By Maggie Polsean Editorial Assistant Published Mar 09, 2015 at 6:09 PM

Have you ever thought, "What would life be like without a cell phone?" For a majority of the population, they already know. I, on the other hand, was not alive during the '70s and '80s, was born in the late '90s, and was a toddler into the early 2000s.

I have never lived in a world where cell phones did not exist or were too expensive to own.

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The only things I can clearly remember hating about not having a cell phone until my early teens was:

  • I couldn’t talk to my friends outside of school except for on Facebook
  • I had to borrow other people’s phones constantly to call my parents
  • I was allowed to use my mom’s phone to text, but I had to save all my friends contacts in code so she wouldn’t figure out I was texting boys.

First world problems? I think so.

But, when it comes to living frugally, cell phones can actually have a huge impact.  

In my search for finding new ways to stretch my limited budget farther, I took to the internet for advice. I thought, "Hey, why not see what Google has to say about living frugally?" What happened when I googled ‘frugal tips’ was a discovery of two very terrifying and thrilling things: there were hundreds of websites and they all had crazy suggestions.

One website in particular had some of the most practical and terrifying suggestions, one of the scariest being tip number 36. Cut the cell phone.

When I read that tip, my heart sank. "How could someone think living without a cell phone is practical?!" The only times in my life where I didn’t have a cell phone was when I was in diapers, playing during recess, and getting my first period. The thought of willingly giving up my cell phone to save a few bucks terrified me.

But, the explanation behind the idea actually made a lot of sense and made me wonder if I could try not having a cell phone. The premises of the tip was a cell phone is a convenience, not a necessity, and 20 years ago, most people didn’t have cell phones and they survived.

I also did some additional research on the topic and found that the average smartphone plan is $148 per month. That is an additional $1,776 we are spending each year on a convenience.

After a lot of thinking and research, I decided I wanted to see what adult life would be like without having a cell phone. So, for the first time in six years, I willingly gave up the privilege I begged my parents to give me to attempt not having a cell phone for one week. 

I started my experiment by laying down a few simple rules: I would only use my cell phone at home, I would not use text messaging, and I would not use any of the apps on my phone; my cell phone would become a basic landline phone essentially. I was confident I was going to be a martyr for the cause of frugal tip experimentation.

But after only two days, I caved in.

The first day of the trial went well decently well; I followed the rules I had put in place and went about my day. The only part that didn’t go well was when I checked all my social media, email, and message notifications on my computer that night.

I had 286 notifications waiting for me to look at.

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On the second and final day of the trial, I attempted to do the same as the first day, but this time I completely ignored my self-control.

When I checked my notifications, I had received a message from one of my best friends to call her immediately. On the phone, she told me there was a problem with her roommate and how she was really concerned about her. So I got on my phone and started calling and texting our close friends to try and figure out what was happening.

That was the end of my little experiment.

I had turned my data and wifi back on, texted people all night and scrolled through all of my social media apps on my phone. In the middle of chaos, I didn’t even think about my experiment and threw all of my valiant efforts to the side. Needless to say, I felt like a failure.

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I thought I could do this seemingly easy task and pass through it with flying colors, but it was actually one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do. I have become so accustomed to having the luxury of a cell phone and trying to cut it out completely was not functional for me.

Once you decide to live more luxuriously in an area of life it is unlikely you will ever go back to the way things were before.

My stamp on this frugal tip is that it might not be realistic for majority of people to not have a cell phone at all, but the one thing about this tip that I would recommend is switching from a smartphone to just a basic cell phone.

I found that I could live without checking my social media every few minutes and that I actually focused better in class and at work without that constant worry. Granted, it was rather annoying to have so many notifications at night to thumb through, but it’s not like it’s the biggest problem in the world.

For a college student, switching to a non-smartphone is a viable and realistic financial plan if you do need to cut costs.

The average cost of a basic phone plan is $40-$60 a month and includes limited phone minutes and unlimited texting. I think that sounds way better than paying close to $200 a month just to have data and a more expensive, fragile phone.

If you think you can cut out the luxury of a smartphone and downgrade to a basic cell phone, go for it. If you want to see if you could go without a cell phone entirely, try my little experiment for yourself.

Will you be able to last longer than two days? The challenge is on.