Advice to Get Rid of the Phone Land Line - Frugal or Irrational?

In one of my older posts 101 Tips for Frugal Living, I had written “If you have a cell phone, get rid of the land line”. Now I admit that all the items on that list are not for everyone – I personally can follow only about 70 of the tips on the list. But I thought getting rid of the land line was an easy one. We have lived without a land line for over 4 years and at least half of our friends and relatives don’t have one either. So, I was quite surprised when I received this comment from an anonymous reader –

Thx for the list. Good reminder.

But some points are very irrational and not applicable.

Getting rid of the landline while you have a cellphone? Right... let me know what happens when the battery busts. It's possible if your alone (but, seriously, who stays alone?), not if you have roommates or living with a significant other.

It seems like the person who wrote this comment is as convinced that this will not work, as I am that it will. So is cutting off the land line a frugal option, or is it irrational to even assume that it can be done? I think it may be both.

For some people cutting off the land line could be an easy option. People in this category would be –
  • Someone who lives with roommates or a spouse, or a small family with grown up children and everyone has a cell phone.

  • Everyone with the cell phone has the habit of charging the phone regularly so it never runs out of battery. In the worst case that it does, you should be easily able to borrow the phone from someone else in the household.

  • You don’t talk too much on the phone, or have a plan that provides enough minutes to cover your needs. For instance, the better half and I used to be on a rollover plan from Cingular (now AT&T) and we had around 2000 minutes in our rollover pool – so no matter how much of a spike we had in any given month, we never had to pay any extra charges, ever!

  • If you live in an apartment and move a lot, every time you hook up the phone line you have to pay the activation fees. Maybe it’s time to get rid of the land line and bump up the minutes on your cell phone instead.

  • If you prefer text-ing or messaging to talking on the phone, you are a premium candidate for cutting off your land line! This is not a requirement, but a real bonus :)

Now a look at the people who should/could not cut off the land line.
  • If you live by yourself, it may be better to hang on to the land line so you can fall back on it, in case the cell phone battery dies. For this purpose, the simplest plan from Vonage that costs less than $10 per month may be sufficient.

  • If the cell phone coverage is not good where you live, having to rely on flaky service to get your call through can be very annoying. Hanging on to the land line makes sense.

  • If you make a lot of international calls and your land line phone provider offers you a good package for international calls, then it may be better to hang on to the land line.

  • If you have a large family, or a family with younger kids who don’t own a cell phone yet, then of course the land line has to stay.

  • If you get your television via dish and need high speed Internet, then DSL may be your only option, in which case the land line cannot be disconnected.

  • If you live in a home and the security system is activated, then the service provider for the security system may need you to have a land line. Some providers allow you to use a cell phone number, but many insist on getting a land line. So if you use security system or plan to use one in the near future, check with them first before getting rid of the land line.

  • Similarly, if you are in an apartment in a gated community, many apartment managers require you to hook up the gate code to your land line. Again, some apartment managers allow you to use a cell phone, but not all do.

Looks like if you are younger and don’t yet have kids (like us and many of our friends) it is fairly easy to get rid of the land line and move a lot of the services received through the land line elsewhere. For instance we get out Internet over cable and use calling cards for international calls etc. On the other hand if you are a bigger family with young kids, or teenagers that use up too many minutes, it may be harder to get rid of the land line.

This only goes to strengthen my belief that there is not one universal rule that applies to everyone when it comes to practicing frugality. What seems like an easy no-brainer for reducing the expenses to some people may as well be the most irrational suggestion to others. So, go ahead adopt the changes you can, and don’t bother too much about the ones you can’t – there will always be other places you can cut back.

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icefox said...

When I had a land line I used a wireless phone that needed a battery (as do I suspect many people do) so I hardly see how a cell phone battery could be a problem.

plonkee said...

I've got a wireless phone that needs runs off the mains or batteries, and it actually states that it shouldn't be used as your only phone. Over here, in emergencies the mobile networks get saturated and if you need to call 999, you should have a plain jane phoneline as well.

Matt said...

I can see the situations that would require you to have a land line but personally unless I lived in the country where coverage is spotty I wouldn't go back to having a land line. My wife and I started dating with only cell phones and now that we're married we still don't have a land line (such a waste of money)

SJean said...

Small kids, maybe a land line is necessary. Other than that....

Hardly anyone my age (just graduated college) has a land line, for one of the reasons you mentioned. We aren't settled, we move a lot, and a cell phone allows us to keep the same number forever.

ispf said...

icefox: Come to think of it, that's true! Having a land line is no guarantee against batteries going bust!

plonkee: That's a good point. Even here I think the wireless 911 (or e-911) is still a work in progress. In case of emergencies, for calls originating from a cell phone, it is a lot harder to trace the exact location.

matt, sjean: That's exactly how I felt before! But then as they say, there is always two sides to a story!

Poons said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

To me, the big issue is large power outages.

If transfer stations are knocked out- guess what? Your cell will not work.

A regular land line will.

I think back to when NYC had an afternoon outage a few years back and everyone was waiting in line for the few land line payphones around.

We have enough power outages to make a cell phone not a good choice as an "only"- but we do have one as an extra.

Chief Family Officer said...

I have young kids and live in earthquake country so I would never consider getting rid of my land line. I really want as many options as possible in an emergency, which is why I always have a (land line) phone in the house that's not cordless - it will work even if the power is out.