Thursday, February 12, 2009

When having a land line and cell phone makes sense

I used to think M and I paid too much for our phone usage. Not anymore. I discovered the costs—largely non-financial—of moving to a cheaper plan actually outweigh the benefits.

We pay how much??
For the past five years, we’ve resented paying more than $100 a month for a cell phone plan and unlimited long distance on our home phone. We’d go back and forth about getting rid of either service to reduce our costs, but honestly, we're hooked on the convenience.

I use the cell during my two hours of commuting time to catch up with family or do “chores,” such as scheduling appointments. M uses the land line while at home with the kids to keep in touch with her mother and best friend, both who live out of state. She also likes not having to keep track of her minutes to avoid overage charges, or having to call late in the evening or on weekends.

But last November, we took a first step and went with a pay-as-you-go land line plan. We expected some small savings, maybe $10-$20 per month, as we better utilized the unused minutes we had each month in our current cell plan to make long distance calls, and took more advantage of the ability to make free calls to each other. Maybe we’d even get rid of the home phone altogether.

Old habits die hard
This week, we went back to unlimited long distance. In the three months, we spent more—not a lot, but still more—for phone calls instead of less. Changing our behavior was not quite as easy as changing our calling plan.

We tried hard to break the habit of reaching for the home phone. At one point, M stuck a “Use cell phone” Post-It on the cordless handset as a reminder.

But obstacles stood in our way. We have phones on three of our townhouse’s four levels, so the temptation to simply make a call, especially a quick one, from the land line was great. M also wasn’t keen on always having to remember to keep the cell phone at her side.

Most importantly, phone calls became a source of friction. I tired of reminding M to call me back on the cell instead of the land line, and she tired of me reminding her. We may have eventually ended up with a lower phone bill by not speaking to each other, but that hardly seems the point.

If we’d stuck with it, we probably would have developed phone habits that could have saved the few bucks each month. But for us, it’s just not worth it. We can find other, less wearisome, ways to trim the budget. And our once “high-cost” phone bill now seems like a pretty good value.


Monroe on a budget said...

We came to the same conclusion a few years ago.

If we dropped the landline, we'd be putting more minutes on the cell phone and need a more expensive wireless plan.


Land lines are dieing out.