Sunk costs and moderating emotional upsets

One of the best things about being an economist is understanding sunk costs.

Sunk cost is the idea that you can’t change the past.  What’s done is done.  How much effort you put in or what you spent in the past shouldn’t matter in your decision making.  All that matters is where you are now at this point in time and what the costs and benefits are in the future.  Compare the future costs and benefits, not the future plus the past.

The canonical example given: It is raining and you had a hard day at work.  You have tickets for a basketball game that you were looking forward to, but now you’re not so sure.  Should your answer about whether to go or not depend on how much you paid for the tickets?

If you understand sunk costs, then the answer should be no.  The costs of driving in the rain and not going to bed early should be weighed only against the pleasure you get from going to the event.  Your answer should be no different if you paid $60 for the tickets or if your sister got them for you from her fancy corporate job (right before you were about to purchase them yourself).  Most people don’t understand sunk costs, not even rationally.  (In fact, some folks may want to argue with me in the comments– knock yourselves out!)

Even though I rationally understand sunk costs, sometimes I have to be reminded.  It’s like when I went into labor with DC1 and my mom said, “Shouldn’t you be breathing or something?”  Oh yeah, breathing.  That made things a lot less painful.

Most recently… I’ve been working on a paper off and on for an embarrassingly long time.  Finally someone else decided to scoop me on it.  I need to get the damn thing out before they get published.  Soon.  When I found out I was a mess… I have spent WAY too much time on the paper, much of it going down blocked alleyways.  And it was almost done two years ago and I put it down again.  It could have been out two years ago and then I wouldn’t be being scooped.

DH says magic phrase, “sunk costs.”

Oh yeah.  Sunk costs.  All that matters is what I do now, which is less work because I just need to incorporate the things from my (cough 2009 cough) power point into the paper, smooth it up, and send it out.  And hey, that’s less work on a paper that I’m frankly quite sick of than I would have to do if I wanted to get it into a better journal.

Truly understanding sunk costs can help a person stop being emotionally blocked, and enable a person to move forward.  Have no regrets, take what you can learn, and move on.

Not that I’m not kicking myself in t-1 (also t-3, and t-7), but what can you do?  Nothing.  Just move forward.

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Taking into account the full costs

Recently some pf blogs have been doing cost-benefit analyses, but have been forgetting to take into account all of the costs.  Here’s a gentle reminder of things that you should think of before concluding the analysis.

Opportunity costs

An opportunity cost is the value of the next best thing you could be doing/purchasing/etc.  So the daycare cost of a baby isn’t zero when a parent stays home with the child, but instead includes the cost of that parent staying home rather than working.  And that’s just the most  basic opportunity cost, as we talked about before, there’s even bigger costs down the road for the career of the SAHP.

Hidden variable costs

It’s easy to think about the fixed costs for things– what you pay upfront, or what you must pay whether you use the item or not.  But there’s also often per-use variable costs, costs that are only incurred when you use the item.

The cost of car ownership includes not just the purchase price of the car, not just the cost for insurance, but it also needs to include gas costs, repair costs, and so on.

The cost of cloth diapering isn’t zero after the diapers have been purchased.  Calculations need to include water costs (and, of course, the opportunity cost of one’s time spent doing extra laundry and removing poo, though a hidden benefit may be earlier potty training).

Ignore sunk costs

If you’ve already incurred  a cost, that shouldn’t count in your calculation– only the costs and benefits of your future potential actions should rationally count in your decision making.  So it doesn’t matter if you’ve spent 3 (or 4 or 5) years in graduate school already, what matters is if the remaining 3 years are worth it.

What hidden costs are we missing?

Link Love

This is sickening.  (tw: torture, murder, immigration).  Student from Iowa killed 3 weeks after ICE sent him back to Mexico.

Trump backs court case to allow insurers to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions and to charge people more based on their health status.  He has asked that these provisions not be overturned until after the Midterms for political reasons.

This week in Fascism.  Justice department seizes NYTimes reporter’s phone and email records.

This week in corrupt private prisons

Hillary Clinton talks about the current ICE situation separating kids from families.

Didn’t see much coverage of last weekend’s protests, but they did happen.  #familiesbelongtogether

You had one job

Solid burn

Journalists need to call lies lies

Corruption used for good?

How Ireland cock-blocked bad behavior online

A pep talk about how we all need to help make the Blue Wave happen.

training for college student organizers

Some discussion about the cake ruling

Spoiler:  It is not wrong to shame shamers!

A good counterpoint to some financial advice for “teh poors”.

It is ok to want more money!

Sitcoms about the working class

We are currently unable to comment on several blogspot blogs.  (We’ve also been able to comment but probably got sent directly to spam by Miser Mom’s blog…)  So we can’t comment on this post by Something Remarkable.  Neither of us has sold a house, so we don’t know! But if you’re asking, is there a really big amount that you’re allowed to get for capital gains on a primary residence that you’ve lived in a longish time without paying federal taxes, the answer is yes (and here’s an updated for 2018 post on the topic).  Looking at the comments today it looks like you were asking a much simpler question though.  You’re asking:  If I bought a house for 100K, and I have 50K remaining that I owe on the house if I pay it off today, and the buyers pay $200K for my house, then how much cash do I get when the transaction is complete… you should bet 200-50 = 150K, minus transaction costs.  (Note– this is what Amanda E Perrine said in the comments.)  I don’t think that’s the same as your equation, though I’m not clear on a couple of the variables in it.  Your capital gains would be a more complicated question, one that takes into account your purchase price and then I think some upkeep stuff but I’m not 100% sure, but if your current price is similar to your original purchase price, then there’s no way you’re going to have to pay capital gains so you shouldn’t need to dig up improvement documents.  As for the deep existential questions posed in the comments, SUNK COSTS.  (But you do you.)

Freedom calculator

This person has good taste– I will have to check out her other recs

Congratulations Stacking Pennies!

Life with cats

Q:  What do you do?
A:  I’m an economist
Q:  Oh, what stocks should I pick?

(This is why one of hobbies is personal finance:  true story.)

 

Ask the grumpies: anything you wish you’d done before marriage and/or kids?

yet another pf blog asks:

Is there anything you wish you had done before you were married? How about before you had kids?

#1:  One of us doesn’t have kids so the point is moot over here. (#2, got anything?) What would I have done differently before I got married? I can’t think of anything. Being with my partner has made the rest of my life easier and more fun.

#2:  Hm, I got married young.  I can’t really imagine single life before marriage.  I mean, I did date some losers in college, mainly because I didn’t know how to say no and a small amount because of the novelty of guys thinking I was amazing.  Those are not good reasons, so it was a huge relief in grad school to be able to stick my hand up and point to the ring when loser guys hit on me.  So definitely not dating other guys (or other people, more generally– I used to think I was DH-sexual, but now I’m fairly sure I’m… what was that word I discovered on captain awkward?  I can’t remember but it’s the one where you have to really get invested in a person before you find them physically attractive, so it seems like asexuality, but it really isn’t.  That’s what I am.  Except younger Pierce Brosnan– he’s still hot, but who knows, maybe I just liked Remmington Steele.).  Everything else I can do while married, I think.

Before kids we didn’t have money.  Now we have money.  Perhaps I wish we had money before kids?  Though getting money at the same time as kids was pretty useful and caused our standard of living to go up instead of down, so maybe not that.  Yeah, I got nuthin’.  I’m not big into regret… maybe it’s time spent in LA with the constant message that everything happens for a reason.  Or maybe it’s just the sunk cost moving forward training in economics.  I guess I wish I’d published more!  But I wish I’d published more after kids too… it’s sort of a never-ending thing with an academic career.

Grumpy nation, is there any day seizing you wish you’d done in the past?

Should you ever fill a non-tax-advantaged IRA (answer: maybe): An obnoxious post from having upper-middle class income

Now that DH’s income is back and I’ve GOTTEN PAID(!) for the first time this school year, it’s time to start up our obnoxious money posts again.  (Maybe you’ve noticed the new tag?)

This time we turn to planning for college.  If I’d known where we were going to be today I’d have planned things differently back when DC1 was born and opened up 457 plans earlier instead of saving in 529s or prepaying the mortgage.  Sunk cost!

People with upper-middle class income who plan to send their children someplace that isn’t a state school have an incentive to do some creative things with money before their children hit their junior year of high school.  The reason for this is that they’re on the margin of financial aid for some pretty expensive places.  Forbes has a bunch of articles about our “predicament”.  Check out the colorful charts in this one.  In it, you’ll note that AGI of 125K to 275K are eligible for some financial aid at various 4 year colleges if they play their cards right.

What does playing your cards right mean?  Well, a lot of playing your cards right is moving income from places that the CSS and FAFSA consider to be available for paying for college to those that the CSS/FAFSA consider to be out of bounds.  A big portion of that is moving regular assets and investments into retirement accounts.  (Here’s an article on how much cash is excluded from FAFSA formulas.  Here’s info on how different asset types are affected.)  5.64% of your non-excludable assets are expected to be available for paying for college.  Retirement savings, even non-tax-advantaged retirement savings, are not included in any of the financial aid calculations.

And that’s where the non-tax-advantaged traditional IRA comes in.  If your (married) joint adjusted gross income is less than 186,000 (for 2017), then you can just fill up a Roth and hide money into a retirement account in a tax-advantaged way.  If you have a workplace retirement plan available, then you can only get the full tax advantage from a traditional IRA plan if you make (jointly) less than $99,000.  More rules for single parents, those without retirement accounts, etc., are available here.

So if you’re in that upper-middle-class income range, have extra money floating around in taxable string-free investments and have children likely heading to private colleges in the future, it might be a good idea to start moving those over into traditional IRAs at the rate of $11K/year for a couple.  Should you do this instead of filling up a 529 with that 11K (if you can’t afford to do both)?  I don’t know– it’s probably best to sit down and crunch the numbers yourself given your age, preferred retirement age, targeted colleges, income, expected student loan rates, and so on.

Of course, because of loopholes in the tax code, it’s possible to turn that non-tax-advantaged traditional IRA into a backdoor Roth.  Here are some pitfalls to look out for if you choose to go that route.  And don’t do it if your eldest is in college or even a junior or senior because it will show up on an aid form according to Forbes.

So where are we?  Accumulating assets while we’re both employed.  DC1 on track to go to college in ~6 years.  That leaves ~4 years to try to move money around.  The easiest way to hide money from colleges would be to move to Paradise and to buy a house there because then we’d be back in debt with all our extra cash going towards retirement and the mortgage, plus there’s no guarantee I’d be employed at all.  But it’s unlikely we’d be able to actually do that given my, you know, career and stuff.  So it probably wouldn’t hurt to start making these asset moves.  (And we should replace our cars and remodel the kitchen at some point and maybe time finally getting that donor advised fund to a year that will count for financial aid calculators.)

I already save in a 403(b) and a 457 at work plus have required retirement savings on top of that  I don’t really *want* to save another $5,500 for retirement in my name.  DH only has a 401(k) and it’s not set up properly, so he ends up getting some of the money contributed back after the company does their taxes.  Right now I think we’re probably only going to do one traditional IRA and it will be DH’s.  I believe we have about $30 in another traditional IRA (we converted all our traditional IRAs to Roths back when it was first allowed, but one of them dripped during the conversion).  So it shouldn’t cost much to do the conversion unless the stock market goes crazy between putting the $5,500 in and converting.

If we made more, it wouldn’t be worth even thinking about all this stuff.  But we’re in that range.  And I’m not crazy about our state flagship.  So, this is where we are.

Have you ever put money away for retirement without getting the tax advantage?  Are you thinking about hiding assets from college financial aid calculators?

January Mortgage Update and Wells Fargo thinks we’re ready to buy a new home

Last month (December)
Balance:$2,714.41
Years left: 0.25
P =$1,198.91, I =$15.49, Escrow =$812.79

This month (January)
Balance:$1,510.75
Years left: 0.166666667
P =$1,214.40, I =$10.74, Escrow =$812.79

For the past few months our mortgage statement has come with a sheet not about the usual refinancing or home equity line of credit options, but about getting a new mortgage on a new home.  We must have clicked into the “almost done with the mortgage” advertising.

This thought of being ready for a new loan once you’ve finished the old mortgage must be appealing.  With increased incomes over time folks can afford a larger monthly housing payment.  Why go from a small payment to no payment when you could just pay a little more and get a bigger house to go with it?  Many of my colleagues bought much larger homes when they got tenured or promoted, effectively doubling the cost of their housing.

That same thought process can go along with car loans.  Buy a new car after 5 years when your loan is done.  You’re used to the payment, why not get something nicer for about the same cost or only a little more?

We’re a bit odd– most tenured faculty in my department started out with houses under 3K sq feet and now have houses more than 4K sq feet… we have 3K sq ft exactly.  No starter home, no McMansion, just a big house.  While we occasionally think about down-sizing because it means paying less for all the services and upkeep that come with a house, we never think about up-sizing.  Given that we have no need/desire for a larger house than the one we’ve got, it really doesn’t make sense to get a new mortgage.  Maybe there was a benefit to not getting a starter home, even if we ended up paying more for utilities and property tax and so on, because it means we didn’t go crazy with custom-building something even bigger.

We’ve also never gotten used to having a car loan.  Our first car that we owned jointly and paid the insurance on was a graduation/wedding gift/hand-me-down.  We paid for our next car with cash.  We’ve only had a short car loan for the third car that was paid off in well under a year.  So the thought of starting another required monthly payment for a car seems odd.  Going from not paying anything to a regular monthly payment seems painful to us.  But if we’d had a long-term loan, maybe it would seem like business as usual.  Why not get a nicer car for a monthly payment we can afford?

I wonder how much of this buying bigger and better is partly habitual.  You get into the habit of monthly payments, so you don’t think about what you were paying before as a loss, even if you wouldn’t have to pay it anymore if you didn’t buy the shiny new thing.  You compare the additional monthly payment to the niceness of having something new, rather than comparing the full cost of all payments to the increase in niceness over what you already have.

In other words, it feels like the original payment is a sunk cost even if it isn’t because you’re already used to paying it.  We fell prey to this miscalculation ourselves when we bought our house– part of why we didn’t get a starter home was because the mortgage payment for our big house was about the same size as what we had been used to paying in rent for our grad school apartment!

One problem with not having the habit of regular payments is that we’re also in the situation where if we want to buy a new car, we have to come up with 20-30K in a relatively short time-frame to keep up with our usual not having a car payment.  That’s a bit of a spending shock.  Still, it’s one that can be put to rest with a large enough emergency fund and/or a willingness to take on a short temporary loan if it takes time to move around/accumulate assets.  Even if the larger emergency fund isn’t the best use of money, it’s still more efficient in terms of savings than buying a new car every few years would be.

Fortunately one generally doesn’t have to replace a house like one replaces a car (and we’re keeping our home insurance in case of a catastrophic event).  We won’t be buying a new house any time soon.  Even if Wells Fargo wants us to.

How do you think about revolving debt and new purchases?  When do you/have you decide(d) to buy a new house or car?

A little link love

Not really a light link love, but shorter than usual for various reasons.

I’m not sure where/how to report our political action as time goes on, but, like my friend who IM’d me yesterday said, I do not want to get complacent or too dispirited and stop.  This needs to keep going until I can, until we all can, trust our government officials to make decisions again.  Until then I MUST stay active and pay attention.  This past week was full of calling senators and congress people about trump’s racist cabinet picks, his conflicts of interest, and the other things mentioned in the previous days posts.  I also got on the mailing list for our local democratic party even though they haven’t done anything.  I think we’re still active enough as a nation that there will be plenty more to do in the coming weeks without me planning it out now.  But eventually I will get organized and report back to the Grumpy Nation with posts about what I’m doing and why.  Please keep telling us what you’re doing as well.  It’s really scary when you talk to a former member of W’s administration and he tells you that his biggest fear going forward is the same as your biggest fear (and also explains how your second biggest fear can lead to the first).  We must stay vigilant.

I want this on a shirt

syllabus for white people to educate themselves

we need diverse books fundraiser

sigh 

:(

a way to fight racism online

a way to protect people who are being harassed in public

holy F*

Reminding myself of sunk costs has helped me

calming manatee

I bought this shirt

Ask the grumpies: Why is it so hard to stop worrying about what other people do?

Leah asks:

Why is it so darn hard to stop worrying about what other people do? At work, I can’t control what others do. Their choices do affect me, somewhat. But I can’t control it. How do I learn to stop fretting about this?

#1: Heck if we know. I suck at not worrying. I mean, maybe just get older and you care less about what other people are doing? I dunno.

#2:  Getting older helps a lot!  There’s just too much going on to care about other people unless it directly affects you.

I’m irritated that my TA isn’t getting problem sets done on time.  I worry that my students will learn less because of it.  I’m worried that there is something I could do that would make things better but I’m not sure what.  I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with me having those worries.  And maybe fretting will help me come to a solution, I dunno.

Economists tend to really take to heart the idea that we should not fret about sunk costs, but to do cost-benefit analysis for things that we could still change.  If it’s worth it, change it, if it’s not worth it, then you’ve made the decision.  If it’s something you really can’t control, just accept it and expect it because there’s nothing else you can do.  (Serenity…)

But in reality, I dunno.  There’s often just too much uncertainty so you don’t really know what the costs and benefits are and it’s not clear what the effects of any action would be.  People are unpredictable.

So I guess we’re punting this one too (we tend to put the hard ask the grumpies last…).  Does the grumpy nation have any advice?

Ask the Grumpies: What to do after tenure denial?

Someone who is feeling quite grumpy writes:

I am hoping for some advice from you and your readers: I was denied tenure— what should I do?

Some background that might be useful: When I initially went on the job market, I had a fair bit of success and received several offers. I made a list of what I wanted in a job, asked the same set of questions during each campus visit, took notes, and made detailed charts comparing offers. I accepted a position at a SLAC that seemed great and (literally) checked all the boxes. My husband found a job in the same city, and we moved across the country.

I quickly began to suspect that I had made a mistake. Things were so different than promised that I actually dug out the notes I had taken on my campus visit to confirm that my memory wasn’t failing me. Both the department and institution are incredibly dysfunctional. The patriarchy is strong here.

I considered leaving many times. The economy and the academic job market were weak, but I did some (discreet) searches. Once, I was told I would receive an offer, but then the entire position was cancelled. My general plan, though, was to maintain professional connections, develop a long-term research agenda, and eventually leave the craziness behind. I wasn’t incredibly worried about tenure. However, tenure requirements rose dramatically fairly recently.* I scrambled to get more publications out, but turn around in my field can be slow, and I have several papers in the R&R stage.

1. What should I do now? I mean this almost literally. My institution does not offer a terminal year, so I need to figure something out! I can relocate. My husband has a job, so I can remain unemployed for the next year. I’d prefer not to adjunct, since I really should focus on getting ready for the job search. However, I’ve heard it can be difficult to search for academic jobs without an affiliation. I’d ideally like to stay in academia, but I’ve been told a tenure denial can be difficult on the job market. I’m not even sure how to explain it yet. I’m feeling a bit battered and bruised and am tempted to move to some Zika-free tropical island for a year.

2. Should I appeal? I wonder if anyone has any experience with this?

3. How do I deal with feelings of regret— regret that I didn’t take another job, regret that I didn’t leave earlier, regret that I’ve been working really hard at this job for years for no purpose, etc., etc., ?

Any advice really would be appreciated.

Congrats on the R&Rs!  If everything lands soon that will put you in a good position to go on the market.  Definitely revise and send those back out if you’re still holding on to them. (#2 says: Get those R&Rs out ASAP. That will help you in the future. Do this right away. A tenure denial per se may not hurt you on the job market that much, but a lack of publication certainly will. But R&Rs are a great step! Congrats on getting those decisions. Now revise until they say yes.)

1.  That is bizarre about not offering a terminal year.  We agree that you should try to get affiliation somewhere, but disagree about whether or not that affiliation should come with adjuncting.  #2 thinks adjuncting a class or two to get the affiliation is fine.  #1 thinks you should not adjunct if you can afford not to and to spend that additional time researching or job hunting.  She suggests to see if you can keep your current affiliation for a year (no strings) or to find an affiliation elsewhere.  Many places will be happy to give you an unpaid official position that allows them to put you on their website and allows you to use their letterhead, and possibly library, but not much else.

Additionally, if you are movable, the temporary (but non-adjunct) job market isn’t over yet.  You may still be able to aim for a visiting professor position for a year… we sometimes hire for emergency temporary positions in the summer which come with full benefits and a reasonable salary.  Or, depending on your field, you can also look for post-doc positions depending on your field.  These types of jobs often target people right out of the market who didn’t land a TT job, but if you can find out about them and you’re able to move, you may be in a very strong position for such positions.  If you are going to be teaching, aim for someplace more prestigious than your current institution if you can.

2.  #1 and #2 are in complete agreement on this item.  The job sounds like it sucks horribly.  If you appeal and get the job, would you want to keep it?  It doesn’t sound worth the hassle of an appeal.  However, there are some things to think about, like your other job opportunities, your husband’s other job opportunities, etc.  If you’re in a case where you’re kind of stuck where you are and there aren’t other job opportunities then an appeal might be worth it.  If you have more flexibility, spending the year waiting for things to land and publishing new stuff sounds like a better idea. #2 notes: don’t appeal. This is a blessing in disguise. Read stories from people who were denied tenure and later became successful either at another school or in another career. There are many better places to work (both inside and outside of academia). Remember academia is just a job, and you can get another one.  #1 notes that she does have a friend who did a successful appeal– zie had a bunch of R&R stuff that landed during her extra year and suddenly was a hot commodity on the market (we tried to lure hir away ourselves).  But hir case was different– zie’d had some bad luck with publication timing (and lack of early mentoring) and pretty much all of the papers that should have been published while tenure track landed at the same time when it was too late.  There wasn’t a problem with the department, just bad luck, and everyone was happy about the appeal which succeeded.  (Query:  Would appealing extend your affiliation without forcing you to teach?)

3.  #1 says:  Sunk cost And, of course, you’ve learned a lot of things since taking this job, you’ve made a difference in people’s lives, etc. etc. etc.  There is no optimal decision and in any case, you can’t change the past, you can only look at where you are now and go forward.  It sucks, but now you’re going to end up in a better situation.  This is an opportunity and somehow the universe has decided you’re not allowed to be miserable at this horrible school all your life.  It made the choice for you so you didn’t have to.  #2 says:  Try a counselor. I bet you have lots of feels right now. At the very least, cultivate your friends and share what you can with them. Ask for whatever support you need from them. Non-academics might not know what a big deal this is, but if your support system sees that you are in distress, then hopefully they’ll mobilize around you.

Additional comments:

Start saving up now and think about how not to get into debt.  Read your money or your life.

Think hard about what you want in a career and what your other opportunities are.  If your uni has a career counseling service, you can visit it– they don’t usually limit themselves to helping students.  Even better is talking to career counseling at your own grad and undergrad schools, especially if they have more resources.  Are there other parts of the country you’d like to live in?  Are there non-academic positions that would be of interest?

TALK TO PEOPLE.  Update your linked in profile, make sure all your work is on REPEC and you have a google scholar page, etc.  Email your grad school professors.  Talk to friends from grad school and who you’ve met at conferences or who like your work.  Email your papers to scholars whose work you cite.  Hook up with alumni groups virtually and in person.  Network like crazy.

Also:  Tenure denial does not have to be a negative signal on the job market.  Tenure denial means that you’re not just playing for a salary increase and you’re not wasting anybody’s time.  It means you are going to move. It means you’re willing to start as an assistant prof (unless you’re denied tenure at say, Harvard), so they don’t have to take as much of a risk on you.

When on the market, talk about how the department’s expectations changed, not in terms of more vs. less research but in terms of the emphasis placed on research vs. teaching/students/service (you weren’t not publishing, you were excelling in things that no longer counted) and as soon as you got the memo, you made the switch (while still being an excellent teacher/colleague) which is evidenced by your hefty pipeline, but you didn’t get the memo in time to help your case given some bad luck in timing (hopefully now resolved and resulting in publications).  Also you talk about what draws you to the other schools, etc.

But yes, focus on the job market. Do you want to stay in academia? Breathe, reflect, refocus. Work your professional networks as much as you can. Would your husband like to move? It could be an opportunity for both of you to work towards long-term career plans or hopes or experiments.

And here are some links from other places on the internets: https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2014/04/02/essay-how-deal-tenure-rejection
https://conditionallyaccepted.com/2015/03/24/tenure-denial/
http://chronicle.com/article/Life-After-Tenure-Denial/63815/

Good luck!!!

Grumpy nation, do you have any suggestions for our Grumpy colleague?  (Also, sorry we had to bump the how to take care of your glasses post, but this seemed timely and important.)

Life with a smartphone

So I’ve had the smart phone for a little over two months at this point.   Has it changed my life for the better?  Um, yes.  Has it taken over my life?  Well, not yet, but it probably will eventually.

Our first two bills have been less than our dumbphone sprint bills.  The most recent was just under $50.

I still need to get google maps because the map program that came pre-installed both sucks and doesn’t seem to work on my phone.  DH has googlemaps on his and it’s a dream.  Maybe I should do that now.  I always think of it when I’m lost in a city and am having to use the cell for data (which is why our bill was higher this past month), which is not a good time to download it.

I’m *mostly* good about just using the wireless for data stuff, though when I’m traveling I’m not as good, and worse than that I have forgotten to turn the cell data off twice so it eats money in the background.

It is wonderful having yelp on hand, even if I don’t like the smartphone yelp app.  It’s still more wonderful than nothing.  (We knew this was going to happen– so many times I had wanted yelp when out and about and did not have it!)

I’ve used it to take a few pictures.  I now understand why my students are always using theirs to take pictures of the board or their homework or whatever.  Sometimes it is easier to just take a picture than to try to explain something.  My sister sent me a bunch of pictures she took with the kids, which was pretty awesome.

One thing I didn’t anticipate– I LOVE facetime.  I had always thought of video chat like Skype… which is just not fun to use.  Facetime is so much better.  So clean and fast, even when we’re both using wireless.  It’s like DH is in the room with me except I can’t touch him (which sucks).  And we’ve been using it for family rather than for work stuff– I still prefer just the phone for work stuff.  I don’t like having to worry about how I look or moderating my facial expressions and so on if I don’t have to (wearing pants is a big part of this).  The kids love facetiming with my sister and with DH or me when one of us is traveling for work.  And it’s so much easier to understand what they’re saying than when they’re using the phone as a phone.

DH has used his for a lot more stuff.  I’m trying to keep it slow because I easily get addicted to things.  But I do see there’s a lot of potential for life improvements.  (DH has also started using Uber for the airport, which my bleeding socialist heart isn’t crazy about, at least until Uber has more safety/worker regulations attached to it, but I do also really appreciate not having to get the kids bundled into the car late at night or in the wee hours of the morning.)

Google hangout is also pretty awesome since that’s how I keep contact with my RAs while I’m out of state.  Now I don’t have to be chained to the computer if they have a question.  (Also:  when chatting with DH, I only need to make 3 clicks to say “I love you”– it just knows!)

I do think, though, that I’m getting a bit more ADHD about checking the internet now that I have the phone and *can* check it.  Like Scalzi, I’ve been feeling pretty distracted recently and wonder if I should, like him, make some sort of productivity goal before I’m allowed to check the internet.  I don’t know.

One nice thing about paradise is that our internet cable company has this deal that if you use their internet, then when you’re out and about you can steal other people’s internet if they have the same company.  It doesn’t work when a lot of people are trying to steal the same internet, but it has been really nice when we’re out and about when there aren’t too many other people around, especially in residential neighborhoods.  When we get back home, we’re no longer going to have that option so either we’ll stop using the phones so much when we’re away from home (which might be good for say, conversation etc.) or we’ll have higher Ting bills from data usage (and me then forgetting to turn off cell).

So, do I recommend it*?  Well, if you can afford the hardware, having a smart phone is pretty awesome.  Given the hardware purchase, our break even point is a long time from now.  I do kind of wish we’d bought one earlier, but sunk cost, yo.  Ting is working out pretty well for us (though it does not process the friends discount unless you badger them about it, which I find to be kind of obnoxious).  I’m not sure it will work as well when we don’t have as much access to free wireless when we’re out.

Do you have any technological improvements you’ve been enjoying?  How has owning a smart phone changed your life, if at all?  Is there anyone left without a smart phone?

*not that anybody in the world is still sans smartphone (other than #2).