Ray’s Take Every time you go out to lunch you see it: everyone’s smart phones are right there on the table, ready for texting, talking, checking emails, or some quick research. What happened to simply staying connected to the ones right there in front of you?

Mobile phones, Internet connections and television cable bills are eating up an increasing amount of our paychecks. Are the rewards actually worth that substantial – and growing – investment?

Many families are shelling out $200, $300 or substantially more each month to maintain all these electronic connections, which means there are many opportunities to cut costs.

Have you compared your mobile plan with the actual number of minutes you use? You may not be using nearly as much as you’re paying for. While Internet connectivity at home has become almost a necessity, have you considered using this system for telephone calls from your home using VoIP technologies, some of which are free? This could dramatically reduce the number of minutes your cell phone eats up. You can also use your high-speed Internet to stream much of the programming on television instead of paying hefty cable bills.

However, the other costs of super-connectivity should concern you, too. Face-to-face communications provide you with much more information than any email ever can. It’s no wonder people often misunderstand the tone of an email. They have no access to the facial expressions and body language that speak volumes. At least with your cell phone, you can gain some information from vocal intonation. When the human component is missing it’s easy to get the wrong message.

When you spend time engaged in-person, you learn more about the other person as well as about yourself. Your growth in understanding leads to more fulfilling relationships – in business and in your personal life. What you learn could enrich your life in more ways than one. Isn’t that worth the extra effort?

Dana’s Take The Nielson Company claims that American teens are on average sending an extraordinary 2,779 text messages a month – each.

I would venture that if parents socked away and invested the money we might have spent on phones and data plans for our children, we could save a year’s college tuition for each child.

Where teens and driving are involved, the other potential savings is far more precious: your child’s life. If we, as adults, can’t refrain from calling and texting while driving, can we realistically expect a teen to have that kind of restraint?

If you’ve ever heard a kid’s phone pinging with texts every 30 seconds while they try to complete homework, you’ve seen the other cost of phones – distraction.

Next time you’re looking for budget cuts, cut the cord on kids’ cell phones.