Landlubber or not

By Mir
September 14, 2006

With cell phones becoming so mainstream, and with (*knocking on wood*) telemarketers unable to call those cell phones to lecture us about identity theft and the latest magazine subscriptions, more and more people are opting to give up their home landlines entirely.

Betsy writes:

Dear Lovely and Wise Mir,
I am trying to save money any way I can. My husband and I each have a cell phone, which we use both for those “Hey, do we need milk?” calls and for our long distance. We still have a land line, which we use for local calls and just because it seems like we ought to have one. But do I really need it? I can, of course, use my cell for local calls. Is there any reason to keep my land line?

Dear Lovely and Wise Betsy,

Yes! Maybe! It depends.

I hope that clears things up for you.


I know lots of people who have chosen to go landline-free with no regrets. Here are the compelling reasons I can think of not to do so:

If you have kids. If you’re going to be leaving children home with a sitter, or, heck, even if you‘re going to be home with them and there’s even the remotest chance that you’ll need to call 911 and your cell could be MIA or dead because you forgot to charge it, you should have a landline.

If you get a large volume of calls. Cell to cell calls are generally free, in-network, which is (I assume) what you and the husband are doing. But if you have gabby friends who tend not to call during your free nights and weekends, it will probably prove more cost-effective to keep the landline than to increase the minutes on your cell plan.

If your cell reception isn’t always crystal-clear at home. I love my cell phone. I love it and pet in and call it George and stare deeply into its menus; but I live smack-dab between two cell towers. One mile down the road? Perfect. Here at home? Spotty. There are some calls I simply cannot afford to have dropped (and/or that I don’t feel like driving down the road to make).

If there is any reason why suddenly being without a phone at home could pose a serious problem. (Sample reasons: You work from a home office, one of you has a medical condition, etc.) Cell phones get lost, run over, and sometimes just up and die for no reason. If the possibility of driving down to your local cell provider to pick out a new model and wait for it to be programmed and activated isn’t a problem, then this isn’t an issue.

If none of these items strike a chord with you, you can probably do away with your landline without regrets. Call me!


  1. i have been landline free for 5 years. i love it. but as the lovely and wise Mir said above… your mileage may vary.

  2. I haven’t had a landline in about 3 years and I’ve never missed it.

    If and when we have children, though, I will get one for emergency reasons, as the lovely Mir pointed out.

  3. We got rid of our landline but we do use Vonage in the house. We have spotty service, through no fault of Vonage…it is our cable line. Others have gotten Vonage and love it. It is significantly cheaper than a landline so I am willing to overlook the 25% of the time crappy reception.

  4. I’ve thought of ditching my land line, but I sometimes NEED to send a fax or get a fax at home, and until recently, um, still needed the line for the internet, YES I’m admitting to using dialup until last month. Still discussing with hubby the desire to ditch, but due to fax reasons, will probably keep it.

  5. Oh Beachgal… check out if that’s the only reason you’re keeping the line!

  6. Our satellite dish uses the land line to dial the mothership while we sleep so we can have updated program guides. Just something else to consider . . . .

  7. Something I’ve come across is that many schools and other kids organizations REQUIRE a landline in order for your children to attend. I can only assume it’s because they want a reliable connection in case of an emergency. Although, I have a landline and half of the time when people call me they get a message saying that our phone has been disconnected…darn you Qwest!!

  8. I’ve been landline free for over 5 years. Now we have a toddler at home we have Vonage so the babysitter has a phone. I must qualify that by saying we live in a small New England town and the fire station is across the street. If the power was out and I had an emergency I’m pretty sure they’d have power/phone/radio. We got rid of the cells because the reception was crappy here in the mountains and we just never talk on the phone much. I miss the ‘get milk’ ability but you (re)learn to plan ahead and call/email before you leave work. When we lived in flat land we had cells only and cable internet. This is perfect. When we left a babysitter at the house we left one of our cells with them. Again, we also left the name of the nice lady next door in case that didn’t work for whatever reason. When you use your cell exclusively you get religion about keeping it charged. It went on the charger as soon as I walked in the door and stayed there until I left again.

  9. How about another wrinkle to this topic: I have to keep my land line, but can I ditch my long-distance carrier and only use the cell phone for long-distance calls? I never thought of that until I read Betsy’s question.

  10. I know a lot of people who ditch everything but basic landline and use their cells for long distance.

  11. If you are keeping a landline for emergency reasons, like if you have kids or whatever, I would go a step further and make it that old dinosaur: a corded phone. The handset for the cordless could be MIA or dead when you really need it, and a phone with a lovely twisty cord attached will stay right where you put it (ours is by the computer).

    bec 😀

  12. We’re cell phone only here, and have been for about 2 years. It hasn’t been a problem, but we are both complusive about making sure we charge our phones. Our babysitters generally have their own cell phones, and we can solve the problem if needed by just leaving one of our phones at home.

    An excellent summary, Mir!

  13. Sophie: Absolutely! I do all of my long distance via my cell phone.

    Bec 36: Excellent point; if you have a landline, you should have at least 1 corded phone in the house.

  14. Drat, I knew that pesky child of mine was going to cost me!

    Still, Nicole’s answer intrigues me. Has anyone else braved having kids and no land line?

    And thanks, Mir!

  15. Oh beautiful Mir, I would also suggest that to maximize cost savings on your landline, consider using VOIP instead of your regular phone provider. Internet access is usually more prodigious than cell connectivity, and you can still use your cell for 911 if something has trounced your internet.
    If your power is out or you can’t find the cell in an emergency, consider if you have a neighbour or payphone with in a block that you can make use of.

  16. A girlfriend of mine has only the cell phones. One night, while bathing the two year-old he started having siezures. In the panic that insued, neither she or her husband could find their cells. They ended up driving to the ER on their own. Later she found her phone in the pants she had been wearing.
    Of course, this could happen with the cordless phone also. Or, my cordless phone is dead half the time. So, I second the plan for a corded phone somewhere.

  17. My husband and I haven’t had landlines for over 5 years and haven’t missed it generally. The only problem is when we try to call overseas, the coverage can be spotty at times (maybe 1 out of every 8 times we call).

  18. Added to the debate in the 911 category is this: your landline will give the emergency folk your address (if your area has enahanced 911) and your cell will not. A cordless landline (is that an oxymoron?) will not work if the power is out; it needs power to the base in order to work. Beautiful Mir is right; this is a complex question.

  19. We got rid of our cells when I did the math and realized that we were paying about $3 a minute to say “Buy milk!” a couple times a month.

    We have Vonage as our “house line” and we bought a Tracfone, prepaid for a year (so we don’t have to worry about renewing our minutes every month), for emergency situations and stuff on the road.

    We really realized the need for something other than internet-dependent phone when our cable service went down one morning before we’d gotten the Tracfone. It was a slightly nerve-wracking feeling!

    Our first kid is due any day now and I don’t have any concerns about this setup. I certainly wouldn’t feel that way without the emergency cell, though.

  20. My parents went cell-only after the baby left the house a couple years ago, they have had problems ordering delivery from a cell (not sure why?) and they miss having separate lines in different places in the house, when the cell is plugged into the charger and rings in the living room you have to be pretty fast to get to it from the bedroom. The only reason we haven’t gone cell-only is for the 911 location with our 3 kids, that just in case moment may happen someday and I don’t need anymore mommy guilt!

  21. Good point about the different locations, Christina. I still have a landline – basic local calls only – because we use DSL as our internet connection and you must have a working (i.e. be paying for service on it) phone line to use DSL.

  22. something else –
    in our small town, they have a reverse 911 program, where they call everyone in town to alert them to a problem (like when the water had too much of a chemical in it, and it wasn’t safe to use or touch, never mind drink; or when 4/5 of the bridges were closed due to flooding).

    So you may want to check with your town’s emergency management to see if they have that program, if you’re thinking of dropping the land line.

  23. Yes, I was going to bring up the 911 issue also, and while our landline in the main part of the house is cordless, we do have an old curly-cord one in the bedroom for power outages.

  24. My suggestion is that you have two modes of phones- cable/cell, wireline(landline)/Vonage, or any other combo etc. Make sure that at least one handset runs if you are without power for a few days. (e.g. a landline with an old fashioned phone, or a handcrank or car charger for your cell).

    This is my profession, so I know whereof I speak, honest.

  25. Another thing to consider is home alarm systems. If you have one or are planning to get one, they require a land line phone in order to call the police or alarm company when set. Some fire alarm systems are this way too.

    But, you could save money by dropping your long distance service off your land phone, which most companies charge a monthly service fee to have whether or not you use it. We did this and just use our cells to make long distance calls. Saved us 2.99 a month plus all the phone taxes.

  26. In response to Daisy’s concern: Here in Oklahoma, they just passed a law that when you call 911 on your cell phone, they will be able to locate where you are calling from. So, if you are in a car wreck or are calling from home, they can find you without you needing to tell them your location. Great peace of mind for my cell only household.

  27. Just to throw in my two cents:

    First the warnings. Mine is that our water company uses the landline to phone in usage rather than somebody comes to my house. I am also stuck because DirecTV refuses to update the Tivo Software so that it could use a network connection rather than a phone connection. So simply put check EVERYTHING that MAY require that land line before considering further.

    That being said, we have a corded phone for the no power need phone considerations in case of emergency. 911 from a source other than a standard landline, while possible is NOT automatic (E911 give a “location” or “area” not your ADDRESS to emergency operators).

    I personally to maximize my savings (and have toys to play with) use a combination. I use my cellphone for virtually all of my long distance calls. I have my landline phone stripped down to basic service to reduce the cost to a bare miminum.

    From now to the end of the year you can call landline phones anywhere in the US for FREE with SKYPE, so I use that if my cell phone minutes are low or sometimes at home when cell service is spotty. (Skype is NOT a full service like other VoIP services like Vonage, and has NO 911 features).

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