how to live without a cell phone

Considering I travel quite a bit for work and personal reasons, it might be somewhat surprising that I am getting rid of my cell phone. That’s what this blog entry is for – to explain my rationale for nixing my cell phone. And who knows, maybe it will inspire some of you to live without a permanent cell phone. Here are five reasons why I got rid of my cell phone contract.

Cell phones are distracting
I spend 12-14 hours a day being completely connected via either phone or my computer. There’s email, Twitter, Facebook, Instant Messenger, my mum, Otto etc. I constantly get interrupted by something. Oftentimes the only time I have to be by myself and with my own thought is when I am running errands or traveling from one distraction to the next. But not when I am carrying my cell phone. By taking away my cell phone, I now have at least 1-2 hours a day where nobody can get a hold of me and my brain can function without interruption. I can think again.

Cell phones cause brain cancer
While this is  not confirmed, many doctors and scientists predict that cell phone radiation ought to have some negative effects on our brains. To me it’s common sense – having those levels of radiation near my brain can’t be good. Just like inhaling smoke into your lungs can’t be healthy. Check out this video for proof.

Cell phones are expensive
Since I also used my cell phone for email, my monthly  bill was usually around $80 (all those government fees were ridiculous). If I put $80 every month into my savings account for the next 30 years and earn 4% interest, I will have saved $55,000+.

Digital phone service is dirt cheap
I use Vonage at home. It costs me $35 a month and I can call whoever I want from wherever I want – including my friends and family in Germany. Also, if I really wanted to, I could take my phone and line to wherever I go. (Yes, I can take my Vonage phone to Germany, hook it into my parents’ Internet connection and talk to you with my Portland number). Your cable company would be happy to supply you with a digital phone line for $20-$30 a month. If you’re even more guerilla, you can try using Skype which is only a few bucks a month. It should be noted that because of my International calling, just having cell phone service was never enough.

You can have a cell phone without the contract or monthly payment
I am cheating a bit here, but I did sign up for an AT&T GoPhone. It costs me 10 cents a minute with no monthly fee. I bought a $100 worth of minutes, which I am hoping will last me for a year. I also signed up for a separate text messaging service, where for $5 a month  (taken right out of $100 balance) a month I get 200 text messages. My new phone is not nearly as cool as my old phone and I am paying every time I use it, so I won’t carry it with me or use it as often as my old phone. Less distraction, same emergency backup, more healthy brain cells.

How do you do it?

1. Wait until your cell phone contract is up, then cancel. If your contract isn’t up for a long time, you might be able to fake military service or deportation. Neither of which is a particularly smart idea.

2. Sell your old cell phone on eBay. I will get $150 for mine, which will actually pay for my new cell phone and service for over a year.

3. Get a Pay-As-You-Go Phone. Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, AT&T, T-Mobile all have cheap phones. I got a Nokia 2610 for $19. It works with a SMS card, so I can even use it in Europe if I want to.

4. Tell your close friends your number and let everybody else know that you nixed your cell phone.

That’s it. I might post more about this, as my life without cell phone begins. Do you see any advantages to still having a permanent cell phone plan?


  1. Anonymous October 22, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Are you trying to destroy the American economy & our spoiled way of life? It’s just like a German to find a way to make things more efficient and more cost-effective – if you’re going to live here, why can’t you just adapt and become more wasteful & greedy and obese like the rest of us? Saving money? Bah, humbug! I say charge and spend and then borrow more and spend more tomorrow – get every expensive gadget you can find with features you don’t even need or understand and then throw the box & the wrapper out the window without even thinking to recycle, eat a couple of Big Macs, some Biggie fries and wash it all down with a big ol’ Coca Cola or, even better, a Red Bull.

    Or not. Save money, recycle, use only what you need, share the wealth with the rest of the world and make the planet a better place for everyone. End the war and the genocide happening all around the world – is this really what we want?

  2. Anonymous October 22, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    mario, your blog is titled “how to live without a cell phone” …but then you explain how you just bought a new CELL PHONE.

    am i missing something here?

    is your new cell phone the NON cancer causing variety? if so, what model is it?

    also, is your new cell phone the kind that doesn’t interrupt you, distract you, and ring/buzz every time someone calls or texts you? that would be super!

    i’d honestly love to follow your lead on this, but i’m not sure i understand what exactly it is you’re doing, other than saving money.

    silly german.

  3. Anonymous October 22, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Ryan, good point. I should have explained that a bit better.

    So, I do have a cell phone now. But it doesn’t cost me a cent when I don’t use it – which means I don’t feel guilty not carrying it around with me anymore. Where is my new cell phone now? I don’t know. I’ll find it when I need it.

    Regardless, it’s a great headline that fooled you into reading my blog. Sucker.

  4. Anonymous October 22, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Harlan, thanks for your comment.

    It should be noted that I did just buy an iPod touch. Actually, the reason I even began thinking about living without a cell phone, was because I calculated the true cost of owning an iPhone ($1,000+ per year). Doing the math got me to cancel my cell phone plan and buy an iPod touch.

    Regardless, it’s a great time for all of us to look at our spending habits and get as lean as mean as possible.

  5. Anonymous October 23, 2008 at 1:02 am

    I’m going to follow my friend Wines on this (although a previous blog post says i shouldn’t follow him again…ever) I understand getting rid of you cell phone only to buy on that makes you feel less quilty…I’ll be curious to see how long this lasts…also for those of you not going down the road of being a hermit, i find vibrate mode keeps me away from my phone plenty since i never feel/hear it vibrate 😉

  6. Anonymous October 24, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    I know another guy who uses a pay-as-go phone, though I’m pretty sure he’s into the alternative to legitement/legal business… Just say’n!

    Two things: 1:) 50 cents/minute to make a call from my phone, and 2.) Jen’s not allowed to call me to talk to you.


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  8. Anonymous November 1, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Mario, in your response comment above, you indicate that your new cell phone doesn’t cost you a cent.

    Why then, whenever I call you, do you yell at me, saying things like”

    “how did you get this number?!”


    “let me call you back on a landline. this is costing me ten cents a minute!”

    you silly german…

  9. Anonymous April 4, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    I TOTALLY agree Mario! You’re a smart guy. I’ve been thinking of doing this very thing for the last several months. I have contracts with my cell phone company. I am thinking of cancelling them all and just send them crooks $10/month!

  10. Anonymous May 29, 2009 at 4:27 am

    Good article. I myself haven’t used a cell phone in months, although my wife and I keep one in case of an emergency. I rely instead on Vonage for business and personal use. Have read too much information about the health risks of using the cell phone too, so that keeps me away from it.

  11. Anonymous April 11, 2010 at 2:14 am

    Mario, well done. I’ve just gone wireless-less, too. I kept an inexpensive phone on a basic plan for my “landline”. For SMS/voicemail checking on the go, Google Voice serves perfectly! It dumps everything into my email inbox, so only 1 device to check.

    The best benefit is the renewed importance of MEANINGFUL communication. When I make a plan to meet someone, we both have to stick to it! No last minute changes, no copping out. Keeps me on my feet…

  12. Anonymous May 7, 2010 at 1:35 am

    Mario, no one needs a cell phone. I’m active in business and with non-business projects, and have never had one. A home number and voicemail is plenty. If I’m not there, I’m not there! With a cell phone you’ve given away your private time. Don’t do it.

  13. Anonymous August 19, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Avery St. Clair 06. May, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Mario, no one needs a cell phone. I’m active in business and with non-business projects, and have never had one. A home number and voicemail is plenty. If I’m not there, I’m not there! With a cell phone you’ve given away your private time. Don’t do it.

    Brilliant Avery. I will do the same as well. And yes with a cell phone, you’ve given away your private time. And when I miss calls folks thinking I’m dodging them. And I’m like, that’s it. Don’t guilt me during me free time. I’m online and I have voice mail at home. That’s enough.

    Great article Mario. I need to pay off student loans and I can live without my cell phone. Win-win.

  14. Anonymous September 25, 2010 at 4:53 am

    I have never owned a cell phone and so far, I don’t intend on ever doing. I have a landline I pay $14/mo. for (less taxes and fees) and use Skype for long distance U.S., which is about $3 a month. I have no need to call international.

  15. Anonymous January 12, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    My contract is up in April and it’s “adios iPhone” after that. I’m always saying I can’t wait to get rid of my cell phone and my friends all say “you don’t want to do that, you love your phone,” when what they really are saying is “I love my phone and can’t live without it so, you should too!” Your right: I used to have a pre-paid phone and it was way cheaper than my current plan plus I had the luxury of living detached from our ever-so-busier lifestyle. In fact, it was quite enjoyable roaming around the world without having beepalepsy or posting tweets every ten minutes. I can’t wait to go back to living my life instead of reporting it and relying on technology to make sure I’m OK. However, I will miss listening to baseball games anywhere on the planet. I guess I’ll just have to start attending them again!

  16. Anonymous March 8, 2011 at 7:22 am

    I just took my cell phone and it’s charger back to the local Verizon store. They told me it was mine and that i should just keep it, which is like a crack addict hanging onto their glass pipe AFTER rehab, just in case. I said no, no, no…this thing is a technological and financial rattlesnake, and I don’t want it in my house. They looked at me like I was nuts, and I walked out feeling top-o-the-morning. I’m waaay ahead of you, Mario. Life is sweet on the Luddite side.

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