If you're a parent, then having a landline is crucial. You might survive on just a mobile when you're a couple or a single person. But after the kiddies start to arrive, you need something that won't run out of call credit, can be used outside of weekends/evenings, and won't cost an arm and leg to call people with other service providers.
Eventually, you'll be a proper multi person household. Before you can blink the kids will be using the phone, getting their own calls, and adding to the phone bill.
In an effort to cut down our phone bill last year, which thanks to lots of overseas friends and relatives kept hitting £60 a month, here's some of the helpful stuff I came across.
Call through your broadband
Get a VoIP phone - this stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. This type of service plugs into your broadband modem. Then just plug your phone handset into the VoIP device. Skype is perhaps the most famous VoIP option. In the end I chose an internet phone, but went with a Vonage plan of £10.99 per month. At the risk of soundline like an advert, I can make unlimited calls to landlines in 25 countries, at any time of the day. This includes the UK, NZ, US, Canda, Australia and Hong Kong - all the countries where I have friends or relatives. There's no time limit either. Unlike my previous package I don't have to hang up and redial before an hour is up.
The customer care is pretty good too. The call centre is in Colardo Springs, US (I asked, and my inner Stargate fan takes a vicarious pleasure in this), I've never had any trouble getting through, and have always had a prompt answer to a technical or billing enquiry.
On the downside, when my broadband is down my phone is down. You'll also lose you connection in a power cut too. Also one of my sister's lives out in the sticks in NZ, and their ancient phone exchange can't handle my VoIP phone.
I could keep my old phone number, but it took two weeks for that to transfer through and in the meantime we used a temporary new number. Which confused my aged parents somewhat, and my mother still tries to call that number!
Use the internet
You can also use Skype entirely free of charge, to make calls from your computer to another computer. Other messaging programs offer this too, like MSN or AOL Aim. You will need a headset for your computer or at least a microphone, a webcam if you want to make video calls, and the other person will need to be signed up to Skype, MSN etc. You'll only be able to call them when they are online so it isn't a substitute for a landline. But it is a cheap and easy way of making an international call as it is entirely free!
In my personal experience, I've found Skype wonderful for keeping that visual contact with family that's far away. However, the quality, especially voice quality,can be robotic at times.
Use the internet to find out information for free that you'd pay for if you called the service on your phone. So instead of one of the directory enquiry services, do a search on Yell.com. It is the online Yellow Pages, and it has residential listings too.
Say No To 0845
I love this site so much, I felt I had to give it a section on its own. The website is in fact called Say No To 0870, but most of the numbers that rack up the phone bill these days start with 0845, and the site covers these too. And lots of other number codes that cost you money.
It is almost impossible to find, say, the switchboard number of major companies these days. Using this website, I got the number for Virgin Media, and called that instead of their 0845 number. From there I was transferred to Customer Services, and got the same menu options I'd have heard had I called their usual number. This time it was entirely free though, as I'm not charged for landline calls, so for once I didn't mind having to listen to the lengthy 'Dial 1 for' lists!
The Co-Operative Bank seems to have wised up though. Calling the numbers listed for it on the website got a recording directing me to re-dial the 0845 number. However, scrolling down the page I found the switchboard number, and was immediately transferred to the correct service when I asked if I could check my bank balance.
Use an Overseas Calling Service
Even with a VoIP phone, my call costs have been reduced but I can save even more. Last year my brother lived in South Africa while he was on a course. This is not a country covered by my plan, so I used an over ride service instead. These are so-called because they by pass (or over ride) your current provider. Although there are different types, essentially they all work the same way. You dial a number to access the service, then the number that you want to call.
The website Money Saving Expert has an International Call Checker. You enter the country you want to call, and it tells you who has the cheapest rate at that point in time.
This is all a FAR cry from the days before the internet and deregulation. When I arrived in the UK in 1989, calls to NZ cost £1 a minute. The most I could afford was a 20 minute phone call home - that was £20!
Make most of current supplier
All services offer deducations (or make you pay extra depending on how you look at it) if you pay by direct debit, or opt for ebilling for example. Check the terms of your call plan. My next door nieghbour didn't realise that BT had changed the time that the evening call plan kicked in from 6pm to 7pm, and couldn't work out why her phone bills had gone up.
And Finally ...
Undoubtedly wiser and more frugal heads than mine have found cunning ways to save on their landline costs. If that's you then please do comment here and share your experience!