Free subscriptions by phone

To continue my much-delayed discussions about ways to save money in this down economy (and thereby use it to support your TwoMorrows habit!), a simple one is as close as your phone. If you’re a cellphone-only person, with no landline, this tip isn’t for you. But if you’re still paying one of Ma Bell’s little sisters a monthly fee for your phone service, I’ve got an easy way for you to save enough to pay for your TwoMorrows subscriptions in one swell foop.

If you’re viewing this via a high-speed internet connection (cable, DSL, etc.), use it for your phone service, and even if you’re paying a flat-rate to “bundle” some of your services together, you can probably do better. Forget “digital phone” from your cable TV company, and go to, and check out their rates. Do it today. It’s generally about $24.99 per month, per phone line, for unlimited local and long distance service. Prior to our switch, we were paying $44.95 for an unlimited local/long distance plan through our phone company, and then an additional fee for our DSL service. To use Vonage, you’ve gotta keep your DSL or Cable internet access, but switching to Vonage saved us a quick $20 per month, or $240 per year. Consider that a year’s subscription to Back Issue, Alter Ego, Draw, Jack Kirby Collector, Write Now, and Rough Stuff COMBINED costs exactly $240, you will have just saved enough to subscribe to all our mags for FREE every year! And if you have more than one phone line (like we do), there’ll be enough savings to get a bunch of our books as well.

A couple of caveats: Vonage has probably the WORST customer service I’ve ever experienced from any company. You spend forever on hold, and when you do get someone on the line, they generally don’t have a clue what to do in all but the most basic situations. It took me four months (and hours on the phone) trying to get our old phone numbers transferred, because of the way our old phone company had our account set-up. This was an unusual situation, but I never could get anyone at Vonage who understood the situation, and they repeatedly told me they were “elevating” the problem to someone more knowledgeable who’d call me back, but never did. But if you’ve got a basic phone number switch, it should be very easy.

That said, the actual set-up of the equipment was pretty easy, and the sound quality is about the same as our landline used to be. And our phones work exactly as they did with our old phone company. My only issue is our fax line; since we switched it, we have intermittent problems with connection quality on faxes coming in to us (but not going out). We’re still trying to get that fixed, but see the customer service comment above to understand why it’s dragging out so long.

Also, Vonage charges you a fee every time you switch plans, so compare all their options, and do your math to determine if you really need unlimited calling. If you use less than 500 minutes of call time every month, get an even cheaper plan, and save another $100-200 per year (to spend on our books and mags, of course).

We’ve had Vonage for over a year, and other than the initial number switching problem (which likely wouldn’t affect you), and the ongoing static on our fax line (which might), I still think it was one of the best money-savers we implemented.