Turkey and a Toy

On the “Why It’s Kept” page, I noted that I had not purchased Thanksgiving airfare and had not decided on a new cell phone plan. Given the general uncertainty in our lives regarding a big move and related travel prior to said move, premature commitment to either would have been foolish.

Well.

We did purchase our tickets to fly north for Thanksgiving–as we’ll be in this country for a bit longer than we thought and have time to travel then and after to see family elsewhere. We are looking forward to it. I even purchased some special toys for the kids’ later-than-usual flight there, in an effort to keep them awake, enthusiastic and cheerful, so that I don’t have to carry one or both of them off the plane as they fitfully sleep. (My husband needs to fly up a few days after us.) Special toys shipped from the United Kingdom, for Pete’s sake–why doesn’t the United States sell Octonauts figures? Does this country not know how fabulous these characters are?

I got myself a toy, too. Me. A toy.

I, who did not own a cell phone until 2004, who did not own a smart phone until 2009, will, at some point in late October, receive a new iPhone. It’ll be nicer than my husband’s — which is three years old. I’m a lucky girl. I reviewed the costs, carefully. Our monthly bill won’t go up, and while I did commit to a two-year contract with a company, everything is negotiable in that regard–especially when relocating. I will have a data limit–but in reviewing my data usage over the past three years, I’ve never approached even two percent of that limit during any given month. (I don’t need to stream video on a phone. I’ve never done it and don’t see that this will change. I do love FaceTime though, with so many of my loved ones rarely in the same room as me.)

But I can’t escape the fact that this iPhone is a toy. And after I read this, it’s an especially ridiculous toy: Cellphones Are Eating the Family Budget.

Government data show people have spent more on phone bills over the past four years, even as they have dialed back on dining out, clothes and entertainment—cutbacks that have been keenly felt in the restaurant, apparel and film industries….

[One smart phone user] figures that she and her husband would need to scrape together more than $1,000 to pay full price for two new high-end phones or settle for one of Verizon’s tiered-data plans, which she fears would cost a lot more given her video habit….

Almost nine in 10 of all U.S. adults have a cellphone, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Middle-income consumers increased their telephone spending in 2011 by $59, almost as much as the $64 in additional telephone spending by the 20% of consumers with the highest incomes, according to the Labor Department data…

As wireless service gets more expensive, the trade-offs become more painful. That could threaten to further crimp consumer spending elsewhere—or slow the upward swing in consumer spending on wireless.

That trend is evident in the home of 40-year-old Scott Boedy, a neighborhood service representative for a cable company. Mr. Boedy said he and his wife now pay $200 a month for cellphone service, up by about $50 from early last year, even as they have managed to cut spending on groceries by shopping at discount chain Aldi and on “fun stuff” by going out to dinner and movies less often. Looking over the family budget on Sunday night, Mr. Boedy said, his wife marveled at how much of it was going to the phone company.

“It stinks,” Mr. Boedy said. “I guess it’s the cost of modern-day America now.”

Let me say something, at the risk of sounding like Suze Orman: It is NOT the cost of modern-day America.

It is the cost of playing. In fact, it is the cost of the desire to play + the actual playing. You know what that equals? Waste and Excess.

I spent more time thinking about the logic in buying our children $20 worth of Octonauts toys (am I spoiling them? do they really need something special just because they’ll be on a plane past their bedtime? why not just wake them up on the plane and let them be cranky normal children?) than I did about the inherent absurdity of getting myself an iPhone. I’m a spoiled fool.

But I’m a self-aware spoiled fool.

What do you think?

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