$170

I have a cell phone number that I've had for at least eight years—lots of old friends have it as my contact number and it's on hundreds of business cards that I've handed out over the years.

About five years ago, my work was going to start paying for a mobile phone for me, and I didn't want to have to carry two devices, and even then I'd already handed out plenty of business cards, so I ported my personal number to a device owned by my work. That was great for a number of years, but then I had a disagreement with our company's phone administrator that made me realize that in the event that work and I parted ways suddenly (which I wasn't planning on on my end, but you never know) that I might have trouble recovering that number. So I took a work phone with a work number (remember when I had that 917 number, which is a New York number of all things?) and tried to figure out what to do with my personal number.

I still didn't want to carry two devices and I looked a number of possible phone forwarding solutions and finally decided that the best option was to port the number to a pay-as-you-go phone and forward that to my work number. Well, I messed up a bit, as it turns out that number-forwarding, at least on Virgin Mobile, is a feature of the phone and not the network, and I had gotten such a cheap phone that it couldn't do that feature. So for the last couple years I've had a cheap little phone sitting under my desk at home, plugged into a charger, and I'd just check it when it beeped that I had a text or a voice mail. I updated my most-used contacts with whatever current work number I'm carrying and it's been non-terrible. And I certainly don't regret the $5/month—I got a single gig from someone who had that old number that paid for the service on it's own.

But now, Google Voice finally has porting, And that is the solution I've been looking for for two years. I can use GV's features to forward my number to whatever phone I happen to have, or be near, or whatever. It gets text messages. Perfect. Yay!

But, as I was preparing to port my number over, I was thinking about all the accumulated funds I had in my Virgin Mobile account. The way these things work is that to maintain your phone line you have to keep adding money to your account at least every 90 days. So even though I'd only used about $10 in services over the two years, I had $170 in my account that was just going to disappear. Now, like I said, I don't begrudge that money at all—as the economists say, it's a sunk cost. But if there was something I could do with it…

And then I saw a question on Ask MetaFilter that made me realize—those 'text REDCROSS to 90999' charity donation things, when you have a regular phone account, they just add that $10 onto your monthly bill, but when you have pay-as-you-go, they deduct it from your balance.

So tonight I sent a good 30 or 40 texts (you have to confirm each one) giving away that $170. I went through the list at mGive and also the different celebrities at Keep a Child Alive. (A limitation seems to be that you can only donate $25 a day to any one text code, but the different celebrity names at Keep a Child Alive count separately, so I was able to give a bit more there.) I gave to cancer organizations and Child's Play and dance in Chicago and I think the NYPL. It's all a bit of a blur (I was also watching a horror movie at the same time). It's only $170. I know plenty of people, who make a lot less than I, who give more than that all the time. But darn it, I'm going to feel good about this for a moment. Yay me!