And Now the Rest of the Take-My-iPhone-Please Story

You may recall that several months ago, after considering my options for what to do with my iPhone 5C (trade it in, sell it, consign it, auction it, donate it, or keep it) I’d decided to sell the phone to the online company that had given me the best cash offer.

That didn’t happen. Within hours of posting that column, I received a message offering one more option:

Dear Mary: If you are willing to sell it to an individual, I’d be interested in your phone for my 16-year-old daughter. I can send you a check and you could wait until it clears to mail me the phone if that would make you more comfortable (since you don’t know me even though I feel like I know you from reading your column every day for years). Just let me know if you are interested. Thanks, Tammy

Surprisingly perhaps, of all the responses I received to that column, Tammy’s was the only one that simply offered to buy the phone for the same amount I’d been offered by Decluttr. I responded …

Dear Tammy: I’m usually a little nervous about selling anything to someone I know, only because I’d feel terrible if they were dissatisfied or something happened to the item in transit. Curiously, I haven’t formally made the deal with Decluttr yet, so my phone is still here with me. If you feel comfortable, tell me about your family. Where do you live? What is your daughter doing this summer and what are her hopes and dreams?

That message prompted several more as we chatted back and forth. I learned that daughter Kelsey is an amazing teen, an excellent student who excels in sports and is very active in her church youth organization. Her summer project was to build a solid wood armoire with her dad! Through our emails, I learned a lot about Tammy’s entire family—so much so that I felt like I’d known them for years.

Dear Tammy: What a great story and what a wonderful family. Thanks for introducing me to all the Deatons.

Here’s my counter offer: Send me your mailing address. I’ll put the phone into the mail first thing on Monday. Check it out and make sure you can get it set up with a data plan and all.

Then, as you are able and you see a need in your community, use the money you might have spent for a phone to bless someone or some project there. Thanks for contacting me. This is blessing me far more than if I’d sent the phone off to Decluttr!


Dear Mary: Oh my. That is an incredibly generous and kind offer. I am afraid you may have misinterpreted why I wrote back with our family story. I did not mean to give you the impression we can’t afford to pay you for the phone.

The reason I gave you so many details about our situation is that I wanted to be a witness to the fact that everything that you communicate to the public is true— you CAN live within your means, you CAN live debt-free, you CAN live simply, you CAN go without all the latest fashions and material things and still be quite happy. Not only is it possible, but it is quite liberating and can open up all kinds of opportunities to pursue what is truly important to you (in our case, high-quality family time).

Please accept my apology if I made you feel bad for our situation. That was not my intent. Tammy


Dear Tammy: It didn’t cross my mind that you were financially needy! Truly it didn’t. I like the idea of a “paying it forward” kind of thing. And I love your family!

So my offer stands. I’d love to send you the phone for Kelsey as a blessing you hadn’t expected, and allow that to prompt you to bless someone God puts in your path and prompts you to bless in some way.


Dear Mary: I very humbly accept your offer. I am a fan, too, of “paying it forward” and am looking forward to the opportunity to bless someone else with the kindness you have put into motion with your generous actions. Tammy

I packed up that adorable, bright green, iPhone 5C and off to the Post Office it went for delivery to Kelsey. After a few weeks, I got this most beautifully handwritten note in the mail.

Mrs. Hunt: Thank you so much for the fantastic iPhone. Your generosity and thoughtfulness has really touched me.

My mom and I bought 44 pairs of jeans to donate to the charity program in our district.

This program, which we are involved in, provided the less fortunate kids in our local school with an outfit, school supplies and other needs for the coming school year.

The phone has been working beautifully. We connected it with our plan and it works great.

Once again, than you for your generosity. This world needs more people like you who think of others’ needs first.

The needy children in our school will greatly enjoy and appreciate your thoughtfulness. God bless! Kelsey Deaton*

*names have been changed to protect true identities


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  • Marla

    That is a truly beautiful account. I pray that you all continue to be blessed and are blessings to others.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Marla

  • ThistleCoveFarm

    What a great ending to more beginnings! Pay it forward is treat others the way you’d want them to treat you. With all the bad news, this is a testimony to goodness, thanks for letting us know.

  • Elaine Burkhalter Ford

    such a heartwarming story. May it encourage the rest of us to watch for opportunities to pay it forward!

    • Yes! Let’s get something started here …

  • UncommonSensesc

    I so needed to read a good story today and this fit the bill perfectly! Thanks for sharing this – while it brought tears to my eyes, they are good tears!

    • Here, let me hand you a tissue 🙂

  • Jan Schal

    Great story! Great start to Monday to read this.

    • Thanks, Janie. What a great avatar.

  • Jen

    What a truly lovely & inspiring story!! Thank you for sharing, for initiating this particular “pay it forward” goodness & for all your great ideas…

  • Connie Pyburn Lancaster

    One of those “Wow God” stories! I love it and too am a fan of paying it forward. I may try something like this with my Iphone that I’ve been pondering what to do with! Thanks!

    • Do it Connie. It’ll do great things for your joy.

  • Lorraine Hawxwell

    I just love what happened with your phone! What a great exchange and life experience for this young girl.

  • Sarah Pollnow

    I could not love this story more. I’ve been a loyal and enthusiastic fan since shortly after I got married 13 years ago. I’m thankful for your example to all of us -in so many ways!
    May God bless you and yours.

    • You’ve encouraged, me Sarah! Thanks for being out there and for your loyalty.

  • Betty Thomas

    This made my heart smile and please know after the news lately that’s just what it needed!

  • Rhonda Spicer Wirtley

    I love your column & consider you my own personal “Consumer Reports”. Thank you for all the work you do to help other people. That being said, this is my favorite “Everyday Cheapskate” by far. You reach a lot of people. Your “pay it forward” mentality will affect so many. Thank you for being you & thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. God has plans for Kelsey! Thanks for being His conduit in sharing her story!

    • Thank you, Rhonda! That’s me … your consumer reporter! Haha.

  • Sue Ashby Caldwell

    Wow!!! What a beautiful story filled with blessings! Thank you for sharing, Mary Hunt!!!

  • Becky Sue


  • Dinah Ferrer

    My friend gave me her old phone also a 5 c and we can’t get it cleared/unlocked for the life of us. Did it have to be the same carrier/