This is the first in a series of posts that I'm planning to make on my quest for the most cost effective and frugal method for things I use on a daily basis. I recently re-located to USA from India and thought it will be interesting to compare what I used to do/have in India versus here in the US.
Mobile Service: Cingular Pay as You Go
When I came over to US 3 months back, one of the first things I did was to search for a good mobile phone service. I'm not a heavy user of a cell phone so I did not want to lock myself in a long and expensive contract so decided to get a pre-paid "pay as you go" service. After asking around a bit, I decided to go with Cingular (now AT&T) as it had the best coverage in my area - and also because I could get the starter phone (Motorola) with 10 Dollar talk time for 18 dollars from the local CVS Pharmacy. I chose the "simple" plan which charges 25 cents per minute for incoming and outgoing calls. My average monthly usage comes to about 10 Dollars a month and so far, I'm happy with my choice.
The best deal for Cingular recharge PIN's that I could find was with http://www.comfi.com/ – I consistently get about 2 dollars off from the face value of the recharge card and also get a credit for future purchases.
Back in India too, I had a pay as you go phone from Airtel which is one of the largest Cell phone providers in India. I paid around $ 25 for my Nokia 1100 phone. Call charges in India are one of the cheapest in the world – I used to pay around 3 Cents per minute for local calls and around 7 Cents per minute for long distance.
Home Phone: SunRocket
Best VOIP provider that I could find was SunRocket and I highly recommend them. It costs about $199 for a year (about $17 per month – with free calls anywhere in USA and Canada) – no contracts and no obligations – and you get your cash back for unused months if you chose to discontinue. Keep checking their website for deals – I got a GE 5.8 GHerz cordless phone free and they recently had a promotion which offered 2 years for $199 !!
VOIP is not legal in India – only option is to go in for a land line or what they call WLL (Wireless in Local Loop – which is a hybrid of landline and cell). I had a land line from BSNL – the government owned phone service provider. It used to cost me $20 monthly with local call charges of 3.5 cents per 3 minute call and 7 cents a minute for long distance calls.