Like most military families, you have a love-hate relationship with your phone bill: You love communicating with your friends and loved ones who live (or are deployed) far away; but you also hate how much it costs your family. And the price of communication can double if your family uses a landline and individual cell phones.
However, there are ways to cut down on the price of staying connected. Consumer Reports researched the different telephone technologies available, how much it will cost you, and how much you will save if you use that particular service.
Here are your options:
1.) Switch to Internet phoning: Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) transmits phone calls through a high-speed Internet connection. VoIP providers include phone andcable-TV companies.
What it will cost you: It will cost about $20 or more a month for unlimited local and long-distance calling; $40 for a month of broadband Internet service from a cable provider; and $40 to $50 a month for a DSL provider. These prices excluded taxes and fees. It may seem steep, but it?s not as heavily taxed as conventional phone services.
What you'll save: Consumer Reports predicts that you will save about $400 a year on your phone bill -- if you're not currently paying for broadband. If not, you should break even (and get broadband in the bargain).
Trade-offs: VoIP requires an Internet connection and AC power. So, if your electricity goes out, your VoIP will go out as well. Consumer Reports recommends that VoIP users get a landline for safety reasons.
2.) Use your cell phone for everything: Drop your landline and use only wireless phones.
What it will cost you: You'll need a cell phone plan that provides for an adequate number of national, anytime minutes. For example, if you get at plan with 500 minutes a month you'll pay about $40 to $50.
What you'll save: The cost of your current and long-distance service.
Trade-offs: The voice quality of a cell phone still lags behind most landlines, and it your cell phone may not work in all the rooms of your house.
3.) Get a cheaper cell phone plan: Some providers have cheaper plans than what's originally presented to you. You have to ask the salesperson or visit their website to find the best deal. Also, make sure you that you aren't paying for services you don't want or need, such as picture mail.
What it will cost you: It will cost you at least $30 a month. What you'll save: The cost of your current local and long-distance service
Trade-offs: Your more talkative family members who go over the allotted 200-450 minutes a month will cause you to pay another $.10 to $.45 cents a minutes.
4.) Take a local/long-distance bundle: Try to buy unlimited long-distance and local service from the same landline company.
What it will cost you: It costs around $35 to $55 a month, plus a wide assortment of taxes.
What you'll save: If you normally spend that much on long-distance alone, you'll basically get the service for free.
Trade-off: If you don't make many long-distance calls, you'd probably save money by buying phone services a la carte, or using prepaid calling cards.
5.) Buy a phone card for long-distance calls: A prepaid phone card can cuts costs if you don't make many long-distance landline calls.
What it will cost you: About four to 15 cents a minute within the United States. You can find these cards at stores such as Sam/s Club or Costco.
What you'll save: If you average 50 minutes of long-distance calls each week, a card that charges three-and-a-half cents a minute will save you about $150 a year compared to other plans.
Trade-offs: Phone cards require a lot of extra number punching. Your local phone company might charge you a fee for dropping your long-distance carrier. And, some cards tack on connection fees and other charges.
For more tips on cutting household expenses visit Military.com?s Finance Channel.