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.



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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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{64 Comments}

  1. sameer:

    911 will know where you are if you have Skype…at least they do in Austin. I accidentally dialed 911 once on Skype (didn’t quite realizing that I did) and a cop showed up at my place in a few minutes to check on me.

    Sameer

  2. Lynnae:

    Jen, that is so scary! And that’s just the kind of thing I worry about. I think for now we’ve decided to keep the landline. When my youngest is a bit older, we may revisit this decision, but for now, keeping it seems to be the way to go.

  3. Jen:

    I’ve had to call 911 before when my 7 week old baby stopped breathing. It was a crazy experience and I had a hard time communicating with the 911 operator because I was in shock. I am all about saving money, but because of this experience I will keep my land line.

  4. jen:

    Thanks for the post! I’ve been completely wireless for five years now and have not had any problems with it, even during emergencies. Yes, it is difficult to contact people during a national crisis, but wouldn’t it be difficult to get through anyway with all the phone lines being busy? I had a landline during 9/11 and couldn’t get through to any family members that entire day. My entire family and most of my friends are on Verizon (no, this is not a commercial, haha) so I’m able to have the lowest of the low plans and still have tons of minutes left over. I think skype is a great option for your daughter if she wants to talk on the phone with her friends. I use it to talk to my friends overseas which saves a ton of money on phone cards. :)

  5. I don’t think I could ever go without a home phone. When my cell phone rings now, I know it’s an important call. When my home phone rings, I never know what to expect. Most of the time it’s a spam call – even though I’m on the do not call list.
    I hate when I’m out with a friend and their cell phone rings and they sit there talking on their phone or I’m at a store and someone is walking around chatting it up on their phone. If I only had my cell phone, it would be ringing off the hook and I’m afraid that I would be like those that I dislike at the stores.

  6. We dumped the landline almost a year ago– aside faxes, no problems.

    I have considered Skyppe, but no rush.

  7. Priscilla:

    We have DSL, home phone/landline and national wide/unlimited calling (last month $76 included the taxes/fees). Then we have 1 prepaid cell phone (virgin mobile…expensive per minute but we don’t use it much), $20 every 3 mo. Basically need it for the months my hubby is on call. It is also nice to have if we go out on date & the children need to reach us. We went with the prepaid after being locked into a 2 yr/monthly $50 plan for 2 phones…we didn’t use much as others didn’t call us often. We don’t have cable, satellite tv or any TV that costs us monthly. I say all that to give a little history of our phone useage.

    I rather talk on a landline phone. I have a more comfortable headseat for my cordless phone. I don’t like the little bitty cell phone…too small to hold for an extended amount of time (tires my hand/wrist). Plus the cell phone heats up…I don’t know ‘if’ it is proven or not but isn’t there a concern that a cell phone could cause cancer? or a tumor?

    We have extended family who have gone to cell phone only…I don’t like it as they don’t get very good reception/quality of call/connection not as good as the old landline they had. Seems like we don’t talk as often. I also don’t like to call during the day as I don’t want to run them over their monthly minutes. It is also a little irritating to have to ask ‘if’ they are home. If they are at the store/restaurant/out in public…I’d rather not be talking personal matters then.

    Cell phone calls can get dropped…that doesn’t happen with a landline.

  8. Erin:

    Lynnae, we have Qwest and we’re dumping the whole thing the first week of April (when my final bundled commitment is up!)…no DirecTV, no cell phone through them, no land line, and no DSL. We’re switching to Comcast for Internet and taking advantage of the plans they are offering to get everyone to sign up now that analog signals are going away. Because my husband wants more than basic speed, we’re going to be paying roughly $40month for internet and very basic cable, which will allow us to do Vonage and TracFone. My oldest has had a TracFone for 2 years and loves it and the problems most parents have with cell phone usage goes away when the kids themselves are in charge of the money! (We gave a very basic amount and anything else he had to add out of his own money.) By my calculation (since I’m not a chatter box on the phone) my cell phone will end up costing me $12.50 month for the first year and that included the price of the phone.

  9. We should really consider getting rid of our land line as well. I would say the majority of inbound calls are all telemarketers and we can get decent cell reception in our home. I guess we keep it out of habit.

  10. lisette:

    We have been just wireless for several years. But either dh or I are with the kids at all times so we have no probs there. We bought the magicjack but have had nothing but problems with it. It won’t ring and I’ve tried 2 different phones and it won’t let me dial using the phone – I have to do it on the computer. So we haven’t used it much. Plus my mom said it was hard to hear when I called.

  11. Marci:

    Being in Rural windy Oregon, I would recommend not only a landline, but a non-electric landline – one that will work even when the power is out. We have gone literal a week here more than once with no cell phone capability. While we have lost long distance also, we usually have local calling available on landlines. In a home with kids, I just would not be without the basic old-fashioned landline.

    Cell phones for kids… My granddaughter got one at age 7 – a kid phone that could only call 4 preprogrammed numbers – all family members. Special circumstances tho – to keep in touch with Mom always, as their Mom has to work some nights while the kids are with other relatives, and to text to Mom while she is in college classes sometimes. I would think any child in afterschool activities would benefit from a preprogrammed cell phone. The school phones are not always available after school hours, and our old school did not have a pay phone available either.

  12. The thing that would keep me from doing it now is my concern for my children. Otherwise I would let it go. I actually just dropped my home line and have not missed it one bit. I have worked around not having unlimited minutes like I had with my Verizon landline by calling my friends cell phones, most of which have the same wireless provider I do.

  13. TSP:

    We’ve been wireless for about seven, maybe eight years. When we first changed we were given so much grief by people. We were “weird” for it. lol Now more and more people are going this route and ask for our advice. :)

    We have five lines with one being a dedicated “home” phone. It never leaves the house and sits next to it’s charger. We use it for our home business, giving out to doctors, stores etc. Anyone we wouldn’t want to have our personal cell number. Which works great for us.

    We have never missed the landline and it saves us about $60 a month. I did have to call 911 a couple months ago and a sheriff’s deputy was at my door within 10 minutes. So I have no worries there. Not to mention we live two minutes from our police and fire department. We live in a rural area with great neighbors so if I had to use their landlines I know I could. That has never been necessary though.

    As for the children I have an 11 and 14 year old. Both have their own phone. Texting is disabled on all phones. My DH and I are the kind of people who don’t see the need to text or instant message. It’s easier to just pick up the phone and call. :) Not to mention it’s cheaper on the bill! lol Although the 14 yr old wants to text we remain a firm NO on that issue. We want them to learn communication skills that seem to be drifting into oblivion in our society. That is a whole other topic though.

    The kids phones have to be in my hands every night by 8:30 like the PP. (I charge all the phones in one spot every night. Everyone knows where they will be in the morning this way. I also look thru their phones to monitor calls for the day.) With all the after school activities I have found them to be very handy. Especially when the poms coach kept changing where the pickup location would be. But again that’s another story. lol The school does not allow them to be anywhere but off and in their locker during school. They confiscate if found on their person. My DH and I completely support the school in this. We’ve given the phones to the children for safety after school not during. The children understand and do respect the rules. (my kids are straight lacers they don’t like to get in trouble with the school) We go over the detailed bill every month together and they know if they cause the bill to go over they have to pay it. We incorporate this into our financial lessons with them. We want them to be aware of how to read a bill, look for errors and pay them. It also teaches them to be aware of how long they’re on the phone.

    The biggest piece of advice we always tell people who ask us about being wireless is to have mobile to mobile minutes and free incoming calls. It saves so much money because we keep our minutes plan really low that way. Most of the people I talk to for long amounts of time have unlimited calling plans so they don’t mind calling me right back to chat. Or they’re mobile to mobile minutes. In all these years we have never once gone over our monthly minutes. Not even close and we have 750 minutes between five phones. We use about 3500 a month though. That is the power of free incoming calls and m2m minutes. *smile*

    Now that you’ve read my novel I’ll say thanks for listening and I do believe cell phones for children is a very personal decision. I firmly believe it needs to be made on a child by child basis. What works for one family doesn’t for the next. So you do what you feel is best for yours and all will be well. Good luck to you!

  14. We feel the land line is important for all of the reasons you’ve stated. We have had (unfortunately) to call 911 several times for medical reasons. I am well known to often forget to charge my cell. And, if we lose electricity, the cell phone charger won’t work, but the land line will. And, in the case of an emergency, a cell isn’t always easy to locate, but the phone is. We no longer have long distance available on our land line, but we make all long distance call with our cells.
    Hope this is helpful to you.
    Liane

  15. Doug:

    For a land line I would go with VOIP. It is a cheap alternative to the local land line and 911 comes with it. I have AT&T CallVantage and MagicJack and they both offer 911. If I need to get rid of one it would be the CallVantage. I am keeping it only because it is able to handle my land line number I have had for 25. The number that if people need to get a hold of me/us they know how to do it. The disadvantages of VOIP are the requirement of a broadband connection, dsl or cable. A good read is a book “Home Energy Diet” which we have been using to save money on our monthly utilities. This last month we saved $58 over the same period in 2008 as a result of the practices is this book our computers are only on when in use. To use MagicJack and Skype both require the use of a computer to work which means leaving them on, another disadvantage of VOIP. Another disadvantage is faxes do not work well with VOIP. My favorite advantage is call screening followed by having calls find me. As my parents get up in age if they need to call me I want their call to reach me no matter where I am. Many more features all included in VOIP.

    I think as you are looking at this issue your decision all hinges on who you intend to use your phone service and how. In my house my wife uses the phone both local and long distance. Cheap is the choice with VOIP with 911 as secondary. I plug in my phone to the charger each day when I come home and it sits on the counter. It is the backup to any failure of VOIP and we need 911. 911 is only for medical emergencies, anything else I can leave the house if needed and get assistance.

    Thanks for listening, my finger are getting hoarse.

  16. AKS:

    We have had cell phones only for 6 years, and have had no problems. My son even has epilepsy and we aren’t concerned. We have lived in urban and suburban areas, so there are always people nearby if we need help.

    If you have Verizon in your area, they are considering a $5/month plan where you can receive unlimited calls but only outgoing calls are 911 and operator assist.

  17. Greg:

    Our POTS line is rock solid (and the technology is solid).

    An ice storm hit 3 years ago that knocked out power and cable for a week. Our land line was down a few mnutes.

  18. Lynnae:

    @Kacie – I called around this morning, and apparently the technology is not available for us to call 911 from a disconnected landline. Which isn’t surprising, because I live in a rural area.

    After looking at our phone records and phone usage patterns, I don’t think going completely to cell phones would be much more cost effective. If we went with Skype or Vonage, it might be more cost effective.

    I heard back from Qwest about my customer service issues this morning, though, so I’m no longer in a position of leaving Qwest in protest. I may keep the landline for a couple of years and decide to go cell phone only when my kids are a little older.

  19. Amy:

    I suppose things are way different than they were even 5 years ago (as far as cell phones and landlines) but when I was growing up, my mom would come after me and tell me to hang up, so I was always telling my friends, “Sorry, Mom’s making me go.” Granted, I had chores and stuff to do. Word is kids don’t do that anymore? Either way, I learned quickly to talk as long as one needed to talk to make plans so that we could talk more, ha ha. Shortly after I turned 18, I bought my own cell phone and cell phone plan, without telling my parents. And they had to deal with it and I paid the bills. I see the value in cell phones in grade/high school, because kids have after school activities and need to be picked up or whatever, but considering all that I’ve heard about the problems kids are having with cell phones (nude pics sent to one another, and I remember a very famous scandal about boys sneakily putting their phones underneath girls skirts and getting pictures of that), I would rather they not have them until they’re responsible enough to pay for them themselves (i. e. my experience).

    Now I live on my own, so I am totally wireless. I have an awesome plan, and every cell phone company gives you free mobile-to-mobile minutes if you’re talking with someone who also has their company. My advice (so not to contribute to the insanity), is to have the kids use the landline and limit their time until they can afford their own cell phone (or contribute to your bill, if you have a family plan). They’re social life won’t suffer – I promise.

  20. AngelSong:

    We do still have a landline (no children unless the grands are visiting), but I am strongly considering going wireless. The stopping point for me is that I sometimes need a phone to speak to a supervisor at my job (I work from home most of the week), and the information I have to share with the supervisor is confidential, so I am not at all comfortable using a cell for it.

  21. Lynnae:

    @Amy, I’m definitely concerned about pictures being taken and emailed, and I don’t think I’d give my kids access to a camera phone. That doesn’t stop other kids though.

    And I can see the value of cell phones for afterschool activities. Back when I was a kid, as long as you had a quarter, you could call home from a pay phone. And if you didn’t have a quarter, you could call collect, which wasn’t cheap, but wasn’t outrageous either.

    Now you can’t even use pay phones! You need more than a quarter, and heaven forbid you try to call collect, you’ll get charged $50 for a 3 minute call! But that’s a whole different post.

  22. I agree with Brian. We got rid of our landline a good 3 years ago. The 3rd phone is just always at home. Can’t beat it for $10 extra! Also, WHEN we decide to let our 13 yo have a phone, there will be a few rules. First of all, he’s got to pay for it ($10/mo plus any texting). Second, we’ve already turned off any web browsing capability. You can also block text messaging as well. Thirde, every night at bedtime, all cell phones will be “turned in” to mom and dad to charge in our room. We haven’t missed the landline, or the bill, one bit!

    Also, I do believe you can enable GPS tracking on your phone… wouldn’t that be helpful in case of an emergency? I also heard that google has some new thing you can put on your phone and at any time of the day, you can see (on a map) where that phone is. Another great thing to use on your kids!

  23. We don’t have a landline. But I imagine we’ll get one when we have kids – even young ones. I’d rather err on the side of being able to communicate.

  24. Looby:

    We’ve been cell phone and Skype only for over three years, although we don’t have any children.
    I agree with Elizabeth that you should see if you can still make 911 calls with a disconnected landline; I know in our area you can (although we don’t have one).
    Living without a phone seems much more peaceful; hardly any telemarketing calls.
    I also have a Skype In number, perhaps you could get your daughter that instead of a cell phone for a time? Mine is about $20 a year. Then she could call her friends or have them call her just as if you had a landline- bonus- she’ll see how long she has been on the phone and the cost on screen!

  25. Donna:

    I’m also having the battle of the early teen cell phone. I’m of the opinion that she doesn’t need her own cell until she’s driving (she’s 13). I let her use mine when she needs to go somewhere that she needs to call me to come get her but I think it’s such a waist of money for her to have her own phone just so she can play on it. My husband and I have our phone through our job so there’s no family plan to add to. It’s not like we couldn’t afford the phone it’s just that this is another example of keeping up with the Joneses. All her friends do is compare what features one phone has verses another. I’m slowly being worn down though but I intend to make it a pay as you go phone so she can pay for the usage out of her money. I know I’m very much in the minority when it comes to cell phones since all but one of her friends has one.

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