When I realized that I was living beyond my means, and something had to give, I didn’t start chopping away at the essentials — shelter, health care, and transportation.
Of course not. No one wants to turn their lifestyle upside down overnight. Just chopping away at the low-hanging fruit is painful enough.
By low-hanging fruit, I mean the little things that don’t cost much. You begin carefully pruning the little things.
First thing I learned I could live without came by accident. The moderately priced apartments where I lived were converted to condos. I moved to the cheapest apartment I could find in a safe neighborhood. It was a “junior one-bedroom,” barely larger than the efficiency I live in now. I got telephone service turned on in the new apartment. Basic telephone service, plus the telephone company’s voicemail, for which I paid $5 a month extra.
One little problem: the voicemail didn’t work. It sounded an annoying tone when I picked up the receiver. The tone signaled that I had voicemail waiting. Not such a big problem, right? Except that the system also wouldn’t let me access the mailbox. So I couldn’t get my messages and turn the annoying tone off. And I didn’t know how many important messages were stuck in the mailbox. How many people were mad at me because I hadn’t called back? Worse still, as long as the annoying tone stayed on, I couldn’t get a dial tone. I couldn’t get my messages, and I couldn’t make calls.
So I call the telephone company’s customer-service department. You know how that goes. The telephone company doesn’t like to answer the phone. You get a recorded message tree: Push one if you speak English; Push two to pay your bill; Push three to add expensive options; Push four if you speak Portuguese. And so on.
Eventually, you get through to a live customer-service agent, who listens to your problem. First time, customer service tells me they’ll fix the problem right away. Three days later, I call back, and they say they’ll fix it. I keep calling. One time they tell me there is no problem. One time they tell me I will have to pay an extra service charge to get it fixed. One time I even speak to a supervisor, who promises to call me back. She never did.
Three things you can count on when you call customer service: One, you get an answering system; Two, the customer service agent can’t solve your problem, but wants to sell you additional telephone services; Three, at the end of every frustrating conversation, the customer service agent asks: “Did I provide excellent service today?”
I finally realized that my existing phone service would never work again. I had an idea. I’d cancel the phone service, wait a few days, then call and order new service. What a concept!
And you know what? After weeks of not being able to use my home telephone, I had an Epiphany. I realized that I can live without a land line! Why was I paying for both a land line and a cell phone? And the cell phone even came with free voicemail.
That is the story of how I got rid of my monthly telephone bill, and lived happily ever after. Except that I was still spending way beyond my means; I needed to prune lots more low-hanging fruit. To be continued . . .
This posting left me smiling throughout. Ah yes, the misery of needing a landline and per haps not being able to afford one. In my blogs over the past 8 weeks, I commiserate about the 50 dollar security deposit that att never got; how I waited 6 weeks for them to provide me with a landline. They claimed they never redeemed my money order when western union says they did. I ended up going with Verizon landline who in never thought would service me cuz of past indebtedness. I personally hate cell phones and find the clarity of a landline to be a “can’t live without!” I do not own a cell phone. I by the way am a member of the “Involuntary Simplicity” movement!
Thanks Elana. “Involuntary Simplicity!” I love it. That would be a good title for a blog, or a book.
am just now getting your message in 3/2010! us low tech folks are a little slow. i just googled my name, and made some pleasant as well as not so pleasant discoveries. a pleasant one was my name linked to your blog, thus i found this reply from u today. so glad you like the phrase i coined. but i made an important discovery about what google puts out there when you google your name. when getting involved at any level with any organization, it is wise in the future to just use a last initial as opposed to a last name if you don’t want to be put in the google “line up!”
i am still having endless landline issues. i’ve had 3 companies in 9 months. i forever lost my 50 dollars to att, and i’m not so sure i want to go to court over that. ya know the 30 dollar file fee!
spring has sprung! stuff is in my garden today, that the prior tenant planted, so i don’t know what it is but it has popped up today
Here is my solution.
Unlimited telephone (cell, of course) AND internet via data stick (works on Mac AND PC), and all for $49/month.
questions? ask Mr. Hayden. He is born after 1953, and believe me, he does know everything (although he won’t admit it).
Am I exaggerating? Keep on reading….
As for me, a musician, I have adapted to doing without the television. Totally.