Tools to reduce your phone bill

A phone bill and home phone are seen at a home in Minonk, Ill., on Saturday, March 26, 2005. (FILE) (AP Photo/Fred Zwicky)

August 31, 2011 10:34:51 AM PDT
Have you cut your home telephone service and use only wireless? You're not alone.

Three reasons to cut your home phone service and four reasons to keep it
By Josh Elledge,

Have you cut your home telephone service and use only wireless? You're not alone. Roughly 25 percent of all American adults now live in homes with wireless-only voice connections. If you're among the 25 to 29 age bracket, only about half have bothered with a home telephone line.

With so many ways to reach out and touch someone, the need for "plain old telephone service" has been on a steady decline. With a review of your family's phone usage, you may be able to eliminate many of the unnecessary home phone service add-ons you are currently paying for - or you might be able to join the trend and cut your home phone service altogether.

My dear wife and I recently did an audit of our home phone bill. After making a couple changes, dropping a second line for business, dropping to a lower feature package, and dropping a very under-used long distance package, we were able to cut our (business and personal) phone bill by more than $800 a year.

If you still have conventional landline phone service, please review the latest feature packages. Do you really need personalized rings, selective call forwarding, and premium speed dial features anymore? You may be surprised to find that you have been paying for them. Also, is it possible to use your cell phone for the majority of your long distance calls? If so, you may have big savings waiting by canceling your 'unlimited long distance' package. Be prepared when you call to cancel, however. Our phone company's 'retention' department was not easy to get to and required a very firm stance to accomplish what I wanted.

What are the reasons for canceling your home phone service?

1. Save money! Taxes, fees, and the monthly charge for a redundant voice line can be avoided by making one last phone call from your home line and disconnecting. This could save you many hundreds of dollars a year. If you still want to use your home phones, connect them to a Voice Over IP (VOIP) service like Vonage or MagicJack - or buy an adapter that will allow you to use them over your cellular phone's line. With a little research, you'll find a number of low cost alternatives to conventional landline phone service.

2. Enjoy more privacy. Your situation may be different, but 75% of the calls we get on our home line are telemarketers who don't respect (or are exempt from) the government's do not call list, or are calling in search of the previous owner of that phone number. The other 25% can be quickly directed to our cell phone number if we were to update them. Cell phones don't alert the whole house until someone picks up the phone. A quick tap of the button and your caller is sent to voicemail when you choose not to take the call.

3. Get your phone calls and voicemails where you are - or delivered to your computer or email inbox. Rather than getting home and checking your messages on your home voicemail, have your voice calls accessible or passed to a virtual voicemail for later reviewing. Skype and Google Voice are among the solutions that can make your communications more accessible.

What are the reasons for keeping your home phone service?

1. Possibly greater reliability - particularly if your cell phone doesn't get great coverage at home. The argument can be made for either side regarding reliability in a power outage. Personally, my home phones are cordless - so a power outage would leave me unable to use them unless plugged into to a generator - or battery backup. Still, many people believe that non-powered landline phones are the most reliable method of phone communication.

2. Emergency location identification to 911 in case the dialer is not able to speak. Also, if you have kids who arrive home from school early and they do not have a cell phone, cutting your home service may not be an option to you. For safety's sake, I'll let you do your own research regarding Enhanced 911 access in your area. (Enhanced 911 displays your address to the 911 operator). Almost every modern cell phone is equipped with Enhanced 911 capability - which can allow Enhanced 911 coverage areas to pinpoint your location within a few meters. Rural areas are less likely to have this capability, however. You may want to ensure that this is reliably available to you and that this will meet your needs. Call your cell phone service provider and local emergency providers (on their non-emergency line) and learn how well you would be protected with cellular-only enhanced 911 service. Voice Over IP phone service is gaining better enhanced 911 access - and is also worth researching.

You can learn more about Enhanced 911 via cell phone from the FCC's website,

You can learn all about Enhanced 911 on Voice Over IP lines at

If you do need to place a 911 call from your cell phone, you won't be alone. According to the FCC, "The number of 911 calls placed by people using wireless phones has significantly increased in recent years. It is estimated that about 70 percent of 911 calls are placed from wireless phones, and that percentage is growing."

Also remember that every cell phone - regardless of whether it has an active service plan should have access to make a 911 call. This may figure into your decision on phone access.

3. Better quality. This is largely based on your cell coverage - but if you have a job or role that necessitates good telephone quality, a landline generally provides a higher quality sound than a cell phone. However, you might find that a VOIP service meets your needs.

4. You may have devices such as a fax machine, tv receiver, or security service that requires a regular phone line to dial out. With no landline phone service, you may find alternate solutions like Internet Fax services. Your VOIP provider may allow faxing - or may provide a option for faxing.

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