When I kicked my evil roommate out a few years ago, I was faced with suddenly paying to run a household entirely on my own. I had to batten down the hatches and tighten my belt.
I'd considered moving to a smaller place-- I had a three-bedroom apartment on the North side of Chicago, with a hook-up for the washer and dryer I'd kept in the divorce from my ex-wife Cynthia. But the fact of the matter was that my son's mother kept moving from one part of her bad neighborhood (Humboldt Park) to another, at least until I bribed her into moving to a better neighborhood, and I'd come to realize that this was the place that my son was going to consider home as he grew up. I decided to do what it took to keep the place. That meant taking every single extra shift I could get at my second job, as a waiter, and to figure out ways to save money.
I did (and still do) a lot of shopping at Aldi's. I started setting the thermostat lower to cut down on gas bills. I never had dinner out. My only indulgence was to keep cable and broadband. I justified it in that it kept me in the house, rather than going out. And I started using my cell phone as my only phone.
The last one turned out to be a pain in the ass. Cell phone reception has always been terrible in my house. It got annoying trying to carry on a long conversation.
I considered going back to having a land line. Then I recalled my bad experiences with Ameritech/SBC or whatever the hell they were this week, and the fact that I owed them money still, and that was out.
I found out about Vonage, a "VOIP" phone service-- a phone service that used your broadband line to provide phone service. It was unbelievably cheap-- less than 30 bucks a month. They included all the services like caller id, call forwarding and call waiting that the regular phone company charges extra for. Long distance within the North American continent was included, and overseas rates were dirt cheap-- I could call my friend in Singapore for 5 cents a minute!
I ran by Best Buy and got the kit; they had a rebate for the cost of the kit. I hooked it up without any problem, and have had excellent, problem-free, cheap service since then.
Of course it was too good to be true. The communications giant Verizon is suing them for an alleged patent infringement. It'll go around and around the courts until 2009. Hopefully by then, Vonage will have found alternate technologies. But this morning, Vonage released its annual report and it was blunt-- that things are not looking good. There's a likelihood that they'll go under.
With the possibility they're going under, it's going to be hard to convince more new customers to sign up, virtually assuring that they will.
With the horrible tragedy in Virginia this week, I keep it in perspective-- it's not much more than a nuisance, really, but it sucks seeing a little guy getting crushed by a giant.