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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.
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.
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.