Eliminate Ridiculous Text Messaging Fees with Google Voice

Despite being a lifelong techology addict and a retired software engineer, I’m actually somewhat behind in the world of mobile phones.. mostly because the high monthly rates charged by US cell phone companies have kept me down on very minimal plans and phones for most of the past decade.

Starting out on a Sprint $29/month plan back in 1999, I hopped over to Cingular to take advantage of a Cisco Employee discount program that let me cruise at $15 per month for many years. Cingular was later bought by AT&T and in those early years there were neat perks available including the ability to call to, and from, any part of Canada and the US with no roaming or long distance charges.

That is exactly as it should be, since cell phones are just sending data through the air and eventually a giant computer network. It costs no more to send the information further, and Canada and the US are closely knit enough that phone companies can exchange traffic without incurring any measurable costs per kilobyte.

But the way things should be, and the way they are, are two very different things in the world of mobile phones, and AT&T later eliminated that North American Network plan and decided to charge about $90 per hour for “roaming” phone calls made while in Canada instead. So, of course, I simply turn the phone off when I leave the country and get no use out of it.

During all these years of semi-annoying mobile phone use, I justified the cost by foregoing a traditional land line (“what’s the use of a phone that is tied to your house?”, I marveled starting in 1999, and yet people still have land lines to this day). I also stayed on the trailing edge of mobile handsets, opting for whatever they were offering as a free upgrade every two years. Having cheap handsets worked well for me, since they were usually kept in a pocket full of sawdust and drywall screws anyway, or being accidentally dipped in rushing rivers or crushed against cliff walls or table saws.

But last September, with the help of advancing smartphone usefulness and a reasonable family plan option, I took the $200-plus-activation-fee plunge and picked up one of those Apple iPhone 4s everyone has these days. I enjoy the device – it takes great photos and sound recordings and functions nicely as a pocket computer for email and web browsing and many other things.

These positives outweigh the disadvantages of frequent dropped calls and the awful Apple software that makes you install a shitty awkward behemoth of a program called ‘iTunes’ on your computer, which “imports” (i.e. makes an unnecessary entire duplicate copy of over a period of many hours) your 250GB MP3 collection, just so you can put a few of your favorite albums onto the damn thing for playing at work. For non-techie people, I should explain that this annoyingness is unique to Apple. With any other brand of phone, music player, camera, etc., you just plug it into your computer and it pops up as a normal folder, where you can drag and drop your music directly, just as intuition would lead you to expect.

Getting back to the point, though, acquiring this iPhone also led me into the world of “Texting”. I have always been fine with good ol’ email and other forms of instant messaging. Since phones do all of those things, I didn’t see the need for the redundant “Texting” technology. But since everyone else was already texting, I had to text to keep in touch with them.

So I started using the new phone to send a few text messages. I figured that since Texting is just a lower-functionality, higher-convenience version of email, it would be included in the phone or data plan, right?

Wrong! .. good ol’ AT&T knows a good dishonest revenue stream when it sees one, so it walled off text messaging from the rest of the world of communications, as if it were a stream of messages directly from a divine being. Twenty cents for each message sent, so it costs a buck to say, “Where R U?”, “In the Parking lot!”, “I don’t see you!”, “I’m looking right at you!”, “Oh yeah, there you are!”.

Since text messages fly back and forth pretty quickly, they knew at twenty cents per message they would be building a market for “text messaging plans”. You can treat yourself to a THOUSAND text messages for only $10 per month! Wow, only $1770 per decade (after 7% compounding) for all those lovely text messages! (Tech note: 1000 messages*160 bytes per message*120 months is 19.2 megabytes. So you are paying AT&T One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy Dollars to send the equivalent of about five digital camera photos worth of data.

As you might expect, Mr. Money Mustache was so morally offended by this concept that he launched  into a rant of Swearing powerful enough to knock down several buildings. He set off on an immediate quest to circumvent the evil stupidity of AT&T. By the second day of  iPhone Ownership, he had switched to Google Voice.. and if you are a smartphone or even frequent PC user, you can do the same with the details below.

But wait!! Even while I was writing this article, another amazing piece of news came out from AT&T. The resourceful douchitarians at that company have decided that people can be milked for even more, so they are now dropping the $10 per month text messaging plan, and trying to get people to pay $30 per month for “unlimited texting”!!

AT&T Kills $10 Texting Plans, Pushes Unlimited Options


So that just further seals the deal – everybody should switch to Google Voice. Check it out:

Go to www.google.com/voice

Sign up for a free new phone number in your own area code

Once you have it, you can start giving it out to people as your new, lifetime phone number. (Your old phone number will still work too).

You can now use a nice web interface to control the behavior of your new phone number. It can automatically forward to your cell phone, or your office phone, or your in-laws’ phone while you are visiting them in another country. Or a voice-over-internet phone number like the SkypeIn service, Vonage, or anything else. And it can do this forwarding based on the time of day, or date, or whatever. Nobody has to know any of your other phone numbers any more – just your one new number.

Google Voice can also take over your voicemail for you. You can still get messages just as before, but they also show up as emails in your inbox, complete with a clickable audio version of the message and an amusing computer-made transcription of approximately what the person said. Now you can have a lifelong searchable archive of all your voicemails if you like.

Google Voice can ALSO let you make and receive traditional phone calls from your PC – for free, unlimited minutes, to and from the US and Canada, and for a few cents per minute to most other countries (cheaper than Skypeout rates). You can also send and receive free SMS (Text) messages from the computer. These also show up in email if you like.

And most significantly, you can then grab the free Google Voice app for your smartphone, so you can send and receive an unlimited number of text messages for free – just as it should be.

Making this switch has already saved me about half of the price of the iPhone itself, and more importantly, kept the money out of the hands of whoever the pinstriped business-buzzword-flinging Pointyhairs were at AT&T who decided it was a good idea to charge ridiculous fees for Text Messaging.

Justice is Served!



  • Ryan August 22, 2011, 7:43 am

    You really should look into jailbreaking your iPhone. It’s gotten easy and easier and you can kick iTunes to the curb once and for all!

    • MMM August 22, 2011, 12:10 pm

      Good Idea for all tech-savvy iPhone users, Ryan – I did jailbreak it as soon as I got it (couldn’t you tell from the nifty “rotation inhibitor” icon on my phone’s display for this article picture?).

      What replacement do you use for iTunes? Details Please! I once used a PC-based replacement called ePhod, but, but don’t have anything equivalent set up right now with my current phone or computer.

      • Sergey December 7, 2011, 3:36 pm

        Try using SharePod. My gf uses it with her iPod but I’m not sure if it can be used with iPhone too.

  • Fu Manchu August 22, 2011, 7:47 am

    Great tips, I’ve considered doing this in the past. Any fear that you’d be tying yourself to Google, and at the whim of some pointy-hairs there? IE, they could wake up and decide to start charging for Google voice.

    I guess that’s my only hesitation – telling everyone I know about my new number, and then having Google do something screwy.

    • MMM August 22, 2011, 12:12 pm

      Nah, I try not to worry about low-probability, low-cost events. It seems unlikely that Google would change its model for existing users like that. Competition for users is just so fierce.

      Plus, if they did change, it’s not the end of the world to notify people of your new phone number.

  • Steve August 22, 2011, 8:36 am

    My wife has been prepaid for several years, but she just has voice and a
    crappy phone. Much cheaper than my plan, but I needed internet.

    I just switched over to T-Mobile prepaid with .10 per minute on a 1 year $100 card. The android phone was only $120.

    I use wifi for most of my calls and net usage, so I only pay around $15 per month for a smart phone.

  • Executioner August 22, 2011, 10:13 am

    I still have landline phone service, for one main reason: call quality.

    For people who have gone 100% mobile, you probably don’t notice how bad you sound to people who are using landlines, because to you EVERITHING sounds bad. But to those of us on landlines, your end of the conversation is broadcast over on a tinny, echoing, lagging connection which drops the first syllable of every new sentence.

    Sure, cellphones provide a lot of convenience, but understand that the convenience comes with a cost: you will sound like you have gone back in time and are calling from the 1930s, using the scratchy, lo-fi telephony technology of the day.

    Remember back in the 1980s and early 1990s when Sprint had the “pin-drop” ad campaign which touted their call clarity (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnlqrMWVYCs)? Have you heard any mobile phone providers ever make a similar claim? No, you haven’t, because cell phone call quality sucks, and hasn’t made a noticeable improvement over the past decade or so.

    The main reason I keep the landline is for work. A large portion of my schedule includes meetings over conference calls. I like to be heard clearly by my colleagues, and to hear others with clarity. It’s irritating to be part of a conference call where one of the participants is dialing in using a cell phone. The static, the garbled syntax, and the dropped connections are enough to make me want to avoid cell phones for business calls. (And of course these call quality issues occur on the latest pricey smartphones with gold-plated monthly plans — hundreds or thousands of dollars to sound like you are talking on the far end of a long string through an empty tin can).

    Of course, if I wasn’t employed, I might seriously consider dropping the landline in favor of a 100% mobile phone experience. Until that day comes, landlines still serve an important purpose in my book.

    An aside: I don’t pay anything for landline phone service. I have Ooma (http://www.ooma.com/). I bought a piece of VOIP hardware up front in 2009 and have not paid any monthly fees on landline phone service since. They have since revamped their model slightly, charging their users monthly taxes and regulatory fees (about $3.50 according to their website), but fortunately I am grandfathered in under the original “no monthly fees” plan. I’m not a spokesperson for Ooma or anything, but they are a good deal for me. There are other similar services out there (think Vonage, etc), but Ooma is far better over the long run in my opinion.

    • MMM August 22, 2011, 12:17 pm

      Good Points, Mr. E! Anyone who still has to endure the comedic torture of telephone-based-conference calls (hello 1993!) and actually be heard, might not want to do it by mobile phone. Also, good point about VOIP – drastically cheaper than land lines, same convenience and quality.

      I have actually done some voice-quality testing over the years, calling a landline and plugging headphones into the land phone, and comparing sound quality for cell vs. land. For my tests, the quality (frequency response, dynamic range, and distortion) were not significantly different, although the over-100-millisecond delay was enough to cause some awkward conversational overlap.

      But this test was in an office building in the middle of a city with excellent cell reception. Results like yours would surely be more common in less optimal areas (i.e., most of the world).

    • Tage August 24, 2011, 9:53 pm

      Not sure what cell phone you have/had, but I RARELY have problems with quality, only when in the woods or something.

  • Siiri August 22, 2011, 10:20 am

    How timely an article. My T-Mobile is up and I think it’s a waste to spend 50 bucks a month and I only use 200 minutes and 300-500 texts. I’m looking into a prepaid phone. I don’t need internet or data. I’m lost….any suggestions? My brother suggests TracPhone.

    • bryceb04 August 22, 2011, 11:48 am

      Siiri, everyone’s needs are different, but if you’re only using 200 minutes, you should definitely look into prepaid. I have a great Android phone and I’m only paying $28 per month (with tax) for 300 minutes, and unlimited* data and texts. I don’t use the texts because I have been using Google Voice for a couple years now and it’s just so much easier and convenient with the computer option than only being able to peck out message on the phone. The plan I’m on was recently raised to $35 a month plus tax, but I’m grandfathered in for the time being.

      There are many options with prepaid out there that are cheap, and best of all, don’t tie you into a long-term contract.

      • Siiri August 22, 2011, 1:57 pm

        Thanks for the helpful info. May I ask who your plan is with and do you like them? I am supposing I would need internet to use Google Voice on the phone?

        • David Galloway August 22, 2011, 7:53 pm

          Siiri, I’m 99.99% he’s referring to Virgin Mobile USA’s Beyond Talk plan. I have the same plan and use Google Voice to make free phone calls whenever I have a data connection.

          For hardcore Google Voice users you can also port your existing cell phone number to Google Voice. This will require you to get a new number for your cell phone, but since you’ll only be handing out your Google Voice number, that won’t matter.

          • Siiri August 22, 2011, 8:53 pm

            Awesome! I’m going to check this out right now. Thank you :-)

          • Ryan August 25, 2011, 9:46 pm

            Yeah, this definitely seems like the best option. Port your existing number over to Google Voice for a $20 fee (assuming you’re already out of contract on your cell provider). Get a new number from the cell provider that you won’t be giving out, and then you can use the free texting without having to worry about having 2 number that people know. Can’t wait to try this out! Thank you!

          • Heath April 27, 2012, 2:30 pm


            How?! I keep hearing about some cool uses for Google Voice, but it’s never exactly what I’m looking for.

            In my perfect world, I basically want an extremely inexpensive plan (sub $20 / month, with low minutes (for emergencies), no texts, no data, preferably no-contract). Then I want to use Google Voice (and magic?) to make unlimited calls and texts, whenever I have access to WiFi. Is this even possible? I NEEDZ THIS…

            I see you write for Lifehacker (great site!), so perhaps you could point me to some relevant articles?

            • Kevin M April 27, 2012, 8:47 pm

              Check out republic wireless. Just in beta now but it is $19 month unlimited everything (except the first month when you buy a phone). It uses wi-fi to connect. I got in one of the upcoming “waves” hopefully in time for when our contract expires in July.

              • Mr. Money Mustache April 28, 2012, 6:47 am

                I’ve definitely checked out Republic Wireless. And signed up for the waiting list, and tried to send a direct email as Mr. Money Mustache just in case it would help me sneak in. But their beta program is still closed as of April 2012. May it open soon and may all hell break loose on the US cell industry! :-)

            • Elizabeth August 29, 2012, 1:36 pm

              You get a basic flip-phone with prepay, then you get an iPod Touch. It’s exactly the same except without the cell coverage. And since wifi is getting more and more ubiquitous, most of the time you have a smart “phone” without paying for any kind of data plan ever.

    • B August 22, 2011, 12:10 pm

      Check out Page Plus. They run on the verizon network. I have managed to convert 4 people to their service.

  • Jason August 22, 2011, 10:57 am

    I’ve used Google Voice as well, while the text feature is nice, it seems to have a noticeable delay at times vs. regular texting on my Verizon iPhone 4. Not sure if this is related to cell coverage, or it being not a ‘native’ app on the device, and not as well integrated. MMM – have you found your texts to be quick and easy?

    • MMM August 22, 2011, 12:19 pm

      Yeah, no problems so far with texts, although if you are in a non-wifi area you might incur delays from slow data transmission – since the Google Voice app is using regular internet access to send your texts, while native cell-company texting apparently uses a slightly different path for the data.

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple August 22, 2011, 11:28 am

    Executioner is totally right about how bad cell phone calls sound. Really bad. We still have a land line at $20 a month for a pretty simple reason: we live in a dead zone. On the side of a hill, we get very poor cell service. If we forget to turn our (prepaid, 25 cent a minute) cell phones off when we get home, they will be dead the next morning, from searching for a signal all night long.

    My spouse wishes for a Smart Phone. He’s pretty tech savvy, and the best deal he has found for a family plan is $160/month for the Iphone. That would be assuming that the Verizon option would have better coverage at the house than ATT. (We can get a signal across the street.) I definitely see the usefulness for my friends…everything in one! Any my coworkers really want me to get one. But truth be told, if my company or his company want me to have a smart phone, they can buy me one.

    If we ever succumb, we’ll keep google voice in mind.

    I’m a dinosaur, and I know it.

    • MMM August 22, 2011, 12:26 pm

      Hi Marcia – just for fun, how about this high-tech alternative:
      – drop the landline in favor of $4 VoIP service while at home (see Executioner’s comment)
      – prepaid Android T-mobile smart phone at 10 cents/minute as Steve mentioned above
      – use Google Voice as the number you give out to automatically route incoming calls to your new “land” phone if you are home, or your mobile if you are away.

      Benefits: lower monthly cost pays for your smartphone within one year.

      – or if you really want all-in-one fun, route calls to Android voIP app running on your phone over wi-fi while you are at home, and your standard prepaid number while you are out. Then you always have perfect telephone reception while at home, because you are using wi-fi!

  • bryceb04 August 22, 2011, 11:53 am

    If you don’t want to get a high minute plan, there are options to make VOIP calls using your cell provider’s data, or wifi. They exist for the iPhone as well as Android phones. A google search can come up with many options as well as step-by-step directions to get them set up. I know of GrooveIP for Android that works ok.
    Also with Google Voice, if you’re at your computer (with headset, preferably), you can make a call through Gmail that sends your GV number as the caller ID.
    There are many options to not use cell minutes that you can dial down your monthly charges if you can leverage technology effectively.

  • Kevin M August 22, 2011, 12:23 pm

    Good intro to Google Voice, MMM. I have yet to check it out but am thinking about setting up a number when my side biz is big enough to justify.

  • Kevin M August 22, 2011, 12:24 pm

    I forgot, what do you pay for your iPhone plan? My wife and I currently pay $70 ($95 after taxes, fees and additional overcharges) for a 700 minute/unlimited mobile 2 mobile plan w/AT&T. A smartphone would sure be handy though.

  • Ryan August 22, 2011, 12:46 pm

    How timely. I’ve went over my text allowances the last few bills (I’m still grandfathered in on the $5/200 per month plan), but I didn’t want to pay extra for the few more texts that I would need (I’d never use 1000). Low and behold, I’ve had a Google voice number for a while now, but I didn’t realize I could text for free with it until I started researching messaging alternatives online last week. Needless to say, my overage problem is solved (and the monthly charges stay the same).
    I may not have my “stash” yet, but moves like these help the “peach fuzz” get thicker every day.

  • Heidi August 22, 2011, 1:02 pm

    Another landline user here. We switched back 2 years ago and love it. It does have great reception but our loyalty is gained by the simplicity. We never have to remember to bring our phone with us, turn off the ringer, charge it up, decide to answer or ignore, etc… Simplicity that helps us focus.

    That said, it may be more economical to cancel our service and go with Ooma.

  • Bakari Kafele August 22, 2011, 3:54 pm

    Note for those who are considering switching: You can’t use Google Voice with T-Mobile Prepaid (well, you can, but you lose some functionality – specifically, you can’t get calls to your original number forwarded to Google Voice for transcription and forwarding to email.
    Any other prepaid besides t-mobile will let you do this.

    Also, you don’t have to have a smart phone to get all the benefits of Google Voice.

    I started out with GTE over a decade ago. $25 a month for 300 minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited nights and weekends, nights started at 7pm, if a call was dropped you were automatically credited 1 minute, and unused minutes were rolled over to the next month, all on a dual digital analog network, giving them great reception in the city, but coverage where ever in the boondocks you traveled.
    Then Verizon bought them…

    All of that is gone now. As soon as my contract is up, I’m switching to PagePlus prepaid plan.
    I use Google Voice for 90% of my calls now anyway – I even got to pick a “vanity” number relevant to my business (306-HAUL).
    Any time I’m on my email and someone calls me, my email “rings” as if it were a voice chat.
    When my email, cell phone, and house phone all start ringing at once, it always reminds me of Ryan Howard’s “WUPHF”

  • Chris O. August 22, 2011, 6:53 pm

    Don’t forget to add your Google Voice number to your “free call” list… The first month I switched to GV my bill went way up (and I felt like an idiot). All of my free Verizon to Verizon calls were no longer free because they were being routed through Google first. I added my Google Voice number to my “free 5” the next month and that fixed the issue. Love it now!

  • poorplayer August 24, 2011, 10:23 am

    Another way to eliminate some cost is through “family plans.” You don’t really have to be a family, so if you get three or so people together to have one plan you can get three phones on one bill, with two phones being $9.99. Of course, you have to agree to split the bill and then make sure you pay your share on time and be responsible. Our family has five phone numbers on one plan with one phone being a “smartphone” with a data plan, and we have enough minutes and enough “free” numbers listed for each plan that it works out to about $37/month per phone. I think I should actually go down in minutes soon as well. I also get an additional 19% because I am a state employee.

  • herbert salisbury August 24, 2011, 12:13 pm

    Here’s what I get when I try to use google voice in Canada:

    Google Voice is not available in your country.
    Thanks for visiting Google Voice. We’re not yet open for users outside the US, but are planning to expand our service to additional countries in the future.

    • MMM August 24, 2011, 3:19 pm

      That is tragic. But I can see how it might take google a while to set up an equivalent pool of free local phone numbers in other countries. You could probably find a free texting app that works in Canada, too.

    • Jennifer August 30, 2011, 8:34 pm

      I just received the same message. I hope we get this in Canada soon!

    • Jodie October 20, 2012, 6:17 pm

      I didn’t see this comment until after trying very hard to figure out how to get google voice to send text messages here in Canada. I came back to this post so I could share that it’s not available here. Sadly, I have searched high and low and I CANNOT find a texting equivalent.

      We own a pay as you go phone and spend about $10 per month on it (and the phone must be close to ten years old…). What I really would like is to be able to communicate with my friends via text. If any Canadians read this and have found a free texting service, PLEASE share it. :)

  • Katie August 29, 2011, 1:17 pm

    When you make a phone call from any of the phones to which your Google Voice number is forwarded, what shows up on the receiver’s caller ID? I think it would be confusing if it’s not your Google Voice number, and from what I read it seems like it isn’t.

    • MMM August 29, 2011, 5:09 pm

      No worries, it IS your Google Voice number if you desire it to be so (a setting in the website control panel) – I’ve tested it myself using another phone, and all the people I call also report that they are seeing the correct caller ID.

      • Katie August 30, 2011, 5:18 pm

        Thanks for the info! How does this work for things like carriers that offer unlimited calling to other mobile numbers in their network? For example, if I set my Google Voice number to show up as the number to pop up on caller ID, does that mean my call is routing through Google Voice, even if it is coming directly from my, say AT&T cell phone? So that if I call someone else on the AT&T network, it counts against my minutes even though AT&T mobile to mobile calls are normally free? Or someone else on the AT&T network calls my Google Voice number, and I take the call on my cell phone, this also counts against my minutes?

        I only ask because, as someone with no land line, I rack up a lot of mobile to mobile and intra-family plan calling minutes, and if all of these starting counting against my monthly minutes, it would end up costing me more. On the other hand, having a different number just for texting (my other option) could also end up costing money, if people frequently forget and text my actual mobile number, since it’s also in their phones as my number to call. Do my questions make sense?

  • Ryan September 1, 2011, 11:47 pm

    Only major problem with this service is that google voice can’t receive picture messages or any MMS. :(

  • Ellie October 11, 2011, 6:05 am

    I am aiming to be the first GoogleVoice customer in Australia…. Although no doubt when they finally do launch it here, there will be some sort of initial ‘invite-only’ period! May yet be hitting you up for an invite, MMM.

    By the way, I must have just read 40+ of your blog posts. Feels like listening to mySELF lecture people! I love it :-)

  • Tanner January 27, 2012, 4:21 pm

    Add a Obi device http://obihai.com/ with your google voice and you have a free landline using your old phones. It works great.

    Although obi’s iphone app has lots of issues and I have never been able to get it to run correctly. There are other alternatives for iphones. I hear latest android phones have google voice built into the integration of the phone so you don’t even need cell service. You can call straight from wifi or a data plan.

    I can’t believe how much local companies are charging for landlines. It’s highway robbery.

  • CanuckExpat March 21, 2012, 12:44 pm

    Don’t forget, once you have the appropriate app on your smart phone, you can also make calls from your phone using your Google Voice number for free whenever you have WiFi and not pay for extra (or unlimitied) minutes

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 21, 2012, 1:24 pm

      Thanks for the tip, Canuck.. do you happen to know if this is only on Android and other Google-friendly phones? When I use Google Voice to make calls from my iPhone, I find I am still using the regular telephone network (and thus using phone plan minutes). When calling from the computer, the calls are totally free.

  • CanuckExpat March 21, 2012, 1:29 pm

    There is a popular app for Android that does this (whose name escapes me at the moment).
    The iPhone equivalent that seems to work is Talkatone: http://www.talkatone.com/
    Some details here: http://lifehacker.com/5708078/talktatone-makes-free-google-voicegmail-voip-calls-on-your-iphone

  • FrancisO July 29, 2012, 8:32 pm

    I just recently cut my AT&T service for my iPhone. Was spending $96/month. Since I’m back in school and spend 95% of my week either their, home, or at the parents I realized I’m on wifi almost all the time. I got the Pinger app for friends that aren’t on iOS for texting. I signed up with Skype for a year of calling for $30 and that gives a 50% discount on getting a phone number through them for a year. So now for less than $61/year I can call and text all I want as long as I’m on wifi. Savings of $1091/year!!! How’s that for my first post?

  • Ruth September 12, 2012, 9:15 pm

    I am a professional and have an active social life, and I have never had a cell phone. Just wanted to say that in case there are others like me or considering chucking the whole always-connected lifestyle. I feel more connected to the world around me because I don’t have a cell phone, and I like that friends have to show up when and where we agreed to meet.

  • Nick September 17, 2012, 9:20 am

    It’s been a while since you wrote this article, but I’ll comment anyway. I pay $0 per month and have a fully functional land line at home and usually-functional smart-phone in my pocket. Of course, I’m using google voice which gives me free texting on wifi networks, and forwards to my phones at home and work.

    I know the article pointed all that out, but the extra mile I’ve gone, however, is to buy a box called the Obi-100. One-time purchase of $40 and it’s a free land-line that’s tied in with my google voice account. Similar to the Ooma box, but no monthly tax. Also similar to the magic jack, but no yearly fee.

    MMM, if you’re still paying anything for phone service, you should check it out. And no, I don’t have any financial interest in the company, I just like the product that I’ve had for about 6 months now. If you do get one, the new obi-202 looks pretty sweet, although it’s a little more money up front.

  • Matt September 18, 2012, 12:51 pm

    I’ve wanted to try the Obi but I’ve heard it’s buggy. I’m currently trying to get my cell phone lined up for mustache growth. But WRT landlines…

    – Look up SIP service providers. SIP is a standard protocol for VOIP where you connect a device to a server. There are some SIP providers which give you a number with free incoming calls, and others which give you free outgoing calls to 800 numbers. This can work with a device like the Linksys PAP2T-NA to connect into your regular phones, or it can work with a VOIP phone (I picked up a Cisco for my work from home setup).

    – If you have a Ooma, or PAP2T, or another device which converts VOIP into a regular phone setup, you can use the existing phone wiring in your house. Unlike network wiring, phones are just a plain two wire circuit with all devices in parallel. So you can do this in two steps… 1. Make sure the wiring in your home is not connected to a phone company circuit. Easiest way here is to find the box on the outside of your house and unplug the wire disconnecting your home wiring from the phone company wiring. 2. Connect the Ooma or other device to any phone jack. 3. Enjoy a cheap/free dial tone anywhere in your house.

  • blissing January 30, 2013, 10:03 pm

    I must be old or something, but one major reason to keep a landline is that all your digital and cellular phone lines will be dead if there’s a power failure. Landlines *may* die, too, but there’s a chance they won’t.

    I have heard that if cellular lines are down, texting will often work. Payphones often work if landlines are down but good luck finding one!

    Of course, if only one neighbor has a landline, you’re probably OK.

    –Blissing in earthquake country

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 31, 2013, 6:20 am

      Cell towers are pretty well backed up with battery banks – they don’t just go off every time their local grid has have a power failure. Plus if you have cable internet access, that usually keeps working in the event of power failures too (I have my cable modem and wi-fi router on a uninterruptible power supply so they keep my internet access up if AC power is lost).

      Land lines are awfully expensive considering the tiny number of situations that they would actually be needed.

      • Greg February 6, 2013, 1:13 pm

        I think she meant to say “power failure due to earthquake”. We are near the ready-to-pop Hayward Fault. My understanding is that it is NOT the lack of power to cell towers which will kill cell service after a major earthquake. It is the sudden mis-aligning of the microwave dishes, due to violent shaking, which will knock cell service out, I think.
        Disaster-preparedness & planning gurus from three different agencies (two municipalities, one federal) have told me that one should keep an old-school analog telephone in the house here in earthquake country. After a big earthquake, I am told, one plugs in the analog phone to a wall jack, assigns someone to hold the reciever to his/her ear, and simply waits. It may be minutes, it may be hours, but there will be a dial tone and voice communications — LONG before cell service is restored.
        Of course, this requires having a subscribed land-line service.

        • Katherine February 11, 2014, 5:54 pm

          That is the main argument to have a landline – emergencies. What if your mobile wasn’t charged? Though the number of days I forget to charge my phone each year is zero. Last time I called the emergency services I actually used my mobile so that I wouldn’t be tied to the corded phone and could give the emergency services the best information.

          In a civil defence type emergency, a landline won’t do you much good as the emergency services will be swamped anyway (depending what area you live in and the magnitude of the emergency). That is why all civil defence agencies recommend you have enough food, water, blankets, medical supplies etc to last you at least 3 days, and have a plan to meet your family members in case you are not all home. And a battery powered radio. In the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand recently the experience was that people were getting information and contacting family primarily through txting (which is cheaper here than in the US I understand) and the internet. Phone lines were clogged with too many people using them, regardless of whether it was from a landline.

          • Amanda M. September 10, 2014, 3:27 pm

            As of 2011 in North Dakota, all of the land line phones are digital. One of the (uncommunicated) drawbacks to this was the phones died when the power went out (corded phone). My friend is a nurse who is on call sometimes, and she decided to cancel shortly after the first power outage after the change, when she tried to call from her trusty phone and it was dead. Hopefully this issue was changed with upgrades, but they lost a lot of customers over that conversion.

  • J.Two June 7, 2013, 6:56 pm

    Love the subject line of your text! After 10 years straight, and almost all of the last fifteen years and WADS of $$$, I’ve kicked ATT to the curb, FOREVER. After faithfully paying all of this time, with very low interaction/costs with ATT (besides faithfully giving them money month in and month out), a rude, self-righteous, despicable manager with ATT dismissed me as being “unprofitable”, after spending all of that money with them. I will never give ATT another cent; how profitable do you like me know, biatch???

    Another HUGE vote for Obi from home (with $1/month 911 service if you need it), google voice, and WAY less cell/data usage with wifi networks -so a prepaid plan works perfectly.

    Aside: yep, I’m reading all of the posts from the very beginning; thank you so much for this site, MMM!!!

  • Parfait November 16, 2013, 11:38 am

    I’ve been a dedicated google voice user for a long time, but I have had to abandon it recently. Texts have started to not go through, or to not go through for several hours. i’m using Hangouts and Voxer with my Android-using friends, iMessage with my iPhone using friends, and plain vanilla SMS with others.

  • aleksandar November 20, 2014, 3:46 pm

    one word: VIBER!


Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname
(not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers – after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won’t make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!


welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets