Those considering joining the rest of civilization in owning a cell phone, and those thinking about replacing the blasted thing when their two-year agreement finally runs out must address the following questions:
[DO YOU NEED A CELL PHONE?]
A minimalist would tell you simply, no. Ten years ago, no one had a cell phone. Heck, 50 years ago, no one had a phone! Whatever happened to talking face-to-face and composing letters?
A pessimist would tell you that cell phones are more hassle than they’re worth. You have to worry about going over on your minutes, and you get interrupted by their annoying rings all the time. Cell phones should be banned from subways and entertainment events and all places where listening to your boisterous one-sided conversation disturbs the peace.
A worrier wouldn’t know what to tell you. What if you’re stranded in your car and can’t get to a phone? But what if you’re talking on your phone while you’re driving and get into an accident? What if it gives you a brain tumor? What if you miss an important call?
The gabber would be all for the cell phone. You can get a plan with free nights and weekends and free long distance. That means you can call anyone anywhere and talk for hours. You can be on the phone like, all day.
Another cell phone proponent would be the image-conscious consumer. How would you feel if you had to say, “I don’t have a cell phone”? Everyone has a cell phone. Your cell phone is your self-expression. You can download that raspberry beret song as your ring tone, and get a raspberry-colored faceplate! Ooooh, and you can make your phone say, “Hi, Berry Girl” when you turn it on!
[CAN YOU AFFORD A CELL PHONE?]
Whatever rate plan you select, add $10. That is what you will actually pay each month, after taxes and those couple roaming or overtime minutes. Of course, you should also expect to pay double that rate at least once when you didn’t know you were roaming, or didn’t realize you were over your minutes. After this you may learn your lesson—or not.
And whatever you will be paying per month, you must be able to pay it for a looooong time. Signing the year and two-year contracts is how you get those special offers. And when you want to cancel at the end of your contract, you have to wait until the end of the next billing cycle to avoid extra charges.
[SHOULD YOU GET A SHARED OR FAMILY PLAN?]
If you ever watch Judge Judy, you know that shared cell-phone plans can get you in trouble. He ran up the phone bill, no she ran up the phone bill. It is safest to abstain from cell phone plan sharing until marriage. Why would he buy the cow if he can get the milk for free?
Once you’re married and you’ve popped out a few, you may be tempted to get the little ones their own cell phones. Every parent wants their kid to have lots of friends, and how can they have friends if they can’t call them? Plus, those families on the commercial look so happy shopping together and everything. And if you wonder where the kids are, you can just give them a ring, “You’re not doing drugs are you?”
Before you get the family plan for your family, consider that the kids don’t care as much about your money as you do. They won’t be keeping their daytime calls as short as possible or taking care not to be roaming. You may have to design an intricate plan of rules and punishments to protect yourself.
[WHAT CELL PHONE SHOULD YOU GET?]
If you decide to get a cell phone, your phone will become as much a part of you as your wristwatch or your day planner. In fact, it may replace your wristwatch or day planner. Or camera or even computer! Cell phones come with all kinds of extra features that you may want to consider.
The most important phone characteristic to consider is not so fancy. To flip or not to flip, that is the question. Phones that flip open often have bigger keys, and the mouthpiece will be closer to your mouth when you talk. You also are not in danger of accidentally pressing a key when the phone is in your pocket or purse. However, flip phones must be flipped, open, close, open, close. And they are more bulky.
If you’re not too picky, there are all kinds of plans that come with a free phone, so you shouldn’t have to ever actually pay for a phone. The really fancy phones, such as Nextel walkie-talkies or the picture phones, are not included in the free phone offers, however.
[WHAT CELL PHONE PLAN IS RIGHT FOR YOU?]
If you are technologically advanced enough to get a cell phone, you will have a way to get on the Internet. That is where you need to go to find the answer to this question. www.letstalk.com has all you need to know, plus additional savings offers. Their Service Plan section has a “find and compare” option. Here you can enter what features you need, find out what’s available in your area, and then compare the details of different service plans of different companies.
There is also a Product Reviews section, where you can find out what real people are saying about their service provider. Many of the comments can give you clues to the company’s customer service and the strength of their network. The perfect plan is useless if you can’t get a signal when you need to use your phone.
The journey into the world of cell phone ownership is not for the faint of heart. Your patience will be tested, and your wallet will be stretched. But with careful consideration and research, you can enjoy your cell phone ownership for years to come.[Stories on RELEVANTmagazine.com are user-submitted. The viewpoints expressed are the opinions of the author and do not necessary reflect the opinion of RELEVANT magazine. For exclusive in-depth stories, subscribe now to RELEVANT magazine. If you are interested in submitting an article, please check out our writers guidelines.]