There is about 145,000 monthly searches on Google, on average, for “what is a landline?”. That should tell you about all you need to know regarding our shift away from good ole’ landline phone services. Shockingly, despite that fun metric, 29% of U.S. households still have a landline phone! This boggles my mind. I didn’t think I had to write this post until I saw that #.
With today’s technology, there is no reason to keep paying for a landline phone. NONE. I don’t want to hear about the 1 in 10,000,000 odds that the power goes out and then your cell battery dies and then you can’t charge your phone and then you have a medical emergency and then your car doesn’t work, and you can’t call 911. And I thought I was paranoid… Get a car charger or even a solar charger, if you have that concern. And then learn how to stop worrying so much.
Replacing your Landline and Expensive Voice Cell Plans
The average U.S. household still spends $1,409 annually, or $117 monthly on telephone services. This is a red-flag opportunity for easy savings. This kind of easy savings does not come along often in the personal finance world.
$117 could easily be cut by 70%+, without losing much or any functionality with all of the options out there. And the first thing you should do is get rid of your landline.
Over 4 years ago, I cut my phone bills in half by moving from an expensive Verizon voice plan to VOIP (through Ooma), and a prepaid wireless plan.
The result was:
- I didn’t have a landline at the time, but I completely removed any need for one while gaining all that functionality back (the Ooma has proven to be more than a full 100% functional replacement).
- No high priced plans, overage charges, or limitations. Between my prepaid plan and the VOIP, I could effectively talk on the phone for as long as I wanted, without paying more than one low, monthly fee of a combined $30 (2 cell plans + Ooma).
- I was covered in the 1 in 10,000,000 scenario.
- I gained more functionality, versatility, better sounding calls (VOIP), and an additional line.
4 years ago, the Ooma cost $249. Today, it’s less than $100 on Amazon. And there are now prepaid plans that are cheaper than what I paid back then.
So, if you fall in to that 29% that is still paying for landline phone service, do yourself a favor and walk over and take a pair of hedge clippers to that telephone wall cord (not the phone itself, you’ll still need that to plug in to VOIP).
And PLEASE do not sign up for the pricey ISP VOIP (digital voice over internet) alternative that will charge you $30-$45 per month. ISP VOIP’s are at least equally as bad of an expense as traditional landlines. You can get an Ooma fully paid for in 3-4 months at those rates, with all of the same features. Just plug it in to your router, running off of any ISP high speed connection, and you’re good to go.
Cutting the Landline Discussion:
- Have you gotten rid of your landline? How long ago?
- If not, what is stopping you?
- What did you replace your landline with? And how much did you save, in the process?
From reading the study, it’s definitely a generational thing as the vast majority of 20-somethings don’t have landlines… and those who do are probably living with their parents. :P
You’re absolutely wrong. A landline is absolutely vital for emergency services, especially if a young child who needs to call 911 doesn’t know, or can’t relay their address. You’d be surprised how many teens and adults don’t know their own address too.
If the power is out long enough to where you can’t charge your phone, it’s most likely due to a severe weather related event or natural disaster. Sure, if people affected by recent “mega-storms” or tornados had solar chargers, their phone would power on…but there were no functional cell towers to make them work. Only people with landlines had working phone service.
As far as VOIP, that kind of phone service relies on the user to enter the correct address information. Because of the portability of service, the address frequently reflects the incorrect address for emergency responders to go to. Additionally, VOIP relies on power to run the internet and the device potentially putting you in a worst situation than cell-phone service during a major outage.
Sorry G.E.. I usually think highly of your articles, but this one is poorly researched and uninformed.
Actually, my parents still have a land line (and an actual corded phone that is plugged into it for emergencies!), and their phone was out during Blizzard Nemo. The only phones that worked in our area were AT&T cell phones, and service was very spotty. We basically had a really hard time getting in touch with anyone at all.
Right. Landlines are not 100% guaranteed to work under all circumstances. The plus side is that they can still work when there is no power, but the down side is that service can depend on telephone lines that could go down in storms. It just depends on whether or not the local telephone lines are above or below ground, flooding, etc.
I just get measured rate service, which is pretty cheap. I keep it around for emergencies and to use it as the main telephone number for services. I hate the idea of getting telemarketing and customer service calls on my cell phone.
There are 300 million people in the US. For this exercise I’ll assume maybe 300 people a year die from not having a landline. Could be more, could be less (I think probably less, but this makes the math work out easily), adjust it as you see fit. That means for not having a landline, you increase your risk of death by 1/1,000,000.
There is approximately 1 death per 100 million miles driven in the US. Assuming the average person commutes about 200 times per year to work (then back), each extra mile added to a commute increases the risk of death by 4/1,000,000 per year, or 4 times the amount from not having a landline. So tell me, how stressed out were you when you picked your last house? Did you call out your significant other as uninformed and lacking in research when he/she wanted to live in a nicer house an extra mile or two away from work or school? I’m guessing not.
My point is, there are far more dangerous things people do every day than not having a landline. It’s hardly poorly researched or uninformed to suggest that it is not necessary. It makes me think of the people I used to see when I worked at a restaurant go eat 2000 calories worth of awful food in one sitting, then order a diet soda. Really? The soda is what you’re worried about? Half of our population is overweight, amounts of exercise are pitiful, and diets are atrocious. Hell, many people drive a few miles to go get their cruddy fast food. You’re entitled to decide what to worry about as far as your safety, but you’d be far better served walking an extra mile or two a day than getting a landline. Plus, walking is FREE!
I’m not sure what fast food and walking have to do with this article, but I digress.
I work in a capacity where I have full understanding of the issue of landlines and emergency services. The data that you’re assuming is incorrect. Additionally, it’s not just about deaths.
I challenge you to call the non-emergency phone number for your local police or fire department and ask them how many people don’t know their own address or current location when they need assistance (Adults and children). Ask them how big a difference a landline makes in those same situations and how many lives they saved as a result.
Sorry, but I wasn’t trying to insult you. I’m just letting you know that your facts are wrong regarding landlines and their particular functionality and usefulness.
I get saving money. However, and I don’t know if you have kids, but if you had a daughter at home who was too scared to remember her address and was hiding in a closet while burglars were inside of the house – who could only call 911 and whisper inaudibly into the phone to get help, you would understand why a landline would be necessary (*It wasn’t my daughter, just a family I helped).
Would you play odds and would you sacrifice 20 bucks a month for your child’s safety? I’ve been at war and now deal with scum on a daily basis. One thing I’ve learned is that if you value your life, you don’t play odds. You don’t rely on technology and you always have a backup.
It has to do with being “penny-wise pound-foolish”. You’re worried about this relatively small chance of something happening due to not having a landline, but probably not about the extra few miles you drive every day that are far more dangerous (this is in general, maybe you are really worried about every extra driving mile).
Would it be fair to say that people might be better served by learning their address than spending extra money every month on an extra service?
As sad as it is that such a thing happened to your friend’s daughter, one personal anecdote does not a logical decision make. Far more children are killed in car wrecks every year than from not having a landline (I’m not even going to bother getting the statistics for that, if that’s not true please let me know), and even more are harmed by poor diets and exercise (see rising childhood diabetes rates). I maintain that reducing your commute, improving your diet, and exercise are all far better things to give your kid than a landline, and are virtually free.
Sure, the 500 lb guy getting a diet soda with his meal is technically doing better than if he had a regular soda (assuming diet is healthier, which is probably not true, but i digress). But the calories saved from getting the diet soda are dwarfed by the 2000 worth of cheese and dough he just shoved down his throat. It’s true that by getting a landline you are protecting against this very small risk, but compared to the other risks out there I just think it is pretty negligible. Spend the money you would on a landline on a membership at the YMCA or something and take your kid to play some sports.
Who keeps a landline phone inside their closet?
Long, I don’t know where you live, but I’ve moved from metro area to metro area on the East coast, and it is nearly impossible to get a copper line installed. Big telcos simply don’t support it anymore.
For the reasons you state, I am a big support of it, but given the world today, telcos are not maintaining those lines anymore. Infact, the old lines are further degrading. I managed to get a DSL installation in just before Big Red stopped supporting it, and the technician showed me the sorry state of the lines. Cross-talk and screwed up billing are common for my neighbors, and looking at the junction, it’s no surprise. 30+ years of untrained techs etc, have left those lines in shambles. I talked to the manager for my district, and that’s the big reason they’ve stopped allowing new installations of copper service.
Also, the backend of the copper telephone lines are being replaced with fiber or coax… so it’s not a sure thing that your copper line will always work. We had a bad snow storm a couple years back and even the copper lines went out.
New developments don’t even have them laid down. Coax for cable and fiber for internet. That’s it.
It’s good to point out the virtues of a copper line, IF you can even get one.
You bring up some fair points, but If you’re talking catastrophic natural disasters, aren’t telephone poles likely to be blown over or trees snapping lines as well? And if you’re talking super catastrophic (i.e. Katrina), who is going to be coming to your aid if everyone needs aid (even if the lines still work)?
Sure, power could go out while a landline might keep working. But aren’t they both dependent on poles/lines suspended in air staying suspended in air? And in the 10 years I’ve had a cell phone, I’ve never had a tower go completely out, leaving me with no service in my home.
With landline savings, you could:
1. get a car charger for your cell phone
2. get an ooma so you have VOIP
3. you or a neighbor will prob. still have a car
4. get a generator or solar powered device to power your VOIP as a backup
5. you could even get a backup prepaid cell phone that uses a different network/tower, just for emergency purposes
… and still be ROI positive in a year or so.
I guess everyone has different risk comfort levels. Not having a loaded gun on my nightstand makes the risk that a late night intruder successfully subdues me slightly more likely. But, that’s risk I am willing to take on because guns are not cheap and loaded guns have their own mental/physical risks.
Every time I go for a bike ride, I see a handful of guys riding around on motorcycles without helmets. Not intelligent, in my opinion, but now I’m curious if they have landlines for catastrophic scenarios…
I never would have considered getting a landline since I have a cell phone, however I was forced to in order to activate a home security system that was installed in my house before I moved in. Unfortunatley, in this instance I would rather pay the monthly fee for the landline (20 bucks or so) than go without the functionality of the security system.
I recently heard about this wireless home security system that doesn’t require a landline, seems like a good alternative if you don’t have a landline in your home already:
I saw this same security system on the DIY Network the other day. It looked pretty neat and is something I’m definitely going to consider when I build my next home.
I am a member of the 20-something generation, and currently live in an apartment on cell-phone only service. However, when I’m ready to buy a house I guarantee you I’ll have a landline. They run on a completely separate service than cell towers, and provide alternate emergency availability and home security system functionality.
Relying solely on one system of communication creates strict dependency, thereby limiting yourself. Landlines are important people.
It is a little rough to tell everyone to get rid of their landline. If you don’t have kids or have kids old enough to have cell phones then clearly it is hardly something you need. But I have two young children 7 and 3. I don’t want their friends calling or texting my cell and my 7 year old does not need a cell, it would cost us way more to replace the phone he’s sure to lose than to have a $15 landline. This also allows me to monitor who he is talking to and keeps us from any “surprise” charges. Once they are both in grade school it will still be less expensive to provide them with ONE landline than getting them each their own cell phone. Also, I use the house number for anything official, doctors, schools, etc so that they can always reach me. I mostly use my cell phone for long distance, and emergencies. I still don’t have a smart phone and plan on using my current phone until it dies. I suppose for those that have their phones glued to them landlines seem silly or not financially sound, but we’ve run the numbers and for our family needs it is far less expensive to have a basic cell plan and basic landline (and I mean basic!)
You are assuming that the only alternative to a traditional land line is a cell phone. I have Google voice connected through an Obi100 to a standard phone. I get this service including long distance phone calls for free. I had to pay $40 up front for the Obi device. It is very similar to the Ooma device G.E. recommended.
I would recommend a voip service like these for your children. To setup emergency services you would need a separate sip gate service (about $3/month), or you can keep a cell phone in the house without service just for emergencies.
Yep I agree with you G.E.
I wont be the one to tell people what to do in their own circumstances, but for the wife and me it is a waste of money. I’d never pay a monthly fee for a house phone. Hell I hate paying a monthly fee for a cell phone, and even there I’ve got Virgin so i’m being pretty cheap about it (35 a month plan which I barely use). And I plan to get cheaper than that very soon (so please hurry up with that post! lol)
I see with some folks it’s useful, but we have no kids, and even if we did I’ll admit i’d probably STILL be cheap about it. Why? Because I could put that money to use in ways that will have a direct impact on my regular day to day life. I don’t allow myself to make financial decisions with an emotional based mindset. It’s hard sometimes, but in the long run it’s saved $ time and time again.
Just got rid of the copper line. It was just $14 to add voice to my cable/internet provider. The old Verizon POTS line was costing $50 or more each month. A lot of years wasting that money.
I believe I got rid of my landline and started using OOMA in Jan 2010. Been saving $33/month ever since.
Their “4G” home internet speeds are the equivalent of DSL. And they charge $50/mo. You are better off with a DSL line, if choosing between the two.
My mother continues to have a landline and pays an insane amount of money for a small amount of minutes through Verizon. Her Verizon bill is like $35 per month for a few hundred minutes. She is always running out of minutes. I tried to explain to her to drop Verizon and the landline and go for something like Net10 and just get a phone off of Craigslist. Anyways she doesn’t really see the point but always complains about running out of money. She just stopped smoking 3 packs a day as I convinced her she was wasting thousands per year on cigarettes. Anyways you can’t really complain at the end of day about not having money when you are in all honesty wasting your money.
I should’ve mentioned she is paying for a VOIP landline through TWC for about $25 per month and a small amount of minutes through Verizon for $35 per month.
Republic Wireless. I switched November 2011 and I’ve been happy ever since. Startup, though they are, the quality is great and it only costs around $20 a month.
Unlimited everything, wi-fi hybrid cell phone… no land line needed. It’s the best deal I’ve found.
I looked into doing this when I saw Ooma on Costco’s website. So I called Comcast to ask them what my bill would hypothetically be if I switched from a triple play to a double play. It would actually go up $25 a month. And this is with me already having negotiated the bill down several times. I live in an area where they are the only internet provider, and my lot is too wooded to get Directv, so I don’t have a lot of options here. Any ideas?
I have a landline, it’s a beautiful antique rotary phone. But I don’t have voice mail. And I am seriously considering getting rid of my cell phone. I almost never use it.
As for land lines and cell service. I remember the early 2007 ice storm. No Land Line service for 17 days. Power lines were down. I couldn’t even get my mail because it literally would have been a shocking experience. Nothing is reliable when bad weather comes calling and of course on top on everything I couldn’t charge my cell phone.