Disconnect Mindset-- pt 1

I refuse to let go of some of the habits I acquired while raising a kid on my own for 10 years, so we live pretty frugally.  I manage our household expenses in such a way that when one of us is unemployed-- a regular occurrence in the construction industry-- it barely impacts our lifestyle.  We just cut out the big splurges, like eating out, or going to the movies, and continue being otherwise sensible.  

Over the past few months, we've moved on to more hardcore, slash-n-burn budgeting.  We've both been out of work for the better part of a year, plus our savings were eviscerated by Dan's lengthy and unexpected custody battle.  In spite of this, we're doing okay.  Maintaining.  I'm no stranger to living broke;  we just eat lots of hamburger and frozen chicken breasts.  I make more casseroles and soups.  Every purchase is debated:  Need or Want?  "Want" gets put back on the shelf.   But in spite of everything we're doing, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was missing a key element somewhere.

Then the other day (while viewing the cell phone bill), something in me flipped upside down.  I've been looking at our expenses backwards.  I realized-- I've been struggling with how we can maintain our lifestyle.  But that isn't what I want.  I want to change our lifestyle.  I don't want to make enough money so that our cell phone bill isn't an absurd expenditure.  I want to not have an absurd cell phone bill.  

Like most families, our phone bill is carefully tailored for our specific usage to avoid astronomical overages.  The only way to lower it would be to drastically cut how much we use our phones.  Had we become too addicted to convenience to be able to do that?  Unemployment is leading us to a new life, forcing us to streamline our priorities and re-evaluate our goals, but in a good way, no matter how unplanned-for it is.  We're excited for the changes on our doorstep.  Slashing our phone bill-- admitting it as "want" not "need"--is a crucial first step for a new mindset.  Dan and I talked it over and decided-- it's time.  Let's disconnect. 

I called my friendly cell company and switched to the family plan with the lowest minutes.  They were very concerned for us. "Are you sure?  We show you on the absolute lowest plan you should go, given your monthly usage.  I strongly recommend staying where you are."
I said, "We won't need all those minutes if we don't use our phones as much."
"Uh-- well... I guess, if you get a land line you're planning to use..."
"We already have one.  It's under-utilized."
"Well-- if you use that more, maybe make calls from home...it'll be a real change in usage for you...." He sounded hesitant, like he should agree with me since the customer's always right, but inwardly thought I was nuts. (Not use your cell phones?  Is that even possible?!)
I said cheerfully, "That's the plan:  Massive lifestyle overhaul.  But that's okay.  We're committed."

He kind of laughed, and switched the plan, but I don't think he got it. 

Once we changed over, we had to be mindful.  If someone called when I was out running errands, I'd ask if I could call them back when I got back home, maybe an hour or two away.  It felt rude at first.  The callers' reactions indicated that they also felt it was rude.  At first.  But they adapted.  If someone called while I was home, I'd ask them if I could call them right back from the other line.  They adapted to that too.  

As of today, we have a week left in our billing cycle, and have used up just over half the minutes allotted... that's 1/5 of the minutes we normally use.  We cut our bill by 2/3, and less of our days are spent on the phone.  Win all around.  An unexpected benefit is that people, in general, just call us less now.  And that's just fine with us.

I'm enjoying being less available.  It's empowering to swim outside the current of immediacy.


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