Two for Tuesdays: Saving Money on Phone Calls

Directory Assistance 411Last week in Two For Tuesdays: Summertime Prep Edition we talked about saving money on home energy use, particularly by keeping out the heat from the summer sun. This week, we’re going to show you some novel ways to save money on your phone bill.

#1

Everybody knows by now that I like free better than I like pay-for, especially if the service is equal. Well, in the case I’m about to bring up, you get FREE and BETTER service. The telephone companies make a ton of money on “Directory Assistance” or 411 calls; they’re pure profit for the telcos.

Google, in their quest for world domination, has come up with a free version of 411 that involves no human interaction. Hence, better service than the drones at the phone companies can deliver. I’ve used GOOG-411 for a year or so now and I love it. It’s saved me countless dollars in fees (compared to the telco’s charge of $1.50 to $2 or more a pop), time, and frustration (“I said, ‘Sweet and Savory'”). Something that will always boggle my mind is how Google’s voice recognition technology is better than a human at understanding me.

Sure, there are other free directory service companies, but I don’t have any experience with them. I’ve found something that works, that’s free, and that’s super-easy to use. What more could I want?

#2

I’ve grown sick and tired of paying $100 a month for a family cell phone plan. My wife, her mother, and I rarely (okay, have never) use the full complement of minutes we get with our Verizon Wireless plan; there isn’t even a plan that would suit our minimal cell phone usage. None of the main players in the cell phone arena (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint) offer plans that suit us.

For those of you who use only about 200 minutes a month, a pay-as-you-go, or prepaid, plan is the way to go. There are a few players in this area (all the major cell phone companies listed above haveVirgin Mobile prepaid calling plans their own prepaid plans), but the one that is most intriguing is Virgin Mobile.

First of all, 200 minutes costs $20. Yes, that’s 10 cents a minute, which sounds kind of high. But when you compare that to the 200 minutes a month I use and pay $40 to get (that’s 20 cents used minute), it seems downright cheap.

Often, Virgin Mobile has promos or coupon codes that you can use to get minutes at a lower unit cost. You can also “top up” (is that a British term?) at any time, and if you don’t use your minutes in a given month, they roll over to the next month (of course, there are limits and stipulations to this, buyer beware.

The one shortcoming is the lack of choices for phones (and, unlike the non-prepaid plans, these phones are rarely free). But I use a phone for calling people. I don’t need a camera (I have one) and I don’t need an mp3 player (I have one of those, too). Bluetooth is mandatory (I live in Moscow, I mean, California, where hands-free calling is the law). But what else is necessary?

Call quality, ease of use, battery life, and price, in that order. You will find a phone that meets those requirements.

There’s a few really good posts by The Happy Rock about how he ditched Verizon in favor of Virgin Mobile, where he talks about the great deals he’s found. Here are two of his posts:

Setting Up a Prepaid Virgin Mobile Cell Phone Account
Virgin Mobile Deal: $60 For One Year Of Prepaid Virgin Mobile Service

That’s it for now. Until next week…

billspaced

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