Thursday, October 15, 2015

Debt Free Thinking and the Lure of Shiny Things

My HTC One (M7) smartphone is a piece of garbage. The battery charge lasts a half hour of use. The UI is clunky. I keep losing contacts and can't send text messages (especially when it is critical). The camera, once nice, is somehow incapable of taking a decent picture of a still object in even the most ideal setting.  The screen is small and causes me to frequently fat-finger an unintentionally embarrassing message. In short - I hate my phone. 

Despite this, I feel a little guilt about my consumer mentality. I want a new one, but this one is still (mostly) working. The phone is only two years old and was a generous hand-me-down from Mrs. DisIndebted when my Samsung Galaxy S3 croaked one years ago. When I got it, I was thrilled. It was a step newer than my S3 and I loved knowing that I wasn’t paying anything for it. In fact, it was a great deal because, while I got a free phone, Mrs. DisIndebted was able then to switch carriers and get a newer, shinier Samsung Galaxy S5 while paying less per month than she had been with her HTC One. (Side note, Mrs. DisIndebted and I are now both enjoying the benefits of my corporate plan that gives me free service, with the ability to add family lines/data for under $20 a month - YAY Corporate gig!)

Legend has it cats are attracted
 to shiny things because they
illuminate the darkness of their souls.
On top of the guilt I feel about my urge to spend, I feel I owe an apology to Mrs. DisIndebted. She graciously gave me this phone, and here I am calling it garbage. To be fair - it is actually a very shiny, respectable looking piece of garbage. It is, however, still garbage.

Also, I am guilty of having first world problems.

Determined that this phone is garbage, I went off in search of a better newer shiny object. I scoured blogs, articles and all sorts of information about unlocked Android phones and ultimately decided to go with the Google Nexus 6P starting at $499, factory unlocked. This was a recent change to my wishlist after previously being enamored with the OnePlus Two, which starts at a much lower $389 factory unlocked. I am still considering the OnePlus, but the 6P is truly a beast of a phone and I must have it.

The only problem is, I don't have enough money for either.

Sticky rice is love.
Mrs. DisIndebted and I budget for each of us to have an "allowance." This is money that we can each use in any way we want - any time we want. Last night, I stopped at our favorite Thai joint and splurged on a $5 take-out box of mango sticky rice that I brought home and presented to Mrs. DisIndebted (because I love her, duh). That is how I spent $5 of my dollars for October. I also spend some of that money on gas and an occasional lunch out with work friends. however, I do my best to save as much of that money as possible.

Currently I have around $250 saved up. This is not enough money to buy either phone.

Frustrated, I did the math to determine that I could probably afford to put the Google Nexus 6P on my credit card and have it paid from my allowance by December. The net result is that I would spend an extra $6 to service the interest on the portion that I cannot pay in the October - November statement cycle. No big whoop! I mean, I can forego a lunch out and cover that, right?

And that's a fact, I could cover the $6. But the problem is that I was wrong in principle. A principle I am learning to live by is, if I don't have the cash in hand, I cannot afford it. I didn't always live by this principle. Guess what happened? I went into debt. Guess what else? I never want to be in debt again.

Nonetheless, I headed down the road of purchasing the phone. I even went so far as to have the color and specs chosen and in my Google shopping cart. I was ready. Then, in a moment of clarity, I realized what I was about to do. I contacted Mrs. DisIndebted (which was difficult because my text messaging is FUBAR). I presented my quandary. She (wisely) told me that it was my choice.

I slept on it.

The next day, I awoke with conviction. I will live by the principle stated above. I removed the 6P from my shopping cart and took some deep breaths. It was a hard choice, but it was the right choice.

Later, I factory reset my M7 to try and clean up performance. At the risk of jinxing myself, it turns out that the battery life and ability to text have improved. The camera still stinks and I frequently sent a text fail thanks to the small screen. But, it works. I have a phone that works - and I had it all along.

Thus, I will keep this phone a little while longer. Maybe only until I have saved for my 6P - but maybe longer. Big purchases are typically followed by remorse anyway. I don't need any of that.

Lessons learned: Sometimes you don't need to get new shiny things, you just need to polish the ones you already have. Most importantly, in order to fully disindebtify my life, I need to stick to my plan and avoid new debt like the plague. Now breathe, and repeat after me: "If I don't have the cash in hand, I can't afford it."

What was your most recent consumer struggle? How did it turn out? Let me know below, or by email at

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