Tuesday, December 04, 2007

How Things Change: My Wacky Phone Spending

For the last few years, I was in a long distance relationship. Now, I'm not. You might suspect that I performed some sort of cost-benefit analysis of the relationship and made a calculated decision that it wasn't compatible with my financial goals, given that I have written here before about how expensive such a relationship can be. I can reassure you that I am not that cold and unemotional a person! There were many other reasons why I cut things off. But I'll confess the money aspect was a teensy tiny smidgen of a reason to shed a few less tears over it!

My ex- lived in another country. This led me to investigate a variety of strategies for cheaper telephone calls, including an international calling plan with AT&T and online calling cards. After moving to my current home a year ago, I never reinstated my AT&T international plan and just used the calling cards. Unfortunately, with those cards you sometimes get what you pay for-- the sound quality can be lousy. When you're trying to have a meaningful conversation about your future with someone, or lack thereof, it sucks to have to keep saying "what? I can't hear you!" So there were a couple of times when I called back on my home phone without thinking too much about it. I knew I didn't have the international plan any more but I thought, ok, maybe it cost 10 cents a minute with that plan, so without it, it will probably cost $1 or $2 a minute. Unfortunately, as I discovered when my phone bill arrived, it was actually about $5.00 a minute!

At this point, my volume of international calling has dropped quite a bit... but since we're trying to "stay friends," it hasn't gone away entirely. I decided to look into signing up for another international plan with AT&T so as not to have to keep committing myself to phone cards in $20 increments. Option 1, "Worldwide Value Calling," costs $5.00 a month, plus $0.08 per minute. Option 2, "Worldwide Occasional Calling," costs only $1.00 a month, plus $2.24 a minute. I used a little basic algebra to determine the break-even point:

Let X= the number of minutes
5+.08X = 1+2.24X
5-1= 2.24X - .08X
4= 2.16X
1.85= X
So, are we going to stay good enough friends to talk on the phone 1.85 minutes every month? I optimistically decided yes, and signed up for Worldwide Value Calling. I mean, I'd feel a little guilty relegating someone who's been so important to me to just "occasional" rather than "value." (At least until a decent period of time goes by!) If we talk one hour per month, I'll save $125.60 vs. the other plan. I budgeted $1,200 for telephone expenses this year, and am currently at over $1,300. Next year's spending should be far less... but keep an eye out for future posts on the costs of dating and new relationships, which I'm sure will wipe out any savings!

21 comments:

Peachy said...

Don't forget to check cell phone plans too...even texting.

Texting may be a heck of a lot cheaper than calling.

Frugal Duchess said...

Wow, what a thoughtful post.
Have you tried VoIP? Voice over Internet Phone?

I have a friend who used to talk to her mom in Israel everyday over VoiP and computer.

Anyways, I enjoy your posts and this is one of the most thoughtful break-up stories I have ever read.

take care,
shr

Anonymous said...

I have family in Germany and I use onesuite.com for an international pre-paid calling card. To germany it is only about 3 cents per minute. You may want to check into whichever country you are colling regularly to see if the rates are better. Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

what about skype?

Madame X said...

I sort of looked into Skype and other VOIP options, but my home computer set-up at the moment can't handle it... and a new computer definitely isn't in my budget right now!

Anonymous said...

I rarely comment but I love this story. I love the analysis you do of everything money-related! And I love the healthy perspective on the break-up.

Millionaire Artist said...

One word: SKYPE!

CD-quality sound (most of the time) and video, too — on your computer for free!

Or, you can get the various plans call in or call out plans for uber-cheap to regular or cell phones.

I'm hoping a mass exodus to SKYPE and similar will eventually pull down the extra costs and contract commitments the carriers currently have in place...they operate like it's 1983!

www.skype.com

Anonymous said...

Skype has been a moneysaver for my family too, who uses it to call overseas. Easy to set up, and highly recommended.

frugal zeitgeist said...

When one door closes, another opens. Enjoy your new-found freedom!

Esme said...

Long distances are hard. I can't bring myself to blog about the bf moving away yet. Maybe soon. It's nice to read your post.

What I can't deal with is the uncertainty. As in what will become of us?

Obviously we are in our respective cities for good reasons, when will those reasons change so that we'll be in the same city again? What if it doesn't change for a year or two or three or even longer?

Like2save said...

You should try running your bills at www.myvalidas.com because they offer a free and instantaneous cost savings report. The will compare across carriers and even generate an email to your carrier to realize the savings. I use it and love it.

Anonymous said...

http://www.primusld.com/primusldWeb/index.html

Anonymous said...

So, now that you're free, I'm in publishing ... :)

PiggyBankBlues said...

man, you just missed out on the free international calls via iowa

i've used them a couple times and was going to post it to you, but turns out they got shut down... i knew it was too good to be true!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your blog, it's very fun to read!

Madame X said...

Another publishing person... I feel like I should be saying "hey baby, send me your book proposal..."

And Esme, good luck with your long distance thing. From my experience, I'd say if you want the relationship to work, try to get yourselves living in the same place before too much time goes by. The longer things drag out, the harder it gets...

Anonymous said...

We use Vonage and LOVE it. If you have a wireless connection, you can use it, since it requires a phone line connected to your router rather than through the computer itself.

We were able to get a phone number that is a local call for our family members who might not be able to afford calling us long-distance, so we get called more frequently in addition to being able to call whenever without thinking about the cost (our calls are all included in the monthly fee).

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't advise "staying friends" with an ex. Parting amicably is great and should be done as often as possible, but "staying friends" is pointless and entirely unfair to future significant others (should there be any). It's okay to say you'll "stay friends," but don't bother to do it.

Anonymous said...

skype! in fact also if you can get the s.o. to sign up you guys can do most kinds of chat with voice and it isn't so bad if you can't set up skype at home. I'm abroad with my honey and we have talked to friends at home with google talk and aim chat, I think yahoo as well. I also prefer by phone, but the calling cards are a little problematic since you have to pay up front and most of them deduct money every week. There is also jajah.

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