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How I Keep My [Canadian] Phone Costs Down 2017-03-24


Almost everyone [in this first-world country] has a cell phone now, and plenty of people have dropped their wired telephone and ONLY have a cell phone. People use their cell phones for all kinds of nifty things... like checking Facebook to see what their friends are up to, announcing their current thought via Twitter, finding nearby resturants, looking at kitty cat photos, checking gas prices, figuring out which stars are where, and sometimes even phone calls. I think they are generally getting ripped off.

vacation This could be you!

Let's say you pay $75 a month for your cell phone. Some folks might be quick to point out that they got a $600 phone with their cell service, but that is not an appropriate way to look at it since you do not have a $600 phone at the end of the contract. In fact, at the end of their contracts, most people probably "upgrade" their phone for a fee or just toss their old phone out (this is sometimes referred to as "providing nice mountains of electronics for Chinese children to play on and get poisoned by"). Anyways, there are lots of people who refuse to simply do the math and see what $75 a month costs them over time. $75 a month is $900 a year. That's right, your cell phone costs as much as an all-inclusive one week trip to some resort on a warm sandy beach in the Caribbean. Every year. Don't like sandy beaches? Prefer to stay in the snow? You could buy a new snowblower every year instead. Don't like the fact that both sunny vacations and snowblowers are very oil-intensive? You rock, spend the money on whatever the hell you like.

So what does all this crap really have to do with actual phone service costs? Well, if you could just live without having Internet access in your pocket 24 hours a day, then you could significantly cut down on your phone costs. It may not seem like a big deal at first, but over time it adds up to a lot of money. It also probably seems like a lot of research and complication at first, but it really isn't that tough. Here's what I do:

I have three phone lines. Holy Crap! You thought this wasn't going to be complicated! No, really... I am a little bit overboard, yours doesn't have to be this complicated. Anyways, I have a VoIP line from freephoneline.ca, a VoIP line from voip.ms, and a wireless phone from 7-Eleven. Here's what they cost:

Service Monthly Fee One Time Fee Useage Fee Notes
FreePhoneLine $0 $50 $0 Limited calling area
Voip.ms $0 $0 1¢/min or 0.5¢/min Outbound only
7-Eleven $1.25 (911) $10 (SIM Card) 30¢/min PrePaid, no data plan

So what does all that mean? Well, it means that all my inbound calls are to my FreePhoneLine number, and do not cost anything. If I wish to receive phone calls while away from home, I can log in to FreePhoneLine.ca and forward my line to my cell (or some other number). I don't really get very many phone calls so I often don't bother to forward my calls to my cell anyways.

When I want to make an outbound call, I use FreePhoneLine almost all the time. I can call anywhere on this list for free, any time, for as long as I want. Every now and then I need to call someone who does not live in one of those Canadian cities. For those calls I use VoIP.ms and it costs me typically a half cent per minute. If I want to make international calls I would also use VoIP.ms and would be subject to these rates.

Lastly, if I am not at home, I can use my 7-Eleven cell to make calls... though it is clearly in my best interest to keep those calls short because 30¢/min can add up quickly. The 7-Eleven phone has no data plan, has expensive outbound texting costs, and has the exact same coverage area as Rogers (since 7-Eleven is just reselling Rogers service). It is just for "in-a-pinch calls". The nice thing about 7-Eleven prepaid service is that even if you only topup by $25, your minutes still last 365 days. Other prepaid service providers will expire your minutes much faster than that (typically 60 days for a $25 topup). This makes them by far the cheapest provider as long as you are not gobbling up your minutes.

So how can you use this information to save on your phone costs? Well, start by getting a free phone line. FreePhoneLine.ca and Fongo.com are both owned by the same company, both provide a free real Canadian phone number, and both have the same list of free-to-call cities. FreePhoneLine is better if you plan to pay $50 (one-time) and connect to it with a fancy phone switch like Asterisk or a regular old telephone and an ATA device. Fongo is better if you plan to always use it from your cell phone. Fongo can be used on your cell phone, for free (with some ads), anywhere you have Internet access. This can mean on your phone's data plan, but more importantly, on any WiFi connection. They also offer an unlimited text package for a few bucks a month.

You might want to reread that last paragraph. It means that if you are willing to only use your cell phone for important calls when you are unable to get WiFi network access, then your Fongo calls are free. When you are at home and have WiFi access, your calls are free. When you are at work and have WiFi access, your calls are free. When you are at your friend's house and they let you on their WiFi network, yeah... your calls are free. When you are at Starbucks paying eight times as much for coffee as you pay for oil, yeah... your calls are free. Okay, well you might have to fight with the Starbucks network to get it working, I don't know 'cause I refuse to go to Starbucks. :-)

If this still sounds pretty complicated, maybe the math will help. None of these phone lines is really a steady per-month cost, so it is probably better to look at them on an annual basis, or longer. I got my VoIP.ms account in late 2009, and I actually have a phone number there which I use for testing sometimes. It costs me US$1 a month, and I could totally do without it. Even so, I have spent about US$80 over the years on this account. I got my FreePhoneLine.ca account in mid-2010, paid CDN$50 once, and that is it. My 7-Eleven phone (I only use phones I got for free) has been around since mid-2013 and has cost me CDN$113.00 for the original SIM card and minutes, followed by top ups of $113, $28 and $28 - for a total of $282. I actually still have almost $80 on that account so my annual topups will only be $25 for a while. Add those all together and you get $412 for phone service for more than the last half decade. That is less than $100 per year and falling each year. At $75 a month, that would be over $4500 for the same time period.

The fewer phone calls you make to non-free Fongo cities, the less you pay. The more you can wait to make phone calls at WiFi accessible places, the less you pay. The less you need to have Internet acess in your pocket 24 hours a day, the less you choke the life out of your soul.

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