Eliminate Local and Long Distance Bill for Good!

We’re Saving $444/yr

If you could pay between $200-$250 one time and never pay for local and long distance calls again, would YOU do it? We had to ask ourselves the same question when we found out about the ooma Core VoIP Phone System with No Monthly Phone Service Bills.

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We spend a LOT of time looking into saving money on utilities. We’ve been focusing lately on looking for ways to reduce the cost of telephone use. This includes wireless (cell) phone service, local phone service, and long-distance calling use.

Many cell phone plans come with unlimited local and long distance calling. At first, we assumed this would be cheaper, but when we ran the numbers (using a spreadsheet) including the monthly cost, hardware (new cell phones) cost, etc. we did not find using unlimited cell phone plans (or any cell phone plan) to be the right choice for our family. Collectively, we use about 400 minutes of cell phone use per month (between two lines).  Our monthly cost for long distance and local calling is approximately $47/mo. on average. Upgrading to unlimited cell service, or even a limited plan with enough minutes would cost more than this amount per month.

We were already unhappy with how much cell phones cost our family  (more on that another time), so increasing the bill is not appealing.

We also considered magicJack: PC to Phone Jack, but don’t want to keep a computer running constantly. For those who don’t mind, magicJack is an even cheaper alternative than ooma. Our friends overseas really like this because they can get a U.S. phone number with unlimited calling for $40 one-time fee! You might consider this if you want ultra-cheap long-distance.

Further, we looked into using free services such as Skype, Gizmo5, and Google Voice as alternatives. We have accounts with each, but don”t see them as a practical alternative to replacing local and long distance calling, and certainly not cell phones – but they’re great for calling overseas for really cheap. These services too require either a computer to be on, or expensive phone upgrades. We also have friends who promote long-distance services, but we wanted to eliminate the bill – not just reduce it.

After reading copious reviews of Ooma and talking a real-life user, we decided to buy the Ooma. From our calculations, and those who own them, this will drastically reduce our local and long-distance, with a 10-12 month payback followed by unlimited local and long distance calling without paying another bill again!

Here’s what else we like about the Ooma:

  1. We can “port” our home telephone number (unlike many of our friends who have gotten VoIP systems like Vonage, etc). No need to change your number!
  2. It’s easy to install. Plug ooma into your home network router, plug phone into ooma, register.
  3. The device is simple – a few buttons – no rocket science.
  4. Voicemail can be checked from Ooma device, phone call, or online. Messages can even be emailed to us as MP3.
  5. We can get all sorts of cool additional services for $1o0/yr (Ooma Premier) –  again, totally optional. If we do this the first year, the price includes the charges to port (usually $39.99)

Now, this is not something everyone can use because you must have a broadband (DLS, Cable, Fiber Optic) internet connection. Also, if your broadband internet connection does not connect to a router, you’ll need one of those ($50 or less likely). We have DSL which currently costs us $31.99/mo. Because we will be removing our local phone service, we will have to change our DSL to “naked” DSL with a price increase of $10/mo. This is factored into our savings estimate below.

Here’s the math:

  • Existing Cost of DSL, Local and Long Distance per Year: $948.47
  • First Year Cost with Ooma, Extra “Scout” (which I want, but most people would not need), phone # port, and increased DSL Cost: $776.88
  • First Year Savings: $171.59
  • Recurring cost per year after first year: $503.88 (for DSL only, no local or long distance charges any more)
    *(+$100 if you want optional “premier” service)
  • Yearly savings (years 2 and on) $444.59 ($344.59 if you subscribe to Ooma Premier)
  • Savings over 5 years ( first year savings + ( yearly savings x 4 ) ) = $1949.95

Our long distance charges are $16/mo on average – That’s probably a bit lower than most people, so most would experience even bigger savings than us. Hope this news helps you find an affordable alternative to your local and long distance calling. Let me know if I can help you figure out your savings!

Audit Heat/Cooling Loss to save up to 20% on heating and cooling cost?

I spent some time today using our utility company’s online self-help portal to determine some areas of cost saving measures. Without a doubt, heating and cooling is the #1 area of energy use in our home – and probably most homes.

Some of their tools show a savings of up to 20% by fixing areas of air infiltration throughout the house, as well as sealing leaks and drafts in the duct work.

In searching on Amazon, I discovered a device for $49 that scans for thermal differences so you can actually KNOW where the leaks are. I am wondering if anyone I know has had experience using this device. Here it is – Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector

Please comment if you’ve used it. I am considering getting this as soon as possible.

Audit your own electricity usage for $35

A few months ago, I purchased a P3 International P4460 Kill A Watt EZ Electricity Usage Monitor!

FInd Appliances and Devices quietly draining your electric bill

FInd Appliances and Devices quietly draining your electric bill

This nifty device allows you to see what kind of electricity your plugged-in appliances use. Simply plug the Kill-A-Watt into the your outlet and your appliance into the Kill-A-Watt and let it sit. It will show you the Kwh that your appliance uses in the time it’s plugged in.

This is very handy for seeing if some appliances have “ghost loads” – that is, they use electricity even when not in use. This is common in many appliances – especially those with “brick” plugs.

I have to admit, there’s two things I hate about this product (not enough to warrant not having one):

  1. Once you unplug the unit, the data you just recorded is gone, so make sure you write it down before you unplug it!
  2. There’s a rather obvious design flaw/annoyance where you cannot plug this and any other plug into a standard double outlet. I would highly recommend something like Power Strip Liberator Plus, 5 Pack to allow you to plug this into an outlet without interfering with other devices. These things are handy for those times when you cannot use all the outlets on power strips because bulky plugs take up to much space too!

I think this is $35 well spent since it will help our family unplug costly devices. Decide for yourself!

Money and Water Saving Showerheads

Recently, one of our showerheads broke. In shopping for a new one, I wanted to find a new showerhead that met several criteria:

  1. Affordable (no $100 showerheads for our family!)
  2. Energy Efficient (water conservation saves water and heating energy)
  3. Flexible – I am a tall guy, and we also have little ones. We need something that accommodates a wide range of sizes and positions.
  4. Quality – I chose Peerless because I’ve had good experience with them so far, they’re affordable, and best of all, have a lifetime warranty.

I could not really find an off-the-shelf solution I liked entirely. Most showerheads that include a flexible hose are 2.5 GPM (gallons per minute) – water-saving yes, but not quite enough in my opinion. I really wanted to get 1.5-1.6 GPM. The showerheads that save more water don’t usually have any flexibility and are usually under-powered too. Also, my wife wanted to maintain having a flexible hose showerhead so that we could shower the little ones.

My solution? Combine several showerheads and/or parts. Basically what I did was combined some items from several off-the-shelf showerheads with some stuff we already had to get the best of everything for less than many showerheads would cost. Now, I have a showerhead that combines fixed and flexible, is adjustable, affordable, and energy-saving. We could reduce our water usage (for showers) up to 40% and reduce our hot water usage, thus saving some electricity.

I ended up purchasing the Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome which we scored from Walmart (we usually hate shopping there btw, but didn’t have time to wait for Amazon) for $9.98. This gem of a showerhead was not only less than $10, it also uses 1.6 GPM – a full gallon per minute less than most showerheads. Yet, it seems to have a powerful spray pattern equitable to a 2.5 GPM showerhead. Very easy to install!

I also picked up a Peerless 4″ Sunflower Showerhead with Arm. I love the arm idea because it allows me to be able to stand under the showerhead (at 6′ 3″, this is usually impossible and I have to do squats to wash my hair). My wife didn’t want to give up the hose-mounted showerhead that we already had for the kiddos. So, I combined them! I simply replaced the fixed head of the existing two-headed showerhead with the Sunflower unit. Now, I have an affordable solution that meets everyone’s needs. I plan on buying an additional Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome from Walmart and replacing the Sunflower head so that my fixed showerhead is 1.6 GPM and my flexible showerhead is 2.5 GPM. This is a good compromise in my opinion.

If one were to do this from scratch, it would be pretty simple. This would allow for efficient showers that accommodate all size people, but also more forceful showers when needed. Here’s roughly what you would need:

  1. Buy a Peerless Sunflower Showerhead with Arm ($24.98) – if I can find just the arm cheaper, I would do that but most I have found have been as much as the entire showerhead system above.
  2. Buy an affordable matching showerhead with a flexible hose ($12.98)
  3. Buy a Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome ($13 at Amazon)
  4. Buy a Alsons #861-237 MP Chrome Shower Diverter
    to your liking ($2.03)
  5. Optional: Flow Control Valve ($2-$10)- let’s you slow the water down, or shut off while shaving or lathering up yet without turning off or adjusting the hot and cold supply thus saving more $$$.

Total cost for an adjustable two-headed, water-saving, flexible showerhead?  $49.98-$59.98. I know there are cheaper alternatives, but I think this is a reasonable price to get so many features in a showerhead setup.

To put it all together, you would first optionally attach your flow control valve (item #5), follwed by the diverter (item #4). To the main outlet of the diverter, you’d attach the adjustable arm from item #1 above. Next, remove the showerhead from item #1 above and replace with item #3 – the water-saving showerhead. To the other diverter outlet, attach item #2.

Doing the above, you’d have one extra showerhead which you could sell, give away, or tuck away for a plumbing emergency sometime.

These are just some ideas for anyone who has a hard time finding the showerhead of their dreams without spending $100.

Give yourself a raise – cut the cable

Possible Savings: $700-$1,000/Yr.

Okay, this isn’t new for us. We’ve been off of cable for years. However, I often wonder why people hang on to cable bills in desparate times.

According to Comcast.com, the main cable provider around here, their cable packages are between $58.70 and $114.90 per month. That’s $704.40 and $1378.80 per year respectively. Dish TV is not much better, starting at around $39.99/mo. and going up to $102.98/mo.

Just by way of example, if you’re income was $30,o00/year and you had basic cable, dumping your cable would be equivalent to a 2.4% raise if you have basic cable, getting rid of it would be the same as a 4.6% raise. I know countless people who have had their salaries frozen due to the economic situation this year and have been told they won’t receive a raise til things get better. Don’t let that stop you – give yourself a raise!

Now, we realize that people desire some form of entertainment and we understand what that desire is like. The thing is, there’s plenty of free simple ways to watch tv programming for free:

  1. Go to a friends or neighbors house – you might just make a new friend – (or enemy I suppose 😉 )
  2. Watch your favorite shows online at either the network’s web site, or places like hulu.com
  3. Pay per episode and view your favorite shows using Apple’s iTunes or Amazon. You’d have to watch a lot of shows a month to match the cable/dish prices
  4. Go to public places with televisions and watch there.

The point is, Cable/Satellite TV is a quick and easy way to put $700-$1,000 back in your bank account. To many families, that could mean the difference between eating or not, a house payment or two, etc.

More ideas about lowering cell phone bill

I am seriosuly considering switching to Boost Mobile service. Currently, as a Verizon Wireless customer, I pay right around $100/mo. for two phones at the absolute minimum service (Family Plan). Here’s what I like about Boost:

  1. My numbers will transport to Boost
  2. Three calling plans, the most expensive of which is $50/mo. for unlimited calls/text/web
  3. No contracts
  4. Refill minutes/plan as needed
  5. Decent phones
  6. My wife uses at most about 2o minutes of mobile minutes per month. If I put her on the pay as you go plan, her bill would be about $5/mo. on average
  7. By doing the above, I could probably save $50/mo. or $600/year.

I’d be interested in hearing the pros and cons from anyone out there who has switched from Verizon to Boost Mobile.

Ideas for Lowering the Cell Phone Bill

We’ve been a long-time verizon wireless customer. While we like their service, we as Americans pay way more for our wireless service than much of the world. This really bugs our family! We’ve always been a 2 -year contract family for VZW and on average, our mobile bill is about $100/mo (that’s $1200/yr for all you peeps who struggle with math).

We’ve known people who used TracPhones, and pre-paid service for cell phones and have heard that they’ve managed to also have cellular service for far less monthly and yearly cost. At the moment, we’re considering dumping our contract plan and going with something like Trac Phone or pre-paid from Verizon.

We called today to see when my contract expired – 3/2011! That means, if we cancel, we’d have to pay $170 per phone (we have two lines on our plan) – $340 just to get out of the arrangement. We looked online for some ways to get out of the contract, but most of them seem unethical – not something we want to do.

So we explained to the customer service rep at Verizon why we wanted to know our contract end date – so we could lower our expenses. She was sympathetic and tried to offer alternatives. Unfortunately, we already had the cheapest plan, so there was no lowering the plan cost. We did decide to remove the text messaging package saving $60/yr.

Turns out though, that about three weeks ago, they had called and offered to move us to a different, newer plan for no extra fees. It included some extras, etc. By agreeing, we renewed our contract and that’s why it wasn’t up for renewal for 2 years. The CSR informed us that we could still go back to our old plan which had en ending date of August of this year.

So, we should only have to pay $170, minus $5/month that we’ve had the contract open, so more like $50 if we cancel. Considering that’s only half of one month’s phone bill, that’s acceptable. Most likely, we’ll wait til August then dump the whole thing in favor of pre-paid.

At the same time, we did signup for CellTradeUSA which provides a service of matching up people who want to get out of contracts with those who want to get into contracts (but don’t want to pay the setup fees, etc.). This way, we can have the financially responsible party changed to someone else thereby having them assume the remainder of the contract. This might end up working which would also get us free and clear.

Anyone else have experience doing the above? How have you lowered your cell phone expenses?