A Budget You Can Live With – Telephone Service

desk phone

A hundred years ago, everyone considered the telephone to be a luxury that hardly anyone had. Now, almost every household has some sort of phone service, and most of us consider it a necessity. But can your budget afford it? Here are your options:


No phone
Bad option! You have no way to keep in touch with your family, boss, doctor’s office, school, etc. And good luck finding a public pay-phone when you need one.



Traditional landline
Telephone line that runs through old copper wires into your home. This is being phased out by AT&T, although it’ll still be around for a long time in more rural areas. You’ll pay a base amount of $25-27 a month (up from $17.55 in 2010), plus about $10-15 for an array of charges, surcharges, access fees, and taxes. Expect your actual bill to run about $40 a month, and that’s just for local calls. Long distance calls and Caller ID are extra.

ATT landline bill


VoIP landline
This is what most people with landlines have. Instead of traveling through the old copper wires, your voice is transmitted over internet fiberoptic lines. You can buy VoIP landline service from AT&T (U-Verse) or your cable company (Comcast/X-finity). These companies typically pressure you to also buy tv and internet service from them (they call it bundling), and will give you a discounted price for a year or so, then the price goes up. It’s hard to tell how much of the bundled price is actually for phone service. If your internet or cable goes out, so does your phone. A 24-month contract is usually required.

ATT VoIP telephone


Contract cell phone
This is cell phone service from companies like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint, for a contracted amount of time (often 2 years). With this type of phone, you can make calls, send texts, check your e-mail, use the built-in calculator, take pictures, play videogames, watch netflix, listen to music, or read an e-book. You may pay hundreds of dollars for your cell phone. While rates vary enormously, the average bill is $73 a month.

Cell phones


No-Contract cell phone
This is “pay-as-you-go” service. You can buy both phones and phone calling cards from Tracfone, Net10, Virgin Mobile, and Boost Mobile at Walmart and most grocery stores. A phone can be bought very reasonably ($15-$50) and monthly service ranges from $10 a month to about $50, depending on much time you spend on your phone.

Now the contract companies are jumping on the idea, offering no-contract calling cards as well (Sprint Pre-Paid, AT&T Go, Verizon Prepaid, and T-Mobile Pre-Paid).




Skype phone
This is telephone service over the internet through the Skype company. It costs $30 a year for a regular telephone number, and $30 a year for unlimited calling anywhere in the United States, a total of $60 a year or $5 a month. You will need a good internet connection and a device with the Skype application on it (a computer, laptop, tablet, etc). The service can be a little buggy at times, but it’s improving every year.



So there are your options. Telephone service can easily add up to thousands of dollars a year. That’s a big part of your budget. Ask yourself how much talking you actually do on the phone. Do you really need to surf the internet on a cell phone, or could you just use the internet at the public library for free? Instead of buying a $600 phone that takes great pictures, could you just buy an inexpensive digital camera and a more basic phone? Do you need both a landline and a cell phone? Look at all your options and see what works for you without breaking your budget.

A Budget You Can Live With – Television, part 1

Cable Tv by Stuart Miles

(Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net)

It’s a television kind of day here in Michigan. It’s cold outside, with snow and icy patches. It’s a Saturday, and I don’t have to work. I haven’t slept well for the past two nights, and my joints are killing me. The easiest thing to do is pop on the TV and huddle under an afghan. But how much is that TV viewing costing? Every year or two I go online and re-examine all the options for television. Here’s a summary of your basic options for traditional cable TV:

Comcast/Xfinity: The first year you can get good rates, such as the economy package with 45 channels for $19.99 per month. The problem come when you’re past that first 12 months. Take a look at their regular rates:
Economy – 45 channels, $39.99
Starter – 45 channels, $59.99
Preferred – 220 channels, $79.99
Preferred Plus – 220 channels, $99.99
Premier – 260 channels, $119.99

In addition, you’ll pay extra monthly fees for local channels, your receiver box, and federal, state, and local taxes. A 24-month contract commitment is required to get a lower price for the first 12 months. There is an early termination fee if you break your contract, and you will pay for the receiver box if you don’t return it promptly.

Here are their monthly rates for the first 12 months:
Select – 145 channels, $19.99
Entertainment – 150 channels, $24.99
Choice – 175 channels, $29.99
Extra – 220 channels, $39.99
Premiere – 315 channels, $89.99
A 24-month contract is required to get these prices, and after 12 months the price goes up, although I couldn’t find the prices for after 12 months. They also charge a monthly receiver box fee ($6.50) and federal, state, and local taxes. If you want to record shows to watch later, it’ll cost you $5.00 a month for Tivo, $15.00 a month for a high-definition DVR box. There is an early termination fee if you break your contract, and you will pay for the receiver box if you don’t return it promptly.

Dish Network:
Dish Network used to be the cheapest of the cable companies, with a few packages of $20.00 a month as their regular price. They are no longer inexpensive, with their prices looking like this:
America’s Top 120 – 190 channels, $34.99 for 12 mths, then $64.99
America’s Top Plus – 190 channels, $49.99 for 36 months
America’s Top 200 – 240 channels, $44.99 for 12 mths, then $79.99
America’s Top 200 – 240 channels, $64.99 for 36 months
America’s Top 250 – 290 channels, $49.99 for 12 mths, then $89.99
America’s Top 250 – 290 channels, $74.99 for 36 months
They also require a 24-month contract to get the initial lower rates, have an early termination fee, and will bill you for unreturned equipment.

So there you have it, your choices for traditional subscription television. If you live in an apartment complex and TV service is piped into every apartment, consider yourself lucky (although your rent is probably slightly higher to cover the cost). Not looking too good for your budget, is it? Part two will cover other options for television viewing.

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