If you want to save money on home telephone service, think about ditching your landline. Technology continues to bring new products to the market and improve old ones. Some of the products offer the familarity of a traditional handheld phone while others require a computer monitor, laptop or tablet. Most offer substantial savings over a traditional landline phone service.
Currently, we bundle our cable, phone and high speed internet with Time Warner Cable and we pay what I feel is an exorbitant rate. My husband and I finally got fed up enough with cable that we’re ready to cut the cord, but we might as well cut the phone at the same time. Technically, ours isn’t a landline, but it costs almost as much each month. Since I’m shopping for alternatives I thought I’d share my findings here.
Many people have switched their landlines out for cell service. This offers several conveniences but depending on your needs it isn’t always a perfect solution. Three things that are great about using your cell service exclusively are that you have a typically much lower consolidated phone bill, a consolidated contact list and your phone is on you at all times. You will no longer have to wonder who might be trying to reach you on your home phone while you are away. One major drawback is the loss of the family phone number. It’s convenient to have a number to hand out to businesses, schools, doctors, insurance companies and anyone else that might need to reach all adult members of a household. Also, not everyone wants to buy younger children a phone, but they also don’t want to take calls from their first grader’s friends while they are at work. There are other reasons you might not want to go this route. If you live in an area where cell coverage is spotty this really isn’t a viable option.
Savings will vary, but with our bundled service through Time Warner Cable the phone portion is around $30 per month. If we were to go this route we would immediately save $360 each year.
Voice over Internet Protocol is a popular landline alternative that basically takes speech and turns it into digital data. VoIP can be used computer to computer or through analog telephone adapters (ATA).
Computer to computer products are great alternatives and will certainly provide all of the services many people need when replacing a phone and most of the products don’t add a penny to your monthly internet bill. Analog telephone adaptors have improved over the years and allow you to use your standard cordless telephone, giving you the feel of a landline.
Computer to Computer
Skype Skype is the granddaddy of all VoIP programs. It is polished, established and has a lot of users. Skype also tends to be the service that is out front on innovations in the market. Calls from computer to computer are free with the rates for service from computer to mobile and landline phones starting at $2.99 for unlimited U.S. and Canada calls to $13.99 for their unlimited world package.
Google offers video chat and conferencing through Hangouts, voice only through Google Voice and instant messaging through Google Talk. Hangouts allow for ten participants and are easy to set up and operate. When chatting with more than two the controls can get a little bit tricky. Some users get muted when others join the call and don’t realize it. It can be a little frustrating, but if you use a lot of Google services it is nice
The one product that works like more of a social network is goober. It allows you to call and chat goober to goober for free but talking outside your goober group is going to cost you. It is a small amount but with so many free services the limits on this one make it a little less attractive than some of the others. Goober is available on Mac, Linux and Windows.
If you’re looking for video conferencing, ooVoo may be just what you need. It can hold up to 12 participants and it supports instant messaging, however calling to phones carries a charge. The service is offered on Mac, Android, iPhone, Facebook and Windows.
Jitsi is software that specializes in VoIP. It offers audio-only calls, video chats, streaming, and more.
Analog Telephone Adaptors
MagicJack MagicJack has been around for a long time and started with a small device that had to remain plugged into a USB port on your computer or laptop. To receive calls you had to leave your computer running at all times. This bit of inconvenience has been eliminated with the MagicJack PLUS. The new device can be plugged into a router and has a standard RJ-11 phone jack that will accommodate any standard phone.
After paying for the device, which typically runs around $70, you then pay a small annual fee of around $30. Local and long distance calls are free. For a full list of features go here.
Ooma offers home and business phone systems. From the Ooma website:
Ooma uses an advanced voice compression algorithm that reduces bandwidth consumption by 60% over standard VoIP technology. This leaves you with more bandwidth for all your other online activities.
Even with a pricetag of almost $150 – about double the cost of the MagicJack – Ooma has quickly taken the lead among consumers. The more elegant design, higher call quality and higher rated customer service makes the initial cost of the product worthwhile. The annual service fees are the same as those charged by MagicJack. For an additional $50 Ooma offers a wireless adapter which allows you to unplug the device and place it anywhere in range of your wireless signal.
The netTalk Duo and netTalk Duo Wifi offer very similar technology to MagicJack. Features and fees are almost identical, but netTalk appears to take the lead on customer service. The two companies filed suit against each other in 2012 All three services allow you to keep your current phone number for a fee and both MagicJack and NetTalk Duo are portable and allow you to carry your home phone with you when you travel. We’ve opted to give Ooma a try. Our cell coverage is terrible. We’ve been told by multiple companies that we live in a pocket of with a radius of about a mile that simply won’t get good coverage. So, cell only isn’t an option. We don’t want to give up on a home phone number since we have two in college and in an emergency we like the idea that calls will come to a central phone number. I work from home, so I’m almost always available to take calls. The higher price of the technology isn’t a deterrent in this case and our savings in the first year alone will more than pay for the Ooma and still put some cash in our pockets.
You can find more easy ways to save money on our list of 65 Ways to Save Money.