How To Make Cheap Phone Calls and Lower Your Phone Bill

by Millie Kay G. on 2009-04-2214

How are you saving money? Some suggestions: lower your utility bills and cut down on phone service costs!

I’ve been working to cut down on some household costs by evaluating the various services we use. One of the expense categories I’ve had my eye on is that for my phone service: unfortunately, my current budget doesn’t extend to the iPhone or the new Google Android phone, and my landline’s prices seem to eat a steady chunk of my money each month. So several months ago, I decided to find ways to make my calls for less. Here’s what I’ve learned:

How To Make Cheap Phone Calls: 7 Ideas To Lower Your Phone Bill

1. Drop redundant features from your phone plan.

Over the last few years, parts of my state have lost electricity due to ice storms and other bad weather events, so for emergency purposes, I prefer to keep the landline on. Since I also have a prepaid cell phone, I dropped the long distance service of my landline. Savings: Around $10 a month.

Tip: If you’ve got more than one phone plan, watch out for redundant services. You may want to ditch those extra features and services that you don’t need.

2. Consider a limited calling plan.

I determined that a limited calling plan for the landline is cheaper than a basic plan. How so? I asked the landline company for a limited calling plan in place of the basic plan I’d had for a decade. For a price of about $9 plus tax, the limited calling plan allows me to dial out 25 times a month. Sure, the 25 calls don’t sound like much, but it actually serves my purposes as I don’t make too many calls out. On the other hand, I get unlimited incoming calls. Savings for leaving the basic plan: about $10 a month.

Tip: Take a look at your specific calling patterns and talk to your provider about the best service package that fits your needs.

phone calls, phone bill, make phone calls

3. Sign up for Google Voice (formerly GrandCentral) when they open to users.

I signed up for as soon as I heard about it. Recently, Google has absorbed GrandCentral and is now rebranding it as Google Voice, the next version of GrandCentral. This free internet-based calling service gives you a new phone number. It uses VoIP or voice over internet protocol to connect customers by linking their phone numbers. When people dial your Google Voice number, you can pick up the call on whatever landline, cell phone, or PC phone number you designate.

If you add phone numbers to Google Voice’s address book, the program will dial your designated number, then also dial out to the number you want to call (this is how you get connected to whom you are calling). If you have free incoming calls, you can now make long distance calls at no cost. They’ve also added the ability for a user to send or receive text messages, and it can also handle e-mails.

It’s also an adept voicemail service — there is a transcription feature for voicemail and you can even block voicemail spam. Whenever a store or solicitor wants your phone number, you can give them the Google Voice number instead of your landline number. Savings: $10 a month for voicemail.

Right now, Google Voice is in a closed beta service, but if you’re in the US, you may still reserve a Google Voice phone number, although some folks have reported that this service is not yet available. It took a few days for me to hear from them when I signed up months ago.

4. Look into Gizmo + Google Voice for the win.

Gizmo5 is an internet phone service that allows you to make calls to other Gizmo users for free. You can also instant message, share files, and more. For a low fee, you can make outgoing calls to US-based landlines and cell phones for 1.9 cents a minute.

With a helpful tutorial page from Google Voice, I was able to learn how to use the two services together to make calls on my PC. When I click on an out-of-town relative’s number in the Google Voice address book, I’m able to use Gizmo to make the call on the cheap.

Tip: Of course, the instant I needed to make a critical call, my headset went on the fritz. If you get a headset or handset, treat yourself to something durable — and don’t drop it thirty times like I did.

5. Check out Skype, which is an affordable alternative.

Many of you are probably more familiar with Skype, the internet phone service owned by eBay. Using Skype’s software, you can call another Skype user for free. I picked up a cheap handset on sale, plugged the USB cable into my computer, then started calling around. You can even buy plans so you can call landlines and cell phones for a low price, send SMS messages, or buy an online phone number so people can direct dial you on Skype.

My family has a Sony PSP-2000, which can also be used with Skype. We would need to get a compatible headset to make calls, though.

6. Consider prepaid cell phones.

I believe that prepaid cell phones, if properly managed, can still trump contract phones. Why? Having a prepaid cell phone like makes me strongly consider the expense before dialing. I try to monitor my usage on the provider’s website each month in case I need to buy more minutes. It’s actually pretty straightforward to load your phone with minutes via the phone company’s website, making it pretty convenient when you’re on the road.

Tip: If you end up having to make frequent cell phone calls, you should first do some research at sites like CNET before locking yourself into a long-term contract.

7. Go for free text messages.

Text messages don’t have to be pricey. My cell phone company charges me 10 cents a text message; another family member pays 15 cents for his text messages. When I looked at these charges for unlimited text messaging, I went on the hunt for a cheaper way and found out that my regular e-mail service can send SMS messages — for free!

Tip: Did you know that if you want to send text messages that don’t need an instant reply, you can actually e-mail the cell phone of the person you want to reach? For instance, to text someone with a T-mobile phone, you can enter (replace 10digitphonenumber with their actual phone number). Don’t forget that the recipient will still get charged, so don’t go sending them 10,000 e-mails in a row this way. 🙂

Copyright © 2009 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

the weakonomist April 22, 2009 at 6:42 pm

I’m just getting in to Skype but I like what I’ve see so far. You should point out the the service formally known as Grand Central is currently closed down to new users. They should be back up sometime this year, but I don’t think it will be in the next couple of months. Too many kinks.

As a dedicated iPhone user I must say it’s expensive, however it is the only phone I own and so have no other phone related expenses.

Mikael @ Retire Rich April 22, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Personally I’ve been using Skype for years with great success and it has saved me a lot of money. Secondly I’m paying a flat rate fee on my mobile which means I can make as many calls as I want to and still pay the same amount each month.

Andy G April 23, 2009 at 6:31 am

Been using skype for about 3 months. I really use it for work (files, chat), but we have the kids speak online to the grandparents with the webcam for free about once a week. Grandma thinks it’s the greatest!

I also use to send free text messages. You can save an address book and send group text messages as well. Using the list above including skype and the fee text message sites not only help you communicate better, but you can do it very cost effectively. Great article!

Kosmo @ The Casual Observer April 23, 2009 at 12:31 pm

I’m chomping at the bit waiting for Google Voice. I can think of a few other uses for it. In theory, you could make free long distance calls to friends by creating a local Google Voice number and assign the friend’s number to it – and then call the Google Voice number. To call another friend, just change delete friend one’s number and add friend two’s number.

It could also be great for the eldery alert pendants where the service calls the numbers of family/friends until they reach someone. Simply put a Google Voice number as the #1 spot on the list and assign everyone’s number to it. This will avoid the delay caused by having to call each person in sequence.

I’m on the outside looking in, though, so this might not be possible.

Ted Chou April 23, 2009 at 12:35 pm

FYI… Google owns Grand Central and it is integrated into the new iteration of Google Voice. Following, if you need to fall back on a reliable way to make international phone calls, you can still use a prepaid calling card.

Ann June 25, 2009 at 8:10 am

Most people have a landline phone, a mobile phone and maybe also use Skype to make calls via the internet… In all of these cases you can substantially cut your phone costs with a little knowledge and without changing any phone providers or telephone numbers. Thanks for this post.

Ann July 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Sometimes paying your cell phone bill can hurt. And the worst part is, most of the time you may not even realize why it’s higher than you were originally quoted.

Jeff August 14, 2009 at 3:56 pm

These are some great types. I got rid of my home phone service a couple of months ago. I never used that phone anyways. I bought a magicjack just so I would have an additional phone number if I ever needed one. I haven’t even used that phone once in 2 months, but who knows, someday it might come in handy.

MJB September 2, 2009 at 2:50 am

Everyone still seems to be talking about Skype, but I just don’t get it!

Carolina September 17, 2009 at 12:52 am

I have been using Skype for many years with great success, but now i’ve found many sites that are either very cheap or you can make free calls from them. Like voip phone calls provides very cheap/free calls world wide.

empire technology October 22, 2009 at 5:34 am

Skype is good, but there is other software you can download. gives you free calls to over 40 countries and you can call mobile for free.

Mike December 21, 2009 at 3:00 am

Skype has just hiked their PC to landlines rates which is very unfortunate . Fortunately There actually are a bunch alternatives to this already familiar household name, and Fring, Truephone, Symmy .. You name it ..
Thanks for sharing 🙂

John Dime February 27, 2010 at 1:17 am

For the more conventional non-Skype users there are, however even more economical choice: prepaid phone cards. I have done a very thorough research and found the best one. Very economical even to cell phones, NO monthly fees, NO connection fee. Check it out.

Alex May 2, 2010 at 3:07 am

Skype or YM 🙂

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