Can You Be Smart Without a Smart Phone?

by Katy on June 7, 2011 · 50 comments

Addendum: My husband just informed me that he misunderstood the info from Verizon, and apparently I will be able to continue using my phone. It’s just that I will no longer be able to get online tech support for the phone. Which, of course, I never knew existed.

So, in the words of Emily Litella . . .  “Never Mind.”

Although my life is full of electronics, I have yet to make the leap to a smart phone. I do have a cell phone, but it doesn’t have a keyboard and it certainly doesn’t get internet. I would be perfectly happy to continue on with it for years to come. Unfortunately, our cell phone provider has informed us that my perfectly functional phone will no longer be functional after the end of the summer. (Really, they’re psychic?!) Sure, they’ll give me a new phone, but I neither want nor need a new phone. My husband has repeatedly pointed out that I could get a better phone for free more times than I care to mention, but I don’t see the point. I do not want to banish my electronics to questionably run recycling centers any more than I would want to get rid of my boxy TV in favor of a plasma screen.

Yes, the new version is cooler looking, but the old one is perfectly fine.

A smart phone would allow me to access the internet anywhere at any time. But really, I like that being away from home is a break from a plugged-in world. (Do you really want to read my tweets about how I’m waiting to pick my son up from martial arts class?) And I think there is nothing ruder than people who are constantly answering texts, updating their Facebook and giving the priority of their attention to those far away while ignoring those in front of them.

Do I need an electronic calendar system/to-do list/grocery lists/video games? I get a free small datebook every year from my mother’s Morgan Stanley guy, I write to-do lists on recycle paper, grocery lists on the backs of old envelopes, (perfect when using coupons) and if you ever catch me playing Angry Birds or other such nonsense, I want you to put a stake through my heart, Buffy style.

I’m sure that there will be no un-smart phones within a few years. But for right now, I prefer to stay with my kinda stupid phone.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”


{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel June 7, 2011 at 9:15 am

Amen, Katy!
I just got rid of my ‘smart’ phone because it was making me stupid. Couldn’t agree with you more on smart phones encouraging bad habits. I’ve been writing about this for a few weeks now. I’m not ashamed to admit I am a reformed text addict and Facebook-er.
Oh, and I’m saving a load of money not having the big cell phone bill every month.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl June 7, 2011 at 9:27 am

I said much the same thing a few months back. I really dislike it when someone is checking their phone while I’m talking to them…it feels very dismissive.

And like you, I LIKE being disconnected from the internet when I’m out and about. It’s good for me. 🙂


gisele June 7, 2011 at 9:36 am

Absolutely, don’t get one unless it makes sense for you.
I have one because I’m away from home most of the day so having easy access to email and internet is super useful. Nice, but not completely necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I really love my phone, but it’s a perk, not a necessity.


jasallen June 7, 2011 at 9:36 am

that phone looks pretty old…it has a remote control kinda look to it:)


mike crosby June 7, 2011 at 9:53 am

I think it would be nice to have a smart phone, but then I realize the main reason for me to have a phone is to make calls. Funny, I guess I’m a Luddite that way.


Carrie June 7, 2011 at 10:00 am

I do have a smart phone, and I wouldn’t want to be without its free map app that keeps me from getting lost. But I have really set limits with myself. I don’t use it (or other electronics) after 7 pm. I don’t text or FB when kids or hubby are talking to me. I don’t even check FB more than a few minutes a day. And it irks me when I go to the playground with my kids and I see parents so involved with their phone that they don’t watch their kid play. A book is one thing, but the phone sucks people in so much, I can’t help thinking that they wouldn’t notice if someone abducted the kid right in front of them.


Erin June 14, 2011 at 6:48 am

but you can read books on your smart phone….


Caitlin June 7, 2011 at 10:13 am

I would not want to be without my smartphone. Ive had it for only 3 months but it has noticeably made my life better. I think its usefulness very much depends on your lifestyle. I am 26, live in NYC and am rarely home/have no land line. The map app alone is worth its weight in gold. The skype app allows me to take a free call from my sister who is living in South Africa even if I am out. The list goes on and on.

So long as you use a smartphone intelligently/have basic manners, I see no reason to think of it as a bad thing. I fell like (overall) the frugal community looks down on people who have smartphones, and I wish that weren’t the case.


Katy June 7, 2011 at 10:18 am

It sounds like a smart phone is the right choice for you. I don’t need to internet when I’m away from home.



Amy June 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

All I use my cell phone for is calls, texting and photos, and I can do that with a Net10 phone. I pay $25 a month for 750 minutes (which I never even come close to using), with no contracts and no early termination fees. (You lose any additional minutes when the month is up; you just stop paying whenever you don’t want the service anymore).

BTW, I think Net10 has a smartphone that is $50 for unlimited minutes. And same deal: no contract, no early termination fees.


Amy June 7, 2011 at 10:24 am

I just checked: Net10 does offer a smartphone:


Carol June 7, 2011 at 10:25 am

I don’t have a home phone, because neither the dog not the cat could be taught to take reliable messages. An ice storm pulled the phone line from the house, so I just did without. I have had a smart phone for a couple of years. I travel locally a lot for my job and it helps to have my work email on the go. It also can be a drag to be trackable even when I’m on vacation.


Cheryl June 7, 2011 at 10:36 am

Just read this on my smartphone. Different strokes, I guess.


Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary June 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Me too. It allows me to catch up on my ‘net reading while on the train or waiting in line. I prefer to spend my evening with the fiance and kids, so I use my commuting time to read my favorite blogs.


Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary June 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm

PS: I even play Angry Birds from time to time as a way to chill out. Yes, I do, and I admit it. 🙂

Of course, I also completely respect Katy’s right to choose NOT to have a smartphone. I do not support the cell phone companies forcing the issue.


Kris June 7, 2011 at 10:45 am

I’ve debated over making the leap to a smartphone as many in my field (I’m a flight attendant so always on the go) find it really convenient. I’m going to see how long I can go without one though for a few reasons. 1) I just bought a house so the longer I can go without increasing my spending, the better! 2) I can wait until I’m at the layover hotel to check email…none of the emails I get are so urgent I need to check them RIGHT AWAY. 3) I don’t have a significant other/kids so there is nobody in the world (at the moment) who keeping in touch with is a dire need. I can wait to use the phone at the hotel and my calling card.

For some people, a smartphone is the right move but it hasn’t proven to be a necessity yet so I’ll use my low-tech cell until something changes.


Anne Marie @ Married to the Empire June 7, 2011 at 10:45 am

We use cheap, basic cell phones on a pay-as-you-go plan. My youth group is appalled that I don’t text. My phone can do it (even though I think it’s 5 years old and NOT a smartphone by any means); I just don’t know how, nor do I really care to learn. I give my number out to very few people. In fact, a few folks at church somehow got my number and started calling me on it. I’ve asked them not to. When I’m out, I’m out. I don’t want to talk to you. It’s not personal; I just want to focus on my grocery shopping or looking at books at the library or buying cat litter.

I was at a wedding a few years ago, and at the reception, I noticed an entire table of 20-somethings not talking or interacting with each other. Every single one of them had their cell phones out, checking whatever and texting. Absolutely nuts.


Megg June 7, 2011 at 10:46 am

I LOVE my iPhone. I’ll admit it. I probably don’t NEED a smart phone, but I love it and it’s a choice I’ve made. I’m OK with that.

But I also respect your decision and think it’s a smart (haha) one for you. As an aside, if you do decide to upgrade you can donate your phone to a woman’s shelter (I think Verizon will accept them) and they will reuse the phone.


Mary Ann June 7, 2011 at 10:57 am

I also have a “regular” phone, through Tracfone (pre-paid) and I don’t even know how to use everything on this one. What good would a smartphone do me? I’d never use the stuff on it.


Noelle June 7, 2011 at 11:10 am

I have a smartphone, and I have mixed feelings about it. The plusses: a free Google Maps App (it’s a helluva lot safer to turn on the voice navigation than trying to read my chickenscratch handwriting for directions!), easy photo share, and… well, I thought I had more, but really, the negatives keep piling up. I’ve got a bit of an addictive personality, and I find myself checking Facebook and playing pointless games way too many times in the course of the day. It’s tapered off somewhat, but I hate that I let myself get distracted from things I’d rather be doing, like reading my books.
The biggest reason I don’t like them, though, is that my boyfriend is on his constantly. I’ve told him I hate when he reads it at dinner, when we’re hanging out with people, and he’ll stop for awhile, but then he keeps doing it. I love the guy, but I’d rather talk to him face to face than watch him play with his phone. 🙁


Amber @ June 7, 2011 at 11:39 am

I have a Droid and while I do like the easy internet access, texting, etc. there are many times I feel so “electronic drunk”…like I really need to just pull away from any electronic device. So, while it is useful and has made my life easier, I find that it can also take me away from some precious moments. Plus, seems like everyday there are more and more scientists expressing concern with a possible link between cell phones and cancer. I just did a post about this and how it may impact kids who are using cell phones increasingly more (especially with all of the apps and texting).


Jenny June 7, 2011 at 11:44 am

All cell phones, smart or not, have an off button. Amazing how so few in our society make use of it!


Jennifer June 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I also opt for no smart phone. I feel like it is an unnecessary luxury in my life that would stretch my budget and time. I too find it incredibly rude talk, text or web browse when you are suppose to be interacting with folks in front of you, especially if it becomes a habit, every once in awhile a brief exchange is needed but when a conversation is continually interupted by a text alert it gets old quick!!


Mindy June 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I don’t even own a non-smart cell phone. (I think I just heard gasps) The expense, compared to the amount of use, just didn’t add up for our family, so I am cell phone free. It’s a pain on some occasions, but overall, I don’t feel deprived in the least.


Kris June 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm

My husband has that exact phone. He had a fancy smart phone, but kept dropping it while at work and so he went back to the indestructible phone in your picture.

I have a chocolate phone. It was a Christmas gift 5 years ago. It isn’t hooked up to the internet, I don’t have texting. I just make phone calls on My husband keeps asking me if I want to upgrade my phone and I always say no.

My son wanted a smart phone. He was due for an upgrade and we told him that he could upgrade to the smart phone, but he had to pay the difference between a regular phone and a smart phone. I think he had it for 4 months before he wanted to go back to his old phone. He realized that the phone wasn’t as cool as the amount of money it took to pay for it.

My daughter is moving into the dorms in August. She said she might get an IPHONE. Same deal with her. She might actually use hers more, but we will see if she thinks it is worth paying that extra


Anne June 7, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I used to feel like you…until I got my smartphone. Now I enjoy many of the apps that have helped me in my goal to go paperless. I use the calendar function, a grocery list app, a home organization app, etc. I no longer make endless lists on scraps of paper. They are like anything else in life, you can become obsessed and addicted or keep it moderate. I too am away from home for long hours so being able to access my email is a definite plus! Of course I waited for technology to advance and bought the now obsolete version for a fraction of what it originally retailed for :p


Jinger June 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I just noticed that management of my apartment complex is proud to announce WiFi at the pool area for all the smartphone users!


rachael June 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I love the idea of a smart phone, but I’m technologically delayed and tend to get flustered when I have too many windows open on my very basic computer, so I think apps would push me over the edge. I like having a basic cell phone, and I have no issue with anyone who cares to own whatever handy gadget floats their boat, I can certainly see the advantages and even the necessity for some professions or situations. I would gently encourage a little focus on etiquette, however. Interrupting a face to face conversation to answer an electronic summons, or even attempt to do both simultaneously, is a little vain, and more than a little rude (Dad!).


Trish June 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm

I don’t have a smart phone and can’t see how my life would be improved by one, in spite of the commercials telling me otherwise. I certainly can understand that it really is a great tool for some, especially for those in big cities. It seems somewhat like a generational thing too – I am just a few yrs older than Katy.

That playing games on your phone thing really gets to me too. Recently when I was having lunch with my sister she played games on her phone the entire time she was talking to me. It does feel dismissive.


Leanne Opaskar June 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I got a smartphone a few days ago, mostly as an assist to my job. I’m a full-time artist/cartoonist (you can see my comic strip at my website), and it’s useful for me to be able to look at reference art on the fly.

I had to take my car in this morning for service. Instead of being stuck in the waiting room and unable to work, I was able to get out my phone and look up some reference material for a couple of pieces I was working on. With the pencil case and reporter pad I keep stashed in my bag, those three hours were productive ones instead of wasted time.

It really just depends on what you need it for. (:


Anne Marie @ Married to the Empire June 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I should clarify that while I don’t have a smartphone and just carry a very basic cell phone, I do have an iPod Touch. It’s mostly filled with music, but it is helpful for other things. While I can’t use the internet on it while I’m out, I can do things like put the address of where I’m going into MapQuest (or whatever map app is built into it) before I leave home. The directions are still there for me while I’m in my car. Or I can make lists or notes while I’m out.

The beauty of my Touch is that I don’t have to pay a monthly fee. I would actually use an iPhone if I had one, I must admit. (I might even text people, which would thrill the teens in my life!) BUT, I’m just too cheap to pay for the monthly service and data plan. It’s a ridiculous amount of money. Maybe if I had a job that would utilize all that it offers, but I’m a SAHW.


min hus June 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I don’t have a smart phone either; I’m too cheap…er frugal…to pay for data. There are times when it would be convenient, but like you I don’t feel the need to be plugged in all the time. It drive me nuts that my boyfriend and others are incapable of letting a single text or call pass them by…they CAN wait… yeesh!


Dawn June 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm

I recently upgraded to an IPhone. I was convinced finally that texting would be convenient (by hubby) and accessing work email while traveling is a real plus. I was super excited about it for about 2 weeks, but now the newness has worn off and it is just a phone, unless I check email for work when at home. Texting, however, IS really convenient – doesn’t require possibly interrupting the person you are contacting. I think it is all about your lifestyle, and if you can be disciplined, you won’t “waste” time on your phone, any more than you “waste” time on your computer. So I agree with many comments here – different strokes! ~Dawn


Annie Jones June 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm

I don’t want one, either! My husband and I have no landline phone and just plain-Jane $20 cell phones. We had phones with more options for a while but either didn’t like or didn’t use the options, so we went back to basics. No texting, no photos, just calls.

They are the pre-paid type, but we don’t pre-pay. We met our contract requirements with our cell provider years ago, so we just switch our SIM cards into the new phones and pay our monthly service fee for a family plan that’s so old it’s not even offered to new customers anymore. We have free minutes to each other (which is what we use most since he works out of town often), with a few hundred minutes left over for calls to family. We usually don’t even come close to using them all, as we rarely call friends just to socialize.


Marianne June 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Smart phones are addicting! I have an average phone with the texting blocked (hehehe). The thing i hate about smartphones is my carrier would make me buy a data plan if i bought one. So i have an Itouch that i use with my wireless internet to play around (even have a texting app that i can talk to my close friends with) and can use it anywhere that has wifi. Im so happy with the two devices because im saving $$$.


Jean June 7, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Just when I was feeling like I had to defend my nonsmart phone (on which I have texting blocked) once again, Katy, you vindicate me! I too think smart phones seem to breed rudeness and one of these days am going to unload on someone who I am supposedly having lunch, dinner, coffee, or a meeting with and they are paying more attention to their phone than the conversation between us. (Including my adult children who may find that the next time we have a family dinner at my house they are asked to leave their phones in the car.) I need to be connected to the internet at work, and choose to at home , but I too relish the times I am unplugged! I am also too frugal to pay for another internet service that I really don’t need.


Adele S. June 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm

I don’t have a smart phone either, but plan to make a change this summer when my contract comes up for renewal. Don’t be afraid to make a change to something new. You might actually like it better. Bonus: you can donate your phone to an organization who will in turn give your phone to a battered women’s shelter. 911 still works even when there is no service on the phone. See? Get a new phone and do a good deed at the same time.


Lori from Michigan June 8, 2011 at 12:15 am

There are many reasons why my husband and I are divorcing, but the irritation I feel with his relentless phone addiction numbers among them. Our daughter had surgery on Monday, and he actually had his nose in that stupid thing looking at something on the Internet while the anesthesiologist was discussing the drug protocol with us. I wanted to punch his lights out!


Marie June 8, 2011 at 3:45 am

I was just talking about this with my husband yesterday! We don’t have smart phones either. It seems extremely expensive to have this plan, but also I agree with your point of a lot of people looking at their phones and not paying attention to people right in front of them. I do have a lot of friends that text me and I feel that I’m being rude when I don’t respond in large sentences because because it takes so long to crank a message out.


Faith S. June 8, 2011 at 4:46 am

I completely agree. I loved being unplugged from the internet. 🙂 And I love having to talk to people face to face.


mom to five June 8, 2011 at 5:50 am

My daughter is actually using that same type of phone in your picture. It was passed down from Dad to me then to her. It still works fine.
I don’t like the fancy phones. Too many buttons, bells, and whistles. I just want to push buttons, call and talk to a person. I don’t like texting, never use the internet on the phone, don’t email on the phone, etc. The fewer buttons and funtions the better for me. I always tell hubby that I want one of those Jitterbug phones with the big buttons and big numbers.

Now he likes the fancy ones. He has a big one know that you slide your finger over to do everything. He gets on the internet all the time with it. I think his is an android or something? whatever the newest one out is, but I don’t know the name for sure. His phone picks up scanner frequencies for storms, shows the weather maps, plays movies and music, has games….. I can never figure out how to use it. The silly thing doesn’t even have a dial pad. You have to flip through a bunch of screens to get to the a touch screen to dial a number. I just don’t like it at all.


Bellen June 8, 2011 at 5:55 am

We have a cell phone and resent that, but it’s for our own safety now that we’re older and may need 911 when out and about.

We use it so often that our provider e-mailed us to remind us to update our minutes – we were behind about 9 months!! I think we’ve used it, had it turned on, once in the past 6 months and that was to let our son know we stopped overnight on our way home so he wouldn’t worry.

I get extremely annoyed at people who cannot function without the cell, smart or otherwise, phone in their hand. I’ve seen people in the big box store discussing sales with a friend on the other side of the store, taken into a stall in the restroom, and listened to quite titillating monologues of last night’s date. And even tho it’s illegal in many state to use a cell phone while driving, I’ve even seen local sheriffs using them while in the patrol car. I just don’t think it’s necessary – I functioned, and still do, quite well with just using the phone at home in privacy.


Lisa P June 8, 2011 at 8:26 am

I have had a “smart” phone for about 3 yrs & am thinking about going back to a simple phone when the contract is up (I kept my old one). I’m a simple, happy housewife without a need for the net & email at my side but I do like the weather alert function. Honestly my life isn’t exciting enough to warrant posting my every move (or really any move LOL) & my handful of friends on Facebook are really only interested in sending/receiving gifts for the online games – my little time waster LOL.
Additionally I’ve never had an interest in watching a movie or surfing the net on a tiny screen. I find it odd how home tvs are getting bigger while at the same time they market watching videos “on the go” on a 2″ or smaller screen.
I admit that I just treated myself to a Kindle with the 3G function. It has a lot of similar features to a smartphone (free downloads of calendar & notes apps) and no monthly fee. Most importantly I can read to my heart’s content.
If you are happy without a “smart” phone don’t cave in. Other than that weather alert function I was entirely satified with simple phone, calendar/organizer & a puzzle book. Decisions decisions…


Barb June 8, 2011 at 10:40 am

Well, I’m a frugal gal living on a pension, and would not be caught dead without mycell phone-I would not have said this before I have one. Getting one (free with a rebate was the smartest thing I did). Admittedly I gave up my land line. I travel alot for my business and for personal and the map and gps would make it worthwhile alone.

I do agree that cable and cell phones are two things that are so often dismissed as “not what a frugal person does” right off the bat.


clickclackgorilla June 9, 2011 at 12:17 am

Here here! I was just having a conversation about phones with my husband last night. My current phone is five years old, and depsite the fact that all of the numbers (and letters) have now rubbed off of the buttons (they were just printed onto the plastic cheaply), it works perfectly. I have a few friends with smart phones who have already gone through a few versions because they seem to be particularly easy to break. Not so smart afterall…


Nancy June 9, 2011 at 4:08 am

I was offered a smart phone at no cost and turned it down. I’m quite happy with my stupid phone. I don’t know how many years I’ve had it. It’s one of the old clunkers. I did break down and get one of those cute little flip open phones with a camera about four or five years ago, but could never find it in the bottom of my bag. I took it back and had them put the card in my old phone. Now I have a backup if I ever need it. I first got a cell phone when I worked on ships – no home phones there. I kept it when I came back to land to have when I was out and about in case of emergency. Now it’s my only phone. It has internet capabilitis, but I had that disabled. I have a home computer, a digital camera and a phone. I’m not interested in having it all combined. I like to be able to escape electronics. I prefer to have a life instead. It’s just really nice to know there are others out there like me.


Kariann June 9, 2011 at 7:33 am

Viva La Stupid Phone!


Carla June 10, 2011 at 1:10 pm

My then 31-year old daughter was automatically given a Smart Phone by the company. She hated it. Purely hated it, and exchanged it within a week. She’s young, I’m old. What do I need a(n) SP for?


Erin June 14, 2011 at 7:01 am

I got one last year since we moved to a rural area and when I am out, I am out for the whole day. We are too much on the go…yet I went by for 10 years without a cell phone before and I had no problems (my husband would say otherwise)

The other main reason was to use google calendar that we can have a family calendar. My husband harped on me to use it since he has a brain injury…yet he rarely uses it and says he forgets to put things in. Can’t win.


Rachel June 26, 2011 at 8:04 am

I prefer to save hard as my retirement is in the next 5 years which is why I’m happy to just use a cheap Tracfone SVC phone for $14.99 and the plan costs me $6.66/month. I think this is the cheapest phone for old folks like me who need bigger keys and letters on the phone.
I don’t talk allot on my phone so I find Tracfone plans save me allot of money. I don’t need a smart phone 3G with web browsing, APPS, etc, I’d rather web browse on my computer at home.

How many beggars have holes in their clothes these days. It seems as though even the poorest of the poor have decent clothes that aren’t so worn out. I now treasure my old clothes and don’t want new t-shirts, I enjoy the frugal look and love to wear a t-shirt with a hole in it to the gym.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: