Cutting the cord on a land line phone

More people than ever are dropping their land line service and going wireless exclusively. But before you throw out your old phone, make sure the move is right for your budget.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 30, 2013 1:09PM

This post comes from Michelle V. Rafter of MSN Money.


Image: Pink phone (© Fuse/Getty Images)When the Wright family gave up their land line two years ago after a move from Oregon City to the neighboring town of Estacada, Ore., they never missed a beat.


“We decided we didn’t use the land line enough to make it worth the money,” says Kerry Wright, 38.


Over the past decade, the number of U.S. families like the Wrights -- which also includes Kerry's husband, Scott, and their 15-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son -- who have cut the cord on land line service and gone wireless-only has tripled.


The trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, thanks in part to the lure of smartphones. Technology analyst IDC says that last year, 712.6 million smartphones were sold worldwide, up 44.1% from 2011.


With cell service covering more of the country, it’s become a more viable replacement for land line service. As of June 2012, the country was blanketed by 285,561 cell sites, a 36% increase from 2007, according to CTIA, a wireless industry group. It’s also a matter of convenience. Why have two phone numbers and two phone bills when one will do?


Another reason is cost. Wireless phone companies heavily promote group plans with unlimited minute,s so when Mom or Dad sign up it’s relatively cheap to add the kids -- and even Grandma and Grandpa.


U.S. households with no land line service but at least one wireless telephone jumped to 35.8% by June 2012, compared with 34% at the end of 2011, and only 10.5% five years earlier, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.


By 2016, the number of wireless-only households could climb to 50.8 million, or 42.8% of all U.S. residents with telephone service, according to IDC, the technology researcher.


Whether or not a family’s gone wireless only at home depends a lot on where they live, according to the NCHS (.pdf file), which bases its findings on a twice-yearly government health study. In Idaho, for example, 44.6% of adults use only cellphones, compared with 15.3% of adults living in Rhode Island, according to the survey.


Ditching the land line

When the Wrights ditched their land line, they added a cellphone, bringing the number of mobile devices on their monthly plan to three. It was still cheaper. After paying for an extra cellphone for the family, they save about $200 to $300 per year, they say. 

Generation Y doesn’t know anything else. The last time Senia Wadford, 22, used a land line, she was 16 and living with her parents. Today, the Spring Lake, N.C., woman and her husband, both Army medics, use their cellphones wherever they are, including at home.


Land lines “might be useful for families or mothers at home,” Wadford says, “but not for us with our fast-paced tempo, and the fact that we have to turn our phones off for every deployment.”


Even if you don’t go wireless, an Internet connection and Skype or Google Voice can serve as a cheap replacement for a land line.


Betsy Richter, 50, of Portland, Ore., gave up her land line two years ago and signed up for a Google Voice number instead. The Web-based service is available to Gmail users or as an iPhone or Android app, and it provides free PC-to-phone calls inside North America, which Richter figures saves her about $30 a month. “I'm not a phone person by nature, plus both kids have their own cell numbers, as do I, so keeping a land line had little appeal,” Richter says. “Google Voice has worked well for me.”


Despite smartphones’ popularity, there are some downsides of going wireless exclusively. 911 emergency services haven’t been as reliable as they are on land line connections, though wireless carriers are working to improve that. According to CTIA, the wireless trade group, wireless 911 calls have risen to more than 400,000 a day.


Not all cell service is cheaper, either, which is why some people who give up land lines go back to using a combination of land line and wireless service.


Lynn Harris’ family got rid of their land line more than three years ago, but reinstated a no-frills phone line after her husband quit working to return to school for a master’s degree in counseling.


With the Oregon City woman supporting the family with two part-times jobs, money is tight. Harris pays $30 for a basic phone line plus $16 a month for a TracPhone prepaid cellphone. The cost is about half the family’s previous monthly cell service bill. “More often than not, I end up leaving my cell in my purse and only answering the land line on the weekends,” she says.


More from MSN Money: 




Jan 31, 2013 12:11AM
I miss my rotary phone at $8.00 a month.
Jan 30, 2013 4:17PM
I would have loved to keep my land line. BUT verizon sent me notice that they were raising the rates to compensate for the increase in service and reliability they were getting ready to implement. Hell, it's a frickin' land line, hard-wire connected to wherever you call. How much more can you improve on a dying technology??? Just another scam to get more money. I dropped it. They are still screwing me on the cell bill. But then that is what all of them are doing.
Jan 30, 2013 5:52PM
I still have my old Verizon Landline with a Princess Touchtone phone due to the fact that I don't get a clear cell signal where I live.  I have to drive about a mile or so to receive a clear cell signal.  On the bright side, when we lost power here from Superstorm Sandy for 16 days I was the only one on my block who had telephone service for the first 5 days until they restored the cell towers.  I also have an Internet Voip phone but that doesn't work when you lose power either.  So I think I'll keep my landline a bit longer for only $23.00 a month.
Jan 30, 2013 8:39PM

When a big storm comes along, what will go out is the cell phone. Land lines carry 90%+ of the calls.

They have the networks, just like a car needing a highway.

Cell phone companies couldn't operate without the real phone networks.

I'll always keep my land line.

Jan 30, 2013 6:52PM
I dislike cell phones and the idea of having to talk and text hours on end for no reason. The phone should be for the home  and business.
Jan 30, 2013 9:55PM
Hello there public fools. Ever had that moment when the power went out all around you and your little cell phone had no service and you had no one to call to complain to because U didn't have a land line that doesn't need a power tower to make a call from. Crap you can't even call the power company to tell them your tower is down and your power is off. So I'll keep my landline and make it avaliable to all my cell phone neighbors for a price next time the power dies out  here in the boonies that's something that happens all to often.
Jan 31, 2013 12:37AM
I love my landline. I constantly get dropped calls from friends and I am tired of it.  I don't have children and have a track phone.  I hate talking on the cell phone, it gets hot, you get dropped calls, I just am old school. One day I might buy an iphone but I still like my landline with my answering machine. 
Jan 31, 2013 1:35AM
I still have a land line. Place finger in hole, rotate until it stops, release, and repeat.
Jan 31, 2013 8:53AM
Stupid thing to do. In a true emergency, the landline is likely to be the only thing that works. (provided you have an old fashion phone-or a generator)
Jan 30, 2013 6:37PM
I got the Magic Jack Plus and ported my phone # over for a small fee. It works great and I pay very little for unlimited calls, get emailed my messages and have call waiting and all the features I would have had to pay through the nose for. I have just an internet connection and stream movies and sports to my flat panel for free, no need for cable or satellite TV with today's technology.
Jan 30, 2013 4:50PM
I haven't had a land line for many years now. 30+ bucks a month more in my pocket and not having to delete 10-15 telemarketer calls every day I sure don't miss.
Jan 30, 2013 7:01PM
Jan 31, 2013 11:03AM
Is This a advirtisment to promote cell phone's? I don't want a cell phone, I still have a home phone and like my life that way, when I'm out living, drivin the car , etc, I can concentrait on what I'm doing! Plus cell phones and smart phones cost way more! Cell phones have awful service and recheipion, try hearin everythin in all that noise. Talking on a cell phone in public is as bad as just doing your business in public too. Like smoking, talkin on these cell phones in public needs to be band!
Jan 31, 2013 2:26PM
I have a land line for most everything and a pay in advance/by the minute cell phone for emergency use only.  Why people insist on needing an electronic noose is beyond me.  Has it gotten so bad that people can't go ten minutes without having to communicate with someone?  It seems really sad to me.  Even my parents are caught up in it.  I rode with my dad to get dinner from a local fund raising bbq and as we were driving back to mom and dads house, he tells me to use his cell phone and call mom to let her know we're on our way back and to start putting ice in our glasses.  No s%&t, and he said it with a straight face, serious as the day is long.  Naturally, I refused to call and mocked him without mercy.  People have become way too dependent on that kind of crap.  Time to relax and slow down on using the electronic pacifiers.
Jan 30, 2013 7:25PM
I'm GLADLY rid of my land line.  I don't know why I held onto it for so long.  I was paying something like $60.00 a month to get NOTHING BUT incoming calls from political campaigns, wrong numbers, telemarketers and debt collectors looking for someone who had my phone number 20 years ago.  I never made any outbound calls and realized I was paying $60.00 a month to be harassed.  Do yourself a favor and lose the land line.
Jan 30, 2013 5:49PM
I have a Magic Jack  Unlimited local and long distance for $29.99 a YEAR!!! Phone is only used for messages from doctor's offices, etc.
Jan 30, 2013 5:43PM
We have cut our land line before and it wasn't a problem.  However, once we had small children we got a land line, but bare bones - no caller ID, no call waiting, minimal service.  The only reason is if in case of an emergency, we want to have that line available.  Also, when we have babysitters, we want to be sure they have a way to get in touch with us parents as needed.  So we still have one, although it's rarely used and rarely ever rings only for emergency situations.
Jan 30, 2013 4:31PM
Getting ready to ditch our landline.  no reason to keep it - no kids at home and they always call our cell anyways.  might cut down on the cold calls....
Jan 30, 2013 10:14PM
Verizon said,  to keep my DSL service I need to keep my landline for $53.00 a month($25.00 for Dsl + $28.00 for phone service). I have a cell phone but I want my PC for printing, watching DVD's and buying and selling on eBay. Dial up is a cheaper option but way too long for a page to load. Still looking to just get a Dsl home service plan somewhere if that exists!
Jan 30, 2013 9:45PM
If you have a standard wireless service, there is no reason anymore for a land line.  Even ADT and DirecTV no longer require a landline.  As a matter of fact, a wireless ADT system is more secure since cutting the phone line -- or even power to the house -- does a burglar no good, unless he wants to wait 48 hours before a break in.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.