Several months ago, I mentioned that we’ve been experimenting with using Skype at home for many of our telephone calls, and that I was ready to switch to using Skype as our primary phone. Skype, for those unfamiliar, is a service that allows one to use their broadband internet connection as a telephone line.
In the article, I discussed a number of the benefits and drawbacks of this move. Clearly, it was cheaper than the cost of our land line on paper, but our land line was part of a bundled service with our telecommunications provider, and dropping the land line wouldn’t actually save us that much at all on our total bill. Although it appeared to be pricey on paper, dropping that land line would also cause us to lose our “bundling” discount, and the two almost completely counteracted each other.
So, for the time being, we’ve kept our land line, but I’ve continued to use Skype for many business-related calls.
That brings us to a suggestion from reader “Joe”:
I haven’t had a land line in nearly 5 years and haven’t missed it in the least. In the past 6 months, I’ve also switched to one of the low-cost cell phone providers for huge savings each month. By not having the land line, I’m saving about $40 a month, and by going with one of the low cost providers with unlimited usage I’ve gone to having a $45 a month cell phone bill. Total savings is about $80 to $100 a month versus having one of the pricier wireless providers and a landline at the same time.
Joe’s comment spurred me to do a serious re-evaluation of the telephone lines in use in our household. After all, our monthly telecommunications bill regularly runs into the three figures, including broadband internet, cable, a land line, and our cell phones.
What can we actively reduce from this expensive monthly mix?
The first step for figuring this out is accurately evaluating what we need. To do this, I started keeping careful track of the actual usage of our landline and our cell phones. Here are some key questions we asked ourselves during this process.
Were we actually taking advantage of the portable nature of our cell phones? Are we actually using them as truly mobile devices, meaning are we using them a significant amount outside of the home? If we’re not, then a prepaid cell phone may be all we need to take care of any mobile needs, reducing the monthly bill. From our evaluation, it appeared as though the majority of our cell phone usage was at home.
Were we truly taking advantage of our unlimited plans, or is our call volume low enough that we’d be better off with a plan with limited minutes? We were able to accurately track this by carefully examining our bills – both land line and cellular – over the last few months. How much were we using on each? Were we far below our limits? It turns out that we have never been close to our usage caps on our cell phone, so we requested a change to a different plan that will save us about $10 per month.
Were we using text messages significantly enough to pay for a plan for those, or would we be better off paying per message? This one was easy for us – we were only using a few texts per month, so we called and requested a switch to a “pay per message” plan that will save us $5 or so per month.
Is our cell phone service (while at home) as reliable as our land line service? In our case (luckily), the answer is yes. We live rather close to a tower that seems to be used by several providers, so almost every cell phone provider has stellar service from our home.
Do we travel significantly? With a three year old and a one year old at home, travel isn’t a normal part of our lifestyle, but it’s an important question to ask. The more travel you do, the more important a cell phone would be in comparison to a land line.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, the clear route for us (for the time being) is to wait until our contract expires, cancel our cell phone service, and get prepaid phones. This is our tentative plan, one that we’ll keep in mind as we monitor our phone usage over the next several months.
What’s the take-home message here? Walking carefully through your usage of such services can often point you towards ways to save money. Keep in mind what you’re actually using and what you actually need and you’ll eventually be led to the best deal for you.