by Harriet Bond
(San Francisco, CA, USA)
Telephones are no longer considered a luxury but a necessity. People of all ages usually have a land fixed telephone line plus a cell phone. Kids can’t imagine not having a cell phone to chat with their friends. Some even use their phone to keep in touch with parents. At least we’re communicating more with each other but it’s become a monthly expense that can get out of control.
Some are afraid to open their phone bill each month and discover how much they went over budget. If you’re spending more than you should, then it’s time to take a good close look at your bill and determine if you really need all those extra bells and whistles.
For instance, ring tones are fun, but do you really need them. Can you do without call forwarding and call waiting? How often do you text message? If you don’t regularly use these extras that you pay for cancel them and save.
It may be time to go totally cellular. More than 15% of households have done just that. Before you take the total cell plunge, analyze your phone bill to see how much you use your landline and then add about 20%. Most people tend to talk more on their cell than the landline. It just seems to be cool and convenient.
Comparison shop. Some providers are not opposed to negotiating for free minutes, lower rates and even free services. There is lots of competition out there but be sure you have the plan that’s right for you even if you pay more. Ask about combining services and a family plan if several phones are needed.
Read the contract carefully including the fine print. Ask questions, but ultimately making the right decisions will be up to you. Make sure the provider rounds to the nearest second, not minute.
If you’ll be talking more in the evening hours make sure you get their definition of night hours. Roaming charges can take a big bite out of your pocketbook and vary with the provider.
Take advantage of the trial period. This can vary from 2 days to 30 days and may be negotiable. This will give you a chance to use the cell phone in your home and see if there are any areas of poor reception. Find out if you can access 911 with your cell.
VOIP (voice over internet Protocol) comes from your Internet provider and transmits calls over the internet. If you make many long distance calls this can be a good choice because it usually provides unlimitedlocal and long distance calls. But, if you have a power failure, most broadband cell phones won’t work.
Another option is the pre-paid phone cards where you pay for minutes in advance. The price range is about $15 to $25. This is good for chatty children with a limited amount of minutes teaching them discipline and budgeting. If you lose the card you lose the minutes and many have an expiration date.
Going totally cellular is an important decision. Be honest with yourself on how much you use the phone. Over estimate rather than under estimate. Avoid long term contracts. Keep an eye out for special limited offers. Good phone service can keep you in touch. But, don’t lose touch with your budget.