Editor: Welcome Bryan back to DQYDJ for his first post in... a long time. Maybe we can convince him to write more often? Take it away...
It's not easy finding ways to squeeze every penny when we're so engrossed in constant necessary daily activities.
We're no amateurs. We're the ones that check our budgets, check them again, then slim a few expenses each time to increase our disposable income. I'm always proud when I find a new way to snatch a little extra back from the monthly outflow.
Examine Your Cell Phone Bill
Have you slimmed you cell phone bill yet?
It's no secret many people have been sucked up into expensive data plans and high priced phones and, well, hype. But many of us have reduced our bill down to reasonable pricing for our usage patterns.
Even then, sometimes it seems as though those prices get a little inflated with our own usage.
Put it this way: How often do you use your phone plan's data when you're around a WiFi network?
I've asked that question before but there's always a catch when it comes to cell phone providers. If you want a smart phone, there is a "tax". You need to have an accompanying data plan. It's a trap!
Is there a workaround?
You can get a phone number in a couple different ways... and some of those ways are free.
So why don't I just get a phone number online and use my smartphone like the portable computer that it is rather than a 4G-tethered ball and chain?
Well... why not have 4G for those moments you aren't in a WiFi bubble (or in an emergency)?
You can actually do this for under $10 a month.
Acquire a Phone Number
Let's get down to business.
Basically there are 3 ways I've found to get that bill down into those single digits. You might actually have a landline already that you don't use (well, nowadays I picture a phone booth when I think of a landline).
If you do, that will work as well, you will just temporarily have to have a phone hooked up to the line. Just field 1 or 2 calls to receive confirmation numbers for online phone number registration and voilà.
If you do not have a landline, you can easily get a phone number from Skype for under 5 dollars a month if you buy for a whole year (or a few dollars more if you pay monthly). Or, write some code and buy a programmatic phone number from PK's employer, Twilio. A third option is to get a free phone number through FreedomPop although you may have to make sure your phone is compatible with their service.*
*(If your smart phone is compatible with FreedomPop, this may be the best option. Attention to detail is critical because plans are free in most cases, but there are many "free to start" subscriptions which charge you if you don't cancel in time.)
Whatever your first number is, it will just be a placeholder anyway.
Find VoIP Service (Hint: Google Voice)
Next, you will need a new online phone number... and Google Voice offers a VoIP service with a free phone number. This seems to solve our first objective above, but VoIP does need a proxy number to make hassle-free outgoing calls.
- Your other option is to use 2 phone numbers for incoming and outgoing calls. You can then make and receive calls from your other phone number (with VoIP anyway, not a landline).
There are limitations though: Skype won't allow texts and FreedomPop treats texts as individual items rather than data.
- The best solution is to have your new VoIP phone number as your main number (people call it for incoming calls, and your VoIP number shows up on the caller ID regardless of routing).
In reality what you are after is an online phone number, WiFi, and supplemental 4G data. Then Google Voice and hangouts work together as a single app to accommodate text and phone calls.
It does take a little tinkering to turn off incoming calls on your GMail or make the apps work correctly together – but it can be done and it is well worth it.
When things are setup, you won't be able to tell the difference between your new setup and your previous provider – as long as you generally stay near trusted WiFi.
Single Digit Dollar Monthly Phone Service
When you are done, you will have cut your phone bill down to single digits or free, depending on the solution you came up with. Supplement with a cheap 4G data plan and you're in business even when far from your router.
It wasn't the simplest thing in the world, but in these markets people need to swim against the current a little to fight back at the unnecessary layers of cruft we receive by default.
When you are done and finally have cut the cord, you too will be playing that Shinedown song in your head: "Cut the cord!".