Sep 22 2011

7 cheaper alternatives to a landline phone


Update: I purchased a Magic Jack Plus in Nov. 2011. Here is an update after two months of using Magic Jack Plus. Calls do drop for us on occasion but the price is low enough that I don’t really mind. I might be reviewing another product in the future.

I have been searching for an option for a low-cost landline to serve as a number to reach anyone in our household, a number to make cheap long-distance calls to our parents, as well as to contact area businesses and the like. Having easy access to 911 service is also important.

As I recently mentioned, we have two cell phones right now on a contract plan. It’s expensive for what we need and I think we can reduce those minutes down to the lowest family plan, and possibly go to prepaid cell phones when our contract expires. I don’t think it would be worth canceling our contract and paying the fee to do so, but I’ll have to run numbers to make sure.

I contacted our cable internet provider, (sounds like Bomblast) to see what the cost would be to add a landline. Somewhere upwards of $30/month. Same went for the area phone company. It had an introductory teaser rate that was I think $20/month plus tax, but after that it would go up. I don’t want to keep switching services to keep the price where I want it.

Next, I started to price out VoIP options — phone services that use your high-speed internet connection.

Vonage is one of the popular companies, but it is still pricey per month and reviews weren’t the most favorable. $14.99/month for three months, then $24.99/month plus taxes and fees thereafter for unlimited calls.

MagicJack is another one that many people have heard of thanks to TV commercials. You plug this device into your computer and can make and receive phone calls. The drawback for this one, in my mind, is that your computer has to be on 24/7 to use it. It’s fine if you have a backup phone perhaps, but I don’t need my computer on around the clock to receive phone calls. This is $39.95 for the device and first year and $19.95 for each year following. It is $36.95 today on Amazon.

There’s also a MagicJack Plus that is new (like, last few days new) and doesn’t require your computer to be on. The cost for MagicJack Plus is $69.95 plus and $29.95 per year after that. This one seems very similar to the Nettalk Duo (see below) and has the same price as well. I’m not sure if one will be better than the other. I wish the MagicJack site didn’t look so scammy, ya know?

The Ooma Telo is $194.99 today on Amazon, and is a box that does not require your computer to be on. You plug this into your internet connection and plug a phone wire into the jack and can then make and receive unlimited local and long distance calls, plus other phone services such as call-waiting and others. For an extra $10/month you can upgrade your calling features.

Online reviews suggest this is a good device, but the customer service is seriously lacking. You have a monthly charge of roughly $3.50 to cover taxes, or $42/year to use the service. The Ooma Telo is more expensive in start-up costs and yearly costs than some other options, and I can’t say for sure if those higher charges are worth it.

The Nettalk Duo device is $69.95, which includes the device plus 12 months of phone service. For the next year, it is $29.95. I don’t know if that price can go up. This thing connects to your computer or router as well, and does not require your computer to be on to work.

The ObiHai Obi110 is something that you use with Google Voice. Google Voice is currently a free service. This is $49.99 today on Amazon. Reviews for the Obi are fantastic, but again, you do need to use it with a third-party phone service such as Google Voice. I feel wary about the long-term free use of Google Voice, but then again Google has a free-to-user business model in many cases so perhaps it will stay like that for the long haul? I am not technologically inclined enough to understand this one, but I’m listing it because it IS an option and it might fit your needs.

Skype is another option for making calls, but it cannot accommodate 911 service, so I think if you use Skype you should have an alternative available to make emergency calls. I’ve gotta admit, I don’t understand how Skype works away from the computer enough to write much about it, so you’ll have to look into it more if this option interests you.

Let’s look at costs real quick, comparing unlimited calls:

  • Vonage regular rate for 12 months: $299.88 plus tax and fees
  • MagicJack first 12 months: $39.95, then $19.95 for the second year
  • MagicJack Plus first 12 months: $69.95, then $29.95 for second year
  • Ooma Telo first 12 months: $236.99 (incl. device and 12 months taxes) then $42ish for each year after that
  • Nettalk Duo first 12 months: $69.95, then $29.95 for second year
  • Obi110 first 12 months: $49.99, then $0 for second year

Stack those costs with a traditional landline to see where the best deal is for your family. The cost savings after one year can be substantial.

If a traditional landline is $30/month or $360/year, that’s $1800 for five years. Stack that with say, MagicJack Plus, and five years would be $189.75. The savings continues if going with one of these options allows you to reduce your cell phone plan and save money there.

Right now, I’m considering the Nettalk Duo or the MagicJack Plus. I need to learn more about them first. Will let you know which one I choose and how it goes!

Do you have a landline or a VoIP service of some kind? How is it going for you?

Sep 21 2011

Switching to a ‘stock my pantry’ shopping method


Several years ago, I wrote about whether it was better to shop for your menu or stock your pantry. Back then, the shop for my menu method worked best for me. I looked for what was on sale and I built my menu around that.

But now, I think I’m going to try changing my approach. I think I’d like a reasonably stocked pantry, and then build my weekly menus around that. I still want to have the freedom to cook whatever sounds good, and hopefully having a well stocked pantry will help in that endeavor.

Last week, I was at a natural food store and I picked up a 50-lb. bag of organic whole wheat flour for $20. I parceled it out into freezer bags and stuck ’em in my freezer. It took up less space than I thought. I probably would like to buy a stand-alone freezer to put in our garage, but only if I can justify the extra expense for the freezer and the extra energy costs.

Where I live now, I’m closest to a Marsh and a Kroger. I like the deals and selection at Kroger best. Then, there’s a natural foods store that’s not too far. Lastly, I can go to Trader Joe’s and stock up from time to time so I’m not making lots of trips.

Further, Azure Standard, the natural bulk food food store, is going to be adding a drop point to Indianapolis in the coming months. Perhaps I can find some deals there.

And of course, there’s always good ol’ Amazon. Great prices on things and usually free shipping if you do it well.

I’m going to set out and make a list of some pantry staples that I’d like to have on hand and then scout out the best places for me to get them.

I don’t like going to the grocery very much right now, so if I can do bigger bulk purchases, and then only get produce and dairy products weekly that would be much faster.

Do you do a shop-the-pantry method? How does it work for you?

Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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