About a month ago reader Molly sent in this question and I want to apologize that it’s taken me so long to answer it! Here’s what Molly said,
I’ve been wondering what you guys do in terms of electronics, frugality, and your eventual (potential) move to somewhere they might not be practical. Would you be willing to share, perhaps in a blog post?
TV/DVD Player/Game Counsels/Cable
We didn’t own a TV for the first 3 years of our marriage, then when we moved to our travel trailer we ended up buying a brand-new TV and DVD player and a used Playstation off of craigslist. Before owning a television we would just watch movies on our laptops. After living 2 years with that TV and now going back to no TV again, I LOVE not having one! I got into the habit of turning cartoons on for Gracia every morning and most of our evenings were spent sitting in front of the screen, but now that we don’t have one our movie watching has decreased significantly!
While TV can be a nice thing, we don’t miss the it. We still watch things on our laptop occasionally, or Gracia will watch something on our little DVD player, but just the fact that watching TV isn’t just one button push away keeps us from watching it more. When you have to actually get out the computer or DVD player, set it up then put a DVD in, you think twice before watching something.
I think for more disciplined people having a TV and just not turning it on all the time can be a great option, but for us it’s just easier to not even have it around. Plus it gives us more space in our living room!
As far as the Playstation, Cameron had always thought it’d be fun to have one, but when he finally got one he ended up not using it very often and we got rid of that too.
We’ve owned laptops our entire marriage. Our current laptops are a Dell and another small one that I’d never heard the name of before (see picture above). Our Dell we bought as a refurbished computer and it works great. The small one we bought off of craigslist. It’s simple and doesn’t have a CD drive or anything, but it works just fine as a back up computer.
We’ve always had 2 cell phones. We’ve thought about going to one cell phone and just having a track phone for emergencies, but for now we’re sticking with 2 cell phones. We usually get the cheapest phone we can or the one that comes free with our plan. I guess that means we have dumb phones (as opposed to smart phones). We’re totally okay with not having internet on our phones.
We don’t know where we will end up, but it’s very possible we’ll end up living in a remote area in a foreign country. That could mean our only power comes from a generator (which we have to pay to fuel ourselves), It might mean no internet access, not even dial-up. It might mean no phone service. Even though things are getting less remote, those are all still a possibility. While we do currently enjoy air-conditioning and wireless internet, we know that our future very possibly will not have that.
In some ways we are trying to not spoil ourselves, so that when we do move to a different country that’ll be one less thing to get used to. For example, being used to not having internet on our phones. Or even smaller things like, using a hand-held can-opener instead of an electric one. Plus it’s just cheaper not having those things.
The mission also has a Simple Living class our last semester here. We’ll have to cook from scratch, our internet usage will be limited, and we’ll have to stop using electricity at a certain time each night (just like many remote locations, when you turn your generator off). This is to help prepare us for remote living.
Even if we go to a place where we could have a TV, fancy phones, and lots of other gadgets, we would still want to really consider if it would be worth it for our ministry and testimonies. What would it look like to a poor person in a 3rd world country if I’m flaunting all my expensive gadgets, while they’re struggling to provide basic necessities for their family?
Maybe in a few years when we’re actually living overseas I can make an updated post about this subject! Any veteran missionaries that read my blog have anything to add?