Getting Rid of Landline and Going Wireless, the Pros and Cons

After my customer service fiasco turned victory yesterday, my husband asked me why we keep our land line with Qwest. We both have cell phones, and neither one of us really gab on the phone very much. I talk to my mom and my brother the most, but nearly always on the weekend. And when I call my brother, I use my cell phone anyway, because we don’t have long distance on our land line.

So why do I keep the land line? It basically comes down to four things.

  1. The ability of 911 to trace the call, should my kids have to call.
  2. That my daughter is getting to be the age where she talks to her friends on the phone…a lot.
  3. That I worry I’ll forget to charge my phone and have no phone access when I need it.
  4. That the kids will be at home without a phone, should my husband and I ever need to be out of the house at different locations. (Otherwise we’d leave one of our phones home).

Forgetting to charge my phone could be overcome, if I set up a routine for charging the phone. That’s not a make or break reason.

We could use Skype as a home phone. I use Skype already for calling in to host Frugal Coast2Coast, and I like the service, so I think I could be comfortable with issue #4. Both of my kids are pretty computer savvy.

That leaves reasons one and two. So here are my questions for you all today. If you have dropped your landline, are you comfortable with the fact that 911 won’t know your exact location? Or are 911 call centers getting better about dealing with cell phones? I would think this service would improve as more and more people turn wireless.

And then there’s my daughter. She’s 11 years old, and I had always said I wouldn’t get her a cell phone until she was in high school. However, I wouldn’t want her friends constantly calling my cell phone. We could use Skype. Or I could get her a basic phone. How young is too young for a cell? Have any of you with tweens dropped the landline? What’s your solution?

And finally, as I check this out, are there things I should keep in mind? I know I’ll have to stay with AT&T Wireless, as that’s basically the only company that has good reception in our area. And we’ve been happy customers for quite a while. They’re a little more expensive than other plans, but less expensive plans aren’t worth it, if I can’t get service at my house!

Do you have any advice for me? I’m not even sure I can do this yet, or that I want to. But I’m pondering the idea.

Photo by krasi.


By , on Feb 19, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Dana:

    With young ones in the house, a landline is always a good bet. Beware when the day comes that you give your teens a cell phone. Lay down the law up front. I’m stunned at how mnay people continue to upgrade their mobile phone packages so their teens won’t go over in minutes. Ultimately, the mobile phone are a line from parent to child- NOT the necessity our children make them out to be.

  2. I don’t have a landline either.I haven’t had one in 3 years. However, we don’t have kids either. I like the fact that someone can either call my phone or my husband’s phone to look for either one of us if we don’t hear our cells. I also like the fact that when someone is actually looking for me, they would call my phone, so we don’t have to bother guessing who the person on the other line is looking for.

    to Kim regarding internet: Verizon offers dryloop (DSL without a phoneline). It costs about $5 extra month, vs. the extra who knows how much if I had a landline.

  3. Eric:

    I agree with Samatha on this one, which is why we still have a land line. Several years ago a tornado tore up a lot of my home time. My wife is a nurse at a hospital and was working that day. We only had our cell phones but her parents had a land line. She was not able to get a hold of me but was able to contact her parents. Soon after that, we got a land line as well, just to be sure. It was actually a good thing because a couple of years later another tornado came though, although not quite as close.

    While the chances of that happening a third time are pretty slim, we will keep our land line just in case.

  4. Meg:

    My husband and I just have our cell phones. 911 can trace them pretty well if need be but I’d like to think that someone could tell them our address, so we’re not worried.

    During a hurricane, we lost our land line and we didn’t miss it even though it took over a month to be reconnected. The only people who called us on it were telemarketers and political messages, so we just got rid of it.

    We both have Sprint. My husband has unlimited calling for work. I have 450 minutes which I barely use half of (though I use my unlimited text & web). I have free Sprint-to-Sprint calls, plus weekends and nights after 7pm.

    It might be different if we had kids, but you can give them an old cell phone without a service plan to call 911 with. It’ll still work for 911. And if they want to talk to friends at home, there is all sorts of voice messaging online. Nearly a decade ago I was using Yahoo! Messenger to “call” my then boyfriend for free. I’m sure things have come a long way since, lol.

  5. Julie:

    We didn’t have a landline for 3 years and never missed it. Now, however, we have a son and my aunt watches him at our home during the day. She does not have a cell and since we both work about an hour’s drive from home, we feel like we should have our cells with us so we got the landline. I think we’re going to just get an extra cell line (only costs $15/month plus the one time cost of a cheap phone) so I can get in touch with them when she’s out with my kiddo.

    The how young is too young for a phone is a huge and different discussion. I teach 8th grade and I feel compelled anytime I have the opportunity to say no teenager needs a phone that can take pictures and/or video. Even for parents of responsible children I have seen things come across on cell phones that other kids haven’t asked to have sent to them that are beyond inappropriate. However, I do understand that cell phones can be a measure of safety and I don’t have issues with kids having just simple cell phones they can use for talking. We will probably keep the extra “house” cell phone for our son to use during his elementary school years. Not so he can carry it every day and talk to his little friends, but so he can have it when he’s with someone other than myself or my husband (many times he’s with my granny who doesn’t have a phone and I would feel better with him having one).

    My husband’s coworker has a rule that his daughter’s phone and laptop have to be on the kitchen table and turned off by 8:30pm every night. That is a man who loves his kid. Just a few thoughts…

  6. Lynnae:

    LOL I had no idea Skype would tell you how long you’ve been on the phone. I love it!

    And I’m really thankful for those of you who have experience with middle-schoolers and cell phones. Especially from a teacher’s perspective. I can see where cell phones in class would be a nightmare. I tend to be a strict parent (according to my daughter), and would have no trouble backing a teacher up, if my kids ever abused the cell phone privilege.

    I also love the laptop and cell phone on the counter by 8:30 rule. If we decide to get a cell phone for my daughter, I’m definitely implementing that rule! Brilliant!

  7. We’re a cellphone only family. Our kids are 5 and 4 (close enough to 4), and when they start wanting to make phone calls, we’ll consider just adding them to our plan, as it’s cheaper to add them than to have a landline that only gets used when telemarketers call. After the Do Not Call list, not even then. Considering they have the Firefly or whatever phone that only lets 5 numbers call and be called, it would keep them from calling people you didn’t want them calling.
    Also, most phones have the GPS tracking in them, so they’re able to find you that way.

  8. Liz:

    We have been completely wireless for over 3 years. My children are grown so I don’t have to deal with that issue Our decision to go wireless was based on the fact that our phone would go days without ringing and I couldn’t see paying for something that wasn’t being used. We have never had any problems but then again I have never had to call 911.
    As to the question of tweens having cell phones-I substitute at a middle school. I would say that at least 80% of the students have cell phones. I am not sure how I feel about this. I understand that parents want their children to be able to contact them at any time but then there are the students that are trying to be sneaky and text their friends during class. The rule is that if a student’s phone is seen or heard during school hours it will be taken up and the parent’s have to come and pay a $15 fine to get it back. The second time it is taken up it is kept until the end of the school year. I am sure that there are unhappy parents when they find out that their child’s phone is unusable (due to their child’s choices) until the end of the school year.

  9. Sandra:

    We are a cell phone only family. We have 3 kids (2, 6, and 8). It was hard for me to go to cell only, mostly b/c I didn’t to give up my land number that had come with us even when we moved 3 times in the same county. It was our very first phone # after marriage *snif*! BUT, when God moved us to TX and I couldn’t take my VA number with us .. hubby convinced me to become a cell only family. I have a set charging time every night, and after one or two times of being dead or late payment *blush* I make sure everything is taken care of. :-) I try to keep it in it’s charging place when I’m at home and the kids know where that is, JIC something should happen to me while I’m at home, ya know.

    GL in your decision.

  10. John:

    Lynnae – Not sure if anyone mentioned this yet, but AT&T and Verizon offer corporate discounts on their cell phone plans. I get a discount just for being associated with the US Military. I think The Consumerist pointed me toward the Verizon discount. Hope this helps and congrats on the success of your EECB with DirecTV.

  11. We have been using our cell phones for 7 years now and I have only had one “learning experience”. December 2007 we had ice storms and were without power for almost 10 days. I have a tower withing a half a mile from my house so I was okay… as long as a placed the phone a certain way, used it on speaker and made sure the dog didn’t bump it when she was wondering where the person was! The tower has power, just not as much as normal so there was a signal, just a weaker signal. The phones that we had just gotten were a little cheaper phone and we live in a metal home so that had a bit to do with it I am sure. We have since upgraded and gotten better phones through AT&T and haven’t had a problem. We lost power about a week ago and the hubby was laughing at me and I was running around excited about the fact that I had awesome service. I still wouldn’t change my choice of going totally wireless since we are saving quite a bit while sharing minutes. That is just my opinion and my story! It is also nice since hubbys great grandmother is ailing, she can call one of us and get us the first time!

  12. For the kids you can do even better than the $10 per month add on. Our kids have a Virgin Wireless. You have to put $20 on it every 3 months…and you don’t lose what you don’t use in that time..but you do have to add the $20.

    The advantage of this is that you don’t get caught with a surprise texting or internet usage bill when they sneak to break the rules. You can’t lose any more than is already on the phone. And if they lose the phone you don’t run the risk of a financial hit unless you do automatic top up – which we don’t.

    Also, I saw someone that said their kids dont use the cell. That is the complete opposite of what I see (as a mom to 3 and as a Girl Scout leader and other volunteer positions). The disadvantage to cell phone use is that the kids will sit in a group and play with their cell instead of interact with others. Its rude. Another good reason for a pay as you go…you have control of the amount of time they are on it as they will burn the minutes fast if they are using it for anything other than contacting mom and dad or a quick call from a friend for a specific purpose.

    You can also pick up the phone starting at $10…and if they lose it you can replace it for another $10 without worrying about whether you are eligible for another free phone from your company. There are no contracts.

  13. Kim:

    Let me show my ignorance but how would you get internet service if you don’t have a landline. I don’t have cable access because I live so far off the road and satellite internet service is really expensive. Are there any other alternatives?

  14. Kristen:

    I wanted to go completely wireless. When I lived along I only had a mobile phone. However, my husband (who is a police officer) is worried about the 911 thing. He insisted on putting a landline phone downstairs and one next to the bed upstairs so that I can call quickly if something were to happen when he’s not there. In over two years I think I’ve actually used the landline phone about four times.

  15. Eddie:

    A majority of tweens I see from friends and family have a cellphone through a family plan and rarely use it. They communicate through the internet with IMing.

  16. blossomteacher:

    DH and I are wireless, but I know that when I have kiddos, I will want a land line back. I am terrible about charging my phone, and even with a habit established, I’d hate to think of something happening and not being able to grab a phone and dial 911.

  17. Samatha:

    Another disadvantage to consider: during a wide-area emergency, cell phones and computer-based services may both be knocked out of service for several hours to the entire duration of the emergency. During Hurricane Ike, most people here in Houston could not make cell phone calls at all. Either the towers themselves were damaged, or the central servers and power supply was down. The few remaining cell companies actually live were soon swamped with call volume.

    Additionally, my handicapped friend had a landline, but a phone that did not ring without additional power from the wall plug. She could call me but did not know when I was returning her call. I finally had to put a voice mail on my phone explaining. An old mechanical ringer landline phone is now on my list of next-hurricane emergency preparedness gear.

    I don’t know if your area is subject to large-area natural disasters or emergencies, but it is something to consider.

  18. I came here to say what Elizabeth said about the 911 calls. So if you’re hanging on to your landline for that, you can probably get rid of it. Check with your phone company first, of course.

  19. Brian:

    Well, if you have AT&T, you could add another line for like 10 bucks a month, right? Then, this could be the “stay at home” cell phone or act as a landline. This would have the added bonus of being able to track your child’s usage, time, numbers, etc with the billing. As someone who’s been landline free for about 3 years, I don’t actually miss it at all. I always have my “home” phone with me. The only minor annoyance is when you give people your information on medical forms, etc because you only have a cell, some people look at you like you have a third eye…=+)

    Though, I think Skype is a reasonable alternative. Though I think the down side of using an internet based approach is that you have to have electricity to make it work, right? (the computer part at least). At lesat with a cell phone, as long as it’s charged you’re good to go. (you could do something like always plug it in a dinner, etc)

    That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.

  20. trek:

    I don’t think tweens need cell phones.
    Also, a cell phone conversation can be “overheard” without a wiretap as the signal is sent “in the clear”. We never give out sensitive information (like a credit card number) over the cell.

  21. Lynnae:

    Good points, everyone.

    @Brian, yes it would only be another $10 a month for another line, so I could use a cell as a “home phone” to be at home. I kind of like that idea.

    @Samantha, my area doesn’t get many area wide emergencies. The last one was in 1997 when there was a flood, and phone service mostly worked, except for the areas most affected. But you didn’t have to go far to find a phone that worked.

    Plus, my experience has been that landlines can have problems when there are major disasters too. I was in college in San Diego during the San Francisco earthquake in 1989. I had friends who had to wait days to find out if their parents were OK, because nobody in the San Fran area could make phone calls.

    I’m still thinking about this.

  22. HisHersMoney:

    I think if you have kids you probably need a land line, mostly for all the reasons you listed above.

  23. Elizabeth Shepherd:

    Most people don’t know this but in most places, even a landline that is disconnected will allow you to call 911. We just moved and made the decision to go cell phone only. We plugged in an old non-cordless phone just to check and the recording informed us that “this line may only be used to make 911 calls”. I would check with your phone company.

  24. Adam:

    I didn’t see anyone mention VOIP lines. I am assuming you have a high speed internet connection because you mentioned skype. We actually have two VOIP lines. One for business and one for home use and they both work great. We use a company out of Oklahoma called VOIPYourLife and they are wonderful. They send you a little linksys voip box that you plug into your router and then into your phone jack. Then you use your regular telephones as normal.

    People like Vonage have given VOIP a bad name. I have sent the voip guys a question via email on a Saturday and had an answer in 10 minutes.

  25. We recently got rid of our landline and replaced it with MagicJack, which has full 911 capability in our area. We pay $19.95 for a FULL YEAR of local and long-distance. We paid for two years in advance, so between the service ($19.95) and the jack itself, we’re paying $60 for two full years of phone service. We simply plug the jack into our computer, and plug the phone into the jack. The only negative is that it REALLY puts a drain on the computer and slows it down, so we are looking into setting up one of our old computers to JUST run MagicJack and use the main computer for everything else.

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