Keeping Your Landline: Is it Worth it?

By Andrew Tavin

Is the landline dead? Or is it a necessary extra expense that you should consider keeping around?

You probably have limited means. Almost everyone has some limit on their means, after all. We acknowledge the possibility that you may be the billionaire founder of the world’s largest online shopping and shipping platform, but if that is the case, we find it unlikely that you would be reading this article, rather than deciding which supermarket chain you will be purchasing next.

Given those aforementioned limits, you will likely spend a lot of time trying to figure out if various expenses are actually worth it. To help you navigate those decisions, we are introducing a new series: “Is It Worth It?

Today we will be looking at landlines and whether or not they are worth keeping around.

The landline advantage: emergency coverage

Before we get into whether the cost of a landline is worth it in this day and age, it is also worth questioning whether there is a benefit to even having a landline at all. What can a landline offer you that a cell phone cannot?

“In a large emergency, such as a major storm, when so many people are using cell phones, it can actually cause service to be highly affected, with calls possibly not able to be placed,” warns Ami Bergman, chief operating officer of Fortified Estate, a residential security company. “Instead, having a landline allows for a fixed, easy-to-use, and dependable method of communication. Having [landline phones] in a few places in the house is not a bad idea either — even if you keep the ringer on mute, generally.”

Depending on your cable or internet package, you may have a landline included in your monthly plan. If this is the case, it may not cost you anything to have a landline as part of your life, except for the cost of the phone itself. The superior call quality could also be an asset in your professional life.

The landline disadvantage: the emergency fail

However, despite the previously described benefits, it may still make sense to get rid of your landline altogether, just like Michelle Platt of My Purse Strings, who said her landline actually didn’t work for her when she had an emergency situation:

“I lived in Hoboken, New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy, which was badly hit by the storm. I had an old-school landline plugged into the wall with a wire (not cordless). As soon as the storm hit, my landline did not work, but my cell phone did. Even if calls could not go through on my mobile phone, texts usually did. I charged my phone in the car or at pop-up charging stations throughout the city. While landlines probably have better reception overall, I still can’t justify paying for an unnecessary expense.”

Platt says since getting rid of her landline, she has not only saved on the cost associated with it (as a full-on cord cutter, she is saving hundreds of dollars per year thanks to getting rid of her cable and landline), but she is also earning back all the time and energy she used to spend dealing with it. “I never used my landline,” she said. “The only people ever to call on it were my mom and telemarketers. I had myself on do-not-call lists and even reported these numbers to the FCC website periodically. Since getting rid of my landline, the amount of telemarketing has drastically dropped.”

A true cost-savings

Want a real twist? What about giving up your cell phone and only having a landline? It would not make sense in most cases, but might be worth considering if you are approaching retirement.

Timothy Wiedman, a former personal finance instructor, has given up his cell phone in lieu of a landline. The cost is part of a package that’s bundled with his cable and internet, and runs him about $20 per month, which works for his personal needs. Even the fees on his bill only come to several cents per month — a big difference from the fees one usually sees on a cell phone bill.

“Clearly, if folks are homebound quite a bit of the time and can get a great deal on a landline, highly taxed (and usually much more expensive) wireless plans make little economic sense,” Wiedman said. “By the way, when I am on vacation and traveling by car, I rely on OnStar to summon help should I ever need it.”

Is another option worth it?

If landlines are yesterday and cell phones are today, what is tomorrow? Here is one possibility:

“The public telephone switched network (PTSN) is dying a very slow death,” says Reuben Yonatan, founder and CEO of GetVOIP, a company that helps customers compare Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. VoIP is a cost-saving method for people who are able to use their internet services to make calls. “In some rare situations, such as an extremely rural location, it may be worth a small business or homeowner installing a landline. But, in most cases, PTSN is the way of the past.”

Similar to those who streamline their landline service expense with their internet package, VoIP services may allow you to do the same. So depending on if you need to integrate other types of internet-communications devices into your home, such as a fax machine, as Yonatan mentions, one type of plan may be better for you than the other. However, it is probably best to compare and contrast one service package to another to see which will allow you the best cost benefit.

As with so many financial decisions, at the end of the day the right choice will depend on your specific circumstances. But we hope that when it comes to landlines, this article can help decide … is it worth it?

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