Thrift Tip: Saving Money on Phone Bills

(I’ve decided to start a brief series on money saving ‘Thrift Tips’. It’s practical and I love learning these types of things from others so I figured I’d share mine too)

phonesI’ll start with the big one, Phone Bills. Seems this is often a big monthly payment for most people. Almost everyone has a cell phone these days, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy way around those cell phone bills just ballooning with fees and monthly charges. So, there are a few options I’d suggest…

  • Don’t have a Cell phone. We managed this till 2005, but we have friends who still don’t have one. It is honestly possible to survive and even thrive without being constantly reachable.
  • Have one Cell phone (per couple). We managed this till this past December. It was rare that both of us would be at a place where we didn’t have a way to call the other.
  • Do a Family Plan with your family (or friends). This can cut down your cell phone bill considerably. Adding an extra line to most plans is around $10 (from what I’ve seen), so you divide the bulk of the cost evenly and the more phones on the plan the more spread out the fees are.

I’d highly recommend the above options to begin with. And now I’ll give you a brief run down on what we do. Actually, upon writing this post I realized it’s a wee-bit long on the explanation so I’ve split it into two posts. This first post is going to cover a basic overview, and the second will be about our minutes- saving cell phone trick.

  • We currently have two cell phones, but we’ve done family plans with our respective families. Since they are who we talk to the bulk of the time, having the same cell company (thus free minutes) ends up saving the whole family money, on top of sharing the cost of the plan. Still, if you can live with one I’d recommend that.
  • We have a home phone line through our Internet connection, but it’s not a typical VOIP service like Vonage or others. I found something called “MagicJack” online which is basically a phone line that you plug into a usb port on your computer. You get an incoming phone number (in your local area code), unlimited calling and free long distance, and you plug a regular phone into it. As long as your internet connection is solid and you’ve got a stationary computer you can leave on with a usb port your in good shape. The cost? $20 a year (plus $20 for the device). We’ve had it for the last year and the only time it hasn’t work was when our internet has been down or functioning poorly. Compared to a typical landline that’s dirt cheap. And this helps us keep our minutes on the cell plans way down.
  • Additionally, the number I usually give out to folks is one through a service called Grandcentral Google Voice. It’s basically a call forwarding number, so one call there rings our house and cell phones. If it’s after 9pm or the weekend (free cell minutes), or were out and about, I can answer on my cell. Otherwise we can answer on the landline and save those precious anytime minutes. Voicemail messages can be checked easily from any phone or I have them emailed to me to listen to online. Google Voice is also a key component of my other big phone thrift tip, which I’ll get to on Wednesday.

Tomorrow: YouTubesday (everyone’s favorite)

Wednesday: Thrift Tip #2 Unlimited Minute Cell Phone Hack (spoiler: this only works for T-mobile MyFaves or now Verizon’s Friends and Family or Alltel’s My Circle)

[photo credit]

7 thoughts on “Thrift Tip: Saving Money on Phone Bills”

  1. Another option is no home phone. I haven't had a land line since 2005 and I've never missed it. I chose the cell over the home phone because I can call or text anyone in the US without paying long distance fees, which is great since I have friends and family all over the country. It's also good for traveling and convenient to have with me in the car in case of emergency. Also, I get a 20% discount on the monthly rate through my employer 😀 I doubt I'll ever have a land line ever again.

  2. That's true. I realize cell phones are seen more and more like necessities and landlines are becoming a thing of the past.

    However, from what I've seen, many people spend way more on a cellphone that has enough minutes then they would if they also had a landline, even one that had long distance.

    And if your really trying to save money, I just find cell phones are an expensive part of ones monthly bills.

  3. True, it's possible to spend way more than necessary on a cell phone bill. However, when I weighed the pros and cons of cell vs. home, I decided that a cell phone worked best for my lifestyle (and now, for my & my husband's lifestyle). I think the important thing is for each family to evaluate their needs and wants and make the choices that work out best for them.

  4. The important thing is that you thought critically about it.
    That's also why I recommended the MagicJack. It's literally $40 for the whole year, and it's free long distance. Combine that with a cell phone that you limit the minutes on and I think it's the cheapest plan you can manage.

  5. The important thing is that you thought critically about it.
    That's also why I recommended the MagicJack. It's literally $40 for the whole year, and it's free long distance. Combine that with a cell phone that you limit the minutes on and I think it's the cheapest plan you can manage.

  6. I'm a big fan of the MagicJack also- we used for an entire year so far in China and who knows how much money we saved compared to using SkypeOut or phone cards. The only drawback I've found with the MagicJack is that sometimes it doesn't work terribly well with a cordless phone. What would you say from your experience Ariah? Do you use a corded or cordless?

  7. Well, apparently our cordless phone and wireless router are both 2.4 ghz which supposedly causes interference with each other. I've tried corded and cordless phones and found them both about the same, except cordless has it's own benefits.
    Our main limitation is poor internet connections. Otherwise I've found the MagicJack to work great.

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