Minimalism and Your Money

The intersection of a simple, minimalist lifestyle & personal finance

I Went Back to a Flip Phone – Here’s Why

Recently, research has shown that the average American spends 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smartphones each day. This translates to about 20 hours a week, 86 hours a month, and a whopping 1026 hours a year. And this is one of the more conservative estimates I have found! Some estimates have users spending over four hours a day on their smartphones!

Just for a moment, think about what could have been done with just a few of those 1026 hours. A visit to a parent’s house, a cup of coffee or a drink with a friend, a hike in the woods, a game of Chutes and Ladders with your kids.

“Swimming with Smartphones”via GIPHY

Smartphones are great — we can keep in touch with others, send a quick text to say hello, figure out how the hell to get to Uncle Ned’s house. But, ultimately, and more and more profusely, they are time snatchers.

In my younger days, before minimalism, before having a better concept of personal finance, before kids, (Remember those days? Full nights of sleep, lazy Saturday afternoons, being able to watch an entire movie uninterrupted, ahhh those were the days) I was on the smartphone carousel along with everyone else. I had my shiny, new iPhone with 40 different apps. But then my oldest son, C, came along. As children grow up, they of course become more and more aware of the attention (or lack thereof) they are getting. C was no different.

My “Aha” Moment

The tipping point happened one afternoon when I was either on Facebook, or Words with Friends, or some other app and I looked up from my phone to realize that my son had just been calling my name for the past 30 seconds. C wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t even particularly upset. He just wanted some attention. But here I was, trying to make a word out of X, L, M, and O (can’t be done, by the way) instead of spending quality time with him.

I had chosen, in that moment and many other moments before then, my phone over my son.

That was the wake-up call, the aha moment. What was important to me as a parent? The next day, I went to Verizon and switched to my circa 2007 flip phone.

My extensive collection. Two no longer work and have become C and B’s play phones.

That was four years ago. Since then, I have been the butt of quite a few jokes as well as some strange looks when I flip it out in public. (Get your mind out of the gutter!) And that’s not even getting into the reactions I get from my students. At this point, they barely even remember that flip phones existed. But, while I’ve been poked fun at more times than I can count, just as many people have bee genuinely curious about my decision to break away from the technology addiction.

My Journey Back in Time

But do you know what hasn’t happened since then? I haven’t missed my son calling for me because I have been so distracted. I haven’t looked up from my phone and thought, “shit, where did all the time go?”.  Facebook, Instagram, and all the other apps will have to wait. I spend more time playing with my kids, talking to my wife, and living in the moment, instead of living behind a screen.

The Downfalls

Switching to a basic phone has some real negatives of which you should be aware. First, typing in T9 (remember that) is a bitch, especially when we’ve all been spoiled by a full keyboard on our screens. Second, I do miss being able to take pictures since I am now back to a 0.2 megapixel phone, although I don’t miss this as much as I thought I would. It’s kind of nice to live the moment instead of focusing on capturing the moment for a picture. Third, the video capability is gone and that hurts, especially when my kids do or say something memorable, funny, or cute. I just look at the positives as outweighing these three negatives.

So What Can I Do?

The goal of this post is not to demean or even to try to get someone to ditch their phone, but simply to make sure we are all mindful of our phone use.

Here are a few possibilities:

1. Leave your smartphones on silent/do not disturb.

2. Keep your smartphones on the counter or nightstand when you walk in the house, don’t carry it on you when in the house.

3. Turn off app notifications on your smartphones.

4. Turn off your smartphones for a few hours.

5. Motivate yourself by entering a contest, such as this one from Vitamin Water to win $100,000!

6. Try a 30-day challenge like this one from Jillian at Montana Money Adventures.

5. Flip it Up!

I would love to hear your opinions about phones in the comments section below. Could you ever imagine going back to a flip phone or is that out of the question?

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  1. Yes Yes Yes!!! This is amazing! I’ve heard of a few people doing this lately. I think it’s such a great concept. It’s not that smartphones are bad, they really do provide a benefit to the user – if used properly.

    • minimalismandmoney

      Exactly! It’s just amazing how hard it can be to use it properly! Thanks for commenting.

  2. This is my favourite post I’ve read all week! And I read a LOT of posts! Yes, yes and triple yes. While I still have a smart phone I have been contemplating taking Ed Sheeran’s lead and going back to an entirely cell phone free life.

    For ALL the reasons you’ve mentioned here, plus the additional reason of simply being less accessible. Remember the days of having just a landline phone – maybe with added “feature” of call display so you know who was trying to reach you?! That’s sounding pretty amazing to me these days! I would even skip the voice mail option – just call display – if I want to call you back to find out why you called – I will. Or you can just call again. lol.

    As of yet my ONLY stumbling block is that it’s very convenient to communicate with my husband about our boys, day and schedules, via messenger.

    For now, I will continue to use numbers 1 through 4 of your suggestion list. Even the simple act of leaving my phone in one place on the counter ends in me checking it a WHOLE lot less.

    Great post!

    • minimalismandmoney

      Wow! What a great compliment! I’ve thought about getting rid of mine altogether as well, but I worry about emergencies or if my kids’ school was trying to get a hold of me. Let me know if you make the jump, I’d love to hear about it! Thanks for the thoughtful response.

  3. My husband and I only recently got phones with screens controlled by touch (see our cool lingo). We were the last of everyone we knew to get smartphones. We only did it once the cost of getting a different phone was about the same anyway. I can’t say our life is any better. In fact, since the contrast is so recent, I would say it only makes me feel as though I should be working constantly.

    Thank you for this reflection and your tips. I’d like to highly suggest a recent podcast by Paula Pant about Digital Minimalism. It was powerful. I think someday soon we will look at some of these digital habits like smoking. It will seem insane that we let our youth do it while being so consumed by it.

    • So so agree with your comment about it being akin to smoking in years to come!

      Not to mention even the impact of what’s happening on screen, but even when I watch my son oldest bend over the IPAD screen it makes me think he is going to hate us in 20-30 years when he suffers from chronic back pain………

      While we have a family system to limit screen time – it still makes me wonder what are we doing to our next generation?!

    • minimalismandmoney

      Thanks for the tip about Paula Pant’s podcast, I’ll have to check it out. I’m sure as a teacher, you deal with the same challenges I do. Technology is an amazing tool, but only when it is used properly and in some moderation. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. This is a great post! I’m now considering getting rid of my smart phone. But that pesky 2-year contract I am under…

    It is disturbing to think about how much time I’ve wasted on my damn phone. That thing is a time killer. It is like we are addicted to being connected all the time, that we lose site of what is happening around us. I definitely want to start limiting my phone time and be more present with my girls and Andrea. Life is too short to spend so much time on our phones.

    • minimalismandmoney

      Thanks, Chris. I totally agree with you. Obviously, there are some great benefits to a smart phone, but it’s just so easy to get addicted. Let me know if you take the leap!

  5. Zen

    I have never owned a smartphone…by choice. It’s not that I have anything against technology (I am posting this from my laptop, after all) it is just that I do not want to be connected 24/7. I see way too many people doing the “phone zombie” thing and, frankly, it is discomfiting to watch.
    I love looking at the world around me. I love to take leisurely walks, or long, lazy bike rides. I love to read books…the old-fashioned way. And – gasp – I love to do loooong brunches with close friends where we all – gasp again – actually *talk*. To each other 🙂 (throwback smiley face intentional)
    Right now, I use an LG 306G, which is a great little ‘in-between’ feature phone with a touch screen and the ability to go from numeric, to T9, to a virtual qwerty keyboard. But, it is a 3G phone, 3G is being phased out and, off course, there is nothing akin to it available anymore (because we have the tech to make a gazillion smartphones, but only a couple of mediocre flips…and zip for other feature phones. Grr) So I got a 4G LTE capable Alcatel flip phone.
    And yep. I do get some looks here, and there…but not many, since most people have their noses seemingly glued to their screens.

  6. justin

    19 years old here, realizing the addiction I have to my phone and how many useful things I could be doing if I put my time and energy elsewhere. Afraid I’ll be made fun of if I go back to a basic phone, but I’m doing it anyway. Wish me luck! Awesome and helpful post!

  7. Tom

    Great article, I have ordered a flip top from T-Mobile should be here tomorrow, I have been thinking of sending it back and keeping my smartphone. After reading your article I am still undecided but leaning toward keeping the flip top. Guess I will see when I get it.

  8. I had a similar realization the other day when my daughter wanted my attention. I have since been leaving it on do not disturb, just allowing calls and leaving the ringer on. but when my contract is up I plan on getting a flip phone.

  9. Shannon

    Check out GABB wireless. It’s a phone intended for kids but has NO internet and looks like a smartphone. The GABB+ is coming out in March and it will have GPS, group texts, ability to send/receive photos unlike the original model. I am SO excited and scared to try it. Gotta break the chain!

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