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Phone, Internet, Mobile Phone - A Rock Bottom Rate Please Print E-mail
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House - Utilities
Written by Omie Ismail   
Friday, 09 April 2010 07:20
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Phone, Internet, Mobile Phone - A Rock Bottom Rate Please
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Dear LiveCheap:

I've seen some of your articles on how to keep your telecom and cable expenses down. I'm single, don't have much in the way of international calls. I'm not a couch potato and don't sit in front of my TV all day. My work requires me to have email and a cell phone but I make a minimal number of calls and use texting very sporadically. What is the absolute bottom line on connectivity in terms of getting cable, Internet, a landline and a cell phone? If your usage is Internet-centric. I mean can you do away with cable and just use your computer? Can you do away with your landline and just use a cell phone? I'm talking rock bottom services for somebody who doesn't need a whole lot of thrills. I'm challenging you to come up with the absolute minimum. - D Warren, Seattle, Washington

 

D Warren, thanks for the question. One thing that will impact the bottom line is what you watch and you haven't made that clear in your question. Even so, there are some definite suggestions that I can give you. But before I get to that, if your work requires you to have email and a mobile phone, then I would hit them up for a free cell phone and Internet services or at least try to swing the corporate rate or a partial reimbursement.

Internet

Reliable and fast Internet access is absolutely vital - it’s the one thing that will enable you to cut all your other telecom expenses. You live in Seattle which happens to be Comcast country and tends to be quite expensive. While they advertise a $19.99 monthly charge for Internet services, the reality is that this is just a promotional teaser rate that comes with a cable subscription. Comcast's Internet package will really cost you around $50 a month if you want it solo.

If you are willing to go with their bundled service with cable, once the promotional period expires, call them up and tell them that you are going to switch to AT&T or some other DSL provider. I’ve done this and lowered my monthly Internet rate from $45 to $30. Your alternative is DSL which you can now get “naked” from a phone line for as low as $19.99 from a provider like AT&T. By "naked", I mean you don't have to have local phone service to get DSL.  Speed is the key component and the price doubles from the slowest to the fastest speed. If you can get by on a 768Kbs connection, you’ll only pay $20 for your Internet.

Rock Bottom line: Expect to pay a minimum of $20 a month for a decent DSL Internet connection.

Phone

You don’t need a landline. Period. Landlines are really going the way of the dinosaur. I got rid of my line for making voice calls years ago and it’s never been an issue. To do it, you really need a quality Internet connection and a mobile phone.

Once you make the decision to have your mobile phone double as your home phone, you really have to pay attention to the quality of reception in your area. At my house, AT&T has absolutely awful coverage but I get good reception from Verizon. You also have to look at whether you travel a lot. If you do, expect to fork over $40 to $60 a month for your mobile phone. Don't travel?  You can go cheaper with a carrier like MetroPCS, but they have very limited coverage areas, you need to pay up front for the phones and the quality of the calls is less than ideal. A good article on the lowest cost plans can be found at Yahoo.  The key on saving on a cell phone is keeping your minutes low and signing on to a plan that gives you free calls at nights and during the weekend. Also, I’ve found the best deal I got was by going to company owned stores and just asking for the best deal they can give me. I've done a considerable amount of comparative price checking online and I've found it's hard to beat just showing up at a the company owned store and working out a deal that fits my usage requirements. Recommending one carrier over the other is difficult because of the issue of reception at your house which is critical because you're not going to have a land line.

If you're usage is really minimal, the way that you can get a real cheap price is to have a relative or a friend add you to their account as a family member. Just check each carrier's rules to make sure you are in compliance with their terms.

 

For making everyday calls, get Skype and tell the people that you frequently call to get it. Calls from PC to PC are free anywhere in the world. It will help you keep your mobile minutes low.

 

Rock Bottom line: Expect to Pay $40 - 50 a month for a mobile phone with enough minutes to act as your home phone and make maximum use of Skype. Or cut that to as little as $10-15 by piggy-backing on to a relative’s share plan.



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Joshua Kelley  - Cheaper cable plans |2010-04-11 22:29:54
Many cable companies also have unadvertised levels of service. When I lived in Central Oregon, our local cable company offered them, as does Comcast in Seattle.

You can get the "Limited Basic" cable TV package for $12-$15/month. This usually includes the local broadcast stations, in addition to public access, government access, shopping channels, and sometimes bonuses like Hallmark and Discovery.

We also asked Comcast about a lower-cost internet package, and while we get a slower speed, we only pay around $22/month for internet.

Total bill is less than $45/month. Much better than even the standard packages.
frugal nomad  - contributor |2010-04-12 04:31:16
That might work for some people. And, in my humble opinion, those services should be more than adequate. It would be nice to know how you keep your cell phone expenses down.

It's always good to see if your cable or internet provider has special deals. All it takes is a phone call or a visit to their website.

And that's one of the problems of giving universal advice on this topic - because there are so many players out there and literally hundreds of options.

That's why the best place to start is to determine the bare minimum service you can live with and then go from there.
Joshua Kelley  - Mobile phone |2010-04-27 17:49:23
It took a bit of searching, but I did manage to find a corporate discount to use. While my employer offers a discount with AT&T, I don't have good signal at home. Instead, I found "The Freelancers Union". It's a free "union" to join, and it offers fringe-type benefits to members.

For me, I get a 15% discount on my cell service through T-Mobile (who I've been with for several year anyway). Save on mobile internet with them, too, as T-Mobile doesn't have restrictions on tethering laptops to the cell phone, as long as you have a data plan.
Duckie  - Dump the telly |2010-04-09 12:50:29
If you don't watch all that much television you can easily do without cable. We got rid of our tv when the US converted to digital. We'd always used rabbit ears but, even with an expensive, fancy-schmancy new television we're too far from a transmitter to get anything digital over the airwaves. We refuse to be manipulated into cable or satellite (satellite always conks out when there's a storm in our northern area) so we just got rid of the television entirely.

Since then we've found plenty to watch online. In fact, we really don't have time to keep up with it. Anything decent goes on DVD sooner or later--we've seen all the Sopranos, The Shield, The Wire, etc. Netflix can provide about anything you want on discs, plus they have a large streaming option. We have the intermediate speed of broadband so for $40 a month we get internet and plenty of tv. Hulu is great, too.

At the moment we're watching Damages (just ordered the disks from Netflix because the online version is no longer available), the entire oeuvre of Richard Boone's "Have Gun--Will Travel", Parenthood, Brothers & Sisters, Kitchen Nightmares, well, you get the idea.

We read the local newspaper, plus three US and European papers online, plus I just got a free six months of WSJ which is mailed to me daily.

We're stuck with a land line because we live in a dead zone. Worse yet, we're stuck with an independent company due to state law so we can't take advantage of any national company's package deals. I really wouldn't want to be without a land line because it's the only thing that works in a power outage. We were without power for almost two weeks two years ago, so I'll happily continue the land line.

Good luck in your quest for airwave cheapitude.
frugal nomad  - your TV watching habits |2010-04-09 17:00:21
I don't want to date myself - but growing up in England - we had about six hours of TV a day. I never even saw a television until I was six. And my parents where generous enough to allow me to watch an hour - maybe two.

Back then, we used to do things like read books - school books. Horrible stuff but somebody had to do it. Anyhow, the habit stuck. I can't stand to spend more than an hour or so in front of the telly.

I understand some people can't do without them. But if you consider the Television as just another 'application' for your computer, you get a nice balance. You get to see the shows you want when you want.

Until the early nineties, I did very nicely with a ten year old black and white 9 inch screen with rabbit ears. Watching television can be a giant waste of time. I go weeks without bothering to turn on the telly.
Duckie  - Leftover telly habits |2010-04-10 04:11:35
I too grew up pre-tv. I was 7 when we got one. We used to sit and watch the test pattern--a static picture with no sound--and marvel endlessly because it had somehow travelled over the airwaves a whopping four miles, all the way to our house!

Initially US tv did not broadcast during the day. The presumption was that television was a leisure time activity and you should be working, not sitting around. To this day watching tv in the day feels vaguely immoral to me and I've never been able to do it. For some reason I seem quite able to allow myself to set up my laptop on the kitchen counter and watch an episode of my favourite series as I do the dishes. Go figure.

I do not miss the television one single bit. I always hated that big blank "eye" staring at me, just never liked the look of the thing. I feel the same way about the microwave oven, keep it in the back room out of sight. I wouldn't bother with it but my husband wants one. It's just as easy for me to heat stuff up in a double boiler, on the wood stove, etc. Micros make me uneasy because we really don't know what effect they have on the food.

I'm such a Luddite. I'm sure I would have been one of those little old ladies who worried about electricity leaking out of the unoccupied sockets when electricity first came into vogue.

On the other hand, I adore my computer and long for a smart phone--and a house not in a dead zone.
frugal nomad  - Kill your television |2010-04-10 08:58:03
I used to have a friend who would keep his TV in storage and take it out when he absolutely needed to watch it. It was like another appliance. Just like you wouldn't keep your vaccum cleaner plugged when you don't use it.

Once you wean yourself away from it, you can always use the net to plug in and watch your favorite show without spending half the time watching ads.

So think of your computer as a place where you store away the TV and take it out when you simply can't do without it.

If you make a list of the 200 movies you know you should have seen at some point in your life - you'll have more than enough to keep you entertained and you'll become a culture vulture while you're at it.
Duckie  - I love it! |2010-05-19 01:28:17
"So think of your computer as a place where you store away the TV and take it out when you simply can't do without it."

I just love that concept. Thanks.
 

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