Technology changes everything. Ten years ago, almost everyone had a traditional landline telephone. 20 years ago I lived in a town where you only had to dial the last 4 digits to make a local call. Before that it wasn’t uncommon to have a party line, where people shared a phone line and if you weren’t careful, they could listen in on your calls. Now you can get call waiting, caller ID, and a host of other features via a traditional landline, cable connection, or the internet. Or you can skip the landline altogether and just use a cell phone, which is what I have done for the last 7 years. Make sure to shop around for the best deals on cell phone providers and learn what cell phone company will pay the early termination fee for you if you choose to change carriers!
But I recently found myself making and receiving more phone calls and I need to add a landline. But I don’t want to pay $20 a month just to have a local number. So I looked into my options, and I realized there are a lot of ways you can save money on telephone service.
How to Save Money on Phone Calls
Here are some ways you can save money on phone calls from home:
Do you need a landline?
The first step is to determine if you need a land line, and if so, how many lines you need. When I was in high school, my parents had two telephone lines. It was only a couple dollars extra per month, and the convenience was a nice luxury. Soon after we left home, they realized they could save a few dollars per month by dropping the extra line. Shortly after that, they realized they could join the growing number of people who dropped their land lines altogether. Now I call their call phones.
Which options do you need?
Technology has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. It’s not uncommon to find features such as call waiting, caller ID, and the half dozen other add ons. You may be able to save a lot of money if you drop those features. But many of the features are worth paying for. For example, new features include voice to text services, in which automated technology transcribes your voicemail and sends it to your inbox. This can be a great time saver, and easy way to get messages more quickly (or screen calls).
Save money by bundling your service
If you watch cable TV, you can often save a substantial amount of money by bundling cable and telephone service, or even go with a triple play package and bundle cable, telephone and internet service. Many bundled options often come with discounted extras or even free additions like caller ID, call waiting, etc.
This wasn’t an option for me, since we don’t watch much TV and we cancelled our cable service. Instead, we have high speed Internet and we use a VoIP telephone system, as described in the next section.
Switch to internet based phones – VoIP
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology is a great way to save money on your cell phone bill. There are varying plans and companies that provide VoIP service, so you will need to shop around a bit. Here are some VoIP options:
- Skype – offers free video calls and online free instant chat and free video calls to other Skype members. Long distance calls to a landline or mobile number ring in at at $3 per month or 2.1 cents a minute.
- magicJack uses the same VoIP technology and costs $45 for the hardware and $19.99 a year for unlimited long distance calls. There are some limitations to some of their older systems, which require the computer to be turned on for the system to work. However, the newer version doesn’t require this.
- Ooma has a higher up front cost ($200), but doesn’t have monthly charges other than your local taxes. Ooma is very easy to set up.
- Google Voice – you can send and receive phone calls through your Gmail account by downloading a plugin and linking your Gmail account and Google Voice account. This is a great option for free calls (I used it extensively this week and like the results). You can also use Google Voice with your cell phone, which is a great way to protect your regular cell phone number when selling things through Craigslist or Ebay.
Verdict: I have been an Ooma customer for over five years now, and love their service. I highly recommend looking into their offerings in more depth.
Look into calling cards for international calls
If you make a lot of international calls and don’t care to use VoIP or other technology, then look into calling cards, which can often be much cheaper than your long distance plan. Try to avoid using an operator to connect you to an international call, as those calls typically have a surcharge added.
There is no one size fits all phone plan
Telephone service can be as personalized as you want it to be, so play around with the available options to find the one that best meets your needs and budget. My guess is you can knock several bucks off your bill each month.
Google Voice is a free solution for local calls, and will work for many people. However, I wanted something more robust, so I chose to go with Ooma because it more user friendly than some of the other options (i.e. you don’t have to have your computer on at all times to use it). I’ve been happy using Ooma for the last five years and have no plans to move elsewhere at this time.