Cell Phone vs. Land Line

Cell phone, land line, or both?

Reader Question:  We’re trying to save money, and wonder if it would be easier and less expensive to get rid of our land line and just have cell phones.  What do you think?

In a nutshell, we have both.  A few precursors to my reasoning that certainly won’t apply to everyone:

  1. We get lousy cell service where we live.
  2. I have no desire to be available to all people at all times.
  3. I’m home.  A lot.
  4. My hubby works one block away from home.

I know the trend is to ditch the land line, but we’re not ready for that.  Here are my top three hesitations.


It is very important to me to have a phone in one spot that my kids, or anyone else in my home, can find and use during an emergency.  Self included!  Also, from my understanding, dispatchers can find your address quickly if you’re calling from a land line (if you dial but can’t respond), but not-so-much from a cell phone.  (Although NCIS would have me believe otherwise!)

Power Outages

We still have a phone with a cord (tucked away for emergencies).  Ancient?  Yes.  Necessary?  I think so. It’s not terribly unusual where we live to be out of power for a few days at a time.  If the power is out, it’s likely that the cell phone service will be even worse than normal.  Plus… cells can last only so long without charging.  A land line insures that I’ll have phone access at all times.


As far as I know, no one can “look us up” with a cell number.  For some, perhaps that’s a perk.  For me, I want my grade school best friend’s mom to be able to find me in the phone book.  When my brother died, I remember looking up numbers of a few family friends who hadn’t been contacted.  If they didn’t have home phones and weren’t listed somewhere, I wouldn’t have been able to inform them.

The Verdict: For our own needs, we’ve chosen to have only one pre-paid cell phone and keep the land line.  Our cell costs $8.34 per month.  Our land line bill, with unlimited long distance calling (calling nearly anyone around here is long distance) is $55 per month.  All together, we’re paying about $64 per month for phone service.  I don’t even know how that compares to other plans and options, but I’m guessing we pay less than average.  Tell me if I’m wrong!

Having a land line and one super-inexpensive cell phone works for me.  What works for you?  Do you have cell phones only, land line only, or both?

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  1. We have a landline with our phone and internet bundled together. And my husband has a cell phone for work that is paid for by his job. That’s it. It works for us, although I have been thinking of getting a prepaid phone. When I’m out and about I know I’d feel more secure with a cell on me.

  2. When we moved from CA to Alabama where severe weather is common, we decided to go back to using a landline and give up our high-priced cell phones. We did get a pre-paid cell which we use only when we travel or for emergencies. It’s usually turned off. We pay roughly $100 for our home phone + internet package and our cell plan is $3.00 every day that we use the phone (instead of paying by the minute). On days we don’t use it, we don’t have to pay. Since most months we only use it once or twice, it really saves us a bundle. And when we travel the cell is our main form of communication so only paying $3 a day is better than by-the-minute for those times.

    • Hi Jen – wondering what type of $3 plan you have and if you had to buy a certain phone for this. My parents don’t have cells (as someone else mentioned below, they like not being able to be reached at every minute and just want to show people they don’t “need” them, I think – it works for them.) But we’d like to get them one for emergencies – but obviously be frugal about it. Thanks for any help!

      • @Angie,
        We have an AT&T Go Phone with the $3 Unlimited Calling Plan. The phone isn’t fancy, it was $50 and does what we need it to do – make phone calls.

        Keep in mind that you can lose your cell phone number if you don’t make a call in 30 days and your account balance is empty. But as long as you keep a few dollars in your account (we keep at minimum $10, enough for a few days) you won’t have to worry.

    • @Jen, what kind of plan do you have? i only need a cell for in the car for emergencies

  3. We have both… our home phone is a bare-bones $9/month kind of plan. We went for a very long time without cell phones and liked it that way. When I started bleeding at only 22 wks pregnant with my 2nd child though and couldn’t reach my husband on his 2 hr commute, my MIL insisted on getting us both cell phones. When my “real” labor started a week later, I was very glad to have it.

  4. I have only a cell phone. I’m young and hardly remember landlines. I’ve had my cell since I was 16 and really can’t imagine having a landline.

    BTW, there’s an option in every cell phone that allows emergency operators to find your exact location quickly. You just have to check the box to allow it. Look under options or setup and it’ll be there.

  5. BOTH. I agree for pretty much the same reasons you listed – although our cost is MUCH more than what you quoted. We live in a smallish town. Sometimes people want to get in contact with you for some reason . . . the phone book is the obvious place to look for a number. (Unless you don’t have a land line).

  6. We just moved and dealt with this decision. I do not enjoy talking on the phone so I was not motivated to keep our landline (which was actually VOIP and we paid $35.00/month for) So we cancelled that and just kept our cell phones which for the data plans, etc we have run us $85.00/month. We have great cell service so that isn’t an issue (although it was where we moved from). We leave a phone (either my hubby’s or mine) when we leave the kids home alone. So far it is working for us.

  7. $64 a month?? Sign me up!! Our two cell phones on one plan (with a teachers union related discount) is $109 a month, and our landline (with DSL for computer) is $83. NOT including long-distance! $192 for us!! Just to talk on the phone??!!
    What a great subject, since just this morning I was making phone calls to see about cancelling our landline. That seems to be the best for us here… which is what most people here do. Like you said, I think it has a lot to do with where you are. But, what’s stopping me?? The 911… they automatically know exactly where you are! Pretty big price to swallow, though!

  8. We gave up our landline months ago. But, we did not give it up until our kids were all old enough to have cell phones. I always thought it was important for them to have a phone if we were not home with our cells so it took a long time for me to feel comfortable giving up the land line. We have 5 cell phones and pay $110.00 per month. But I have a college girl a senior in high school and a middle school girl so that includes unlimited texting. That is a must, the kids text all the time. We do not miss the land line in any way at all.

  9. We have both… our cell phone is an added line to my mothers contract so we only pay $30 a month and our land line is only $20 a year because we use magic jack… so it doesnt hurt us to have both.

    • @Crystal, Ooh, I’d love to know how you like Magic Jack. Hubby and I looked into it and it seemed like people either loved it or hated it in the reviews. 🙂

      • Chatty Cathy says:

        I’d love to tell you that we loved the Magic Jack, but we didn’t. I found it unreliable. It cut in and out while we were talking to people and it just didn’t work the way I think it was supposed to. Maybe it is the area that we are in or the phone lines or I don’t know what.

      • @JessieLeigh, I know what you mean, I personally love it! It originally costs $40 to begin with $20 for the device $20 for the year so it’s a great deal. The free features include: Caller ID, Call Waiting, Voicemail, 411, Speed Dial, etc… The only problem I’ve ever encountered with it is when I try to talk and surf the web at the same time. It seems to interfere with the connection. Other than that great deal!

        • @Crystal, and our high speed internet is through communicom and is only $20 a month so that’s roughly $51.70 a month for internet, cell phone, and landline, these days that’s not bad at all.

  10. We only have a cell phone. One cell phone. Hubby has a cell for work that he uses as his personal cell too. Our cell plan gets great coverage and includes long distance, so there really was no need for us to have a land line too.

  11. We swapped our land line over to Cable phone and bundled our phone, cable, and internet for $140 a month. We also have our cell phones. Not ready to landless yet! 🙂

  12. we have no landline, only cells. we had to cut our bills. I thought id miss it, but no one ever called it except telemarketers.

  13. We started out with landline with unlimited long distance and 2 cell phones with a low number of minutes that we shared. We’re only home in the evenings and my husband works one state over. When my mother in law was in the hospital for a month in critical condition, our cell phone bills skyrocketed. We upped our minutes. Then decided since we had done that, to change the landline to local only, less than $20 a month. Then our landline started having problems and our home service was our for over a month. Our provider couldn’t figure out the problem and after that much time had passed, we just cancelled the landline. So now we are all cell. We have a teenager and that was a concern for needing a landline, but she has since gotten her own cell also that she is responsible for.

  14. We’ve been cell phone only since we got back to the states. We have 3 – one for both my husband and I and then one that stays at the house. It has worked well for us. The only telemarketing we get is from those businesses we deal with – maybe once every 2 weeks to a month.

  15. We have Vonage ($30/month all inclusive) and a pre-paid Tracfone (roughly $7/month). Like you, I’m home ALL THE TIME! We only have 1 car and it goes to work with hubby. It was silly to have 2 cell phones so we went down to one. Then we realized that I’m near the landline all day and he has a phone in his classroom so is available for emergencies during the day. We basically have the pre-paid cell for the car.

    I have to admit, though, that I really dislike Vonage’s connection — it’s terrible most of the time.

  16. Great post and question – as my hubby and I were just discussing this last week. Currently we each have a cell phone with the lines added to my parents plan. We pay for my husband’s (about $200/yr.) and my parents pay for me. Our landline is the bare minimum with no long distance, but with all of the taxes and surcharges it still costs us about $25/mo. Our DSL is also w/ the phone company and is $30/mo. but if we lose the landline the DSL will go up to $40/mo. You make great points for the landline – especially about 911. I’m SO glad to meet another NCIS fan out there – hoo rah! 🙂 Our children are only 2 & 4 so the 911 would be key for teaching our oldest in case of any emergency, yet he already has figured out how to call his grandparents on the cell phone (sometimes I don’t even know about it until later) so assuming a dispatcher could find us via cell phone that may not be as much of a concern anymore.

  17. Ah, very good information. I don’t have a cell (Matt does-and it’s SO good for him to have it), but we’ve given thought to losing the land line and getting me a cell. Just can’t justify it yet though…

  18. a great question, I am currently trying to figure ours out! We haven’t ever had a landline (just 2 cell phones) but our cell phone bill has increasingly gone up (now paying $130-140/month) because our current phones require a data package…ugh, I can’t believe how much we pay for phones! it’s convenient that we can get email and internet on the phones but I am already paying $60/month to get internet on my computer and I’m home all day…trying to decide what is best for our current situation, so thanks for posting this!!

    • @Jenny, Do you really “have to have” the data pkg? I have an older blackberry that my husband used to have for work but I don’t have the data pkg. on it, so the phone works, as a phone only. Just a thought.

      • @Patty, thanks for this reply. Unfortunately with Sprint you actually are required to have a data package with certain smartphones that are web-based (hubby and I both have the palm pre), so right now we are “locked” into having this expensive of a cell phone plan. BUT your question is a great one and one I have been thinking about a lot lately–because we don’t HAVE to have THIS phone, we really could downgrade to other phones that would not require such an expensive plan (though we would lose the internet function on the phones, but do we really “need” that, especially at that price?!!)

        We’ll see what happens. We do love using and sharing google calendar which autosyncs with my phone, super convenient, but not for the price! to me, especially at this point in our life, it just doesn’t seem worth it. Hopefully we can find something cheaper for our talking and calendar needs that isn’t so expensive!

  19. I was cell only for awhile when I moved in with my parents. That way their home phone wasn’t inundated with my calls. When I moved out I figured why spend money on both and everyone knows my cell and I had a LOT of minutes. Now that I am married with children we have a landline again. But we also have a small shared minuted plan for our cell phones (which I hardly use now). Sadly we pay WAY more than you. We got the smallest shared plan –after all the fees it’s $88 a month!

  20. We’ve been landline free for over six years and I’ve never missed it. When I quit my job two years ago, I reduced my cell plan to the smallest they offered with free nights and weekends and mobile to mobile, since my husband’s work cell is included in mobile to mobile. I pay around $40.00/month for 450 minutes with rollover.

    To help reduce my usage, I pay $54 a year for a telephone number and unlimited calls and long distance in the US through Skype. My skype # has voicemail and I give that # out for anything other than personal calls. Anytime I need to make a call for bills or something that might have me on hold for a while, I use my Skype phone through my computer.

    We have broadband internet and will probably not ever drop it due to my husband working from home some days, so I don’t really consider that part of our phone expense. I wouldn’t recommend getting a SkypeIn number if you don’t have broadband, as it wouldn’t really work as well.

    I guess that makes our monthly phone expense just under $45. Not bad, eh?

  21. We have a land line and yes one that works during power outage as well. I think everyone should still have one of these! We will not get rid of our landline for the reasons you stated (easier for my kids to use, know where it is, don’t want people calling me everywhere). I also have a prepaid cell for emergencies. Only my husband and 2 other family members have this number, drs, school, in case of an emergency or I don’t have to be home for school to contact me. It’s cheap, $20 for 3 months but I never use all my minutes.

  22. Our landline through AT&T is only $24 for the very basic package. My husband has a cell that work pays for. Since I’m home alot, I’m thinking about getting a prepaid cell in Sept. when my contract is up. Amy, does your prepaid have long distance? Any recommendations on good prepaid phones? I live in the south.

  23. Same here. My husband and I both have pre-paid cells, which we put $10 on whenever we need to, which is once every few months. Our landline is around $35, which includes unlimited long-distance. Sometimes I think we should knock that extra $5 a month off and shop around for really cheap calling cards, but the couple of dollars that we would save just isn’t worth that extra work for me.

  24. Hubby and I each have cells (free from our employers), but we made the decision to keep landline – the minimum plan they had. We wanted it for babysitters who come over and don’t have a cell (okay-that’s our parents, the kids grandparents). And it’s also good backup b/c sometimes we don’t get cell reception in medium-town. And I sometimes let my cell charge die, so it’s good to have. For those interested, the E911 service is on all phones. Your phone can be tracked (location found) if it is in reception of ANY carrier tower. So if you have a Sprint phone, but there are no Sprint cell sites around but there is Verizon site you’re in reception distance of, your phone can still be tracked. Now I just wish we could get a good price on a bundled cable/satellite TV package! 🙂 Thanks Amy – love your blog!

  25. Keeping our landline works for us too Amy, and we do it for all the reasons you listed. I’m frugal in many (!) other ways but peace of mind is priceless.

  26. We haven’t had land line phone service for 10 months now & haven’t missed it a bit. My husband has a cell phone for personal & business purposes that his employer pays for so we only have one cell phone bill, mine, which is $75/mo. I text a lot & really like the idea of being able to be reached whenever someone calls. I’m outside with the kids a lot or gone on playdates, etc. & hate the idea of missing a phone call just because I’m not in the house.

  27. We haven’t had a land line in about 5 years. If our babysitter doesn’t have a cell, we leave one of ours (current babysitter DOES, so it’s not been an issue). We have a mid-range cell plan. I currently have a small texting plan and full internet (helpful for traveling, etc.) and hubby’s phone is suspended because he’s deployed – so it’s about $65. When his is active and we’re back on the family plan, it adds about $25 due to options we have on our plan.

    Also, I’ve taught my oldest how to call 911 from my cell and both boys know their address and phone number, etc.

    • I should also add that we are moving overseas soon and this will all completely change. We will probably go with VOIP (Vonage, etc.) and our new base also requires us to have a base landline (because hubby has to be reachable at all times) which, I think is free. We will not have cell phones after we move.

  28. We have both as well. We only have one cell phone in our home, and the land line is our main point of contact. It wasn’t even a choice, just is how it is. Plus, with my kids during the summer they needed to be able to contact us if we are out and about.

  29. Instead of a land line, we use MagicJack, which is a form of VOIP. It’s just $30/year (!) and includes national long-distance. They also have “virtual 911” identification–if you provide them with your address, a 911 dispatcher will be able to trace your call as easily as with a land line.

    • @Kathryn, when do you “provide them with your address”? During the 911 call? Of course then they’ll know where you are, but if you’re not able to talk long/well enough to tell them it doesn’t do any good. Telling them your HOME address when you sign up would be useful only if you’re calling 911 from home. So I’m not sure what you mean.

      • @’Becca, Sorry, I didn’t explain that clearly. By “them,” I meant MagicJack. When you install the MagicJack software, you are given the opportunity to input your address. That information is then stored with your phone and is transmitted automatically to the dispatcher if you make a 911 call. MagicJack is a true replacement for a land line, not a portable service–you install the software on your computer and then physically plug your phone into that computer instead of into the wall. So, as long as you give them the address where the MagicJack computer is located, there shouldn’t be any problem.

        • @Kathryn,
          Sorry to jump in late, Magicjack can be great, but again, if the power is out your computer won’t work, unless you have a laptop that is charged up or you have a generator that can run the computer. Land lines usually work in power outtages IF you have a real plug-in phone, NOT a cordless phone. Our last major power outtage was 4+ days. Cells ran out of charge, closest place to go was 15-20 miles away to charge them, gas stations were running low on gas as power was out and storms had blocked roads, so driving wasn’t always advised. We were happy to have our old phones and land line. Many neighbors had land lines, but only cordless phones… we loaned one of them one of our regular old phones.

  30. After having both a landline and a cell phone for years because cell service was intermittent, at best, where I lived previously, I finally decided to nix the landline when I moved to a more urban location. The landline bundled with my internet cost around $60/month. My cell phone runs about $80/month for two phones (mine and I pay for my mom’s) and texting on one phone. My landline was never used. I didn’t even have a phone hooked up to it anymore. Anyone who wanted to call me had my cell number. Not to mention, calls amongst family members were free because all of my family uses Verizon (then Alltel) so mobile to mobile calls are free. That’s one of the biggest advantages of my cell phone.

    I now have internet only through AT&T. A lot of people do not realize that you can ask for just internet services without a landline. It saves me $35/month.

  31. Thanks Crystal & Cathy– appreciate you both weighing in! (Do you see why this decision seems tricky for me?? ;))

  32. You have three very good points! I agree.

    When my son was 3, we were staying at some friends’ home and woke in the morning to find that they’d gone out on an errand (leaving a note). I needed to call someone else and searched their whole house for a telephone, but the one I found was disconnected–they’d given up the landline. I could wait to make my call, but what if we’d had an emergency when we were there alone? Knocked on neighbors’ doors until we found someone home, I guess….

    Here’s why I don’t have a cell phone. I think it’s really funny how so many people these days feel they can’t live without a cell phone or aren’t safe without it–we all managed to live without them until very recently, and 1 in 4 American car accidents are now caused by cell phones so that’s not very safe.

  33. We have both as well. So many of our friends have only their cell phones that sometimes I feel like we’re the last hold outs. It’s nice to know there are others!

  34. Hi there! Niki here, dropping in from over at Free 2 Be Frugal. I really enjoyed your Frugal Friday post…your analysis is very insightful.

    Stop by and see me sometime.


  35. Landline only here: $15.63 a month, including taxes. For long distance, I have a prepaid phone card that I bought for $20 about 6 years ago, with 2000 minutes on it. I still haven’t used the whole thing. I don’t have caller id or call waiting, and I don’t miss them.

    I’m usually home, so no need for a cell phone.

    As far as safety needs–I was once robbed in broad daylight. Two strangers saw the incident and one handed me her cell phone to call my husband to let him know to call the bank immediately to cancel my debit card.

    • I think we all have to define NEED sometimes. 😉 I used to have the pre-paid calling card until I realized I was spending more than $15/month on it… Whoops!

  36. Michelle H. says:

    Weighing in as a 911 operator – I hate the fact that everyone is going to cell phones these days! Harder to find people with real emergencies, and I spend most of my day answering “pocket dial” cell calls. In addition, most people don’t seem to realize that we have no idea where they are when they call from a cell phone.

    That being said, for our landline we have Ooma. It’s a VOIP that works thru our internet connection, similar to Magic Jack, but hooks up differently so you actually use the computer & talk on the phone at the same time without affecting call quality. We got it a few years ago, no monthly service fee, just pay $200 for the box and that’s it. Comes with call waiting, caller ID, and voicemail. We love it!

    Most VOIPs will allow you to enter your personal information into the local 911 database, but be sure to update it if you move.

  37. I’m suprised no one has tried Straight Talk. It is a prepaid cellphone through walmart. Only $30 a month for 1000 minutes and 1000 texts PLUS you can surf the web a limited amount. For $45 a month it’s unlimited everything. we haven’t tried them yet, but it’s owned by tracphone and virtually the same. i’m planning on switching our net10 prepaids to these soon and then seeing if we can drop our landline. and no, i’m not advertising for walmart:) just seems like a great deal.

  38. Letta Mego says:

    Count your blessing. Cell phone technology is expensive and will eventually make you sick. It interfers with the function of every cell in your body, especially brain cells. It interfers with cellular glucose metabolism and with cellular calcium channel function to name a couple of things that are proven without doubt. Take a look at http://www.stopsmartmeters.org. I know you don’t like to hear this. I’m not here to convince you. I just hope you take the trouble to do some research inform yourself. This silent, invisible force doesn’t get you right away. The cancers and other disorders start after 15 to 30 years of exposure …about the time you retire…so of course they’ll blame it on age.


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