Would Ditching Your Smartphone Save You Money? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

A smiling young woman lying in the grass uses her flip phone. in the grass
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Remember when a smartphone was a totally new concept? Chances are, you do. After all, it was only about a decade ago that the very first iPhone was released.

Of course, you wouldn’t know that from the way our devices have weasled their way into every single aspect of our lives. These days, some of the hottest technological advances are all about finding ways to offer fewer features, a la the Light Phone… or ditching our smartphones entirely in favor of a good ‘ol low-tech Nokia.

So You Want to Be Smartphone-Free?

Getting out of the smartphone game is usually parsed as a way to boost your mental health, not your bank account. We’ve all heard the horror stories about our hopeless smartphone addictions, and the decaying sleep quality, increase in traffic accidents and ever-shortening attention spans they’re causing.

But given that even an “affordable” smartphone starts at around $400 retail — as opposed to those sub-$100 Nokia clunkers — it definitely seems like a viable move from a penny-hoarding perspective, too. 

As it turns out, though, the smartphone vs. flip phone equation isn’t that simple. In an always-connected world, giving up your phone might come with costs you didn’t anticipate. And we don’t just mean the psychological pain of giving up Snapchat.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving Up Your Phone

Before you commit to your luddite lifestyle, considering the following.

1. What Items Would You Need to Replace Your Smartphone?

Although we call them phones, we all know that placing calls is just about the last thing we do with our devices. These pocket computers serve a stunning array of functions — and if you wanted to maintain your current routine uninterrupted, sans phone, you’d likely need to make some compensatory purchases.

  • Alarm clock: $15 
  • GPS system: $70+ (Alternatively, you could tackle paper maps, if you still know how to read them — a good American road atlas will set you back about $15.)
  • An actual camera (remember those!?): $40 to thousands of dollars

These are just the bare-bones basics. Depending on how you use your phone, you might also want a handheld gaming device, like a Nintendo Switch, which starts at about $300. I know I’d spend at least an extra $10 a month on notebooks and pens, given the frequency with which I use Google Keep.

Of course, many of these costs are small compared with the expense of the device and the data plan — not to mention the convenience factor. You’d have to actually carry around, install and learn to use all those separate items… though we have to say, snapping artsy pictures with a camera looks way cooler than squatting with your cell phone trying to get the perfect Instagram angle. 

2. In What Ways Is Your Smartphone Actually Helping You Earn Money?

There are all sorts of ways to use your smartphone to turn a profit. From snapping pics of your receipts with Ibotta to using Rover to get paid to play with puppies, there are plenty of ways to put your phone to work for you… which you’d have less access to without a mobile device.

Obviously, submitting surveys and getting 25-cent rebates on your grocery haul isn’t going to make or break your bank. But if you’re listing rooms with Airbnb or selling stuff on apps like LetGo, you might be bringing in a significant amount of auxiliary income. Limiting your interactions on those websites to the time you spend in front of your desktop computer could lead you to miss out on opportunities.

3. What Temptations Would You Avoid Without All Those Apps?

Although it is possible to use your phone to earn money, it’s also possible — and downright easy — to use it to spend the stuff. Think about how many times you grab a quick ride with Uber when you easily could have walked, or decide not to make dinner because Grubhub is just so darn convenient. Would ditching your smartphone also mean ditching a boatload of temptation? 

Heck, even dating apps could be considered a factor. After all, most dates involve activities where spending money is required. That said, so does sitting at the bar hoping Mr. or Ms. Right approaches, and there are plenty of free and low-cost date night options to suggest to your potential partner.

Flip Phone vs. Smartphone: Which One Works for You?

I’m certainly not going to say that giving up your smartphone is a bad idea, by any means. And I definitely threaten to do it myself on the regular… immediately before whiling away yet another hour scrolling through Instagram or playing Words with Friends.

But whether or not it would benefit your mental health, just know that it might not necessarily be a surefire way to save money… though it could be.

Not, of course, that you need any excuses.

Jamie Cattanach is a writer whose work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Her focuses include personal finance, travel, body image and more; she writes to find (and share!) the best ways to live intentionally, adventurously and happily.