Cellphones Are Eating the Family Budget – WSJ.com

English: A ridiculous line of people waiting f...

Heidi Steffen and her husband used to treat themselves most weeks to steak at Sodak Shores, a restaurant overlooking a lake near their hometown of Milbank, S.D. Then they each got an iPhone, and the rib-eyes started making fewer appearances.

“Every weekend, we’d do something,” said Ms. Steffen, a registered nurse whose husband works at a tire shop. “Now maybe once every month or two, we get out.”

More than half of all U.S. cellphone owners carry a device like the iPhone, a shift that has unsettled household budgets across the country. Government data show people have spent more on phone bills over the past four years, even as they have dialed back on dining out, clothes and entertainment—cutbacks that have been keenly felt in the restaurant, apparel and film industries.

The tug of war is only going to get more intense. Wireless carriers are betting they can pull bills even higher by offering faster speeds on expensive new networks and new usage-based data plans. The effort will test the limits of consumer spending as the draw of new technology competes with cellphone owners’ more rudimentary needs and desires.

So far, telecom is winning. Labor Department data released Tuesday show spending on phone services rose more than 4% last year, the fastest rate since 2005. During and after the recession, consumers cut back broadly on their spending.

But as more people paid up for $200 smartphones and bills that run around $100 a month, the average household’s annual spending on telephone services rose to $1,226 in 2011 from $1,110 in 2007, when Apple Inc.’s iPhone first appeared.

Families with more than one smartphone are already paying much more than the average—sometimes more than $4,000 a year—easily eclipsing what they pay for cable TV and home Internet.

via Cellphones Are Eating the Family Budget – WSJ.com.

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Posted on September 27, 2012, in Article and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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