Finding a Less Costly Alternative

I wrote last year about how I finally took the plunge and canceled my cable TV service.

The reason why I decided to let the television go dark was because advancing technology made paying for TV shows redundant. There are very few that I like anyway, and they are available for streaming free through a variety of websites. Add the fact that my charity work kept me extremely busy, so I would only have time to watch TV at some extremely odd hours, and you can see that online video-on-demand was the cost free way to go.

Things have loosened up a great deal since I shut down the charity self defense course in January. The course put such demands on me that going to an eight hour work day feels like an extended vacation, and I have a great deal more time on my hands. Even so, I still find that only a very few TV shows are at all interesting, and have no desire to start paying for cable service that I won’t watch anyway.

But that isn’t what I want to talk about. You see, now I’m thinking about canceling my phone service.

I had switched to a cell phone about five years ago, when the demand for my services had started to become really intense. There would be at least a few text messages a day, and at least twenty hours of conversation every week. I signed up for a plan to handle all the traffic that came in at about $50 a month, and urged all my friends to communicate with me via Email to cut down on the time I would spend gabbing away into the machine. My students were also urged to also send an Email if they had a question, and only call if it was an emergency.

The number of Emails I receive from students has been slowly dropping over the past few months, but the number of calls and text messages has pretty much gone down to zero. Instead of spending twenty hours a week on the phone, it is now about one or two hours a month. But I’m still paying about $600.00 USD a year for service that is idle most of the time.

Note, if you will, that I have no interest in buying one of those fancy new phones that are all the rage. You know, the kind with the touch screen and the games available for download and the ability to access the Internet so you can blog while stuck in traffic. My first karate instructor once told me that you should only do one thing at a time when out in public, so you wouldn’t be so distracted that looming trouble is missed. There is already a computer at home for Email and games, and my phone is strictly for voice or text communication. No reason to make myself vulnerable by carrying around a seductive toy.

One option is to simply cancel all phone service entirely, and rely on Email to communicate. It is sometimes a matter of life or death to summon help, but the law dictates that cell phone calls to emergency services have to be put through even if the phone no longer has any service plan. There is no reason why I couldn’t simply continue to carry around my phone, charged up and ready in case I need to dial 911.

No reason except that it is nice to be able to make a less-than-emergency call if needed, and seeking out a pay phone is a pain in the backside.

The solution I’m going with is to switch to a prepaid service. The cheapest monthly plan requires $15, and it has all the features I have become accustomed to. This will cut my cell phone costs from $600 a year to $180. Not too shabby. But if I don’t mind paying all the fee up front, I can simply shell out $100 for the year. Even better, and it allows me to keep my same number so I can still answer questions if need be.

I see people in public who are on the phone all of the time, but most of the conversations I unavoidably overhear are banal in the extreme. (“Which soft drink do you prefer? I’m going to buy Pepsi. Now I’m in the checkout line!”) It truly makes me wonder what role their cell phone plays in their daily lives. Although most of the people I’ve talked to insist that they desperately need their phone to keep in contact with family and work, it appears to me that they usually rely on them to keep from getting bored.

Isn’t it a better idea to save the phone for when you really need it, and save several hundred dollars a year to boot?

13 thoughts on “Finding a Less Costly Alternative”

  1. I used to think iPhones were a bit of a waste of time but later changed my mind; they are actually very useful for all manner of purposes. However, I hardly make any phone calls and actually want a portable computer (to be used with your Karate instructor’s words borne in mind). If you don’t want one then a cheap PAYG phone would indeed be a good choice.

  2. I don’t like talking on the phone but it comes in handy. I got a prepaid plan, maybe the same one you have, and a cheap phone. The service is no worse than what I had before and I spend much less. I am satisfied.

  3. I keep my basic cable service mostly because this is the only way to get decent inexpensive speed Internet connection, in my neighborhood. I don’t like the channels I’m getting (in general, I hate cable package deals, but have no choice in the matter), but it’s a Time Warner monopoly, in practice.

    No landline for 3 years, and I don’t mess it.

    When I spent a week in London, I bought a T-Mobile prepaid phone; it proved much, much more expensive than equivalent of $15 a month, but was cheaper than the one by Orange (a service unfamiliar to US customers) I submitted to before: the bastards charged me for THEIR OWN instructional text messages and voice mail (unsolicited), and for my calls to their customer service, thus depleting my available balance. That – and the fact that I couldn’t add more money to it when my prepaid 10pounds disappeared in 2 days, because my credit cards were not issued to British permanent residence address.

    Don’t think I’ll buy the prepaid cell; I’m fine with low-cost/low minutes regular cell service plan I have now.

  4. I’ve done similar, except with the addition of Skype for a pseudo-landline. It is about $50 per year for unlimited incoming, outgoing and voicemail. Not quite perfect–there is a distinct delay in the line, but for the money, it works well.

  5. “If you have neither a land line nor cable, how do you get broadband?”

    My Internet connection was bundled with my cable. I just told the cable company that I was only interested in paying for broadband.

    This means that getting rid of the TV didn’t result in vast and significant savings, only about $20 a month. But it is still a few hundred bucks a year I can put to something else.


  6. You can get even lower than $180/year. If you put $100 into a Verizon wireless prepaid plan, the refill expires in a year.

  7. “If you put $100 into a Verizon wireless prepaid plan, the refill expires in a year.”

    Yes, I know. And that is exactly what I mentioned above, in the original essay.


  8. I bought 1000 minutes from T-mobile for $100 three years ago. Since then, I’ve only had to pay $10 each year to continue rolling them over — and add 100 minutes each time.

    Also canceled satellite TV three years ago, and I don’t miss it a bit. Still like Netflix though…

  9. Not sure if they still do it, but Time Warner used to give a $10/month discount on their broadband if you also got any of their cable TV packages. It took asking and re-asking for their lowest cost TV package, but I finally got one named something like “Broadcast TV” that was only $9 or so a month, taxes included. I got all the local channels nice and clear without an antenna and it ended up costing less than getting just the broadband by itself.

    You won’t see this package listed on their web site. Asking for their cheapest package won’t get them to tell you about this. You have to specifically ask if they have a less expensive package. Then ask again and again each time they tell you about Package X that has X numbers of channels and costs a mere $X per month. Eventually, they will say “No, we don’t have any packages cheaper than Package Z” and you know you’re there.

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