Thrifty Living: Call in the savings with a web phone

The home phone market is incredibly competitive these days. Once you've paid the £10 or £11 a month for your line rental, local and national calls are often free in the evenings and at weekends. However, if you make lots of calls to UK mobiles or overseas numbers – or if you've got a need for a second line in your home – the bills can start to add up.

The good news is that by using your computer to make these calls, you can cut your bills even further. If you're paying anything more than £20 a month for your phone bill, then signing up to a so-called VoIP (voice over internet protocol) service – such as Skype, Vonage or VoipCheap – could save you hundreds of pounds a year.

Getting started

There are two main types of VoIP services – computer-to-computer, and computer-to-landline/mobile. Computer-to-computer calls are almost always free – just download the software from sites such as skype.co.uk or google.com/talk to get started. After that, make sure whoever you want to call has downloaded the same software, and off you go. Some VoIP services – including Skype and Yahoo Messenger – also allow you to use a webcam while you talk.

If you want to use your computer to call people on a landline or mobile, then the chances are you'll have to pay. However, charges for VoIP calls are generally cheaper than regular packages, and are particularly competitive if you regularly make overseas calls or need a second telephone line.

VoipCheap.co.uk has one of the cheapest deals on the market, offering free computer-to-landline calls to more than 25 countries, including the UK. Calls to other destinations cost between 1p and 60p a minute – and there are no monthly fees to pay.

Alternatively, Skype and Vonage offer monthly packages, which allow you to make unlimited calls to certain destinations. Vonage, for example, charges £6.99 a month for a US calling package, which allows you to make unlimited calls to US or Canadian landlines or mobiles – as well as unlimited calls to UK landlines. There are more expensive packages available if you need access to more countries.

Skype has a slightly different way of doing things. For just £2.24 a month, you can make unlimited calls to one European country of your choice, or for £7.99, you can make unlimited calls to 35 countries across the globe.

If you use VoIP services regularly, it is possible to connect a regular phone handset directly to your VoIP service. Vonage provides the converter free of charge while, with others, you will need to buy the adapter yourself.

The catch

One of the main drawbacks with VoIP is that you require a broadband connection to use it, which means you'll almost certainly need a landline. Many providers already charge very little for both domestic and international calls once you've paid your line rental, meaning VoIP will likely only save you a meaningful amount of money if you make a lot of overseas calls, or if you need a second line.

Virgin Media is one provider that allows you to get broadband without also signing up to its home phone line – although you need to be in a cable area. Furthermore, Virgin's prices don't start to look competitive until you take up two or three of its services (i.e. home phone and cable TV as well).

Sites like broadbandchoices.co.uk and uswitch.co.uk can help you search for the best broadband packages. Alternatively, simplifydigital.co.uk combines digital TV, broadband and home phone.

Another potential downside to VoIP is that call quality tends to be worse than a regular landline, although it varies among providers. However, in recent tests by the consumer group Which?, Demon, Gradwell and Sipgate were found to be best for quality, while Tesco and Barablu were the worst.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Account Manager - (Product & Account Management, Marketing)

    £26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Account Manager - (Produc...

    Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

    Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

    .NET Software Developer (.NET, C#, ASP.NET, front-end)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried