Minimalism and Your Money

The intersection of a minimalist lifestyle & personal finance

The Costs of a Technology Addiction

Are You Addicted?

In some ways, I feel like all of us are at least somewhat addicted to technology. There are very few people that I know that can consistently avoid the lure of their cell phones, social media, and cable television. And age doesn’t matter either.

Addiction can be seen in the teenager with his head buried in his smartphone, sending hundreds of snaps on Snapchat.

It’s evident in the mom constantly refreshing her Facebook page instead of watching her son’s soccer game.

And it’s even visible in the grandpa who has the television on from the moment he wakes up until the time he goes to bed.

We all know someone who fits these descriptions. The influx of technology has changed our lives and our lifestyles. While there are plenty of benefits to the plethora of technological options (entertainment, availability of information), technology also takes away our time, reduces in-person interactions, and costs us money. Today’s post will address the latter issue, focusing on the costs of technology addiction.

The Sources and Costs of Our Technology Addiction

The flood of new technology has changed the way we live. Now, just about everyone has a smartphone, cable television, and in-home internet plus a good number of people have one or more of the various streaming devices and video game consoles.

Cell Phone Plan with Data

I have written about cell phones in the past. I’m continually amazed at how often I see people on their phones. The school cafeteria is filled with students checking their phones between bites of their lunch. On the highway, drivers are dangerously multitasking between the cell phone in their palm and the 3,000 pound vehicle they are maneuvering through traffic. Every spare moment of downtime is filled with a quick glance on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

The average plan is now $80/month, and probably a bit more if you need unlimited data.

What to do instead?

Internet

Is there any one thing that has gone from nonexistent to almost absolute necessity in every home as much as the internet? Twenty-five years ago, nobody had internet. Yet, today, it’s hard to imagine living without it. People use the internet to work from home, check emails and social media, stream shows and movies, and even to play competitive video games. In fact, out of everything in this list, I think it’s the most indispensable. Sure, we could cut out cable and go back to a flip phone, but imagine not having internet in the house…tough to picture.

Stand-alone internet now costs the average American household $60/month.

What to do instead?

Cable

Ah, cable television. This technological innovation has been around for the longest of the group, but also seems to be the one people are becoming more willing to part with. But let’s be very careful here. Cutting cable only to then add Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, and Showtime Now seems to go against the entire point. You’re hardly saving any money with all those subscriptions plus your time is just as filled as it ever was.

Cable now costs an average of $85/month with some plans much higher. Many people have additional services like Netflix and Hulu, which are not included in this price. How much do you pay? Take this quiz to see how frugal you are.

What to do instead?

New Equipment

The average new phone costs $363 according to recode.net with some of the latest iPhones checking in at over $1000.

A new computer costs an average of $632 according to statista.com and all Macbooks run for much more.

A new 65″ 4K television costs an average of $913 consumerreports.org. It’s also interesting to note, and indicative of our desire to always want more, that even though the price of televisions has gone down overall for years, the average price paid by consumers continues to rise. Why is this? Because people continue to buy larger and larger televisions with better graphics and more features. I remember, growing up in the 90s, my house and most of my friends’ and family’s houses had 27″ or 32″ televisions in their living rooms. Today, that seems hardly big enough for a bedroom.

What to do instead?

  • Drastic – Significantly cut down on or get rid of the technology you use, ending the need or desire for any new equipment.
  • Realistic – Reduce the amount of technology you use, lessening the need and desire for any new equipment.

The Costs of a Technology Addiction

So let’s run the numbers:

  • Cell phone plan – $80/month = $960/year
  • Internet – $60/month = $720/year
  • Cable – $85/month = $1,020/year
  • Equipment – $363 (Phone) + $632 (Computer) + $913 (Television) = $1,908. Assuming replacement every 4 years on average = $477/year
  • TOTAL – $3,177/year

So the average person spends about $3,177 per year on technology. Now, let’s consider someone addicted to technology. With more expensive phone and cable plans, along with a quicker need for replacement equipment, this number could easily creep up to over $5,000/year. Clearly, there are significant costs associated with a technology addiction.

On the other hand, if you can downgrade and become less addicted to technology, you can save a great deal of money. Imagine a cheaper cell phone plan, costing $300/year. Switch to basic cable and Netflix and it would only cost another $300/year. The need for new, fancy technology would also be reduced, cutting the cost down to $200/year. All total, you could save about $1,500 each year. If that extra money were invested over the next ten years and brought back a modest 6% return, you would have $20,957! Let that sink in for a moment.

Dare we add in time lost or wasted at the expense of technology? I have written before about the fact that time is our most valuable and irreplaceable commodity. How much money have we lost by wasting time on technology?

How about you? What is the cost of your technology addiction? What steps, if any, do you take to curb your intake of technology?

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8 Comments

  1. I think you are right that we all have an addiction to technology and certainly some are addicted more than others. My husband and I cut back on our cell phone plan because we weren’t using the data enough to justify the cost of our plan. We are also cutting out our cable because we rarely watch TV outside of Netflix. Cutting back on these things has not only saved us money but has opened up our time to other things. We are also the type of people who don’t upgrade our phones every time a new one comes out. In fact, our phones are 6 years old and since they still work well we have no reason to upgrade.

    • minimalismandmoney

      That’s great, I think being able to take a step back and see where you are and assess whether any of that technology makes you happier or your life better is the best place to start. Sounds like you have done all of that plus a lot more!

  2. I love your perspective on this. I’m thinking when our Verizon contract comes up, we are going to switch carriers and get only Text + Voice with our current iphones. This will help with being on the phone when we are out of the house, and probably take our phone bill from $195/mo (which includes phone payments) to $60/mo for two phones. This is going to be an interesting conversation with Andrea, considering we do run a business that communicates heavily via FB messenger.

    I’ve also thought about doing a no technology day outside of work hours on occasion. This is going to be traumatic for our household, but will probably have huge benefits. I’m sure our technology addition will come out full swinging during this time, lol.

    • minimalismandmoney

      Let me know what you end up doing with your Verizon contracts. It would be a huge savings, but like you said, it will be an adjustment. I love any technology free days!! Good luck!

  3. Savvy History

    I like how you give a “drastic” and then a “realistic” option. I used to be a lot more drastic (no smart phone until 2017), but now I try to walk the line a little more. I like the rule I’m about to implement (which is “no technology work” around my kids). In this way, I will use the internet during naps (like I’m doing right now) but find myself using real hardcover books and writing in journals (or even playing guitar) while in a room where I am watching them play. I think this will keep my life balanced and lead to deeper work with more creativity. We’ll see! Wish me luck and good luck to you!

    • minimalismandmoney

      I think it will impact the way your kids view technology as well. Kids want to do what their parents do. I love this idea, although nobody would want to hear me attempt to play a guitar!!

  4. The screen time feature on iPhone has been an eye-opener for me. When I realized how much time I spent on my phone each day, it made me question whether or not I was doing things that made me feel happy and/or productive. Although I don’t think I’d get rid of my smart phone or internet anytime soon (I’m actually thinking of upgrading my phone for the first time in 4 years for a better camera for vacation pictures), I am taking steps to be more mindful.

    We finally got rid of cable and it’s amazing how quiet the house is. No background noise except the occasional NPR playing. I like it 🙂

  5. Well, my family of four currently spends about 50% more than your numbers. Well at least on our cell phone plan and cable. A few days ago, my daughter subscribed to the Youtube TV trial period to see if that would be a good option for us and get rid of DirectTV.

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