Maybe cell phone is all you need, but watch details

The Pinch

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Looking for a way to slash your monthly telephone expenses? If you have both a cell phone and land line, consider downsizing to just a cell phone, especially if you primarily use your cell phone for calls. Then review your cell phone plan to make sure it fits your usage needs.

If you find that you have a significant number of monthly general allowance minutes that remain unused each billing period, then perhaps you could scale back and get a cheaper plan with fewer minutes. However, if you exceed your allotted minutes each month and end up paying hefty per-minute fees, then perhaps you should upgrade to a another plan.

Examine the extra charges on your phone to make sure they are legitimate. (This is a good idea to do with any bill.) Beware of "cramming," where crooks post phony charges to your phone bill. The charges are often disguised as terms like "special services" or "Internet advertising" so they'll go unnoticed. A typical cram charge for a consumer is $5 to $10, according to consumer advocate Clark Howard's Web site, clarkhoward.com.

If you would still like to have a land line, consider magicJack, a device that allows people to make unlimited long-distance calls over the Internet. You'll also receive directory assistance, a new phone number, call waiting, voice mail and caller ID, according to magicjack.com.

You can purchase magicJack at retailers such as RadioShack or BestBuy. The device costs $39.99. This includes one year of free local and long-distance calling to the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each year of additional service is $19.95.

To use magicJack, you'll need a high-speed Internet connection. Plug your household phone into magicJack and plug magicJack into any USB port on your computer.

The reviews of the device are mixed. Some consumers praise the device. Others complain about the call quality and lack of customer service.

The West Palm Beach, Fla.-based company received 2,202 complaints in the past 36 months, all of which have been resolved, said Kelvin Collins, the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Savannah River and the CSRA. Of these complaints, 713 were closed in the past 12 months.

In 2008 and 2009, many of these complaints involved a 30-day free trial period in which consumers were billed and had to be reiumbursed.

In terms of quality of service, Collins said it depends largely on the bandwidth of the Internet connection.

COUPON OF THE WEEK

There are coupons worth $839.95 in The Augusta Chronicle today.

This includes $427.95 in SmartSource, $40 at Goodyear, $34 at Walgreens, $7 at Toys R Us, $330 in USA Weekend and $1 at Rite Aid.

The SmartSource insert has a coupon for $1.50 off any one Tide liquid. The coupon expires Sept. 30.

RECAP

Here are some highlights from The Pinch blog published last week:

$10 OFF AT OLD NAVY: Get a haircut at Great Clips and receive a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $50 or more at Old Navy.

DOG DAYS SALE: Trends and Traditions Antique Mall will have its Dog Days Sale Aug. 27-29.

You'll find discounts on antique items storewide at 2834 Washington Road.

Merchandise includes furniture, jewelry, silver, rugs, lamps, clocks and more.

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FOLLOW THE PINCH throughout the week to find ways to shop smarter and save money in Augusta at blogs.augusta.com.


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