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How Google Voice Became My Primary Phone Number for FREE
PROBLEM: Your cell phone bill is sky high and you have no choice but to continue paying it because you need to have a phone. You have considered using a pre-paid phone, but you have to call the service and put money on it, you run out of minutes, it does not get as great of service as your primary phone provider, and it just creates more problems than it solves and in the end, you are still paying a good amount of money to have a phone. You want to start saving more money, not spending it, especially on a cell phone bill!
SOLUTION: I have not paid a cell phone bill in almost 5 years. If you think about it, the average cell phone bill is anywhere from $50 to $150 a month, depending on whatever plan you have and how many people you have on it. That means you are spending $600 to $1800 a year on a phone bill with insane taxes that hardly make any sense. There are even some plans as low as $20 or $30 a month, which ends up being $240 or $360 after a year, not to mention that if the plans do not include unlimited texting or Internet, you will be charged a hefty price for going over your limit. What could you do with an extra $240, $360, or $1800 a year if it was not being spent on your phone bill?
When I was younger, I was reluctant to even get a cell phone, delaying it for as long as possible, while everyone else was embracing the age of the cell phone. No longer would anyone have to use a beeper and find a pay phone to call their loved ones or friends!
I finally succumbed to my mother’s demands, when I was working a job and driving half-hour distances to work, as she convinced me that I should have one in case I broke down somewhere. I agreed.
I believe the cost of my first phone, from Sprint, was around $400 at the time. Now I look back on it and I cannot help but feel that it was a waste of a lot of money. Not to mention that the phone bill was about $50 to $70 a month. I really did not use the phone much. No one ever called me. I used the phone to play games and read the news and in the rare event, I would make a phone call. To this day, I still do not have much interest in the phone, but I do understand its purpose for communication.
Fast forward a few years and the iPhone was the most amazing expensive brick you could buy—my brother convinced me that I needed to have an iPhone 2G. I reluctantly spent $500, only for the new iPhone (3G) to come out a few months later, and at a much lower price. I kept that brick until… well, it is still around my apartment somewhere. Yes, an iPhone 2G. The phone never died and I promised myself I would never get a new phone until it died. Though I think I may have lost it, I still have not gotten a new phone. However, it served as my phone for many years all the way until Google introduced Google Voice.
Google Voice allowed me to connect to my phone number. I could now text and make calls to and through my Google Voice number – and through Gmail – as long as I had a WiFi connection. Although I still had and may have the iPhone 2G lying around somewhere, I lost the phone number associated with Google Voice as I stopped paying the bill, but I could still use the Google Voice number on its own and it still remains associated with that number! My girlfriend bought me an iPod Touch 3G and I wondered if I could turn it into a phone.
An app called TalkaTone did the job perfect: I could now make free phone calls to anywhere in the United States and Canada. I actually was able to figure out a workaround for a while when I lived in Israel and I was making free international calls from Israel to the United States and Canada for a year.
Using Google Voice as my primary phone number, I have unlimited texting and unlimited phone calls to anywhere in the United States and Canada with absolutely no costs for anything. Google Voice gives me privacy, as I can give out the number freely, screen all calls, and even block numbers that turn out to be telemarketers, or people that I do not want calling me. It sounds too good to be true and I really pray that Google does not take away the feature anytime soon, but in my adventure to living frugally and saving money, I no longer have to worry about a cell phone or any bills associated with it. The last time I actually used a cell phone, in which I had AT&T service for about $50 or $60 a month, was in the summer of 2010.
The only downside of using Google Voice as your primary phone: You need to have access to WiFi Internet, but nearly every and any place you travel to has Internet access. You do take the risk of being caught somewhere without Internet access, such as on the road, but for that, you can just rely on other people: Most people are generous if you ask them to use their phone to make a quick call. But it is definitely worth the savings! If you are looking to save money and eliminate your phone bill, consider using Google Voice as your primary phone number.
So where do you start? Go to www.google.com/voice and sign up. If you do not already have a Gmail account, you should get one, as it may be required by Google that you have one anyway. You have the option to choose your own phone number including the area code! Do not enter in the full 7-digit number you want, but start by entering in only 3 numbers of your liking, otherwise Google will have trouble pulling up the database of numbers it gives you to choose. Google Voice will do the rest and find you a phone number that may match what you are looking for. For example, if you love cats or dogs, you may want to have a number with 228 (CAT) or 364 (DOG) in it. You can even type “CAT” and it will convert your choice into numbers. How much does this all cost? FREE!
Matthew Gates is a freelance web designer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions.