Thursday, January 14, 2010

Does Bundling Save a Bundle?

January is a great month for resolutions and what better resolution could you have than to find new ways to save money for travel? This month's articles will focus on ways to help you conserve cash for that trip you'd like to take when the weather warms up.

Saving money is not the least bit painful; there's no discomfort because you will not have to make any sacrifices. Conserving your dollars involves spending intelligently, rather than haphazardly, so you can live below your means and bank the rest of your income for travel. You won't scrimp. It is possible to live well, even luxuriously, on far less than you might think.


Companies would love for you to take them at their word that bundling saves money. And, of course, sometimes it does. If you and your partner bundle your insurance coverage for your cars and home with one provider, you will likely save. But bundling isn't always cost-effective. The only way to be sure is to compare the a la carte price with the bundled offer.

Never hesitate to do this; compare before you commit. A single phone call should help you decide whether that bundled price is really a bargain. Also, keep in mind that “special” prices are time-limited. When deciding whether to buy a la carte or bundle, compare the “regular” rates because that's the amount you will be paying over the long-term.

Another point to keep in mind is that bundling often gives you services you do not need or want. For example, if you do not use caller ID, three-way calling, and call waiting with your telephone service, they are superfluous extras that you could easily do without. Even if they are offered “free” with the bundled price, there's no point having services you don't require.

One area where I have consistently saved money with a la carte prices is with telecom services. This was true in North Carolina and Arizona, and, now that David and I are sharing a house in California, we are saving at least $15 a month.

We bundle our AT&T U-Verse (one of the best for TV, by the way) with our wireless Internet connection, but we excluded the phone from that bundle. We realized we seldom use the phone since most of our communication with friends is over the Internet. Aside from ordering an occasional pizza or making an appointment, we rarely use it. Still, we're not ready to let it go completely and we certainly need it in case of emergencies, so we opted for a measured rate instead of unlimited calling.

Our measured rate is $8.87 per month, as opposed to the unlimited rate of $16.45, and gives us a certain block of time per month for local calls. For the past eight months, we have never even come close to using our entire block of time, but should that ever happen, we would then pay an additional two cents per minute.

For long distance we opted for the company that I think is the best in the business—ECG. They have no service fee, no minimum monthly charge, and we pay only 2.5 cents per minute which is billed in six second increments. We do not have to dial any special numbers but simply dial the long-distance number as usual.

We are never even aware that we're using a separate company for long distance until we get the bill. Then, the difference in price between ECG and AT&T is striking. While we make as many long-distance phone calls as we like, our bill is rarely over $6 and often below. We can reach our friends in Spain for 5 cents a minute.

When compared to AT&T's rates, ECG is offering the best bargain in the country. Here are AT&T's three long distance plans: 1. 33 cents per minute with no monthly fee 2. 5 cents per minute with a $4 monthly fee 3. $25 a month for unlimited long distance. For the 193 minutes of long distance phone calls we made in a recent month, AT&T would have charged us tax plus 1. $63.69 with their 33 cents a minute plan 2. $13.65 with the $4 month/5 cents a minute plan or 3. $25 for unlimited calls. We paid $4.83 plus tax for a total of $5.90.

If we bundled our TV, Internet, and telephone, we would pay AT&T $96 plus tax per month. Because we do not bundle, we pay AT&T $66 for TV and Internet and $8.87 for measured telephone service; the ECG long distance bill is around $6. Our total bill for telecom services is $80.87 as opposed to AT&T's $96 for a savings of a little over $15 a month.

Please do your homework carefully to make sure you are getting the best deal. Bundling is not always a bargain.

Practicalities -

To find the best and cheapest long distance service for your area, check the Save on Phone link.

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