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The Almighty Buck News Technology

Technology Makes It Harder To Save Money 320

Hugh Pickens writes "LiveScience reports that a survey conducted for the American Institute of CPAs reveals that while more than half of U.S. adults believe technology has made it easier to spend money, just three percent think it has made it easier to save. The research found that Americans who subscribe to digital services spend an average of $166 each month for cable TV, home Internet access, mobile phone service and digital subscriptions, such as satellite radio and streaming video — the equivalent of 17 percent of their monthly rent or mortgage payment. Those who download songs, apps and other products spend an additional $38 per month. 'Our gadgets and connections can bring benefits like mobility and efficiency,' says Jordan Amin. 'But they can also bring financial challenges, like taking money that could go to savings, for instance, or contributing to credit card debt.' If facing a financial crunch, Americans would rather change what they eat than give up their cell phones, downloads or digital TV services. Asked to choose the one action they would most likely take in tight time, 41 percent said they would cut back on eating out, 20 percent said they would cut off cable TV, 8 percent said they would end cell phone service and 8 percent said they would stop downloading songs and digital products."
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Technology Makes It Harder To Save Money

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  • by Presto Vivace ( 882157 ) <> on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:12PM (#39749005) Homepage Journal
    by giving up TV. With internet access and a mobile phone, you really don't need TV.
    • Well said. Quoting the article, here's how much I spend on all this crap:

      $0 each month for TV (antenna+hulu)
      $15 home Internet access
      $5 mobile phone service
      $0 digital subscriptions, such as satellite radio and streaming video

      So I'm spending just $20 a month plus the occasional DVD rental (example: True Blood season 3). There's really no reason to be spending 150 to 200 dollars each month.

      • What kind of bandwidth do you get for $15?
        • by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:38PM (#39749351) Homepage Journal

          Two bits = a quarter
          There are four quarters in a dollar

          120 bits of bandwidth

        • Enough to stream hulu and youtube. 1000k. Also downloads movies/shows faster than I watch them (my HDD is full).

          • Enough to stream hulu and youtube. 1000k. Also downloads movies/shows faster than I watch them (my HDD is full).

            I'm guessing that pretty much none of that is good HD content? Not 1080p or 1080i

            That's my problem with only internet and streaming....I didn't layout a decent bit of cash for a 59" plasma last watch content that wouldn't use the clarity and fidelity of the instrument itself....

            Kinda why I don't buy mp3's of music online....I have too good a stereo at home not to buy in best format I

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        I am doing
        $0 for TV(HULU and Amazon prime which I had before)
        $40 Internet
        $150(Two phones with unlimited data)
        $20 digital steaming(netflix, I get dvds as well)

        How is your cell phone only $5? Is it with a carrier that has national coverage? For reference t-mobile is barely what I would consider national coverage.

        • VirginMobile over the Sprint network. $5==30minutes (I don't talk much) with rollover for unused minutes. It's always worked everywhere I've taken it.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      How is giving up TV supposed to save any money? Giving up cable, sure, but all I spend to watch TV is the electric bill and ISP bill (my computer uses the TV as a monitor).

      And a mobile phone? I hate watching tiny screens, my TV is forty two inches and it's still too small. And most people have data caps on their phones.

      No, technology isn't an impediment to saving, lack of discipline is the impediment to saving.

      • by kryliss ( 72493 )

        "lack of discipline is the impediment to saving."

        This has always been the truth.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        No, technology isn't an impediment to saving, lack of discipline is the impediment to saving.

        Ex-fucking-actly. There could be hookers and coke for sale on every street corner I pass, but my own decisions will dictate whether I buy them or not.

        It's just like when people talk about certain colleges as party schools. YES, there is drinking in college. YES, most colleges do have bars near them. NO, no one is going to pour it down your throat. Make good choices, and that 'party school' just becomes 'school'. Make good choices, and 'technology makes it harder to save' becomes 'hey, look, my savings accou

    • You can save a ton more by eating out less. People can easily spend upwards of $500/mo on restaurants, depending on their habits & tastes.

      • People can easily spend upwards of $500/mo on restaurants, depending on their habits & tastes. They can, but they usually don't.
        • If you can't cook, then chances are you're eating out. $500/mo is just $16/day, which is easily done by grabbing a combo meal & a starbucks on a regular basis. If you're going to a sit-down place, it's easy to spend $16 on just 1 meal, even at something like IHOP, including drink/tax/tip.

          • some of us are eating cheese with fruit juice in the employee break room. some of us are lucky enough to work from home.
          • $1 for a McDonalds hamburger times 2/meal times 3 meals == just $6 a day.

            As for CATV I see it while traveling hotel-to-hotel and I usually turn it off. It's almost nothing but junk. It's not like the 90s when they filled CATV with actual programmming.... when TLC meant learning channel, History meant history, and sci-fi meant actual sci-fi (granted it was reruns but I had never seen UFO or Time Tunnel before). Now every channel has reality junk.

            • Yeah, but your doctor's bill will trump what you've saved in food costs.

              • It's hard to qualify anything from McD's a food. I wonder though if 6 of their cheapo burgers actually meets the 2k callories a day recommendation.

                I did put all my spending into a spreadsheet a few years back and realized I was spending around $400 a month on frivolous eating out. That is I was eating out for lunch almost everyday and I wasn't eating on the cheap. I typically only eat from fast food places when I'm on a road trip and just need something fast. Otherwise I'd much rather sit down and actually

    • By cooking your meals and not eating fast food for every meal. Suppose you save $3 a meal and $1 by eating less snacks. That is $10 a day or $300 dollars a month. The extra time investment is no big deal if your unemployed.
      • true enough, and the meals would be far more healthy. It is just that I am so glad I cut cable tv. It is not just a question of saving money by not paying to cable, you don't realize how horrible it is until you give it up for a while, and then watch it at someone else's house, or a hotel lobby, airport or whatever. Almost all of cable tv is hideous. You need a decent internet connection and a cell phone (iPhone is nice, but you don't really need one) and you really have your communications needs taken car
    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      I don't cable TV because after what is available OTA and on Netflix I value the reaming entertainment i could get from it at about $0 so as little as it would cost I still don't have have it. Last I looked however, shortly before I dropped it the all the major providers have their packages and pricing plans if you have Internet service, than adding basic cable to that will only run you $10; they practically give it away (because its worthless).

      So you don't save much there. Netflix is on of the last things

    • Who says TV is a "need" at all? It's just one of many forms of entertainment. If you're "saving" money by taking the money you'd have wasted on TV, and wasting it on other bullshit instead, you're not really saving any money at all now are you? Just like all these ringtones and other crap people waste money on. The Internet just makes it easier for people to waste money.

      Funny, I don't seem to have any problem saving money using the Internet. Why drive to the grocery store, when I can buy 80% of my groceries

      • I agree. I hate going to the store and do so only rarely. Even with delivery fee it is cheaper to buy your groceries online, especially if it means you can do away with your car. I don't have a car, because not only do they cost too much $, they are too much of a headache.
    • by cvtan ( 752695 )
      by giving up cable TV and a smart phone. With over the air TV, internet access and smarter friends you really don't need cable and you don't need to pay twice for the same data services.
  • america (Score:4, Funny)

    by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:12PM (#39749007) Homepage
    where a $200 cellphone with a multi-year contract of indentured servitude and mandatory upgrades is an essential item
    but a meal that costs over $7 and doesnt come with a free cola is a sure sign of the imminent collapse of western civilization at the hands of a communist marxist kenyan muslim.
    • Re:america (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ferzerp ( 83619 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:33PM (#39749287)

      I think the point is that everyone recognizes that there are cheaper alternatives to eating out all the time. You can eat out for $20/meal (not talking fast food), and it's really, really convenient. Do that 3 times a week (or more), and you're spending at least $240/month eating out.

      We recognize that the benefit from that $240 (12 meals that we could make for maybe $40 ourselves, but it would be less convenient) is much, much less than the entertainment value of cable, or internet.

      I can always make my own meals by buying ingredients and save a huge amount of money (I eat out a lot), but I can't make my own cable service or cell phone service.

      It isn't trading food when the subject is eating out. It's trading convenience. You still eat... you just have to prepare it yourself.

    • Envy for what other people have is also a factor. My brother had a "spending spree" and went-out to get a new phone. The salesman conned him to sign a contract for $110 cell service. After he told me that I said "That's nuts cause you can get the same thing for about 60. Or 3 gigs for $35." I recommended he cancel it before the 7 day trial period ends, but of course he didn't. He said he wanted to try mobile internet like his coworkers have.

      Now he complains about the bill every month, so I say "I don

    • Compared to how many $7 meals + drinks you consume in a month, the cellphone can be downright cheap.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:12PM (#39749015)

    "41 percent said they would cut back on eating out, 20 percent said they would cut off cable TV, 8 percent said they would end cell phone service and 8 percent said they would stop downloading songs and digital products."
    If I cut my TV service my phone bill goes up, if I cut my phone my TV bill goes up. If I cut either I have to pay a fee to terminate the contract. Of course I'm going to cut back on eating out.

    • by King_TJ ( 85913 )

      Very true! But I've never been one to accept those bundles in the first place. Our local cable company (Charter) is constantly trying to market bundled internet/TV/phone in a "Triple Play" package -- but reading the fine print, one realizes it's not possible to select one of the faster broadband internet speeds with that bundle. As soon as you try, they won't give you the special pricing anymore and you have to order the services separately (at regular prices). AT&T wants to bundle your services toget

  • ...not quite it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raydobbs ( 99133 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:13PM (#39749033) Homepage Journal

    People are willing to change what they eat because their cell phones plans have steep early termination fees if you drop your level of service - same with your digital television or broadband connection. Temporarily changing your dietary desires is much more simple - not a sign of technology addiction, more a sign of service charge and penalty avoidance.

    • by zero0ne ( 1309517 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:27PM (#39749213) Journal

      Cutting out a single night out at a restaurant will almost always end up covering the cost of that month's cell phone bill.

      • Cutting out a single night out at a restaurant will almost always end up covering the cost of that month's cell phone bill.

        Where the hell do you live, that a single meal costs upwards of $100-200??? Shit, the wife and I spend that much* on food a week!

        *To OP's credit, I live in the midwest where the cost of living is significantly lower than elsewhere in the country.

        • by wmbetts ( 1306001 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:57PM (#39749635)

          If you have kids you either spend $25 to $50 for a babysitter, gas at over $4 a gallon, and the price of the meal. If you don't use a babysitter you then pay the same or more for the food your kids will eat. I can't goto a movie for under $70 any more. I'm not complaining about it, because it's just a fact of life. I wanted to have a wife and kids and I knew that it would be costly. I'd rather spend the money on cable tv and internet as our primary forms of entertainment. Sure, it sounds expensive when you hear $200 a month for the cable and internet bill, but in reality it's the cheaper form of entertainment for a family. I also have 2 WoW accounts (currently the only game we play) for my wife and myself. Raiding together or pvping in a bg or arena to us is a lot more fun than going out all the time. It's also a lot cheaper and gives us something we can always do together as a couple.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:13PM (#39749039) Journal

    Good. Humans don't need meat every day anyway.

    • Worse:
      All red meat is risky, a study finds []

      • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @04:38PM (#39750217) Homepage

        And all water is risky, and all vegetables are risky, and all air is risky...

        You can find a study that will make any point you want. There are undeniable ecological benefits in only eating things produced near where you live. For much of the world, that includes "unhealthy" carbohydratey potatoes, and "unhealthy" proteiny red meat. It's a bit of a bummer, but it still makes more sense than shipping soya beans half-way round the world only to throw most of them out processing them into something humans can just about digest.

    • Where I am fresh fruits and vegetables cost far more than most meats...

      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        No problem. You can get the bulk of your calories and proteins through delicious rice and beans. And those cheap flash frozen packs of veggies contain more vitamins than the fresh veggies that were picked before they were fully ripe and trucked across the country anyway.

  • by arcite ( 661011 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:20PM (#39749129)
    Just get a decent connection for say $50 and bittorrent the rest. =)
  • by husker_man ( 473297 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:21PM (#39749141)
    Big thing is to first know where you are spending money, and then categorize your expenses into what is a can't-do without, must have, nice to have, and frivolous buckets. You need to put about 10% of your income into a long-term retirement fund, and have (ideally) six months of living expenses in a money-market or savings account (Must have). You need to put a certain amount of money aside each month for certain necessities (housing, required food, loan payments) (can't do without (unless you're living in your parent's basement)). Most of the rest of it tends to be the nice-to-have (like cell phones, phone lines, new clothes, eating out).

    I would agree that cable internet is indispensable to me for work purposes, and would be one of the last things that I would cut back on in the event of a major problem (like losing a job).

    I pay about $225 for phone service, cell phone service, and satellite service, with another $50 for cable internet (total of $275). I've looked at getting rid of the home line and going strictly cell phone, but my spousal overlord unit isn't ready to do that yet, and with three teenagers in the house, I expect my telephone costs to be going up here until they move out of the house.
    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      I pay about $20 per month for my no-contract cell phone, including data, because I'm on a pay-as-you-go plan, and I use my $20 per month VoIP landline whenever I need to make a call. Before Google Voice, if a call came through on my cell and I thought it would be a long call, I would ask to call the person back, but now I just take the call on the landline. Total cost for phone service: $40 per month.

      I don't advise getting rid of the landline because it might tempt you to switch your cell phone to a much mo

    • by KalvinB ( 205500 )

      MagicJack is all of about $30 a year.. TracFone is probably the cheapest pre-paid plan you can get. You can call 911 even if you don't have any minutes or service days left. If the kids want more minutes have them earn them. Otherwise, 911 is all you as a parent really care they can use. I recently switched from TracFone to Virgin Mobile which is also pre-paid, no contract stuff. $37 a month for unlimited data and 300 talk minutes. Kids mostly text anyway and that's part of the unlimited data. I bar

  • I remember starting grad school 20 years ago spending $1,400 on a little 1 piece Compaq Presario and thinking - "Good thing for credit cards or nobody could buy a computer." And then I realized - there will always be "the next big thing' in technology for people to spend money on. Bigger tvs. Even bigger tvs. Flat screen tvs. 3D tvs. Sony Walkmans, mp3 players, iPods, iPads, notebooks, Netbooks, cell phones, smart phones, dial-up, broadband. I'm not saying it's all for the worse, nor am I putting on my tinf
  • I could have sworn it was getting taxed on the .01% interest earned on my savings account that made it hard to save money.

    • by Zico ( 14255 )

      Why even save? It's the responsible ones the fed hurts; interest rates should be upwards of 20% instead of the bullshit we have now.

  • I can certainly see how, for the majority of people, this is the case. It is certainly easier to shoot money off here and there almost on a whim for various things we would have just gone without before.

    For me, though, I'd have to say that technology has made it easier to save. Cash has always tended to burn a hole in my pocket until I find a way to get rid of it, but being able to just have a set of numbers show up in my accounts and move them around with ease has relieved most of that spendcrazy drive whi

    • I suspect the true root here isn't that technology itself is to blame for the lack of saving, but that people are driven to spend, spend, spend anyway, and technology has made it far easier to do so without ever even leaving the couch. If you're not motivated to save already, technology isn't going to help you, I think. Along these lines is pretty much what I was thinking, but I will expand on it. By having such conveniences as the internet, there is a lower threshold for impulse buying. there is no need t

      • I suspect the true root here isn't that technology itself is to blame for the lack of saving, but that people are driven to spend, spend, spend anyway, and technology has made it far easier to do so without ever even leaving the couch.

        ARRGH! The one time I don't hit preview and I fsck up the HTML. Here is a clearer version of my post.

        I think. Along these lines is pretty much what I was thinking, but I will expand on it. By having such conveniences as the internet, there is a lower threshold for impul

  • Some day in the future people will look back at the 2010s and be shocked/surprised: "People had to pay a lot of money to simply make a few voice-calls over long distances back then? Really? And they also paid money to go on the internet? How weird! OMG, people back then also had to pay money to watch a few low-resolution TV-streams of some movies... The world must have been sooo backward back then... Thank God we were born long after that peculiar time." This requires a future, of course, where society is a
    • I was hit with a $500 roaming charge while I was in Thailand. Ok, well I should have realized that roaming was a complete rip-off but I had some emergency calls to handle. Must have been like $5 a minute! Bastards!
    • Sorry but you don't have a nature-given right to take other people's money, property, or resources. For example you cannot force me to open my wallet, like a thief, and pay for your phone service. You only have a right to your body (because you own it) and what nature gives free of charge (like air, sunlight, etc).

    • This requires a future, of course, where society is advanced enough to grant new rights

      Which is not where we are going. We are busy killing existing rights, rendering them useless, as well as deploying increasingly many computer systems whose owners need the permission of someone else just to run a program. The next generation will indeed be shocked by today's computer climate:

      • You mean you could use a computer without having to pay for a monthly service plan?
      • You did not need to present photo ID to get a computer? You did not have to use your legal name online?
      • You actually owned your com
  • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:26PM (#39749201)

    This might actually help solve the obesity problem. If American's can't afford to eat out because they are spending too much money on tech, maybe they will eat healthier homemade food. One can hope.

    Oh, and technology doesn't make it more "difficult" to save money, it just makes it easier to spend a lot of money. I can save my money just as well with technology as after. More, actually, since technology gives you lots of cheap or free entertainment, which is less money spent in bars or going out to movies or on gas.

    Also helps that I don't own a smartphone or iPad. Don't need one, either. I do have a wifi-equiped MP3 player: no monthly contract, and works for 90% of the things I would need a smartphone for. A messenger phone works for the rest.

    • Unfortunately it doesn't solve the problem of healthy food being far more expensive than McDonalds.
      • If healthy food is more expensive than McDonald's, then you fail at basic shopping.

        Seriously, I'm not talking about coupon-cutting crazies, just plain, regular shopping that can give you large, great meals for under $5 that blow the socks off a more expensive McD's combo meal; or if you have to focus on saving money, under $1 for a big pile of staple food.

        • At Jack in the Box. 2 tacos and a jumbo jack are ~$2.20 and that is a sizable meal. It also takes about 2 minutes of my time vs 45 to make something at home.

          I agree with you, and prefer to cook at home. Just saying that it is easier and cheaper (if you consider your time as money, I do) to eat fast food vs anything else.
  • I love seeing this (Score:3, Informative)

    by __aaeihw9960 ( 2531696 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:28PM (#39749227)

    Because it means that those of us 'young folks' (less than 30) in the USA who can actually plan their finances stand to be KINGS and QUEENS in the future. My wife and I live very, very comfortably on what my friends would call a meager pittance (we both work in education, thank you). Our stuff isn't as nice as what they have, but we also don't have the crushing burden of debt looming in our future. We may not have a MONDO flat screen, but we do have a high speed internet connection and access to as many movies and television shows as we need. We may not have a $70k car, but what we do have is reliable and gets 35-40 mpg. Our house might not be a McMansion, but our small house does sit on 67 acres of woodland. . . .

    We're saving for a college fund for children we don't have yet, saving for early retirement and generally living the life of leisure.

    Why am I saying all of this? Because, not all Americans are idiots. Most that I know are kind of stupid, but really not that bad.

    And some, like my wife and myself, are actually quite bright. Not meaning to brag, just meaning to point out that people like us exist.

    • As an American who's older than 30, it's great to hear this. It's becoming easier and easier to stand heads-and-shoulders above your peers just by doing simple things like this, and having a good work ethic.

  • Inducing consumption is the goal. If you can convince people that they "need" to do it even better. If you can convince them that they don't "need" to do it, but really, really "want" to, you're golden.

    • Inducing consumption is the goal. If you can convince people that they "need" to do it even better. If you can convince them that they don't "need" to do it, but really, really "want" to, you're golden.

      No, you're not golden until you convince people that, because all the people they know (and a bunch they don't) are doing it, there's obviously something wrong with them for not doing it.

  • People spend money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mehrotra.akash ( 1539473 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:31PM (#39749261)
    People spend money
    Not technology
  • by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:32PM (#39749271)

    Because of the Internet, I stopped paying for porn years ago.

  • Misleading summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wealthychef ( 584778 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:35PM (#39749293)
    Statistics, damn lies... 41 percent sounds like a lot more than 8 percent, making it sound like people will choose music downloads over food, but the truth is most people don't download music.
  • If access to the Internet is free OR if it is cheap and unlimited, either connecting through a land line or using a wireless device, such as a cell phone, then this will help people save money.

    90% of my "television" entertainment comes from the Internet. I used to have cable, but realized it was outdated - I barely watched all the shows and most of the time, nothing good was on and was tired of watching Family Guy on four different channels!!!

    My parents are also saving close to $100 a month when they turne

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:37PM (#39749331) Journal

    It matters less what you are doing with the flow of your metric, and more on your net balance.

    Whether I spend $300/mo on digital services or buy a bigger house than I need, or a nicer car than is necessary for my requirements, it's the same dollar at the end of the day. Americans are gaining weight because of easy access to high-calorie food that is made to be appealing through advertising and instant sensory gratification. Americans are not saving because our entire economy is based on spending as much as possible on things which are made to be appealing through advertising and instant sensory gratification.

  • I also view tech saving tools as a hindrance to saving. I've tried a lot: Quicken, Money, Mint, the venerable Pear Budget, etc. All tools that allow you to grok where your money is going, but provide little incentive or mechanisms to curb spending. We collect all this great data and then say "huh..." and shrug our shoulders.

    My parents always had a drawer in the clothes dresser that had the "house money" in it for the month. Once that cash was depleted, there was no more money for the house, period. This was

  • Cutting back on eating doesn't seem like such a bad choice for "the average american".

  • Technology saves on:

    • Landline
    • Newspaper subscription
    • Magazine subscriptions
    • DVD purchases (buy used on
    • Book purchases (buy used on
    • Music purchases (99 cents per song is a third of the inflation-adjusted price of a 45 RPM in the 1970's)
    • Percentage off the price of anything (sort by price on
  • The comparison is pretty odd.

    Most people with cell phones no longer have land lines. Giving up the cell phone means giving up phone entirely. That makes you nearly unemployable. No one will hire you without a phone number. Phone service is the absolute last thing you should consider eliminating.

    Giving up eating out? most people have food in their house anyway, and eating at home is not only cheaper but generally healthier.

  • by Burz ( 138833 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @04:36PM (#39750163) Homepage Journal

    constantly tries to invent ways for people to spend more, and rapid technical innovation is at the core of that process. You have to outstrip not only the ability of people to simplify their lives, but outdo the very desire to do so.

  • Attitude (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Friday April 20, 2012 @04:47PM (#39750347) Homepage

    Really what has to happen is that people have to decide they aren't going to sign contracts for luxuries. My income has fluctuated so wildly over the last several years that I absolutely will not sign a contract for a luxury. Sure I can afford a $70 a month phone now, but what about 1 year from now? So I go with cheaper, non-contractual alternatives. I pay $37 a month for Virgin Mobile but I can drop it any time and go with a cheaper alternative (TracFone) or nothing at all. For awhile I dropped Netflix, stopped watering my backyard, stuck with TracFone, etc to minimize my monthly expenses.

    Contracts lock you into a particular life style that you may not continue to be able to afford. You need to be able to cancel services as quickly as you can lose a job.

    People can have nice things even without being rich, but it's the effort to have all the nice things all at once that keeps people in debt and poor. Once the house is paid off, that's $1200 a month I'll have for other nice things. In the meantime, the nice thing I have is a nice house.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."