A Confession: I Have a Status Symbol

Posted by Amanda on August 4, 2011

I have been called out by one of my readers before (in a very polite way), who inquired as to why I am still on a monthly contract cell phone plan. He/she sent me a great email detailing their own pay-as-you-go plan, the perks of it, as well as the financial benefits and savings that one can get versus the monthly contract. They showed me that I could stay with my current provider, and even if I happened to use 500 minutes per month (which I don’t), then I would only pay $30 plus taxes. What a deal! I thanked them for their email, and was truly appreciative of the time and effort they put into giving me this information.

Almost a year and approximately $576 later, I still have my cell phone contract. If I had switched to the pay-as-you-go plan, I would have had approximately an additional $200 in my pocket.

Why I Pay More for My Cell Phone Contract

Before receiving this email, I was not aware that it would save me money by going on a pay as you go contract. Even though I do most of my chatting to my family in PA on the weekends (weekends are free), I thought that I was probably using up a decent amount of minutes during the week to make it a financial burden to change to a pay-as-you-go plan rather than something to help me save money. Aside from that, I have what I consider to be a great deal: $48 dollars per month and a free cell phone every two years. I rationalized that saving the extra $15 per month or so by switching to a pay-as-you-go plan was not worth the effort. But then I took a closer look and realized that I simply do not want to give up my monthly cell phone contract plan because it is a status symbol to me.

You won’t catch me with many status symbols; if you pass me on the street I will most likely be walking with a red tote bag I got for free from Macy’s when we signed onto our wedding registry a year and a half ago and wearing shoes purchased from Payless or the Shoe Rack clearance section that have outlived their beauty. But my cell phone is another story all together. It’s not the cell phone Make and Model itself, as I am often years behind the newest models and trends (I am currently fighting everyone’s opinion that I should own a Smartphone). It’s the actual contract itself, the idea that my credit is good enough that I can be trusted with a monthly bill instead of having to put money onto the cell phone itself.

How My Cell Phone Became My Status Symbol

I remember the first cell phone I ever got; I was 16 and my stepmother had decided that it was time for us to catch onto the trend of personal cell phones. I had no credit at that point, and I knew that my parents’ credit was probably not that great as both sets of my parents had gone through bankruptcy by that point. I wanted to have a monthly contract so badly though, and felt that it was far superior to the pay-as-you-go phones other people had. I knew it was out of our reach though—money was always tight. That night I came through the front door to a huge surprise: charging on the table was my new snazzy cell phone. When I thanked my stepmother, she revealed that it was actually a monthly contract phone and not pay-as-you-go! I felt like I was in an exclusive club that previously the door had been shut to me.  

Just like some people feel that having an American Express credit card in their wallet or a Louis Vuitton purse dangling from their shoulder shows a status of some sort, that is what a cell phone monthly contract feels for me.  Ever since I became aware of the cell phone contract being a status symbol to me, I have begun to notice other status symbols in our culture. How many kitchens have you seen with the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer prominently displayed (but probably not often used) on the countertop? How about Starbucks drinks? A Starbucks throwaway cup has practically become an accessory to outfits.

Have you noticed any cultural status symbols? Do you have any in your life?

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Comments to A Confession: I Have a Status Symbol

  1. Years ago, back in my bachelor days, I had a Corvette. That was the ultimate status symbol! Oh, memories! LOL

    Money Beagle

  2. I think we need to be careful not to nickel-and-dime ourselves to death. Just like dieting we need to take it in doses and allow ourselves come creature-comforts! If a cellphone monthly plan helps you feel good about yourself, go for it girl and feel no shame as long as your life is not unabashedly languishing in luxury. Status symbols are hard to avoid too. It’s like capitalization; even when you break the rule you evoke it because you think, oh that’s not capitalized. Having no symbols of status is a status-symbol in itself like hey I’m a Frugalísta or something. Anyway great food for thought. Thanks for posting!


    • Thanks Alysa! I definitely am frugal in so many other areas of my life that I shouldn’t feel bad:). Just interesting to realize it when you have a status symbol.


  3. How on earth is being contractually obligated to a cell phone company an indicator of status in any rational mind? Do you tell your friends that “I have a cell phone contract therefore I am not bankrupt”?

    Your relationship with money needs some serious work because you can easily escalate to “I have a huge car payment therefore I am credit worthy”.

    It would be less expensive to carry cards with your credit score printed on them and pass them out.

    Mr. ToughMoneyLove

    • Hello Mr. ToughMoneyLove,

      I am definitely a rational person, and have no personal debt (in fact all of my cars have been paid for by cash, and were used). The only debt we have is our mortgage, and it is a small one at that.

      Amanda L Grossman

  4. I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days. I think my status symbols are more like anti-status symbols.

    I’m kinda proud of my wool-lined sleeping bag made by the Abercrombie company (before he met Fitch and started selling thong underwear to little girls). And I like to brag on the cool long distance bike I bought on Craiglist.

    And it’s probably this weird contrarian streak that keeps me from getting a cell phone, iPod, tv, or many other types of technology.


    • Hi Pamela,

      Thank you for sharing–I didn’t know that Abercrombie and Fitch were at one point not together!

      Amanda L Grossman

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