Verizon: Can You Hear Me Now? You are Fired!

Although we are in the fortunate position of not having to count pennies now that we’ve retired, my husband and I have been looking for ways to save money on our monthly bills. What we don’t send to the phone, internet, cable, water and other utility companies, goes into our savings and can be spent on better things like travel, dining out, and entertainment.

The first change we made was to install drought-tolerant landscaping. Not only is our yard more interesting visually, we no longer need to water a thirsty lawn.

Yard

We’ve also ditched our landline. It seemed wasteful to pay over $30 each month for a phone that remained silent much of the time, except when it became a conduit for telemarketers and political campaign workers to reach out and annoy us. Since we make and receive most of our calls using our cellphones, that was an easy decision to make.

When we made this switch, we still wanted the option to direct certain calls to a number other than our cellphones so we bought an Ooma internet-based phone system.  After the initial purchase price, we now pay only applicable taxes and fees, which has been less than $4 each month.

Now, we are getting ready to say goodbye to our cellphone service carrier, Verizon. We don’t use a lot of data (we currently share 2GB but never use even close to that), and our talking and texting is on the low-side, so our current monthly bill of $130 (plus taxes and fees) for two phones  seems high. When our 2-year contract recently expired, we visited a Verizon store to find out what our options were. We knew that the major service carriers were feeling pressure from the smaller start-ups so we hoped to get a better deal.

We were disappointed to learn that Verizon’s “deal” involved the mandatory purchase of new phones and then monthly charges to pay off those phones. Even though they claimed that we’d no longer be on a 2-year contract, the new phone would be paid off at the end of – surprise! – 24 months. After that, the monthly installments would be removed from the bill and we could either keep our now fully paid for phones, or purchase the latest wiz-bang phone and start all over again. Um, no thank you.

Thinking that we could do better, we went in search of a carrier that offered decent coverage, a no-contract option, and one where we could keep our current, perfectly good phones. We found that there are quite a few smaller carriers out there and they all offer slightly different plan options. When comparing plans, we found that it’s important to accurately estimate current and (as much as possible), future data and minutes usage, and understand the carriers’ cell coverage.

After some research, we settled on the carrier that Consumer Reports and PC Magazine have rated #1: Consumer Cellular. Based on our usage and because we can continue to use our existing phones, the new monthly bill will be about $60 for our two phones. If (when) in the future we decide to upgrade our phones, our option would be to purchase the phones outright or pay for them in monthly installments. But, for now, we are happy with what we have… and saving $70 every month.

Next on our agenda is to see how we can say goodbye to our satellite TV bill. We aren’t completely sure how streaming and/or accessing digital content works, but I’m confident that we can figure it out. In addition, we are exploring ways to lower our internet bill (how did it get to be more than $50 per month??).

27 thoughts on “Verizon: Can You Hear Me Now? You are Fired!”

  1. Good advice. Consider bundling home/ auto insurance with the same broker/ insurance company and increasing deductibles. That will save you some more. People usually pay for small dings or let them go, so you might as well benefit from the higher deductible.

    1. You are correct; bundling can really save money. We have our homeowners, auto and umbrella insurance with the same company. It also appears that it’s good to shop around every few years. What at first was a great price can ratchet up until other insurance companies are much cheaper. The companies bank on the consumer becoming complacent and not shopping around. I looked into bundling our TV and internet but couldn’t find a better price than the one we have split between two companies.

      1. Good point on periodically shopping around. Oftentimes, the insurance company will give you the impetus to shop with an unreasonable rate increase or service issue.

  2. I recently cut my cell phone payment from $40/mo to under $20. I have Consumer Cellular which lets you go down in coverage if you don’t use it a lot. We have been agonizing with the cable. We do watch TV especially in the winter and the “other” options we found didn’t give us what we like to watch. Let us know how you do.

    1. I just had someone from Verizon call and beg us to come back. They tried to offer a “deal” but it wasn’t even close to Consumer Cellular’s price. I think they are realizing that their old way of doing business is in trouble.

      Figuring out the TV options will be more difficult. Unfortunately, we don’t have a 18-year-old around to help us understand how everything works. I’ll let you know what we come up with.

    1. It took awhile for us to make the break, but it was very satisfying when we finally ditched Verizon. It was even more satisfying when they called the next day begging for our business. They asked what they could do to get us back and I said if they could meet or beat Consumer Cellular’s price we’d consider it. Didn’t happen.

  3. Wow, thanks for this helpful info. As Maggie says, it’s a lot of footwork (time), but we retirees are theoretically ‘millionaires for time”, eh? I’ve had that ‘project’ bubbling forever and you are spurring me to pull the trigger (or rather Hub ‘cuz he has more patience than I for this kind of project!)

    Can you please keep us posted on the rest of your decisions. I’m also curious – after a couple months of using the small carrier – if the actual coverage is as good or if you experiences more dropped calls, etc. i’m always wary of switching to ‘better pricing’ then finding out the service is worse!

    1. I encourage you to pull the trigger! The more of us who leave the big service providers, the more they will get the message that they are too expensive. And, you are so right about the coverage. It’s important to make sure it works well in your area. So far so good here (we live in a large metropolitan area) but we will be traveling soon so we’ll see. There are several small carriers to choose from but Consumer Cellular got such great ratings in Consumer Reports and PC magazine I felt pretty confident going with them.

  4. I would love to ditch my home phone, but my internet and cable bill will actually increase if I do. AS for steaming video, there are times when it is a pain in the —. My cell phone is never used and I really should look into Consumer Cellular. Of course, if I ditch the landline I’ll have no choice but to turn it on and carry it around.

    1. That’s definitely a problem with bundling; when you try to unbundle, they make it difficult. Since you don’t use your cellphone very much, maybe you should look into one of those pre-paid plans. You can also leave your cellphone off and continue to get messages that you can return at your leisure. I don’t like to be that reachable at all time either.

  5. Hi Janis! Great post and a GREAT reminder that shopping these services can save us lots of money. We do our cable and internet with Time Warner and every year I get a notice that they will raise our rates and “drop” all the discounts they’ve given me in the past. When I called to tell them I was going to cancel and go with someone else they offered me a slightly lower price than I had been paying before and higher speed internet. But if I hadn’t asked I would have been paying about $30 more from last year. We have to ask. They told me it made a big difference to say I had been online to see what they offered new customers and told them they owed it to me to give me a better price. And they did! ~Kathy

    1. That seems to work for a lot of people, but it’s too bad you have to go through it each time. I tried to get a better price through AT&T U-verse (we currently have internet with them) by adding TV but that didn’t pan out. Maybe I need to try Time Warner for both. It just seems like such a game.

  6. This was great info, Janis! It is so frustrating dealing with out techno-utilities. Now that I am retired, I have to take a hard look at Dish, Verizon (been with them since they were called “Airtouch Cellular”), ATT for internet, etc, ad nausueum. No land lines for a while now, and I need to bundle internet with someone. When my daughter graduates from college later this year I am going to reconsider our mobile carrier. Thanks for the informative post!

  7. We ditched the landline 4 years ago along with satellite TV…yes, we use an antenna. We are happy with those decisions. Streaming takes data, which translate into this…for every 2 hour movie you watch, it will take 2 gigabytes of data. We pay $80/month for 10 gigabytes. We use that for internet, phone, email. Technology costs money and there’s only so much one can do to reduce the cost. Shopping around is one of them.

    1. We have talked about getting an antenna for the local channels and streaming anything else we want to see. I wasn’t aware that you can use one “pot” of data for internet, phone and TV. That could work for us too. And, you are so right about technology being expensive. I just don’t like to pay for things (like a zillion channels on TV) that I don’t use.

  8. This was because you were looking for new deal, I take it? My contract will expire and I will go month to month, I will not be required to get a new phone. We keep Verizon because of the 4G coverage in places like the high Rockies.

    That said, every January in memory we look at all our regular costs. I go online and do insurance comparisons, phone service comparisons, and compare all of those monthly bills. We also pay annually whenever possible in order to avoid service fees.

    1. What a great idea to set up a yearly review of your expenses. And, you are so right about coverage. Not every service works equally well everywhere. Although our new carrier works fine where we live, the test will come in about a month when we will travel away from this area.

  9. Janis, This was a wonderful post. Thanks for doing the legwork for all of us. I too will be interested to hear whether you encounter any problems with the changes you’ve made.
    We have landline with the cable company, bundled with internet and TV. I agree with you that most of the calls that come through on our land line we don’t want to get.

  10. This seems to be a fairly common pattern for today’s retirees – first we ditch the landline, then we take a hard look at our other re-occuring expenses, because it’s so much more satisfying to redirect those funds to other, funner places!

    We ditched the landline a year after retiring and have not missed it one iota, Interestingly, it has not been reassigned as of yet (I checked recently), and it is therefore the number we give when we are required to provide a home phone # for, generally, online interactions. It’s our ‘junk’ phone # if you will, similar to how so many of us have secondary ‘junk’ email addresses.

    We have been without cable for almost three years, and sincerely do not miss it. With Hulu and HuluPlus making tons of both current and prior season TV shows available online, plus so many things now streaming live, including the recent Superbowl and upcoming Oscars, we are most appreciative to redirect those funds to more satisfying places. Plus, we travel so much in retirement we would have almost been paying twice what we were actually home to utilize.

    We switched our prior Verizon phone plan to StraightTalk, picking phones compatible with usage of Verizon’s backbone, about two years ago, dropping from about $120 per month to $60 per month for two phones. Every so often a call goes to voice mail instead of actually ringing through, but that is something I can live with for the price. Coverage seems to be the same, having tested StraightTalk in about 15 states at this point.

    1. Between the retires that are ditching their landlines, and the younger generation that has never even had landlines, I think that might be a dying technology. I need to do a lot of research into Hulu and other similar services, because that is probably next. We don’t have kids to help us so we need to figure it out ourselves… yikes!

  11. Last August, we decided we had to take more steps to knock back our fixed expenses. We were running through savings too quickly, and I needed to retire. We had already dropped our landline and kicked our cable coverage down to the basic coverage. For our next efforts, we looked first at our cars and our cellphones. Because of a chronic illness, I rarely drive any longer. However, my older car had been so well cared for that we knew we would never replace it for anywhere near the sell price if it turned out we needed two cars after all. My husband reminded me that when our primary cars had needed servicing in the last few years, my car had always been a way of avoiding renting a car. However, that was an easy way to save money and get rid of the monthly insurance payment for that care’s insurance and how often did we need that kind of servicing anyway? When we looked at the cellphone plans, we found that we were paying $20 more a month for less coverage than T-Mobile was offering its new subscribers. That was it, to learn that loyal customers were made to pay more than new customers. We had even once asked a few years ago if there was any way to cut down on our bill and hadn’t been told about the change in pricing for data. We felt cheated.

    We both went with MNVO’s, mobile virtual network operators. I wanted Verizon’s coverage and I needed a bit of data for when I’m traveling because of the work I was then doing. I needed an iPhone because it’s the best at activating the telecoil on my hearing aids. I chose a $29.95 plan from Verizon-based Page Plus for 1200 voice minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB of data. At the time, Page Plus was one of the few (or perhaps only) MNVO’s that provided 4G coverage and allowed iPhones. My T-Mobile based iPhone was not a CDMA phone, so it wasn’t compatible with Verizon or its MNVO’s. I had to find a new (used) and sell mine. My husband chose a $10.00 Republic Wireless plan. He has unlimited calls and texts, and has unlimited data while at connected via wifi, but no data when not. As often as twice a month, he can change to a plan that allows data when traveling, but he never has felt the need to do so. We went from spending $138.00, I believe, to $39.95 for our telephone coverage, and we both feel we have superior coverage out here in the boonies. These MNVO’s do require a much more hands-on approach. No one is going to transfer everything from the cloud to your new phone. I had to learn a new language: MNVO, SIM card, porting a number, and wiping the phone. However, we need to keep up-to-date, don’t we? The process ended up being fun and challenging, taking it one step at a time. That success spurred us to make other changes. I’m still working on my husband to drop cable entirely, and he’s almost convinced. We’ve gone from withdrawing money every month from our IRA’s to withdrawing nothing, despite losing my small salary when I finally retired. We’re adding to our savings instead. What peace!

    This is my first time reading your blog. I love it.

    1. I’m sure the service providers depend on their subscribers not wanting to take the time or make the effort to shop around. Those who do – like you – are rewarded with better rates.

      On our recent road trip, we discovered that Consumer Cellular didn’t have as good of coverage as Verizon in some of the areas we were traveling. But, it was a minor issue and we have great coverage where we live (which, of course, is where we spend most of our time).

      Good for you for learning this new tech language and actually seeing the process as “fun.”

      I’m so happy that you found my blog and took the time to add such a thorough comment!

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