Needs Becoming Wants: My Weekend Without

This weekend Kyle attended his departmental retreat a few hours away from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.  He took our car and my cell phone with him so this whole weekend I have been without fairly basic “needs.”



Kyle tried to find a ride to his retreat, but since he was actually attending two retreats in the same city he needed to be able to get back and forth and the other people attending both weren’t following the same schedule he needed the car.  And since he was going out of town, we figured he should have a cell phone – mine, since I destroyed his.


I didn’t go out dancing with my friends on Saturday night (wasn’t really interested without Kyle) or to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning but those were really the only activities I forewent.



Car substitute


  • I took the bus to and from work!  I spent a full day in lab on Saturday and stopped in on Sunday after church as well.  It turns out there is a bus stop right across the street from our townhouse complex!  Our employer gives us a free total-access bus pass for our city every year so I didn’t even have to pay.  It wasn’t a perfect experience but it was pretty convenient.

  • I walked home from work one night when I missed the bus – oops!  It’s a bit under two miles from my office to our townhouse so it only took me about half an hour.  I walk for half an hour around our complex many nights after dinner anyway so – multitasking!

  • I got a ride to church from a friend and she dropped me off at work after.  I think I could have bused again but we live fairly close to church and my friends were planning to go to campus to eat lunch anyway so I didn’t think it was a big deal to ask someone.  It ended up working out well for both of us.



Phone substitute


It may not be that surprising since I have a dumbphone, but I actually don’t use use my phone that much.  I don’t text a whole lot or receive a bunch of phone calls – I prefer email.  I don’t have anyone who needs to reach me urgently.  So I wasn’t too concerned about not being able to receive calls or texts.


Kyle uses Google Voice for his primary number, which is why him not having a phone isn’t a disaster.  He used it for free texting and can still receive voicemails.  If I had needed to make a phone call, I could have done it through his Gmail account, but I didn’t have a need.  We were able to Gchat one another and text with Google Voice a few times throughout the weekend.



No enormous lessons from this weekend, I guess.  It is nice to be reminded that all I really need is a place to live (with water and power) and food.  On a short-term basis I can go without anything else even if it’s a bit inconvenient.  This wouldn’t have gone so smoothly if we hadn’t already deflated our lifestyle by 1) giving up our second car, 2) using Google Voice to avoid paying for texting and 3) eliminating Kyle’s smartphone.


What are your true needs?  If you had to go without a car, how would you get around?  What would happen if you were without your phone for a day?  Do you think it’s valuable to know what your wants really are or are you secure that you don’t need to consider your life without them?


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18 Responses to "Needs Becoming Wants: My Weekend Without"

  1. SWR says:

    We are lucky to live in just the right area to be a one-car family; I am able to take transit to the town that my school is in. L needs his car for work; I don’t think that he could do without. Phone-wise, we decided that he’s going to get a dumbphone (love that you call it this!) for his next phone. The “smart” aspects really aren’t necessary, especially considering that he now has one through work.
    SWR recently posted..The weekly menu

    1. Emily says:

      I observe that a lot of people don’t even have their own phones when they get phones from work, which I think is a bit weird. I think it’s a good plan to get a dumbphone for strictly personal use.

  2. That’s a fun experiment. I remember in college there was no where to park, so I had to get around everywhere by foot – even in the snow! I really loved my car after that.
    My Money Design recently posted..Do You Flaunt It?

    1. Emily says:

      Definitely times when you go without make you appreciate what you have.

  3. I’m now without a car. I’ve been biking to work on the days I work on the project that is local (found a better route, now 8 miles and mostly flat) and get a ride from a relatively local coworker on the days I’m sent to a more distant (45 miles!) jobsite.

    I’ve forgotten my phone a few times. At work it’s not a big deal since I can’t use my phone at work anyway. But my wife texts me up to 20 times per day. Plus twitter and random messages from friends and family add up to as many as 200 messages per day! The funny part is, when my wife and I first started dating, I didn’t even know how to send a text message!
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Fair vs Frugal: How Much Should I Be Paying for Gas?

    1. Emily says:

      That’s great that you’re riding your bike and carpooling! Much better for you and the environment.

      That’s a lot of messages! Sounds like you’ve become a heavy user.

  4. Catherine says:

    After having been in a car accident without a cell phone, the old lady who hit me also didn’t have one I have anxiety about leaving home without it, especially if I’m with the baby. I realize this is 2012 so chances of really needed one should an accident arise are rare it really is comfort for me. 2nd car I can get away with not having, we deal just fine without 2nd car and I too take the bus to work. It’s cheaper, better on the environment and saves my sanity from driving into the city every day.
    Catherine recently posted..Teaching ”Honey Boo Boo” Some Budgeting Skills

    1. Emily says:

      I think the best argument for having a phone is in the case of emergencies – not just to call for help but to let your family know. But yeah, it would be pretty unusual for two drivers today to not have cell phones.

      When I lived in the DC area I took the Metro everywhere, which I loved. I hate dealing with traffic in that area! In Durham, though driving is a breeze so I really enjoy carpooling with Kyle.

  5. I think such experiences as what you encountered can be good exercises for us to get back in touch with what we really NEED versus what we have gotten used to having. In my case, I would need a car given that I have kids and live in a suburban setting. I do think that I could be without a cell phone for much of the time, but again – with kids and without a landline, many people do need a phone for emergencies.

    If I lived in an urban setting, where things were walkable, I’d say a car would be less necessary. Without kids, I think it would truly be optional in that case.
    Tie the Money Knot recently posted..Dating and Debt Disaster: Part 1

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah I think a phone has definitely become a need overall. We don’t have a landline, either. All the smartphone fanciness isn’t a need – but it’s fine as a want!

      I’ve only ever lived in suburban environments. The year I lived without a car (well, aside from college – another four years without a car) was made possible because my parents lived somewhat close by so I could borrow one of theirs when I visited Kyle or bought furniture. There is an occasional use need but there are usually workarounds, but a car is also a reasonable want. With kids I agree it becomes a need.

  6. I think people can go without quite a few things in life if they really had to. I’m currently going without a smart phone (never had one) but want to beat myself stupid for wasting several hours of the day not doing anything when I could be using that time to comment and such. Gotta trade off somewhere I suppose.
    Veronica @ Pelican on Money recently posted..Why I Will Never Pay $350 for a Pair of Sunglasses

    1. Emily says:

      How is not having a smartphone connected to wasting time? Would you be commenting using a phone during that time?

      1. Veronica says:

        I have a lot of downtime commuting (without being behind the wheel). I could use that time to read blogs and leave comments. Check emails.. you name it. Right now all I do is listen to music, write posts on PAPER and listen to stupid political shows that I know won’t influence my voting decisions. 🙂
        Veronica recently posted..Ask Nicely, Save Some Money

  7. Emily too says:

    Much more than either phone or car, I would be totally sunk without regular internet access. I take the bus whenever possible to save gas money and don’t use my phone more than once or twice a day for communications that could mostly move to Skype. Internet, though…I could deal without it at home since it’s free at the nearby public library, albeit with limited hours, but if I didn’t have a consistent source I don’t know how I’d get in touch with people (you can’t use phone for everything), manage my finances, look up directions, collaborate on work documents, etc. It scares me how lost I am without it!

    1. Emily says:

      I thought I would wither up and die without internet access but the week or so when we were moving and didn’t have internet access actually wasn’t awful. I still had access at work and I just read a lot more at home. 🙂 But we were very busy/not bored with all the moving activity. At the same time we were without a smartphone so getting directions was a real pain that we didn’t anticipate well.

  8. NoTrustFund says:

    Overall, I could not live without my phone. But I must say, I feel so much more relaxed when I’m out without my phone. This usually only happens when I’ve forgotten it. Especially now with kids I feel bad about not having my phone on me at all times. However, talk about living in the moment when you are without your phone. It feels so great to just focus on whatever I am doing or whoever I am with. Alas, it is s definite need especially since we do not have a land line.

    1. Emily says:

      It seems like your phone is really pulling you away from your immediate environment. I observe that more and more on my campus – just yesterday I had three undergrads practically walk into me in the hallway of my building because they were absorbed in their phones. I like having my phone but keeping it tucked away in my purse nearly all the time.

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