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.
3. Sign up for Google Voice (formerly GrandCentral) when they open to users.
I signed up for GrandCentral.com 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 VirginMobileUsa.com 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 email@example.com (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.
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