Twentysomethings May Have


When Judy Coleman was a college student whose parents paid the bills, she always had a home telephone as well as a cellphone. But when the 24-year-old graduated and began law school, she dropped the landline.

"When I was cut off from my parents and realized what the costs are, I decided it wasn't actually necessary," says Ms. Coleman, who is now in her third year at Yale Law School in New Haven, Ct.

She sometimes wishes she had a landline -- especially when her cellphone battery is low or reception is spotty -- but it seems more like a luxury that a full-time.

Anyone who is living on a budget can relate to the need to re-think what's truly a necessity. But having grown up in an era of instant communication with technologies that didn't exist when their parents were young, twentysomethings may have different priorities than their parents. For us, a home telephone is frivolous, but a cellphone is essential.

That doesn't mean we need every new gadget out there. Most of us realize that a lot of cool gadgets, like video iPods, are luxuries that we buy if we can afford to (or hope to receive as holiday gifts). For example, TiVo may be essential if you're a network programming executive who needs to check out the competition, but the rest of us probably realize we can live without it.

The same cannot be said of home Internet connections or cellphones, which have morphed from being extras to basics. "They've become utilities" is how 29 year-old Dan Ray put it. Our parents thought of food, shelter and transportation as the essentials. Our generation is likely to add digital connectedness to the list.


Have you had your life turned upside down while in your twenties?
Read recent installments of this column.What do we really need? Is a high-speed Internet connection the 21st-century equivalent of indoor plumbing, or does it make sense to save money by using a dial-up connection? And what about a cellphone with email access or a Blackberry -- fun or functional?

When Ms. Coleman was an intern at a law firm last summer, all the summer interns were given Blackberrys. "Interns were expected to be reachable any time," she says.

But what if you have to pay for your own gadgets? Many twentysomethings haven't landed such high-ranking corporate positions that we can look to our employers to foot the bill for our communication devices.

Take Paul Torres, a 28-year-old commercial real-estate agent in New York. He works on commission and knows that he could lose a deal if a potential client can't reach him. Still, he doesn't have Internet access on his cellphone or personal digital assistant because he feels that he already spends too much on technology. It's a hard call, but Mr. Torres feels that being accessible by cellphone is good enough.

Between his basic cellphone service, landline, high-speed Internet connection, cable television service and all the accompanying gadgets -- the actual phones, the computer, and the digital camera -- he says he spends about $200 a month on ongoing charges and also makes about one big technology purchase a year to the tune of several hundred dollars. This year, Mr. Torres also spent hundreds of dollars repairing his home computer.

Fixing his computer didn't seem like an optional expense, any more than his high-speed Internet connection does. Since he can't check his email from his cell, he wants to be able to check it from home -- and have access to his real-estate listings. "I like to be able to connect to my work computer remotely from home," he says. "People call me after hours and I don't want to have to go back into the office," says Mr. Torres.

"I want to cut back," he says. But where? "I always ask myself if I need the landline," Mr. Torres says. "But there are times when my cellphone reception is not that great, which is why I have it."

Ms. Coleman, the law student, estimates that not having the landline saves about $30 a month. Even though she likes technology -- she maintains her own Web sites and helps to run various blogs -- she tries to stick to the basics when it comes to gadgetry. She wasn't the first in her group of friends to succumb to the iPod, and she uses a basic cellphone without Internet access -- the one that her wireless provider offered for free after the mail-in rebate.

There's only one extra feature that she uses -- text-messaging. "It's inflated my monthly bills, but it's good when you are running late and need to let someone know," she says. They're also good for flirting, she adds. Ms. Coleman paid 10 cents to send each message before signing up for a $2.95 monthly package of 50 messages.

Other twentysomethings see text-messaging as a luxury not a necessity. For example, Mr. Ray, who considers his cellphone and Internet connection to be utilities, uses a five-year-old cellphone that doesn't support text messages. "I don't want it for anything but making calls," says Mr. Ray, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mr. Ray is a recent law-school grad who is looking for work, so he's trying to keep costs down. He says he and his girlfriend, who live together, would probably give up the landline, if they didn't think they needed it for the high-speed Internet connection, even though cellphone reception at their apartment is sketchy. They've signed up for an inexpensive home phone plan without long distance service, which shaves a few dollars off the monthly bill.

But they can't see doing without. The high-speed Internet connection became vital to them after they lived in an apartment where they had access to a neighbor's wireless network. When Mr. Ray and his girlfriend moved, they felt that they needed one of their own. If that means shelling out close to $100 a month to cover the bills for phone, cell and Internet service, so be it.

"We couldn't go back to dial-up," he says.

Some of our elders may not get it, but for better or worse, that's how many of us seem to feel.


That is something the Indian govt doesn't understand. It considers internet to be a metered service. F$%#.


The Global Village Idiot
yep... and to get a broadband connection, i had to get a freakin landline! hehe, damn DSL!


Curse Reliance for not giving us internet through OFCs! :confused: Somebody please email that article to BSNL, MTNL, VSNL, Reliance, Airtel :confused: