This post is long overdue, as cell phone hacking is low hanging fruit in terms of expense optimization. Here’s how I have done it for the past decade, saving us over $10k in the process.
Google Voice – The Key Ingredient
Google Voice (https://voice.google.com/) is the critical component of our phone setup. What does Google Voice do?
- Gives me free personal phone number.
- If you download the Google Hangouts app, you can make and receive calls to any US number for free when connected to wifi.
- If you download the Google Voice app, you can text for free when connected to wifi.
- It provides me a free land line at home when coupled with this device.
- My wife and I both have our GV accounts linked to the OBI device and have configured it to give distinctive rings for my calls vs my wife’s.
- When someone calls my Google Voice number, I have configured my Google Voice Account to route to my work, my cell, and my home VOIP box.
- No matter which device I pick up on, the person calling me has no idea of the underlying “complexity”. They just know that I pick up or not.
- Google Voice handles my voicemail for me, providing excellent voicemail transcription. I never listen to voice mails any more.
The above is how I make/receive free calls and texts at home/work, where I spend 90% of my waking hours.
The below image shows my Google Voice settings. 2 linked phone numbers, one for work and one for my prepaid phone.
Prepaid Cell Plan
What about the 10% of my waking hours I’m elsewhere, like biking to/from work or at a kid’s soccer game? I use my prepaid cell phone plan and pay by the minute (I use Tello, which runs on Sprint’s network https://tello.com/rates/pay_as_you_go). You can use this strategy with any prepaid plan if you don’t like Tello.
Tello is the best prepaid plan that uses Sprint. If you care to use Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile, then Red Pocket is probably your best bet (link). My frugal brother does this plan and loves it. The only reason why I’m not on this plan is because Tello only costs me about $1/month.
* Edit 5/16/20 *
I have switched from prepaid to (the nearly free) Xfinity Mobile as described by this post. Despite switching, I still follow the same mechanics as I’ve done since 2007 when I joined Google Voice.
Downsides of the Above Configuration
When I make outbound calls from my home VOIP device (or alternatively the Google Hangouts app), I simply dial a number and the outbound caller ID works great.
When I make outbound calls from my work, I initiate the call on the Google Voice webpage. Google calls me first then completes the call. Outbound caller ID works great.
When I make outbound calls from the road, the outbound caller ID shows up as my throw away prepaid number. There are probably ways around this but I frankly don’t care enough to implement them. I simply tell my friends/family the following. Enter into your phone two contacts for me:
What about Data?
If you are like me, you spend 90% of your waking hours with free Wifi. So data is pointless here.
If you use your phone for navigation, like I do, you can download and use the offline version of google maps. I have my entire state downloaded. When I travel for work, I download a map of the city I’m going to, usually at the airport.
Podcasts download automatically for me overnight at home, yet I listen to them on the road.
However, if I’m in a pinch I’ll pay $0.02/MB for data. I simply turn data on, do my business, then turn it off. Simple as that. For reference, calling an Uber takes about 2-3 MB.
Wrapping it up
Without committing to anything, you can sign up for Google Voice, get a free number, download the free apps, link your cell phone, and maybe even try the VOIP box. If you try it out and like it, port your cell number to GV and call it a day. It may take you an hour to get used to the above configuration.
The upside is that you can pay less than $10/year for a perfectly functioning phone system. The downsides are…..uh….you won’t be able to stream Netflix while driving (well you actually could if you simply planned ahead and downloaded them ahead of time for offline use)?
A Reader Takes the Plunge
Blog reader Joey at MoneyandMegabytes followed the above advice and took the plunge. Read about his experience here (link).
David at OchoSinCoche blogs about a nearly identical setup here (link).