Author Topic: Long distance calling  (Read 3492 times)

kdms

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Long distance calling
« on: April 30, 2012, 08:46:49 AM »
Very exciting....my very first post.  :)

I'm fairly new to the whole Mustachian-style of thinking.  We've been struggling with managing our living expenses for quite a while now (almost a full year, actually) and it's been an uphill battle with all the emotional baggage that comes from the profound shift of thinking required to go from 'consumer' to 'I'd rather keep my money for myself and my family, thank you very much'.

Once the tracking expenses phase was done and we faced the numbers, went through the 'OMFG I can't believe we've been so stupid' phase, kicked our own butts across the very mortgaged house a few times, and actually got down to dealing with the mess, it became evident fairly quickly that yes, we could live within our means, and no, it isn't going to be all that cushy in the short term.  This is primarily because of the attitude change required to go with it.  We've made a huge amount of progress in a very short period of time (managed to pay 25k out of 30k consumer debt since last July) and have tweaked our expenses, but the last 5k is dragging and I'm down to the magnifying glass looking for ways to improve cashflow.

That being said, when I found the MMM community last week, the post regarding treating debt as an emergency struck me so much that I spent the next three hours figuring out how to shave $100 off my phone bill.

We've cut a lot of what we were thought were essentials out of the budget (and imagine that, we're still alive) and have really improved our cashflow.  The phone bill (actually a combined bill for landline, internet, and two cell phones) has been really bothering me for a while but I couldn't figure out how to cut it back....a lot of the features we were paying extra for were added specifically because it cost us more not to have them.  Both of our families are out of town and overseas, as well as most of our friends, as we're relatively new to the area.

Anyways, in my newfound enthusiasm to shave even more money off the bill, I underestimated how much it would concern the spouse to cut out things like voice mail (there's a perfectly good answering machine attached to the landline already), call display (do we really want to pay to avoid telemarketer calls when the spouse doesn't mind yelling at them anyways?) and very expensive long-distance plans (when Skype is free.) 

Both of our cell phones have unlimited calling between each other (family plan) and 10 other numbers within Canada, and I have never used more than four or five of my allocated ten, simply because if I need to make a local call it doesn't cost me anyways.  I just don't use my phone that much.  But evidently my other half uses theirs a lot more than I was aware of, and is now really concerned about incurring long distance charges.

Cutting the long distance plans on both the landline and the cells might have been going a little too far, too fast.  I've thought about it and concluded that in the interest of maintaining a balance, adding a very basic long distance plan to our landline might be prudent, and was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for Canadian companies that offer cheap long distance plans.

What do you use?  We're with Bell right now, won't go back to Rogers, and Telus isn't available in our area in Ontario.  Sears.ca  telecom seems to have some good rates.

(A note on the landline....it's been suggested to us in the past that we just dump the landline altogether and use the cells, but at the moment we need the landline because of the security system.  Haven't figured out how to get around that requirement yet....suggestions welcome.  And no, the security system isn't an option....spouse will not negotiate on that.  :)

Thanks...and I have to say I'm really glad to have found a whole community of like-minded people.  I look forward to learning as much as I can to help improve my family's life.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2012, 04:01:08 PM by kdms »

Daley

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Re: Long distance calling
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2012, 11:10:43 AM »
First, welcome to the MMM community, kdms, and congrats on such a profound shift in such a small amount of time!

Second, I'm going to recommend you give a look at my Communications Super Guide as a primer to start looking at your telecommunications bills in a different light. I know you're in Canda and the guide is painfully Amero-centric, but it'll at least give you a few ideas.

To start you off, look into Voip.ms as a possible VoIP home phone provider. They're based out of Montreal, there's a Toronto based server, they have half penny a minute calling rates in Canada, Ontario DIDs, and CRTC approved e911 service. I'm not sure if they do number porting, though. They don't have unlimited plans that I know of, but when you're looking at $10 for ~33 hours of calling time, you could do far worse. I believe the short Canadian VoIP list includes Call Centric, Primus, and Voipgo as well. I've no personal experience with any of those providers, so YMMV, but I do know Voip.ms is a bit of a VOIP darling. Research first. Possibly bridging your landline with an OBi110 and a VoIP calling plan might help cut some costs if you can strip the landline down to bare minimum services just to deal with the alarm. The features of the OBi110 might also give you a cheaper long distance option using the cellphones, too.

On the cellphone end, cursory prepaid is showing Solo Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Fido, NorthernTel, PC Mobile, chatr wireless, and Petro-Canada as the major players. I'm not that familiar with the landscape up there wireless telecom wise, so I'd recommend a good long look at Howard Forums Canadian standard and prepaid wireless forums. Down here Stateside, prepaid is frequently the cheapest option for many low to moderate users, but it might not be the case up there given the prices I'm seeing. Solo Mobile and chatr do look the most promising, though. (And yes, I know there's also Koodo, but given they're a Telus prepaid, they're probably not a real option. I also know Fido and chatr are Rogers subsidiaries, but dealing with a prepaid division often soothes the pains that come from dealing with the parent company under a contract.)

On the security system end, none of these really address that situation as VoIP and security/life alert style systems don't play well with the things. There's a few people on this forum who aren't huge fans of paying money for an alarm system, and I'm one of them. Some variety of motion lights, loud noises, window bars, dogs, fake cameras and phony alarm company signs seem to be just as useful... so is living a minimalist lifestyle to where there's really not much of anything worth stealing, and if there is, that's what homeowners and renters insurance is for with a well documented list of valuable property. I know it's "non-negotiable", but perhaps you should have your spouse take stock of why you need the alarm. Crunch the real numbers of money going in versus insurance coverage, value of items, just owning a well trained rottie (bonus, extra companionship!), real benefit, etc. Often, cold logic arrived at by them is the best solution as the numbers won't add up.

If you have any hope of saving any real money with these services, you're gonna need to revisit having the talk with your spouse, both get on board equally with everything, and proceed from there. It sounds like you're close to being equal on that front already, but given some of the seeming non-negotiables and troubles with the cuts made on these fronts, it might be worth revisiting. Until this point of contention changes, you're not going to have much luck trimming the fat on these bills and the advice proffered here isn't going to do you too much good. Don't forget too, that you can make some of these changes without giving up as much as you think just by changing providers.

I'll keep researching, though. If I find any other decent providers up in Canuckistan, I'll mention them. Good luck, and glad to have you with us twirling your 'stache!
« Last Edit: April 30, 2012, 11:15:48 AM by I.P. Daley »

Daley

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Re: Long distance calling
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2012, 02:01:48 PM »
Found something interesting that you might find useful on the phone end of things. Fongo/FreePhoneLine.ca might be worth looking into. Of course, they nickel and dime you off of "service upgrades" and non-supported calling areas, but it should be something worth researching for quality, reliability and available free call service areas. If you do opt for their service, buy your own ATA adapter and just pay the $50 to unlock the configuration settings instead of paying $100 for a pre-configured $30 Grandstream HandyTone-286.

More thoughts on the alarm system if for some reason it can't ever be done away with. Monitored alarms are easy to defeat without a backup radio or cellular connection just by snipping the phone line. That said, there's actually several DIY alarm kits on the market that will auto-dial specific numbers with a custom recorded voice message if tripped and have both land line and GSM cell card slot options. Basically, instead of paying a monitoring company, you just have your cell phones (or a Fongo number set to forward to up to three phones), a couple neighbors, a family member, and/or your local constabulary (recommend as last number option - check with them first) auto-configured to dial out. If you bought a dual POTS/GSM monitoring device, given it auto-dials a pre-recorded verbal message, you could use it with any VoIP provider, and could support the cellular fallback using a SIM card from PC Mobile or Petro-Canada for about $100 a year using their $100/365 day account refill cards and their "anytime" plans. Still hideously expensive in my book, but it's an option to consider if just a break-in noisemaker or any of the other options isn't enough.

Edit: Found an alarm system review website that might be of use as they cover the subjects of VoIP, DIY systems, and proper alarm system design.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2012, 02:18:22 PM by I.P. Daley »

kdms

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Re: Long distance calling
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2012, 06:45:59 PM »
Thank you very much....considering how many years I've been buying gas from Petro Canada, I had no idea they did communication services as well.

The non-negotiable security service might not be so non-negotiable after all....especially if we can DIY.  I will also spend some time going through the links you sent and see what's available....our system isn't just for intruders, but for fire detection as well.  After all, if someone really wants to get in, they're going to....regardless of how many bells and whistles are going off.  (Our oh-so-vicious attack cats might just trip someone up, but would more likely just shed on them, and if we're lucky, cause an allergic reaction. :D)

Thanks again for the info!

Daley

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Re: Long distance calling
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2012, 07:50:19 PM »
Glad to help. The whole alarm system wrinkle has opened a whole new dimension to communications that I hadn't given much thought to in the past and has opened up a few new frugal services that might be employable in the family. If you can get your alarm to behave with either VoIP or an analog to GSM bridge using the ADEMCO 4+2 Express protocol, or use an alarm system that notifies via recorded voice message notifications, I've sussed out a cheap(er) emergency cellular failsafe rollover for VoIP/network failure:

Wire an OBi110 into the house phone system so the alarm has access, enable "Service Continuity In Case of Network Failure" and stick a GSM 850/1900 terminal on the FXO (line) port with a SIM from the cheapest airtime GSM prepaid provider you have. Stateside, that would be T-Mobile's Pay As You Go after buying a $100/1 year card as $10 cards will give you another year of airtime after hitting Gold Rewards status. VoIP down or cables cut/damaged? So long as you have the hardware on a working UPS, the alarm system should still be able to call out. Good fallback for 911 coverage, too.

This sort of configuration would be a perfect failsafe for helping keep overall costs low for seniors who have a PERS system like the LogicMark FreedomAlert.

Thank you, your challenge has helped me learn a lot of valuable things today that can go into the guide and even help my own extended family with.