In Praise of Lifestyle Creep

I don’t think you understand how much I love my new phone.

Part of it is the difference between going from something broken to something whole; not having to sit and wait as my phone screen makes up its mind about whether it’s going to display any apps, and whether those apps are going to work.

Part of it is that I am finally — finally! — able to pay for HBO through the HBO Now app. It’s going to cost me $14.99/month and I have already streamed over 11 hours of HBO programming into my apartment. Like, in a week. I had the new Tig Notaro comedy special, Boyish Girl Interrupted, running while I folded laundry. I watched old episodes of Girls while I did the dishes. I will finally be able to catch up with Game of Thrones, even though I already know what happens.

Part of it is that my new phone frees me from my laptop. I don’t have to spend all day staring at my 11-inch MacBook Air for work, and then spend all evening staring at the same 11-inch MacBook Air for entertainment, or at least keeping it open and swiping at the screen every five minutes to make sure I haven’t missed any emails or messages. I can close the laptop. I can watch television on my phone if I want, or read a book and keep my iPhone nearby so it’ll beep at me if someone wants to say hello. (In addition to watching more television, I have also spent more time reading. In the past week. I know, right?)

But the biggest and best difference this new phone has made in my life is that it has made me more connected to other people.

My old phone would crash every time I sent or received a text. That, in itself, is not a huge deal; you just have to wait as the screen freezes, and then wait for the screen to unfreeze and the pop-up box to appear, and then click “no, you don’t need to tell Android about this crash,” because you tried doing that, and Android never responded.

A perpetually crashing phone is not a problem, no more than wearing grody old pajamas or washing your dishes in a bus tub and dumping the water into the toilet is a problem. You can get used to a life like that, because it doesn’t really hurt you to have to wait just a bit in between texts.

But guess what happened as soon as I got this new phone?

I talked to my mom more.

I talked to my sister more.

I talked to my friends more.

(By “talked” I mean “texted, instant-messaged, emailed, sent photos to,” but you already knew that. Also, I did actually call my mom this weekend, and it was so much easier and clearer on a working phone.)

It was like as soon as I got this phone, all of the people closest to me were all “Hi! We like you and want to talk to you!” and I was all “HEY-YO, I want to talk to you too!” And then we did, because it was easy.

It made me think, again, about how having something that works helps you connect with other people, whether it’s a phone or a car or an apartment with a living room. It isn’t fair that having resources, and having the money to acquire resources, helps strengthen your connections to others, but it often feels like that’s how life is.

So, of course, the first thing I thought after that was “If this is what having a functional phone is like, I wonder what having a functional apartment will be like.” Imagine how my life could change if I had a home that could be a resource to myself and my friends, instead of just a space to put my standing desk and look out through the internet at the rest of the world.

And then I’m back to “well, if I wait until next summer when I have my debt paid off, I’ll be able to get an even nicer apartment.” But the iPhone 7 will be out next summer as well (and we’ll probably be talking about the iPhone 8). There will always be upgrades, if we choose to take them.

And I should have upgraded this phone a year ago, now that I’ve figured out how much it has improved my life. Lifestyle creep may get a bad rap — I mean, the standard financial advice would be all “don’t spend your extra money on new stuff, put it in savings or towards retirement and wear your old clothes until they become dishrags for your toilet dishes” — but I am about ready to start creeping towards it.

I’ll just leave this here. (I know the song is not about personal finance. I don’t care.)

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