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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cutting Communication Costs


Last week I changed my cell phone plan to a prepaid plan, knowing that I'd save lots of money if I would just cut back on calls when out and about. Already on the way home from the cell phone store, I realized just how much of a challenge this would be for me. I was itching to call my sister about something I saw in the store, wanted to share a cute anecdote with my husband. In fact, I actually called a few people from my cell phone before I realized that I need to save the phone- just for emergencies!
I realized that I needed some tips and advice, so wrote down this list for myself about ways to cut back on communication costs. I hope this list helps you as well.

Cutting Communication Costs While Out:

Just don't call!

If you feel the need to speak to someone while traveling:
  • Can it wait till later? Can you wait until you've arrived home to call? Calls made from cell phones are the most expensive form of communication. 
  • Have them call you back. Does the person you're trying to reach have free outgoing calls? If you live in a place with free incoming calls, you can ask someone to call you back if you know they have unlimited minutes.

Cut Your Home Telephone Bill

Ok, you've arrived home and have your home telephone at your disposal. That doesn't mean you should free for all and "pig out" on telephone calls.
Use the computer instead of the phone:
  • Instant messenger. No need to pay a cent to communicate. Its as easy as a telephone, communicating in real time. You both need to be signed in to use these. I like AIM, Google Talk, and Yahoo Messenger best.
  • Email. Not as instantaneous, but it allows you to communicate even when the other isn't logged on to the computer.
  • Skype. This allows you to communicate in real time with voice and video. Before my dad moved locally, Lee knew Gramps via his weekly video chats. Skype also offers good rates for calls to phones worldwide. You'll need to invest in a webcam and headset and both must be logged on to the computer for this to work.
Non computer correspondence:
  • Free Mobile to Mobile. Some companies allow people with the same provider to call each other for free. If you have the same providers, call each other from your cell phones instead of house phones.
  • Nights and Weekends. If either you or the person you're trying to reach have free nights and weekends, try to schedule your calls for those times.
  • Good Ol' Fashioned Talking. Is it urgent? Must this communication be done by phone? Can you wait to share this information until the next time you see each other? My husband chides me "Must you tell me these anecdotes while I'm at work? Save them for when I get home so we have what to talk about."
  • Snail Mail. For people who you won't be seeing soon, consider writing them a letter if the message isn't urgent. Hand written letters are a step less personal than phone conversations, but are more meaningful than emails when it comes to building relationships.

Cut Your Communication, Period

I'm not suggesting becoming a hermit or taking a vow of silence. Just a few points to think about.
"Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." This is a quote that has stuck with me ever since I first heard it, and I've been trying to abide by that maxim. Not every thought that pops into someone's head must be voiced.
Pretend conversations are pointless. I've overheard numerous conversations that consisted entirely of variations of these lines, with a few odd words thrown in here or there.
"So... whats new?" "Nothing. What's new by you?" "Not much. What's happening by you?"
Or even better "What did you make for lunch? What are you making for supper? What did you make last night for dinner?"
These faux conversations delude people into thinking they're bonding, when, in reality, they're just wasting air time and dollars.
Cut the Gossip. People spend too much time talking about people, whether just plain ol' gossiping, or trash talking them. Not every negative thought that pops into your head about someone must be passed on; you don't need to tell Stacy that you heard from Tracy that Meg was seen in the back of the movie theater with Greg, while her husband Fred was home watching the kids. When you gossip about someone, people know you to be untrustworthy, for the next second you might turn around and be trash talking them. Aside for breaking relationships instead of building them, gossiping about others, especially on the phone, just wastes money for no reason.

In the past week, I've had to work really hard to cut back on my phone usage. I've found in liberating though, to just spend time with my kids, enjoying the moment, instead of feeling the need to call up random people and update them on my life.

What do you do to cut communication costs?

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