One of the current trends in the personal finance blogosphere is recommending the elimination of your landline telephone service to save money. It’s an excellent suggestion to those who have little real use for landline phones any more, but I’d like to take a look at the other side of the debate: why it may be more cost effective to keep one.
We eliminated our traditional landline service with AT&T several years ago and have never regretted it. Still we keep a couple of lines open with Vonage at a greatly reduced rate, and there are several benefits to doing this.
Business and fax lines
I work from home and have been for years, and wouldn’t even consider not having a landline for my business. This may cost a few extra dollars, but I consider it money well spent. Here’s the thing, I don’t want to be fielding calls from people I don’t know, and when ever you’re in business you will hear from solicitors—many of them. The landline serves as my “screener”, and since I have unlimited service I don’t have to worry about voice mails using up my cell phone minutes. My cell phone is free for the calls I want to make and accept, not all the others.
Though it isn’t such a big deal any more, I also like having a dedicated line for faxing. Not many businesses require or send faxes any more, but for the few who do, it’s nice to have a line to use for that purpose.
As a cell phone minutes reliever
We’re all cell phone junkies these days, and the cell phone companies love us for it. What we’ve found both in my business and in our family of four, is that having a landline is an excellent way to keep cell phone minutes under control.
Everyone knows how much time teenagers can spend on the phone and we have two of them. We’ve implemented a “five minute rule”—if you’re going to be on the phone more than five minutes, switch to the landline. This works REALLY well since my son’s girlfriend lives out of state. But it’s also true for my wife and I—if the call is expected to go over five minutes, we use the landline.
Texting has been another big money saver. We’ve been able to get unlimited texting for about $40 per month, and much of the communicating in our family is now being handled that way. Still, there are times—and not a few of them—where you just have to hear a live voice.
Online phone services to the rescue
One of the advantages of landlines is the online providers, they charge a fraction of the fees that traditional providers to, and typically offer unlimited minutes, as well as at least limited overseas coverage. We’re paying about $30/month each for our two lines with Vonage, but that still works out better than raising our cell phone minutes or opting for an unlimited plan.
There are cheaper services than Vonage, but we’ve heard some horror stories. The service depends on the strength of your internet line, and that can be up and down at different times. But remember, we’re using the lines for non-critical communication, such as friendly chatting. Emergency calls and business calls are what we mostly save the cell phones for.
It would be nice if cell phone plans could serve all our needs but…
If cell phones are to be the be-all/end-all of phone services, it sure hasn’t happened yet. Most of them function as something like a communications taxi cab—the longer we keep them running the higher the fare.
Balancing at least two services seems to be the best option at the moment—at least until the cell phone providers come up with reasonably priced unlimited service. Think it won’t happen? Not so many years ago, landlines didn’t offer unlimited service, but changes in technology and competition from various services forced it to happen.
It probably will for cell phones one day too. But until it does, we’ll keep our landlines.
Have you eliminated your landline service? If not, what keeps you from doing it? And what are you doing to cope with the limitations of cell phone plans?
Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.