Phone services for people who don't use phones a lot...
September 3, 2009 10:01 PM   Subscribe

(Toronto) Looking for cheapest way to configure my phone services now that I am free of an overly expensive contract. I don't make a lot of phone calls, but want to call one person long-distance and be able to talk for awhile...

I have no landline, nor do I want one, and don't make a lot of phone calls. I was on a Telus cellphone plan that was $25 but costing me $45 once they added on all their charges. I am now done with Telus and got a Koodo phone. It has unlimited evenings and weekends, but not many minutes during the day. This is fine---the only local person who really ever calls me is my mother since most people I know are more Facebook/email types. But I can't call long distance on it, although I can receive such calls incoming.

I have a sister in California and I want to talk to her more. It's not fair to expect her to always call me just because I'm too cheap to get a landline, and I am tired of not being able to talk to her unless I wait around for her to call me. My internet provider has $9.99 a month VOIP phones. I was thinking of getting one. Is $9.99 a month just to talk to one person a lot though? Would I be better adding some other option to the cell phone? Or is there some kind of computer-based solution which would work here? Our IT person at work mentioned Skype to me but I don't know how that works if I have that and she only has the landline? And he also thought the VOIP phone was a was a waste of money. I also heard that it can be tricky to set up if you have wireless internet with a firewall.

Can anyone advise me on the best plan or combination of plans? VOIP phone, skype, something else? To recap:

- I don't make a ton of phone calls
- I have the second-cheapest Koodo plan right now and that's it
- Limited daytime minutes, unlimited evenings/weekends
- It works for me, but I want to add on something to call my sister long distance

Thanks for any advice.
posted by JoannaC to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

1) Sign up with cheap long-distance provider that works well with cell phones, like, and talk w. your sister on your cell when your cell minutes are fee.

2) Get unlimited Skypeout for $3/month. Then you can talk to your sister all you want, from your computer (assiming you have an okay computer, and high-speed 'net. You can call your sister on regular phone).
posted by ManInSuit at 10:15 PM on September 3, 2009

3) If your sister also has an okay computer and high-speed 'net, you can talk skype-to-skype all you like for free.

(and, not that you asked, but - if you both have cams on your computers, you can video-skype, also free, which is a really nice way to stay in touch with remote family).
posted by ManInSuit at 10:18 PM on September 3, 2009

Skype video chats are also pretty awesome, if your sister has an available computer and reasonable internet connection. I use them to talk with people in the USA from Japan, and although the image can get a little choppy, it really works remarkably well.

You can definitely use Skype to call your sister on a telephone, but as ManInSuit says, you have to pay for that one (although not much).
posted by that girl at 10:22 PM on September 3, 2009

You can get free calling outbound/inbound to phones with Gizmo5 and Google Voice. You'll have to make/receive calls via your computer and will get your own phone #.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:50 PM on September 3, 2009

Oops, nevermind, I just noticed that you're in canada. Google Voice is US only.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:55 PM on September 3, 2009

I agree with ManInSuit's #1 option. Get something like Yak or one of Primus's long distance plans (sadly, I don't think you can sign up for the plan I'm on, any long distance call to US or Canada of any length for 25cents anymore) and use their local access number to make your call. That way, it's a local call to your cell phone and the long distance bill is a separate thing.

Getting Skype set up on both ends is a nice touch, too, but I don't always want to sit in front of my computer and talk to my parents. I want the freedom of the phone -- lounging on the couch during a 2 hour conversation, or getting up to stir dinner.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:56 AM on September 4, 2009

Skype is great if you have a good phone and can talk using your computer. If you want to use a regular phone, posted this answer to a different question a bit back:

I recently dropped Bell for a VOIP solution through VBuzzer. They have Canadian numbers and desktop software you can make / recieve calls with.

They also support SIP, which means that if you can get a wired connection, you can use with a regular home phone. I picked up an unlocked Linksys PAP2 and followed the instructions on VBuzzer's boards.

Expected a couple hours of headaches and mediocre call quality, but 10 minutes and a one-time $75 later, it worked perfectly and I ditched Bell's $50/month home line. Can't recommend it more highly.

I used my VBuzzer VOIP phone to call Bell and cancel. It was very satisfying (grin).
posted by nometa at 6:35 AM on September 4, 2009

get a calling card for a few cents per minute. If you want you can program in the calling card sequence with her number.
posted by canoehead at 8:57 AM on September 4, 2009

Sign up with Alligato. They provide a local (Toronto) number for you to dial and then connect your call to the long-distance number. This way, the long-distance call registers as local on your Koodo bill. Alligato charges 3.9 cents a minute to the US and they bill your credit card at the end of the month for the calls you made during that month.
posted by kitkatcathy at 10:21 AM on September 4, 2009

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