Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Ringing in the charges

My mother called me recently to give me the exciting news that my parents now own a cordless telephone.

‘I’m ringing you from the kitchen,’ my mother delightedly squealed.

What a wonder.  Because a phone that is mobile is a brand new idea isn’t it Mum?

This newsflash was also proof that nagging works – albeit rather slowly on my parents. I say this because I spent the majority of my teenage years pleading with my parents to get a cordless phone.

Let me explain why.

The housephone in the Brown household sat in the hallway by the front door. This meant that telecommunication in the Brown household was 1.drafty 2. inconvenient (you had to sit on the staircase to make a phone-call, and thus every time anyone wanted up or down the stairs you had to huff-puff-and move) And 3. Your conversations were entirely public.

I do not miss those days. I did not enjoy offering a public broadcast service to my family, and also loathed the quarter-hourly updates of how much time I had been on the phone for.

My parents claimed the reasons for not moving to a cordless phone operation were twofold: i) the phones are expensive and ii) the phones have poor reception.

I would suggest that the drafty and public location of the phone was truthfully the motivating force. This kept teenage time on the phone to a minimum, and kept the bill right down.

In fact, in the course of writing this I have had a flashback. Something I have kept deeply buried for 14 years. Each of my friends was allocated their own accusatory colour as my father went through the itemised phone bill with his pack of highlighter pens. (She shivers)

Nowadays, so accustomed am I to chatting on my mobile, that when I hear an actual telephone ring I feel compelled to answer it with my best telephone voice, ‘Good Morning, Rachel Brown speaking.’ Yet further proof that I probably need to leave my job.

But it seems that we Britons are not following the frugal doctrines that my father enforced on the phone bill. In fact, how many of us even check our phone bill? Each month we wave goodbye to the direct debit, blissfully ignorant of what we are paying for.

We do not keep our mobile phones in a place where we are reluctant to use them. They are not kept in a dusty and drafty spot. They are with us, ever-present, and ever bloody beeping.

And most worryingly, turns out they are a huge drain on our finances.
British mobile phone users are wasting an average of £195 a year on their mobile phone bills because they are on the wrong contract, a new report has found.
Just over three quarters of people on monthly deals are paying over the odds, signing up to tariffs after wrongly estimating how many minutes and text messages they use.
And many of us do not even know which package we are on. Do you know how many minutes, texts and internet-ing time you are entitled to? Be honest, did you just agree to whatever the salesman suggested because you could get a free Iphone?
And what the hell is a bolt on? Who is roaming? Why do I need streaming? WHAT THE HELL AM I PAYING FOR?
And breathe.
Money Saving Madam’s top tips for not wasting money on phonebills.
  1. Check your phone bill each month. Do not just wave a fond farewell to your direct debit payment. Phone companies make mistakes. (Probably quite frequently)
  2. Check your allowances and see if you are using them. You can call your provider and ask them to check this information for you. If you are not using them up, then try and negotiate a lower package.
  3. If you are about to sign up for a package because of the ‘free’ phone, then wise up and realise it is not free. You may well be better off buying the phone outright and then getting a cheaper monthly tariff. If you don’t take a new handset you can often get rewarded with many hundreds of pounds off your bill.
  4. Money Saving Madam’s favourite: Always threaten to leave when your contract runs out. Call up and ask to be put through to cancellations. Explain that you have found a better deal elsewhere. Put in an Oscar worthy performance. The cancellation team (or ‘retention’ team as they are otherwise known) can offer you a far better package than anyone else. It costs them a lot less to keep you as a customer than to recruit a new one.

That’s all for now.

Sorry, but I've got to dash, I need a set of coloured highlighters.

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