Tired of paying for a cell phone? If your employer provides you with a work phone, Google Voice can help eliminate your personal cell altogether.
What is Google Voice?
Google Voice is a voice over IP (VOIP) service that is linked with your Google (gmail) account when you sign up through the Google Voice website. It allows free calls to the US and Canada, and charges generally small fees for international calls. In the setup process, you can pick a new phone number, or port over your existing cell number (with a fee and some possible downtime during to port over process). I picked a new number, and since they didn’t have any available within my area code (or state) I just picked a random one from a neighboring state. Thanks neighbor!
Now that you have a Google Voice number, you can have that number forwarded to any other phone number(s) you want. Alternatively, can you install and login into the Google Voice app on your cell phone to send/receive calls and texts seamlessly. The latter approach is my preference. In short, your Google Voice number is now permanently connected to you, regardless of what phone, phone number, or cell service provider you have.
How to use Google Voice with a work cell phone
I have had a company cell phone for a handful of years. For the first few years, I kept a personal cell because I was (1) too lazy to update my number everywhere and (2) nervous about relying solely on a company phone. At some point my frugality overcame my laziness and I canceled my personal line to save money. I was still vulnerable to having my cell phone tethered to my employment. A change in employment would mean getting a new number and providing it to all of my important contacts and accounts. That would have been a major headache, especially for accounts with two factor authentication.
To reduce my cell phone anxiety, I simply created a Google Voice number and then installed the Google Voice app on my work cell phone. Now, as I log in to my various accounts, I update my contact information to include my Google Voice number. I also give out my Google Voice number to any new contacts and include it when opening any new accounts. In this way, I am incrementally detaching myself from my work number without having to open up a personal plan. When I need a personal phone down the road, I will simply install the Google Voice app on the new phone. The majority of my life will be unaffected.
A few other helpful tips if you plan to ditch your personal cell phone
- Review your employer’s cell phone personal use policy to make sure you comply with their rules. Compromising your job to save a few bucks on a cell phone will not shorten your path to financial independence. For example, my wife’s work phone has a lot more restrictions on personal use. So we have kept her personal line open, which also comes in handy when we are traveling abroad for vacation. I would not feel comfortable racking up international personal use charges on my employer’s phone.
- If you open a new Google Voice number, verify that your Google Voice number is receiving calls and texts correctly from your important accounts and contacts before canceling your personal plan. Warning: if you decide to port over your personal number to Google Voice, you will not be able to overlap service and perform this verification.
- For iPhone users – make sure you are logged into your work phone under your personal Apple ID, and then use iCloud to backup your contacts, photos, and apps in the cloud so that you can download them on a new phone when you need to open a personal plan. I upgraded to the 50 GB iCloud storage option for $1/month, which is quite affordable compared to owning a personal cell phone and plan. Similar advice holds for non-iPhone users, although I’m not familiar with the specifics.
- You can hold onto your old personal phone and use it to activate a personal plan in the future. In fact, you may be able to open a plan with one provider and then transfer the number over to another provider to get a reduced price on a new phone as a transferring customer. Just make the transfer bonus outweighs any fees for opening or closing accounts.
- Keep in mind that international calls are not free, so make sure to check the Google Voice rates and compare against other alternatives if you plan to dial internationally often.
The one small issue I have had with Google Voice
A few of my accounts are incompatible and do not correctly send authentication text messages to my Google Voice number. When I need to open a personal line, I will have to manually update these few accounts, which is a small compromise that I am willing to make.
If you have a work cell phone, you can use Google Voice to reduce the anxiety of ditching your personal phone. It isn’t perfect, but for me it has been better than paying for one cell phone and carrying two cell phones at all times.