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6 Ways to Lower Your Phone Bill

Our landline is $17.95 a month, not including long distance which averages less than $4 a month. It’s the lowest I could find for a non internet phone line but from experience contributing to MDJ, my guess is that many of you have found even better deals. Share your stories here on how you keep your phone bill low.

Here are 6 ways to lower your phone bill:

1) Get rid of features you don’t need or use

I confess I still miss caller ID. It was nice to know who was calling and be able to screen our phone calls but at almost $100 a year for this feature alone, we found it just wasn’t worth it. We don’t have any features on our landline now. I never liked call waiting and we replaced voicemail with a digital answering machine.

2) Try Yak for long distance.

When something sounds too good to be true, it generally is. I was extremely skeptical when I signed up for Yak and only did so on the advice of a friend who had a great experience with them. I committed to trying it out for 6 months before recommending it to anyone else. I’ve been very impressed.

  • 3.5 cents a minute to Canada and the US
  • no contracts
  • no monthly minimum
  • no number to dial first … dial like you would any other long distance plan
  • no long distance plan needed through home home provider. (This has been our biggest savings.)
  • no system access fees
  • same rates 24/7

Every month it gets charged to my credit card and the bill has never been over $5. For those who call long distance over 500 minutes a month, a flat rate plan is probably a better deal.

3) Bundle your services

The $17.95 rate for our landline includes a $5 discount for bundling our home phone and our internet connection through Bell. Bundling services can be a great way to reduce your expenses. Just be sure to do the math on it first to confirm bundling will save you money.

4) Consider dropping the landline

We seriously considered dropping the landline but with 4 people in the house and only two cell phones, we decided to keep the landline for now. If you have great cell plans and you have as many cell phones as adults or teens in the house, you may want to consider dropping the land line altogether.  For some, prepaid cell phone plans may be more cost effective, see the MDJ prepaid cell phone plan review here.

5) Call your phone provider and ask if they will lower the bill.

This ties in with the Ask For a Discount article.  Many people I’ve spoken with have had great success calling their phone companies and asking for a lower rate.  Phone companies have retention departments whose job it is to do what it takes to keep you as a customer. It can’t hurt to try.

6) Try VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) / Vonage

I have friends who swear by Vonage. It’s not something I’ve ever tried but their rates seem really good.  For $19.99, it includes fourteen phone features and 500 minutes of long distance and only 4.9 cents a minute after that.  Overall it seems like the best deal. I don’t like Skype. When someone calls me on Skype the sound is echoey and distant. I can tell immediately that they aren’t calling from a regular phone line. We were with Rogers internet phone for years but every time the phone rang, the internet would disconnect, a problem they tried to solve for years and never could. In my line of work I need to be on the phone while online. For this reason, I’ve been skeptical of VoIP and have stayed with a regular landline. For those who use Vonage, what has been your experience?

Reducing a phone bill is just one way of saving money in one area so we have more money to spend it on something that is more important to us. A recent article on evaluating the purpose of money reminded us that we should be spending money where our values are.  For me, I’d rather have a frugal phone line so that I have more to spend on things I enjoy.

Share with us here how you have lowered your phone bill?

Kathryn is a regular contributor on Million Dollar Journey and has a passion for personal finance.  She volunteers her time as a money coach meeting with ordinary Canadians, teaching them the basics of budgeting, no fee banking, saving for the future and other basics of personal finance.

-> If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free newsletter service below (we will not spam you).

About the author: Kathryn has been a staff writer for MDJ since January 2009. During the day she works in an office. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.

{ 37 comments… add one }
  • Dividend Growth Investor April 1, 2009, 9:44 am

    I haven’t used a land line in 6 years and I don’t miss it at all. I am pretty much attached to my cell phone. Don’t know how I ever lived without one.

  • DG April 1, 2009, 10:31 am

    I use a cell phone and dirt cheap VOIP for a landline. VOIP details:

    http://les.net
    – $3.50/mo for my Winnipeg number
    – $1.00/mo for my US number
    – $0.01/minute incoming and outgoing
    – No 911 or 411… this is not a full telephone service.
    – Not for Joe Consumer, requires technical know how.
    – I use a regular phone with an Analog Telephone Adaptor (~$80) and a softphone (Twinkle) with a Logitech USB headset.

    If you are computer savvy and want to learn something new then this is a good way to go. Otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it.

    Dan.

  • Eccentric Rogue April 1, 2009, 10:43 am

    My problem with the Cell phone is that they are so darn expensive here in Canada. As a former telecom guy I find it absolutely absurd that service providers not only charge the distance but also the minutes on a cell phone. There is no why the minute charge can actually be justified other than its a monopoly in Canada. Ridiculous. I’m looking forward to the time when the cell phone is like a landline, and you pay only a local toll or a long distance toll. Until then, I will be using mainly a landline to keep the charges down.

    As for landlines I have bell and vonage. Bell for personal, Vonage for long distance. For the most part vonage does work well. Every down and then you will get an echo on the line or a bad connection.

  • Stephen April 1, 2009, 10:45 am

    My wife and I both have cell phones. For high speed internet and our two phones with lots of features (callerID, voice mail, 3 way, 6pm evenings, call waiting, unlimited full internet on my phone, 200 txts for me) we pay about $110 including all taxes and fees.

    We then used Google Grand Central for free unlimited long distance in North America, which we unfortunately never took enough advantage of. I’m horrible at calling people. That used to be fine when we were both working. My wife is now studying to change carreers and right now is inbetween things so she is home a lot in the day. One month we went over our daytime minutes (300 shared between the 2 of us) by a lot because of that which cost us an extra $40 that month.

    She said she wanted a home phone … but the cheapest home phone around here is $22 + tax per month. Having used Skype on the computer before for video conferencing and finally convincing my wife that cordless phones are ok (she worried about the radiation) we hooked up the Skype $3 a month plan for unlimited calling anytime in North America to 2 phone cordless system. We still use our cell to field incoming calls and in the daytime she can use Skype to call people back and talk as much as she wants. Unfortunately, New Brunswick is in the horrible situation of not having phone numbers available with VoIP providers. The ONLY (I’ve spent many many hours checking) place to offer the 506 area code is Vonage and I actually think $19.99 is too expensive for VoIP. Most of the cheaper prepaid long distance cards don’t offer LANs in the 506 area code either. For some reason 506 is very restricted use.

    Anyway, so now for a total of no more than $115 we get the complete package of Internet, 2 cells with tons of features, and unlimited calling anywhere in North America 24/7. If we were to remove the frills on our cell package then we could drop another $25 to about $85-$90 after tax. If we were in Toronto or Vancouver we could probably get this down to around $60 with a little bit of shuffling because so many more economical services are available in bigger cities.

  • Victor April 1, 2009, 10:55 am

    I don’t pay one red cent to Bell.

    I’m with a small VOIP company called Acanac (also goes by the name Canaca). The startups I’ve seen all cost less than Vonage. I’m paying something like 9 dollars a month for unlimited North American long distance, full features, etc. If you don’t have a Bell landline, you have to add a ‘dry loop’ charge per month, but in the end it still works out to less than you’d pay for just the basic Bell landline with no long distance or features.

    I would say the uptime is quite good considering price and technology, but Bell is up 99.99% of the time, and the VOIP is up maybe 99.5% of the time in my experience. Sounds picky, but how many hours per year could your phone be unavailable before you noticed? 0.1% of a year is still 9 hours.

    I agree with a previous poster that some technical know how is required to initially set up or troubleshoot the VOIP, but not more than you need to know to set up a home router.

  • canucktuary April 1, 2009, 11:03 am

    No landline – cell phone is too expensive to warrant one.

  • viennatech April 1, 2009, 11:09 am

    Here’s the ultimate frugal tip for those who keep their bell line “just in case”. If you cancel your bell line today they don’t come and sever the line. You’ll still have dial tone and still are able to call 911.

    My home in Ottawa has had a “dead” phone on the wall since 2004. There is no line associated with it, yet it still has dial tone. If you try to make a call it simply tries to connect you to bell, except for 911 that goes thru. Total cost? $0!

  • Novice April 1, 2009, 11:17 am

    I use primus talkbroadband voip and am quite impressed. It’s $33.75 a month including taxes for continental north american long distance included, plus all the usual phone features (ie call display, etc). But what I love (love) is the online interface that lets me login and route calls from one number to a cell phone, ie my mom, and calls from another number to just keep ringing virtually but not in real life (ie telemarketers). There’s probably cheaper voip but I like the quality of the service and that counts for something too. I would highly recommend though a good UPS system for your phone, router, and modem though if you go voip. It’s not foolproof though – two weeks ago a storm knocked down our cable line right off the side of the house – out goes tv, internet, and phone!

  • Neeraj April 1, 2009, 11:59 am

    Even I have primus talkbroadband and its great. Loads of features and I pay $29.21 including taxes for unlimited local and canada/US long distance calls.

  • Canadian Finance April 1, 2009, 12:07 pm

    I have Primus as well, pay about $27. Probably the same deal as Neeraj but no PST in Alberta.

    @Novice, I’m guessing you didn’t buy the box? I think it’s about $100 and gives you $5 off the bill each month. If you’re happy with the service I think you can still do that any time. I’ve been with Primus for almost 4 years so it’s definitely paid for itself!

  • Nick April 1, 2009, 12:09 pm

    After being a Bell Unlimited Internet and Home Phone customer for past 15 yrs @ $115/mo, about 6 months ago, we switched to Yak for Home Phone (Landline not VOIP) and LD. Includes 3 calling features for $33, LD has never been more $4, so total = $37.

    To replace Bell DSL for Internet, we went with a Bell Reseller, Tek Savvy, for DSL and prepaid for 12 mo to get the rate down to $27/mo.

    Service for both has been excellent, although if you’re someone who wants to call your phone company regularly Yak may not be for you as avg wait for a CSR on their phone support is 30 min, at least. This has not been a big problem for me.

    Any minor initial inconveniences of changing has been well worth the $612 annual savings!

  • cannon_fodder April 1, 2009, 12:22 pm

    We’ve been using a VOIP provider, Vbuzzer, for a couple of years now. I unlocked a Vonage PAP2 device (cost – $10) and connect that through our router to our Cogeco cable modem. For $50 a year I have a 416 area number which allows me to call across the GTA cheaper than if I got a local number (i.e. the GTA is so big that calling from one side of Toronto to the other can be considered long distance depending on the cities involved).

    In fact, you can choose to have a phone number associated with many large cities in Canada. This could be especially effective if you have a kid attending university in Vancouver. Your child could sign up for a number local to you (or you sign up for a Vancouver based number). That way you could talk for free for as long as you’d like.

    Calling between Vbuzzer customers is free. You don’t have to use a hardware device but the quality is better than their software only solution.

    You get caller id, voice mail (it even records the call and sends you an mp3 file to an email address), supports SMS (this one I just found out about – if someone sends an SMS text to your phone number, you receive a call and the text message is read aloud by a computer voice. You can respond and the caller receives your recorded voice message.) and it also handles faxing (which I’ve never tried).

    It has been great and the price is fantastic.

  • DAvid April 1, 2009, 12:30 pm

    Of course, there are some other downsides to VOIP. If you live in an area without a local number (most of Canada) everyone who calls you pays a long distance fee. One friend with VOIP who moved from a large center, keeping his VOIP, still needed to get a phone with a local number to stay in contact with folks in town. I pay less for my long distance than he for his VOIP, so it about balances.

    We pay less than $100/ month for local, long distance, cell and internet. We have a flat rate plan, which, based on our calling patterns works out to about $0.03 or less per minute.

    I am also far more satisfied with the service & quality we get from the telco, than from the cable supplier!

    DAvid

  • Novice April 1, 2009, 12:37 pm

    I guess my only reluctance to buying the box is that I had a box go bad on me in the past 2 years. Is that common or an anomaly?

  • FarrOut1 April 1, 2009, 12:50 pm

    I’ve cancelled all of my cell phones and land lines, and am going back to the basics, cups and string!

    How is that for frugal?

  • Cow April 1, 2009, 1:07 pm

    Vonage makes sense if you need a home phone or if you make a lot of out-of-area calls that would be too expensive to do on a cell phone. (Plus, my employer pays for my mobile, so I only pay the $20/mo. or so for the Vonage line.)

    I’ve been with Vonage in both the US and Canada, and been quite happy with them. They have local numbers in most places now, and even better, if you have a Vonage account, people can call a local number for them and then dial your number and be connected for free.

    I’m a US citizen living abroad, so this works out really nice; my parents and my US friends can call the number in their area and be connected to my Vonage line, and then they don’t have to pay 40c a minute or whatever it is to call Canada. I can call them on Vonage, and US and Canada numbers are billed at the same amount–and I never go over my 500 minute limit, so it all works out. If you make a lot of US calls, I’m pretty sure you can’t beat Vonage.

    As for call quality, it’s great for me, but that depends on your internet connectivity. When I had a bad DSL connection in suburban Seattle, Vonage was painful to use. On cable or fibre, I’ve never had issues, and the call quality’s as good as a normal landline.

  • Baker @ ManVsDebt April 1, 2009, 1:16 pm

    The biggest problem with Skype is not having a decent microphone set-up. With a decent headset (up front cost), the sound difference is nearly negligible between it and a regular line.

  • Rene April 1, 2009, 1:52 pm

    I use skype and like it, with a decent logitech mic. Although, I have stopped using it since joining grandcentral (can’t beat free). However, there will be no new grandcentral accounts, and it will no longer be free when they finish rolling out to google voice (although will still be a reasonable 1cent US per minute).

  • Novice April 1, 2009, 1:53 pm

    But Baker — don’t you need to still sit at your computer desk or laptop and use it to make calls? What I like about voip is that I can just be lying on the couch and pick up the phone, even if my pc (in the basement) is off?

  • TJ April 1, 2009, 2:00 pm
  • casey5 April 1, 2009, 2:31 pm

    Novice & Neeraj:

    Where are you guys located? I’m thinking of switching to Primus too.

  • Canadian Finance April 1, 2009, 3:31 pm

    @Novice – I never had a problem with the box… I wonder if they warranty it? Only slightly related, but when I bought my cable modem from Shaw, they’ll still replace it or upgrade it as if it was a rental… I wonder if Primus would do the same?

  • Canadian Finance April 1, 2009, 3:34 pm
  • TJ April 1, 2009, 4:15 pm

    I have to agree with DG (second post). I’ve been using les.net for almost 3 years now.. $3.50/mo plus 1.5c/min north america, 1.1c incoming (I think $15/mo for local unlimited). Great service, and I’ve switched my parents, who used to be paying $35+ with MTS for their landline.

  • Craig April 1, 2009, 4:25 pm

    Voip seems to be the way to go now, and costs a lot less. Do you think land lines are going extinct though with all these family plans on cell phones?

  • Jack April 1, 2009, 6:22 pm

    My strategy was to get a job with Bell Aliant. Free cell phone with free long distance. Also, since I’m allowed (even encouraged) to telecommute to work they give me free DSL internet access as well. I didn’t bother with a landline since I’m a bachelor and don’t need it. My only bill is for Aliant TV, but I get 40% off because I’m an employee. Gotta love it!

  • Eccentric Rogue April 1, 2009, 6:36 pm

    TJ, Can Ooma be used outside the US. It looks like a fantastic product. What is the quality like?

  • TJ April 1, 2009, 8:54 pm

    Eccentric Rogue – quality is great – no problems, issues at all. yes, i believe it can be used outside the US. calls to the US would be free but it seems to have a slight charge for different countries.

  • S.W. April 2, 2009, 1:12 am

    I switched to iTalkBB (VOIP) 3 months ago and so far I’m happy. For C$8.99 (+tax) a month it provides all the basic features, a lot less than Bell, plus it’s free to call anywhere in Canada and N. America. Only occasionally the long-D calls will have a little delay which is tolerable. For C$24.99 a month you can call with unlimited minutes to over 20 countries. Not bad.

  • Novice April 2, 2009, 10:29 am

    @ Casey — I live in Toronto ON and use rogers cable.

  • Stephen April 2, 2009, 10:29 am

    All you lucky bums in major cities … you get all the cheap VoIP servies. Neway. @ previous posters who mentioned Skype and headsets. Skype can work like other VoIP where you buy an adapter which you hook up to your PC which hooks up to a cordless phone (or regular phone) system and you can make your calls from anywhere in the house just like a regular phone. I paid $13 for mine on sale at Staples. $3 a month isn’t bad for unlimited local & long distance. If you need an incoming number then it’s a bit more. If you have Grand Central and you don’t need to make daytime calls on your cell much, then even better … no landline required.

    http://www.staples.ca/ENG/Catalog/cat_sku.asp?CatIds=&webid=655480&affixedcode=WW

    There are lots of different types available on Ebay as well.

  • Eric April 2, 2009, 12:30 pm

    Dude,

    Vonage is amazing. I’ve had it for 3 years now and I can’t believe it hasn’t become the standard.

  • Ms Save Money April 3, 2009, 3:03 pm

    I’ve totally eliminated the land line from my life since I was 18 years old. The only thing I need in my life is a cell phone, a lap top, and internet.

  • melvin April 5, 2009, 10:07 pm

    I have been a vonage customer since the beginning.
    How can you beat it.
    I take my phone wherever I go when I travel and no long distance bills to pay when I get home.
    I use it with wireless voip even when im in florida for the winter
    I wouldnt go back to any of the second rate phone companies in canada ever again.

  • Colourful Money May 17, 2009, 6:00 am

    Just want to add another dimension to this, but to those that don’t mind not speaking to each other and being OVERLY frugal, IM and emails may work. Especially so for the younger generation who have Blackberries with push email and are logged on to various IM programs where you can stay connected.

  • KCG April 25, 2010, 1:23 am

    If you’ve looked over your bills and cut down your talking and you’re still dealing with a high bill, switching from a contract carrier to a prepaid one might be a great option. I was in the same dilemma with AT&T for over a years before I swallowed the contract fees and went over to Net10 prepaid and the savings are huge. I’m saving more than $70 a month in terms of plans and my phone purchase was hardly the cost of my IPhone. I don’t miss my calling network or customer service since Net10 is top notch in both departments. If you need tos save and can cut yourself down in terms of talking, Net10 is a great option.

  • Doug Bradley September 9, 2010, 3:22 pm

    I use “On Line Tel”. The cost is $42.38 a year (includes tax) You are allowed to put in 3 numbers. You dial an access number and can call anywhere in Canada.
    You must be in a location that has access to an access number. i.e.Barrie Calgary Toronto etc. there are 15 locations. Just Google on line tel and get all info

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