Reducing or Eliminating Phone Expenses

Telephone_keysAs we learned in Our Experiment in Tribal Living, eliminating an expense is equivalent to ‘making’ money and is even better because it actually eliminates the expense forever (complete FREEdom) whereas the ‘making’ money approach forces you to always have to work for money in order to pay for bills that are guaranteed to increase over time (never will decrease) due to inflation, thereby keeping us enslaved in the system. If you can’t eliminate the expense entirely now, you can at least drastically reduce it as partial FREEdom is better than no FREEdom at all. In this article we will share how the Luzardo family drastically reduced telephone expenses. We hope to eliminate the telephone expense altogether when those who work in the telephone industry eventually decide to join the growing gift economy.

Avoid the Monthly Calling Plans

Most monthly calling plans offered by the phone companies were designed to make people overpay for their phone service (whether a home landline or a cell phone). They overpay when they under-use (and lose) the minutes that are included in the plan and they overpay when they go beyond the minutes included in the plan with a higher ‘penalty’ rate per minute for the overage incurred. It is very rare that a user pays for exactly what they used under these plans similar to gym membership where the gyms oversell membership plans knowing the statistical chance of an individual using their gym membership every day for the duration of their membership period is very unlikely.

Eliminate the Home Landline

corded-telephoneThe first thing the Luzardo family did was to eliminate completely the home landline which eliminated that bill. We felt it was redundant to have so many phone numbers. We had a home line, two cell phone numbers, and two work numbers. This was clearly a product or invention of the monetary slave system in which you buy products or services you do not really need. We had lived for about a few years successfully without a home line in California.

Switch to Prepaid Cell Phone

prepaid-cell-phoneThis could be a hard one for smartphone users in the U.S., but it will save you a lot of money if you can switch to a prepaid cell phone. If you already have a smartphone, you can still use it without a monthly plan and instead just use it at home with your Internet Wi-Fi or at Wi-Fi spots when you are outside. This will reduce your usage of the smartphone and won’t be good for emergencies so you will need to purchase a much cheaper prepaid cell phone for emergency situations.

In Costa Rica, almost everyone uses prepaid cell phones including smartphone users as all cell phones are unlocked here and we simply buy prepaid cards with a PIN to reload any unlocked cell phone with the provider of choice when we run low on credit. Though most prepaid services require that you reload at a set regular interval and minimum amount, the amount you end up spending is significantly less than if you were locked into a monthly plan. We use our cell phones for only emergencies, not for casual or preplanned conversations with friends, family, or coworkers. This significantly reduced our need for minutes. As on as we reload at the minimum interval and the minimum amount, we never lose the minutes and when we accumulate a large amount, we simply start using our cell phones beyond emergency only situations.

Switch to VOIP Phone

When we moved to Costa Rica, the electric company ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) bundled the electricity with Internet and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone service so we ended up having a Costa Rica home phone number. A VOIP home line is still cheaper than a home landline since it is hooked up to the Internet so we still save some money. We use this home line now for phone calls in Costa Rica. We bought the cheapest phone we could find and plugged it into the Internet hub ICE provided for us using a regular telephone cord or cable.

For calls to and from the U.S. and Canada, we use a free service to make and receive free U.S. and Canada calls on our computer using the Make a call feature (also known as Google Voice) on our Gmail page. The benefit of this method compared to using the free Skype application, for example, is that you actually have a real phone number that others can call using their cell phone, home/work landline, or VOIP phone and therefore they do do not need to install any application to call you.

Get a Free Google Voice U.S. Number

Google Voice is an innovative service from Google that gives you a free U.S. phone number with area code of your choice that acts as your permanent U.S. phone number that never changes. It is designed to work with other phone numbers (e.g., cell number, home/work landline number, or VOIP number) that can change depending on your provider so you can switch providers frequently to always get the best deals and never have to worry about being able to keep or port your number over to a new provider or the fees associated with that. You also do not have to worry about updating all your contacts and account contact information whenever you do change providers or phone numbers. When someone dials your Google Voice number (from any cell phone, landline, or VOIP line), it will ring any other number you have associated with it so you do not have to be at your computer to receive the call. You simply pick up your cell phone, home/work landline phone, or VOIP phone. The Google Voice number also comes with free voicemail service, email notifications of voicemails (and their text transcripts), allow you to define which phones ring based on who’s calling, and even let you ListenInTM on voicemail before answering the call.

To make calls using Google Voice, you must be logged into Google Voice (or your Gmail) on your computer or set up the Google Voice app on your smartphone. Calls to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada are free. To make calls to any other place (international calls), you will need to purchase Google Voice credits to make cheap international calls (rates are currently cheaper than Skype). See How to Get a Google Voice Phone Number to get a Google Voice number.

Making Free U.S. & Canada Calls

gmail-google-voiceWhen you want to make calls from your computer (making calls from your Google Voice app on your smartphone may differ slightly from the instructions below):

  1. Go to your Gmail account (will prompt you to login with your Google/Gmail account if you are not already logged in).
  2. Click the Make a call link at the bottom left corner below the phone icon.
  3. Enter the number you want to call and press Enter on your keyboard, or click the number from the list if already in your Contacts

Google Voice does limit your free U.S. and Canada calls to three hours. However, you can simply redial and have another three hours to talk.

Receiving Calls

google-voice-chrome-extensionTo receive calls to your Google Voice number, you either need to be logged into your Gmail account, or you can add the Google Voice extension to the Google Chrome browser (if you use Google Chrome as your web browser). I use Google Chrome as my web browser because it is the faster browser for me and it is convenient in that I do not have to log into my Gmail account or have that page open all the time in order to receive calls. However, I do have the Chrome web browser open all the time when I am on my computer.

Using Walkie-Talkies

We use rechargeable, battery-operated walkie-talkies with a range of up to five miles to communicate with each other within the Ardent Light Motherland so we do not incur any phone expenses for communicating with each other on our own land. You could also use them to communicate with each other while running local errands.

Use WhatsApp on Smartphone & Computer

WhatsApp claims to have billions of users worldwide and growing everyday. What makes them even more popular than Skype is that all you need is a real cell phone number to create a WhatsApp account on your smartphone and/or computer and other WhatsApp users can use Wi-Fi to dial you using your WhatsApp cell phone number to avoid cell phone call charges. If you already have Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) access at home, work, or at a free Wi-Fi spot, you can essentially make and receive free phone calls, SMS (text), and MMS (lots of text, pictures, videos, pre-recorded voice messages) to anyone in the world using just their WhatsApp cell phone number which is the same as their real cell phone number. Even if you have no access to free Wi-Fi and have to use your cell phone data for Internet access to use WhatsApp for calls and SMS, it is still cheaper than making the call or text via the usual cell phone service. However, sending or receiving pictures, videos, and pre-recorded voice messages via WhatsApp using cell phone data Internet may increase your cost. Luckily, there is a setting in WhatsApp (usually turned on by default) that automatically prevents multi-media downloads when not using Wi-Fi (i.e., using your cell phone data Internet).

WhatsApp makes it even easier to use by automatically scanning your smartphone’s phone book and adds them to WhatsApp Contacts if they are a WhatsApp user so you can start using it right away knowing who is already on WhatsApp and simply selecting their name to dial them for a call or to text them. In contrast, Skype requires the person to set up a username and password as their account (not simply use their existing cell phone number which everyone already knows), and you have to manually add Contacts in Skype by searching for them manually by their Skype username (if you know it) or the person’s email address they specified when they set up their Skype account. In addition, you have to wait until the other person accepts your Contact request before you can add them to your Contacts. WhatsApp does not require this type of security because it identifies you by your real cell phone number making it very hard to remain anonymous since your name is associated with your cell phone number. Plus, WhatsApp Contacts only contains those in your cell phone phone book so if you want to later remove a person from WhatsApp, you simply remove them from your cell phone phone book. You can also block others in WhatsApp if you want to prevent them from calling or texting you via WhatsApp.

There is also a WhatsApp web client for those who are traveling and do not have their computer or smartphone with them and have to use another computer that does not have the WhatsApp desktop client installed.

Please feel free to share other money-eliminating ideas for telephone expenses below so others can benefit. For more money-eliminating ideas for other types of expenses, see The Path to Total FREEdom for ALL.