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Examine phone bill options to save a few dollars

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Posted: Sunday, September 9, 2012 11:52 pm | Updated: 11:20 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The landline phone and cellphone bill has increased at my house and now it is one of the most expensive bills each month. As my kids are leaving, that bill will go down, but I’m always looking for ways to reduce it. Let’s take a look at how we can save a few bucks.

Do you need a landline? Now that many of us are carrying cellphones, maybe you don’t need a home phone. My daughter’s family has opted for this since their cellphones were more reliable than their home phone. Eighteen percent of American households have canceled landline service.

Recognize that if you only have a cellphone — and if cell service is down — you have no phone. That’s the reason many folks stick to their landline, in case of emergency.

Even if you decide to keep your landline, examine your bill. It makes sense for you to drop or decrease your long distance service if you use your cellphone for this. I’ve had a package of a certain number of minutes for years. Now, I find I’m not using anywhere near the number of minutes I’m paying for. Examine your bill and see if there is money to be saved there.

Another money-saving option is to make phone calls on your computer with free software for Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). You know it as SKYPE or Vonage. The technology allows you to make and receive calls with a touchtone phone with a broadband Internet connection.

Cellphone plans can be one of the biggest drains on your budget. If you don’t use your cell phone a lot (less than 200 minutes per month), it could be worth it to switch to a pre-paid cell phone plan that charges 25 cents per minute or less. Then you aren’t paying for the services you don’t use. 

If you are a heavier user of your cellphone, take a minute and visit with your cellphone provider. They can tell you how many minutes you use each month and might offer you a plan tailored for your level of use. Often there are promotional offers for people who are changing services, but the companies are interested in keeping their old customers.

Tell your provider you are interested in lowering your bills or you will take your business elsewhere. Phone companies are feeling the same downturn in the economy that we are. They will be glad to discuss with you about plans that will fit your needs.

Take a close look at what you are paying for on your cellphone bill. If you have cellphone insurance, you might want to reconsider that expenditure.This, like many other warranties, may not be all it is cracked up to be.

Ask some questions. If the cellphone is damaged or lost, will you get a new phone or a refurbished phone? Are the benefits different for lost as opposed to damaged? With all the promotional sales, it may be smarter for you to save the $60 to $80 per year and buy a new one outright if yours is damaged.

We’ve all heard the ads advising against bundling services, which include landline phone, cellphone and Internet, but the fact is it will probably save you money. One bonus to bundled packages is the special considerations you’ll be offered, including free installation and lower guaranteed rates for longer periods of time. These considerations are not usually given with individual services.

You also receive one bill, not three. For those of us intent on streamlining our lives, that is great news.

Start now to reduce your phone-related bills and put more money in your pocket.

Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is a professor of extension on the Tanana District Extension Faculty. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at rrdinstel@alaska.edu or by calling 474-2426. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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