Telephone Alternatives

Many VoIP services are free.

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Instead of paying a bill for a landline, you could switch to a phone service that takes advantage of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) -- a system that allows computer users to place phone calls from their computer to landline and mobile phone users -- and save some money on long-distance calling [source: Federal Communications Commission].

The magicJack USB adapter allows users to connect a normal telephone to their computer and make and receive unlimited calls to the U.S., Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands for $40 in the first year and $20 in each subsequent year. The software application Skype allows users to speak through a telephone handset or simply speak into their computer's microphone and make unlimited calls to North America for about $8 a month. Elsewhere, Google Voice allows you to dial numbers in the U.S. and Canada for free right from your Gmail account.

International calls through these systems are very inexpensive as well. Calling a landline in Brazil costs 2 to 3 cents a minute through Google Voice, 6 cents a minute through Skype, and about 5 cents a minute through the magicJack. (Calling mobile phones on other continents generally costs about three to six times as much as calling landlines.) But be prepared for diminished quality and terminated calls if your connection freezes or crashes.