unavailable. If something crazy happens they can call Mr. Mt or the place where I am at, like the library. =)

      I think we will get weird looks or concerned comments anytime our actions are even slightly outside of what 95% of the population does. Plus sometimes our actions affect other people and their concern might come out sideways. Like they are really concerned they won’t get to see you as often if you move or you will make new friends and replace them.

      And thanks about the photos! I’m excited to get this place spruced up a bit. =) This is what I really wanted when I first started, but I just used what I had. One thing at a time. =)

  3. We wash our zip lock bags too. I don’t see it as weird. That’s just normal. 🙂
    The key is just to ignore the other people around you. Most of them aren’t giving constructive criticism anyway.
    Life was fine without cell phones. It’s nice, but not necessary. When we went to Thailand, we didn’t use a cell phone for 3 weeks. I didn’t mind it at all.

    • I think everything people label “weird” just means “not the average.” Like it’s weird for money bloggers to eat out a lot or drive nice cars. Or it might be weird to people with high net worth to drive beaters. Whenever our goals and values cause us to set slightly outside of the average, there will be people to want to hoot and holler about it. And you are right, it’s not constructive. It’s often just others trying to push their ideas/issues/or values on to you.

      I had one person in our life who didn’t like the fact we were buying rentals even though they had made a good amount of money from the exact same thing! But they had gotten out of it, and now thought no one should bother making money that way. Geesh.

  4. I can’t determine if I am weird or not. I ride my bike to work, no one else does this. It is my gym membership. Our second car is a 16 year old two door Couple (for a family of 4). Other than that, we are perfectly normal I think. However, when I told a neighbor woman the other day our mortgage was $885/month, and hers is $1600 per month, I think she nearly fainted. She is, actually, fairly frugal, and works as a pharmacist, but only part time at 32/hours per week.

    • I think people label anything outside of the true absolute norm weird. So if you are the only one riding your bike, that is super weird! The trick is being ok being the outlier if it’s on point for you. If it’s riding a bike when everyone else drives or driving a lux ride when all your frugal friends are rocking their 10+ year old cars. =) I think the biking in awesome. Did it for a while when I worked at REI. Until I was convinced I would be killed in DC traffic. =)

  5. 19 years ago, I drove half way across the country with two babies and no cell. Last year I forgot my cell when I was going to Publix just under a mile from my house. I almost had a panic attack! (. Both children were away at college so it was not an issue of having children home alone.). It is almost frightening how quickly we become overly dependent on technology.

  6. No more facebook on my smartphone…!

    Personally, I have no problem with email on my phone. Till now, I am quite strict!

    Living frugal might be weird on its own. When I look at our friends, almost all of them are into real estate, we sold ours…is that weird?

  7. Thanks for this! I often feel like an outlier in my saving/spending habits. I’m super frugal in some areas, but for something like my hair I have to…or want to get it cut often because it’s shorter and looks better that way, in which case I spend more. One size does NOT fit all!

    • That is absolutely the point! Cut out the unimportant (even if it makes us fall outside of the norm) so we have some extra cash for the stuff that really matter (even if that makes us fall outside of the norm!) Who strives to be perfectly average anyways? Especially when the “average” stats for money are so depressing.

  8. Isn’t that the point of all of this? It isn’t about saving the most, it isn’t about stripping yourself of everything to save the most money as possible. It is about being frugal, finding areas to save money, so that you can free up the dollars to spend the money on WHATEVER YOU WANT. Being weird is excellent. Why would you want to live your life tied down by all the expenses that are incurred just to conform to the norms?

    I love that you have survived just fine without your cell phone. I would challenge myself and anyone else to spend that much time away from their phone so I/they can remember that life goes on without being constantly connected to the world.

    Thanks for the great read tonight!


    • Hey Bert, your welcome! Why would you want to live your life tied down by all the expenses that are incurred just to conform to the norms? Absolutely! I think it takes some time to learn to really look at each expense in terms of real value added. It’s just easier to go with the flow. Sometimes we need a bit of encouragement to go against the grain. At least I do! Because the world might push back against any “weird” choice you make. I had one friend legit upset that I was getting rid of my phone. Because my choice effects them. So it would just be easier to keep things the same.

  9. Thank you, now I know I am not alone. I have never been too obsessed with mobile phones despite I am geeky guy (just prefer PCs). My friends say that I am a phone-amish (don’t get me wrong I have no problems with amish lifestyle, actually I envy them 🙂 ). I started with 3 Nokia 3310-s in a row which were lasting about 9 years together (now that they are planning a resurrection for the model still tempted). Only the last 5 years brought the smartphones with touch-screens into my life, but still got some criticism that I don’t take full advantage using them. Also have friends who feel mandatory to update to the latest iPhone when it is released… I have no words for that. For me phones are… well phones, you can make phone calls on it. Sometimes I send text messages when I’m in a situation where I cannot speak. Since I have a kid I rarely take pictures also (I have at least a dozen of them on my 2 year old phone). For handling the other stuff I use a pretty good option in settings. You can turn off data-connection and wi-fi completely (I don’t use Facebook at all anyway, which is another story). I have an office job so I am obliged to stare at the monitor 8 hours a day and having the internet one click away. Does not really want more online connection besides that. The only valid reason I carry a phone is an emergency (I mean a real one). Oh and I am ok with not knowing where it is for most of the time 🙂 Am I weird?

    • Hey Peter! Thanks for the comment. =) And yes, your a little weird. =) I think anything outside of the absolute norm gets labeled weird. Although I have seen a shift in interest toward “dumb” phones. I think a lot of people are getting burned out on the hyper connectedness. Who really wants to get work emails on their phone at 10pm when they are in bed trying to fall asleep? =)

  10. Isn’t it funny how something that practically no one owned 25 years ago has become an absolute necessity in most people’s eyes? We love our smartphones and find them really useful for travel, but I’ve also wondered how freeing it might be to give them up for a while. Admittedly, we don’t really *need* them.

    Anyway, cheers to being weird! We’ve gotten mostly positive feedback about our decision to quit our jobs, though the questions from friends and family have gotten a bit more critical now that we’re over a year into it. It’s almost like people are getting impatient for our return to normalcy. Oh well!

    • Yeah, I didn’t get my first cell phone till I went to college 16 years ago. (Montana was like the last state to get cell towers!) And I can totally see people’s perception changing the longer you travel. Like one year is an amazing experience, but pushing two is slightly irresponsible. It’ll be interesting to see how their reaction changes over time if you don’t go back to a “normal” 9-5. My family and friends are super uncomfortable with it. 😉 But to be fair, they are uncomfortable with most of our choices!

  11. I love this post and could not agree wtih you more. People are always so worried about being connected. Sometimes it feels good to be disconnected. Like one poster said, we didnt need cell phones 25 years ago. The world wont end if we turn them off from time to time.

    • I really appreciate when people choose to be disconnected in order to connect with those in front of them. Like going out to dinner and everyone leaving their phone at home or at least in the car. When I am hanging out with people, maybe I’m greedy, but it generally took a lot of effort to have that one on one time (I do have 5 little kids!) so I appreciate the focus.

  12. $0 definitely beats my $4/mo!

    Keep in mind that you can use any phone, even one without a currently activated plan, to make a 911 call — if you’re ever in the middle of nowhere, super cheap dumbphone and charger in the car could give some added security (And of course a cheap smart phone can be used to text, call, and tweet for free over Wi-Fi ^_^ — let me know if you want specific pointers; I get super nerdy about this).

    We haven’t tended to get a lot of “you’re weird” feedback, except maybe for not wanting a huge house…and for not using multiple gigabytes of data a month…and for having a teenage car…oh, and for cutting our own hair…haha, yep, definitely weird ?

    • Oh a $4 plan might be worth it! I might hit you up for more info. =) And I love cutting my own hair! It’s so much faster and easier than going some place to get it done. Plus I tend to trim mine every few weeks because it only takes me 90 seconds. =)

  13. The funny thing is that I actually prefer carrying my iPad around instead of carrying my phone around. A lot of times at conferences / business meetings I’ll leave my phone at home or on my desk. You can’t really do much work on the phone since the screen is so small.

  14. I kind of went the same place Monday in response to the blogger cars theme. I drive a Corvette I bought new nine years ago. As a personal finance bloggers I am an outlier. And yet I still save fifty percent a year and might be considered frugal. It’s the choices you make and your life. Judge it by what makes you happy.

    • I think it’s good to have weird spots in your spending and frugal ways, it shows that you are really on point with your priorities. =) Mr. Mt LOVES his classic car. He’s a total car nut. =) He was just drooling over stock door handles the other day. I don’t get it…at all… but he really loves it. I just gave him a little hug and said, “fun money.” If he want to spend $7 of his personal money on stock radio nobs, that is all him. =)

  15. I was just thinking about this very topic last night. About doing a trial run without the phone. And then today I find out there was a lockdown at my child’s school. Talk about freak out. Fortunately all is well now. But Communication efforts with my child would have definitely been more difficult without the cell. I know this event was something that rarely or if ever happens to anyone. But now I dunno…

    Although maybe I could see about going without Then if I do cancel my main cell service, I could buy a prepaid phone w limited minutes to use in case of dire emergency.

    Savings $47/m

    • It was weird at first, and one friend complained. But after day 30, I really started to notice the upside. One of us is generally at home and Mr. Mt is keeping his cell, so we are fairly easy for the school to get a hold of if needed. I spend an extra $50 to have some really nice family photos printed this month and thought, “this is 100x a better value than the cell phone was!”

  16. You’ve got me feeling guilty about the concerned questions I’ve asked friends and family over the years. Usually they’re taking out another loan for another new car or talking about how their 401K loan was such a great idea. I try not to be judgy and just make sure that they’ve thought things through and are fully informed, but now that I think about it more, these questions almost certainly were interpreted as criticism.
    After asking the questions, though, I try to be supportive regardless of the decision, but maybe the damage was already done.
    At the same time, I’d feel dishonest if I didn’t ask the questions and express the concern. Argh.
    Were there ways people expressed their questions and concerns to you that made them easier to tolerate or even welcomed?
    Love your new pics, BTW.

    • Ohhh, super good question. I kind of want to write a whole post of a response. =) I think there are a laundry list of bad reasons others can be critical of a persons choices. The best reason to be critical is that their choices don’t seem to line up with their values. As in, “I know that xyz is super important to you, and am failing to see how this choice is getting you closer to that.” I try to phrase things in a “Have you considered…?” If you know them well enough to really know where they want to go, and what is truly important to them, then some technical know how on how to make that happen can be well received. I think when you are coming from a place where the focus in on them, what they want in life, what they value, and how they can make it happen, that is really well received.

  17. OMG, I embrace being weird!! The last thing I want to be is ordinary. That said, I couldn’t live without my phone!! Not because I love talking, texting or social media’ing all that much. I love my phone for three things – fitness tracking, audiobooks and podcasts!! I’ve become . a new person on the move because of my phone, plus I adore the camera and video features. I could live without an ipad or even a laptop if you forced me, but my phone is my most valued possession because it makes me a smarter, fitter person 🙂

    • Mr. Mt loves his phone too! Mostly for streaming music at the gym and in his classic car. I like the camera/video stuff too, although I am horrible about using it. I figured if I really miss that, I can just start bringing my camera places instead of replacing my phone. =) I hoped with this post to show an example of actually evaluating the value/cost of things we buy and don’t generally give much thought to.

  18. All of the time! Mr. Smith and I just had a hilarious conversation about how the neighbors must talk about us – cutting our own hair, never spending money, growing vegetables, having so many kids, the clothing we wear . . . and our latest purchase (working on a post about it).

    Weird is awesome, we love it. Normal is boring and stupid. I hope our kids learn to love being weird too.

    • Weird is awesome. =) Mostly because it show intentionality and purpose. It’s carving out the path that’s right for you. And I think that is something you can totally teach your kids. =)

  19. I have a 7 year old son who keeps telling me that he is weird. Aparently kids at school tell him that (for bringing unconventional home made lunches, for having backyard chickens, and a host of other “out of the ordinary” reasons). I keep telling him it is perfectly fine being weird and he should be proud of it. I think I am getting through to him. I tell him I am happy he is weird! I am weird too!

    • I feel you! We have to have a lot of talks with the kids about what they really like, and what to do if someone else has a different opinion. Helping them figure out if they like their choices and beinging comfortable with that. It’s so hard for kids! But better to learn as kids rather than become adults to end up in massive debt just trying to “fit it.” Keep up the good work mama!