My phone recently gave up the ghost.
All the ‘hacks’, tweaks and resetting proved futile in the face of an overriding hardware failure. My moribund mobile had had a good innings. It excelled for over five years, which my research tells me is pretty good going for a modern smartphone.
Despite having neither case nor screen-protector, and the physical properties of a wet bar of soap, the phone was otherwise in reasonable nick. Still, I would have to buy a new one.
I recall reading an article on the (now dormant) FI Fox blog about buying a new smartphone. The author takes you through their diligent approach to ensuring they receive the best value for money on their purchase. It’s basically frugality porn.
I think the article stuck in my mind because I remember thinking “if FI(RE) involves this much thinking about every purchase, then I’m not sure it’s for me”. To each their own, but it felt like an extraordinary effort to save money on a smartphone.
Six months later I launched MedFI, and continue to explore my own understanding and experience of frugality, saving, investing and financial independence. One of my key takeaways to date is that it’s not all about quantity (i.e. saving money) or quality (i.e. buying the most expensive thing), but rather the intricate balance between the two that you need to strike.
That is, don’t be afraid to spend money on the things that enrich the quality of your life.
As I was deciding which avenue to pursue with regards to a new phone, I listed all the activities that I use my smartphone for. The list quickly came to thirty roles that it plays on a near-daily basis. It’s all fairly productive too – there’s no social media on my phone, nor games, nor other apps that suck time and life into their abyss.
I concluded that having a phone of a high quality, that can do all that I desire of it, that isn’t going to be obsolete tomorrow, that will (hopefully) last another 5+ years, is worth the cost to me. So call me a materialistic, consumerist capitalist pig, but I decided to pursue the ‘upper echelon’ of available smartphones.
Even as I write this I still feel sort of fraudulent. How can Mr. MedFI espouse spending lots of money on a phone? How disingenuous to preach financial independence whilst frittering money away so wantonly when there are cheaper alternatives?
I suppose the crux is that a financially independent state only exists so long as your expenditure remains consistent. If buying the cheapest, tinniest, mobile will fulfil your smartphone-related desires in perpetuity then that’s fine.
If you scrimp, save and thrift your way to FI(RE) by denying yourself the latest iPhone 30X Pro or Samsung s83, then your expenditure is pegged to that level. Once you reach a financially independent state, there’s not magically going to be more money to splurge on the latest technology.
It’s classic ‘cocktails on a beach’ thinking. Are you spending your money on cocktails on a beach whilst employed? If not, what makes you think you’ll suddenly have the money to do so once you’re financially independent? (Granted if the impediment to seaside-based inebriation is time or opportunity rather than money, it’s a slightly different story.)
New habits die hard
I decided that buying an upper-end smartphone was justified. It actually gives me a better understanding of my progression to FI(RE), because if the future Mr. MedFI is also going to want to buy a higher-end smartphone, then that needs to be taken into account vis-a-vis saving enough money.
New habits die hard, however, and once I’d selected a suitable replacement I did dig around for ways to chip away at the cost. I won’t go into the frugally explicit detail, but all-in the cost to me of the new phone is ∽88% of the listed price.
Although a tiny part of me still feels a bit phoney, I am now the proud owner of a new smartphone. This one has a screen-protector and case to boot…