Cutting the Cord

One of the few positive things about an economic downturn / recession is that it exposes and leads people to eliminate unnecessary expenditures from their lives. By analogy, a leaky faucet, which we may have once tolerated and put off repairing in normal times, will quickly find itself getting fixed when there is a drought and water is rationed. In a recession, many of the “leaking faucets” in our budgets are now coming under closer scrutiny. I’m not a trained economist, but my hope is that, as we all work to eliminate those expenditures, the system as a whole will become more efficient.

Here on the farm, we’ve begun going after our own “leaking faucets.” One small one: I realized that every broadcast television program I want to watch is now streamed over the internet. There was no longer any reason to pay Dish Network $5.99/month for local channels, so I ditched those this week. And when our contract with Dish is up later this summer, I will quite likely cancel that whole service.

A bigger leaking faucet, that we’re eliminating today, is landline phone service. At $60 per month for local and unlimited long distance (more like $67 after all the taxes and fees), this didn’t seem like a bad deal when we moved here. But Mrs Yeoman Farmer and I both have cell phones, with plenty of “family share” minutes and unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling. For the last several months, as I’ve written my check to AT&T, I’ve grown to increasingly view the landline as a redundancy.

MYF and I did our homework, thought the decision through, and concluded that we should add a third cell phone to our plan, so we could always have one parked in the house — and we would transfer our existing home phone number to that phone. Cost for that third line is $10/month. And without a landline, AT&T will charge us an extra $10/month for high speed internet. But that still puts us ahead by $47/month.

We’ll be making that transition today, and the internet will be disrupted for a day or two as AT&T adjusts our service. Blog posting will therefore be sparse for awhile, and there may be a delay in my moderating any comments you post.

One interesting thing about planning for this transition: I hadn’t stopped to think lately about how dependent I am on internet service, and how much anxiety I’d feel about being deprived of it for even two days. Fortunately, I was able to identify a couple of days where I wouldn’t need it for work. I will be able to drive in to a WiFi cafe to check email during the day, but that is quite some distance from our house and I won’t be going often. I’m trying to see the break in internet connectivity as an opportunity to (1) examine and reflect upon my degree of attachment to the service; and (2) get outside and take care of some projects on the farm.

Both of which are pretty good. And maybe I’ll identify a few more leaking faucets while I’m at it. How about the rest of you? What have kinds of budgetary leaking faucets have you eliminated over these last several months?

UPDATE: When I made the call to pull the trigger on porting our landline over to the new cell phone, they gave approval…but said it will take until May 28th to actually go through. So, it looks like I’ll have uninterrupted internet service until then. There is no technological reason why AT&T couldn’t release the old landline number to my new Sprint cell phone today. They’re simply trying to milk eight additional days of landline service out of me. And, yes, this makes me all the more glad about my decision to dump them.

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