An Argument for Scarcity: My Experience with Ting

Image of smartphone; courtesy of picjumbo.comAmong the many different outlooks on life is the dichotomy of scarcity and abundance. To grossly oversimplify: scarcity sees the world as a place of lack, of competition, of limited resources, where frugality is the way to succeed and the object is to increase the size of your pie slice; abundance sees the world as a place of plenitude, of cooperation, of cups overflowing, where you succeed by giving and the object is to increase the size of the pie.

Here I submit a case for scarcity through my recent experience with Ting, a cellular service provider who believes in charging you only for the services you use and according to the amount you use rather than relying on bundles and expensive unlimited plans that you might not take advantage of. Several months ago, I switched to Ting because I didn’t want to get stuck in a long term or expensive cell phone plan. This isn’t really a review of their service, which will help you save money on your wireless bill, but I do recommend you check Ting out.* I have been extremely happy with the service, with very few issues, and I noticed several things about my behavior after switching.

I began to pay more attention.

With Ting’s account structure, you pay for a “bucket” for each service (voice, text, data) that you use in a month. And when you use more than your current bucket, you are moved into the next category, which is more (although the larger buckets cost less per unit used). They make it easy to track the minutes, data, or texts that you use each month, so I found myself keeping an eye on which apps were using data.

I learned more about what could be downloaded to my phone while on wifi and then consumed while offline. (Podcasts are my friends; YouTube not so much.) I noticed how long I talked to people. And I really noticed when I was put on hold for a long time. I found myself actually thinking about whether or not I needed Facebook updates while on the road (I do not).

I became more resourceful.

In addition to learning which apps were using data, I found ways to restrict that data. I became more familiar with my phone and what it could do. For example, I learned that I can still use Google Maps or Waze to navigate even with my data turned off. (Of course, this doesn’t provide live updates of traffic or hazards or offer rerouting.)

I discovered Google Hangouts combined with Google Voice Dialer, which allows you to make voice calls and send texts over wifi (or data) instead of using minutes. I learned that by using these apps, I didn’t even need to send or receive standard text messages and disabled them on my phone. Since Ting doesn’t charge you for text services when you don’t use texts,* this helped me save each month. I then started to think about whether or not a given communication warranted a phone call or just an email or text. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it; I just made my decision more intentional.

I began to appreciate my time more.

As I mentioned, I really began to notice when I was on hold while using my minutes. With an unlimited plan, I probably wouldn’t have cared as much, but when you are getting close to moving into the next payment tier, time really is money. Of course, time is valuable whether you are on the phone or not, but I sometimes forget that.

I also find that I use my phone much less when I am not around the house or at work (where I have wifi access). Because it would mean using data, I actually consider whether or not to check Facebook or Twitter when I’m out at dinner, or shopping, or hanging at the park. And often the answer is no. I realize that I don’t need that constant flow of information when I remember that I will be paying for it. This consideration helps me be more present. Granted, I still have plenty of stuff on my phone to distract me while offline, but even the little nudges make a difference.

Overall, my main argument in favor of scarcity (at least as it concerns the case with Ting), is that helps me be more mindful. It pushes me to put a little more thought into my actions before taking them. And that can be a great benefit, especially when information and entertainment is always available and our reaching for it is nearly automatic.

What did I miss? Leave a comment below.

* – These links use my referral code, which will give you a $25 credit on your first bill. It will also give me a $25 credit, so I wanted to let you know. You can, of course, just go directly to their site; I recommend their service whether you go through my link*or not.

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