While not everyone is in a position to get rid of his or her landlines, I’ve found that — in general — losing the landline can really help simplify life. After all, without a landline, you don’t have to worry about
- the expense of a landline (including long distance!)
- remembering to pay at least one bill
- checking messages
- waiting by the phone
Your Cell Phone
Odds are good these days that you have a cell phone. I can honestly think of exactly one person I know who doesn’t have one: my grandmother, who is always with my grandfather and his cell phone. In fact, I received an email last week from my alma mater announcing a change in the dorms there. The school is no longer providing any sort of phone service in student housing, because no one uses it. If an institution providing housing to hundreds of people can afford to ditch landlines, why can’t you?
There are some crucial benefits to a cell phone over a landline, as well. Long distance always comes to mind: if you have a telephone in your home or office with long distance, the odds are that you are paying extra for that service — whether your phone bill is broken down that way or not. Call waiting, caller ID and half a dozen other services are treated the same way. But most cellular contracts toss all those ‘premium’ features in at no extra cost.
Skype and Other Online Services
I admit there are some times that a cell phone may not cut it. If, for instance, you’re traveling overseas, calling back home may be prohibitively expensive. But I’ve had a lot of success with Skype, even when calling non-Skype users. (If you aren’t familiar with Skype, rather than rehashing its uses here, I’d suggest looking over The Simple Dollar’s brand new introduction to Skype.)
Skype, and its competitors, have a clear payoff compared to landlines: most offer at free calling within their systems — that is, if both people on the call are members of the service — and all offer inexpensive calls off their systems. If you can convince everyone you call to install Skype on their computers, you can make all of your calls for free. That’s a little unlikely, admittedly, but if many of your calls go to the same people, you may be able to get those people signed up. I’ve got both of my parents on Skype these days — I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person they talk to on their computers, but we talk often enough that we’re all saving money.
Get It In Writing
One of the greatest benefits I’ve had from using only my cell phone, honestly, is the fact that I’ve come to rely more heavily on email. While that can sound bad — it conjures up images of an inbox full to bursting — it can be a good thing. To get the information I need in a phone call, I might end up talking to a person for fifteen minutes. But if I’ve asked a person to email me details, rather than call me, I can sort out what my next actions are in a minute or less. And while I can choose what phone calls I’ll answer based on phone numbers, I can set up more robust rules for handling email.
The Fax Dilemma
One of the biggest struggles for me and my sans landline office has been faxing. I’ve worked on plenty of contracts where the easiest options for clients was faxing signed documents back and forth. Depending on your industry, the people you work with may be uncomfortable with digitally signing documents — or entirely unaware that such a possibility exists.
But there are quite a few options for online fax services — most are not free, but the cost is almost always less than maintaining a fax line for the occasional document. Services such as Fax Digits and FaxZero offer either sending or receiving for free, so there are some work-arounds if you want to try to eliminate your fax budget entirely.
Out of Range
Landlines do have some things going for them over cell phones: they don’t drop calls, can have a lot less static and never run out of battery (assuming we aren’t talking about cordless models). But how often are you away from your home or office? Compare that time to how often your cell phone is out of range.
I know I would have the use of a landline significantly less of the time than a cell phone — which is also available at the same time as a landline. For me, at least, a somewhat more reliable instrument isn’t enough reason to justify two phone bills. Of course, a person could choose to jettison his cell phone rather than his landline, but I just don’t see that happening in most households.
Shelve the Antique
A phone that you can’t take with you when you go is rapidly becoming an antique. While there are some homes and offices that still need landlines, there are plenty of people who can do without — and improve both their finances and their productivity in the process. It may be time to take a good long look at your telephone needs and see if you’re one of them.