Make Your Own Granola from Scratch: A Guide, plus Cost Breakdown

Ever since I was a small boy, granola has been one of my favorite cereals. My parents encouraged me to eat it for health reasons, but I just loved the taste. I’m sure my parents were thrilled to feed me granola rather than an onslaught of sugary, artificial cereals.

Fast-forward 20 years or so, and I still like granola. It’s healthy, and it gives me energy to make it through the morning. I also enjoy it mixed with yogurt and fruit as a quick snack.

Granola is also one of the most expensive cereals in my grocery store. A 28-ounce box of Quaker brand granola costs $5.90 around here. If you go for the organic variety, it’s even more expensive. The high price made my wife and I wonder about the cost of making granola from scratch. Would it be worth the effort?

The answer is an emphatic maybe. If you don’t regularly add granola to your grocery list, making it from scratch probably isn’t worth the effort. I think making homemade granola is worthwhile for a few reasons. First of all, if you really like granola, then making it from scratch is cheaper. Second of all, it’s easy to tailor it to your desires. Like coconut? Toss a few extra pinches in there. Think raisins are disgusting? Don’t add them. Thirdly, I’m a rabid label reader in the grocery store. If I don’t recognize the ingredients, or if I question their usage, I won’t buy the product. Most of the granola packages in the store have questionable ingredients. Hydrogenated oils? High-fructose corn syrup? Extra sugar? C’mon. That’s just unnecessary.

Making your own granola is not only cheaper in the long run, but you get the personal satisfaction of knowing exactly what’s in it, customizing the flavor to your taste. Best of all, it’s far easier to make than you might think.

Basic Ingredients

At the very least, the basic ingredients that you will need are:

  • Oats (2.5 cups)
  • Honey (1/4 cup)
  • Raisins (1.5 cups)
  • Peanuts (1/2 cup)
  • Oil (1/4 cup)

Naturally, there’s some flexibility here. Feel free to eliminate the raisins if you don’t like them. You could also substitute a different kind of nut, such as pecans. For the choice of oil, I use Canola oil for both dietary and monetary reasons.

Optional Ingredients

Of course, there’s a ton of customization that you can make here. I’m listing the optional ingredients that I like to use, namely:

  • Dried Coconut (1/4 cup)
  • Sesame Seeds (1/4 cup)
  • Wheat Germ (1/4 cup)

Here’s a shot of my full ingredients:

Feel free to substitute or add ingredients to your own taste, such as dates or other dried fruit.

One homemade “batch” of granola yields about 28 ounces, comparable to a large store-bought cereal box.

Step One – Mix Ingredients

Let’s get started. The first thing to do is mix together the dry, non-fruit ingredients, namely the oats, peanuts, sesame seeds, and wheat germ. Hint: chop up  or crush the peanuts for best results.

Next, add the wet ingredients (honey and oil) and mix together.

Step Two – Bake

Alright, we’re done with the preliminary work. Now it’s time to bake! Spread the mix onto your favorite baking/cookie sheet (with a lip). Smooth it with a spoon until it’s even.

Bake at 300 degrees (F) for 30 minutes. After 15 minutes of baking, gently stir the mix and smooth it evenly again. When it’s done baking, it should have a nice, toasted look, like this:

Step Three – Add Final Ingredients

The last step is to toss in the remaining fruity ingredients, such as the raisins and coconut. Mix together thoroughly.

Allow it to cool, and congratulations! You’re finished! Of course, you need to find a place to store your homemade granola. My wife and I have a metal tin that works nicely, but feel free to improvise.

Yum! Doesn’t that look delicious? Aside from the baking time, putting the batch together took very little time and energy. I estimate that the entire process took 45 minutes, start to finish.

Price Breakdown / Cost Analysis

How much will making homemade granola cost you? Let’s take a look. Naturally, there’s a lot of wiggle-room here since prices may vary widely depending on the store and the region, but here’s what I paid at my nearby Kroger grocery store.

  • Honey (32 oz) – $5.99 – yields about 16 batches
  • Raisins (24 oz.) – $2.79 – yields about 2.5 batches, or 3 if you skimp
  • Coconut (14 oz.) – $2.99 – yields several dozen batches
  • Oats (18 oz.) – $1.19 – yields just over 2 batches
  • Canola oil (48 fl oz.) – $3.34 – yields about 24 batches
  • Peanuts (16 oz.) – $4 – yields about 6 batches
  • Sesame Seeds (10 oz.) – $3.59 – yields dozens and dozens of batches
  • Wheat germ (12 oz.) – $4.59 – yields an almost infinite number of batches

Grand Total: $28.48

As you can see, the most expensive item on my list is wheat germ. If I leave it out, I would only pay $23.89. As I mentioned, one “batch” of homemade granola yields about 28 ounces, so the first batch cost me about $1 per ounce (or about $0.85 minus wheat germ).

In comparison, one 28-ounce box of Quaker granola costs $5.90 at my grocery store, or about $0.21 per ounce. Yes, the Quaker brand is much cheaper compared to the first batch, but let’s see how it compares after several more batches.

Second Batch – Getting Cheaper

To make my second batch of granola, I don’t need to buy ANYTHING! I still have plenty of leftover ingredients, bringing my total cost down to roughly $0.50 per ounce (or $0.43 without wheat germ). Getting better.

Third Batch – Even Cheaper

For my third batch, I only need to buy oats again, bringing the total cost down to about $0.35 per ounce (or $0.30 without wheat germ).

Fourth Batch – Still Cheaper

Now I only need to buy raisins, bringing the total cost down to about $0.29 per ounce (or $0.25 without wheat germ). It’s still more expensive than the Quaker brand right now, but if we continue this pattern….

Twelfth Batch – Way Cheaper

By this point, I will have only had to buy oats, raisins, and peanuts again, and my effective cost per ounce is down to about $0.14, or $0.13 without the initial wheat germ purchase. In other words, I’m saving about $2 per batch compared to the Quaker granola. Nice!

Making It Even Cheaper

I wasn’t thinking too clearly when I bought my first set of ingredients. Specifically, I should have bought the largest container of oats that I could find, rather than the smaller canister. This will reduce the cost-per-ounce significantly!

My best advice here is that if you know that you will always use a specific ingredient (such as peanuts), buy in bulk. It will make subsequent batches much cheaper.

Also, you can significantly reduce the startup cost by using a cheaper oil. I prefer Canola oil, but if you use vegetable oil, you can save a buck or two upfront.

Obviously, eliminating wheat germ from the ingredient list saves a lot of money at first, but by the time you reach the twelfth batch, the differing costs-per-ounce is negligible. Since a jar of wheat germ will fuel an almost-limitless number of granola batches (and is healthy to boot), I think it’s worthwhile to include it.

I should also mention that you may already have many of these ingredients in your cabinet already, thereby greatly reducing your startup cost.

Conclusion

As I mentioned before, making your own granola from scratch probably isn’t worthwhile if you only eat it occasionally. For us, it’s a staple food, and we plow through a batch every week or two. Here’s what I had for breakfast:

Looks yummy, doesn’t it?

At the non-optimized price I paid for the ingredients, I’m breaking even with the Quaker brand by the sixth or seventh batch. After that, it’s all extra money in my pocket – a couple dollars for every batch we make. Plus, we have the added benefits of flavoring it to our tastes AND knowing exactly what is (and isn’t!) snuck into the ingredients. No hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup here. These reasons alone make it worthwhile for us.

If you don’t eat A LOT of granola, I doubt it’s worth your time and money. If any of you fellow granola fans give this recipe a shot, let me know how it goes for you. Enjoy!

(Many thanks to Trent at The Simple Dollar for unknowingly providing the inspiration behind this article via his tutorial on how to make your own homemade oatmeal packets)

Freedom Through Poverty?

Mr. IM has a confession. For all intents and purposes, I’m unemployed. No, that’s not quite true. I’m actually a doctoral candidate at my university, and astute readers (both of you!) may remember that in some of my posts from last spring, I made references to being on a job interview. i actually had two interviews at differing universities (for a faculty teaching position). Let’s just say that I did not get either job. Wah.

While I wish someone would have hired me, I was prepared for the worst. You see, I’m currently ABD (All But Dissertation), and it’s difficult now to get hired for faculty positions without the terminal degree in hand. In a sense, I’m pleased that I actually got two interviews without having the degree! Most universities hire faculty only once a year (for fall semesters), so I’ve accepted my fate that I will live in abject poverty until the next hiring season. My dissertation will be completed by then, and the doctoral degree will be firmly in both hands! Continue reading

Save Money on Security Software – 5 Free Antivirus Programs Worth Using

Let’s face it: if you use Microsoft Windows, you need anti-virus software. Using a Windows-based computer on the Internet without virus protection is akin to having unprotected sex with an entire Bangkok brothel.

Please pardon the gross analogy, but in all seriousness, the addition of anti-virus software to a Windows computer is simply a requirement. However, it does not have to be an expensive requirement. It hurts my soul to see people pay a yearly subscription to an anti-virus program (such as Symantec) without at least considering a free alternative. There are a number of free security programs available, and I submit to you that you can easily protect your computer using entirely free software. In fact, I’ve been doing just that for years, and here are some of the programs that I’ve tried.

1. Avast Antivirus Free Edition (Product link)

My current free anti-virus program of choice. I first replaced Norton with Avast back in 2002, and I haven’t returned to a paid program since. In a word, Avast rules. Over the years I’ve watch it mature from general “clunkiness” into a versatile and elegant program. Yes, the main interface is a bit unorthodox and… modern, but that’s easily changed with the number of interface skins that are available. It’s the features of the program that are more important. Speaking of which:

Features:

  • Anti-Virus
  • Anti-Spyware
  • Anti-Rootkit
  • Resident P2P, Instant Messaging, and Web shields
  • POP3/SMTP E-mail scanning (plus a plug-in just for Outlook)
  • Automatic updates

I’m pleased that the lastest version of Avast includes both Anti-Spyware and Anti-Rootkit protection. The addition of these features made me switch from my beloved AVG (see below). For a free program, it’s hard to beat Avast. It’s my favorite “install and forget” security program, and I have no problem recommending it.

2. AVG Antivirus Free (Product link)

Otherwise known (by me) as as “Old Faithful”, the free version of AVG has been around for ages. I’ve personally used it since 2003. No, AVG has not always had the world’s most beautiful interface (though recent versions have been better), and AVG’s virus detection rates have sometimes suffered. Despite these potential negatives, AVG has enjoyed a cult-like following by computer nerds the world over, and I have no problem recommending it for most people’s usage.

Features:

  • Anti-Virus
  • Anti-Spyware
  • POP3/SMTP E-mail scanning
  • Automatic updates
  • Safe-search (shields against dangerous web search results)

AVG is one of the most frequently downloaded security programs for a good reason. It’s simple to install, easy to use, and won’t slow your computer to a crawl. Yes, there are probably more effective programs available, but AVG is a solid “install and forget” type of program. If it were not for the lack of a Rootkit scanner in the free version, I would likely still have it installed on my main desktop system. I don’t blame Grisoft for trying to provide incentive for paid upgrades – there are just too many other good programs that do provide Anti-Rootkit tools by default.

Still, AVG is a solid choice, and most users can get along just fine with it. I would much rather use it than pay for Norton Anti-Virus.

3. Blink Personal Edition (Product link)

Blink, by eEye Digital Security, is one of the newer free anti-virus programs that I’ve discovered. I wish I had discovered it sooner because it’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite free security programs. I’m not the only one who admires it – take a gander at eEye’s customer list. E-Trade, JPMorgan, Visa, and Harvard University can’t all be wrong, can they? 🙂

Features:

  • Anti-Virus
  • Anti-Spyware
  • Personal Firewall included (nice!)
  • Online identity protection (anti-phishing)
  • POP3/SMTP E-mail scanning
  • Automatic updates
  • Vulnerability report

I found Blink to be a highly-competent program, but not for the faint of heart. Blink offers a ton of control and customization, and with great power comes responsibility. Savvy users will like Blink, but it is not an ideal “install and forget” type of program.

Definitely keep your eye on this one (pun intended).

4. McAfee VirusScan Plus – Special Edition from AOL (Product link)

Here’s an interesting option. McAfee came with the first computer I ever purchased (back in 2000), and it turned my computer into sludge. I couldn’t even drag the mouse across the screen smoothly with McAfee running. Oh, and AOL – the name alone sends shivers down my spine. Back in the early days of the Internet, long before the explosion of blogs and social networking (Dancing Baby, anyone?), AOL stalked the fledgling Internet tubes, ready to stage a hostile takeover of any computer in which it could sink its greedy tendrils. And now the name McAfee somehow combines with AOL? Shock and horror!

All drama aside, I understand that times change, so I gave it a shot. Guess what? I was pleasantly surprised. No, more than that – McAfee/AOL VirusScan Plus is still installed on one machine in my household.

Features:

  • Anti-Virus
  • Anti-Spyware, plus Rootkit detection
  • Personal firewall included (nice!)
  • POP3/SMTP E-mail scanning
  • Automatic updates

Their web site states that they are making McAfee/AOL VirusScan Plus available for AOL members on the Basic Dial-Up plan, but don’t be fooled. All you need is an AOL screen name in order to download the software. If you have ever used the AOL instant messenger, then you already have a screen name. Just try it. I was able to download the software without any trouble.

It’s a solid offering, and I’m delighted that they include a personal firewall for free. People who are hesitant to use a free anti-virus program because of a lack of name recognition will love this McAfee/AOL offering. In short, I don’t know why anyone would pay money for McAfee anti-virus software when this program is available for free.

5. Avira AntiVir Personal Edition (Product link)

Last, but certainly not least, we have Avira. Though this little program is the lightest on features of the programs I mention here, its strength lies in its reputed detection rates. Time and time again, Avira has scored at or near the top on AV-Comparitives, an independent Anti-Virus software testing site, besting such names as Symantec, McAfee, and Sophos. If sheer detection rates alone give you comfort, Avira is the software for you.

Features:

  • Anti-Virus
  • Anti-Rootkit (plus phishing protection)
  • Automatic updates

As you can see, the free edition of Avira has spartan features, but since it shares the same legendary detection engine as its big brothers, this is justified. In comparison to the other free offerings, Avira mainly lacks Anti-Spyware protection and POP3/SMTP E-mail protection. If you use web mail exclusively (Gmail, Yahoo, etc), you can easily live without the e-mail scanner. However, I suggest supplementing Avira with a spyware scanner, such as Ad-Aware or Spybot.

In my usage, the free version of Avira spawns a pop-up window after each update reminding you of their paid upgrades. It’s a small price to pay for such a worthy program, but a quick search reveals a way to disable the pop-up. Of course, the choice is up to you.

Summary

Naturally, there are other free anti-virus programs available, and you may find them worthwhile. I have used all these programs at one point or another, and feel comfortable recommending them over just about any for pay program.

I have only purchased one anti-virus program (back in 2001), and to be honest, I have no plans to ever do so again. My computers have led a malware-free existence since 2002, and I have saved hundreds of dollars by using free security software. You can, too.

At the least, if you currently pay a yearly subscription for an anti-virus program, I urge you to at least consider a free alternative. It ultimately boils down to your comfort level. If using a free anti-virus program causes you lose sleep at night over your computer’s security, by all means use a paid program. At least you considered an alternative.

For the rest of us, free programs like these work just fine. No matter which you choose, I wish you a malware-free existence!

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Avoiding the Passport Photo Ripoff

My passport recently expired, and since I’m planning a European trip this summer, I need to renew it ASAP. I grabbed the passport application from the Post Office and zipped over to Kinko’s since I knew they took passport-approved photos there. It can’t cost more than a couple bucks for two small photos, right?

Wrong!

My local Kinko’s did not have a price listed underneath the large “Passport photos taken here!” sign. As the modestly-hot Kinko’s girl grabbed her digital camera and asked me to have a seat in front of the white backdrop, I casually asked, “How much will this cost?”

“Thirteen dollars,” she coolly replied, “and that’s just for the two photos. We don’t handle any of the paperwork or shipping.”

“Gasp! Hrgpt! Croak!” I wheezed as I blindly stumbled toward the exit, garnering the attention of the remaining customers and leaving the modestly-hot girl scratching her head in confusion.

Someone wants me to pay $13 for two lousy photos? I don’t think so. Some quick checking around found that Walgreens, CVS, and other competitors ALL wanted at least $8 for the same crappy service. No thanks.

An Alternative

If you have a digital camera (or can borrow one), you can take your own photo. Of course, it must adhere to certain guidelines, which means that you can’t use a LOLCAT or Hello Kitty as your passport photo. Bummer.

Seriously, the US Department of State has published the guidelines for passport photos, and they aren’t too hard to follow.

Once you’ve taken your photo, use a free service such as ePassportPhoto or 123PassportPhoto. I tried both, but liked ePassportPhoto better because it includes a nifty tool to crop the photo, keeping the distance from your chin to the top of your head in the proper ratio with the rest of the photo.

ePassportPhoto - Ensure compliance

Here’s my picture! See how my chin and (um…) ears are solidly within the green bars?

Passport Kitteh

Both ePassportPhoto and 123PassportPhoto will generate a 4×6″ photo containing six 2×2″ passport-ready photos.

Printing

To print my awesome new photo, I simply sent the single 4×6″ print to Wal-Mart’s online photo center and requested one color copy. Heck, I even splurged on their 1-hour service. Of course, any other competing online photo service should work just fine.

The grand total price, including tax? $0.20. That’s 20 CENTS! As you can see, 20 cents is clearly lower than 13 dollars. In your face, Kinko’s.

I even paid with a credit card. 🙂

Oh, for you tinfoil-hat-wearing types, new passports now come with a radio frequency identification chip (RFID). If this makes you uncomfortable, a quick smack with a hammer should permanently disable it.

The House Rabbit – Nature’s Economical Pet

There’s no doubt that pets can be expensive. I have owned my fair share of indoor pets over the years, and have also paid the numerous expenses associated with them. Owning a cat or a dog can can mean paying for pet deposits, veterinary costs, toys, and endless amounts of food. Of course, the reward of companionship is worthwhile, or at least it’s supposed to be. 🙂

Aside from the ubiquitous “cat or dog?” decision that most people make when choosing a pet, there is another option that many people do not consider: the lovable and inexpensive “house” rabbit.

esmeralda-langseth1.jpg

(Aww, aren’t I cute?)

I’m actually allergic to cats, and my wife doesn’t like dogs, so when we decided to get a pet last year, we had to search outside the mainstream choices. While fish, hamsters, and birds can make perfectly fine pets, we wanted something more personable and, well… bigger.

We decided on a pet rabbit, and upon visiting our local Humane Society, we were pleased to learn that the rabbit is also one of the least expensive pets they offer ($15). Here’s the little guy we brought home:

kouneli1.jpg

He’s a curious little fellow with tons of energy and personality. Here he is frolicking on our couch (if you’re reading in an RSS reader, you may need to click through):

Costs Involved

Why do I say the rabbit is Nature’s Economical Pet? Let’s take a look at the costs involved. Of course, prices may fluctuate depending on where you live.

As I mentioned, the adoption fee was only $15. Before we picked out a rabbit, we did some research on cages, and we discovered that the cage is usually the most expensive part of owning a pet rabbit.

Cage

If you buy a pre-built cage, you can spend anywhere from $30-300, depending on size and build quality. Owning a rabbit is supposed to be CHEAP, so we rejected the idea of spending a lot of money on a cage. On Craigslist, I found a couple of cages that people were giving away for free, but they were too small (they were meant for breeding rabbits, not as a place for a rabbit to live).

Ultimately, we decided to build our own rabbit cage, which was FAR easier than I suspected. All you need is a box or two of wire cubes (the kind you can use to build small storage containers), some plastic zip-ties, and a piece of wood or paneling for a floor. We built a large, two story cage for our furry friend all for about $25.

Food

Rabbit food is cheap. My wife and I eat vegetarian food most of the time, and fortunately, the rabbit is also Nature’s Vegan. He will happily munch on our excess lettuce, cilantro, celery, carrots, and most of the other veggies in the fridge.

His staple food is Timothy hay, a large bag of which can last quite a long time. We also supplement his diet with pellets (also cheap).

Oh, our rabbit’s favorite food by far – banana. If anyone opens a banana within a 10-mile radius, our bunny does this:

bunny-beg.jpg

Toys

Having a rabbit is a bit like having a two-year old kid: household items that he can reach will end up in his mouth. They love things like paper bags, boxes, plastic slinkies, paper towel rolls, and untreated wicker.

Give a rabbit an extra phone book and he’ll entertain himself (and you) for hours. Just be prepared to clean up the shredded pages later.

Veterinary Fees

Rabbits should be neutered/spayed. After all, female rabbits are capable of producing a new litter of babies every month! It cost us $65 to have our poor rabbit neutered, though it’s a little more expensive procedure to have a female rabbit fixed.

There are currently NO vaccines that rabbits need, so rabbit owners, rejoice! You don’t need to take them to the vet every 6-12 months for shots.

Cost breakdown

Again, this is what we paid for our furry little friend. Your prices may vary.

  • Adoption fee: $15
  • Neutering: $65
  • Cage (self-built): $25
  • Bag of Hay (48 oz – can last months): $7
  • Large Bag of Food Pellets (can last six months or more): $6
  • Bag of Litter (yes, rabbits can be litter box trained!): $3

Owning a house rabbit is a lot of fun, and it’s typically much less expensive than owning a dog or cat. The one caveat is that rabbits like to chew on things like wicker furniture and electric cables, so certain rooms (like the “computer” room) are off limits. For the rooms in which he is allowed, we covered all the electric cables with plastic aquarium tubing to keep him from killing himself.

My wife and I enjoy having a pet, and a house rabbit works well for us without costing too many dollars (though I’m sure our rabbit would eat a dollar bill if he had a chance!) 🙂

A Few Issues To Consider When Ditching Your Landline

My landline is getting cut off today. My wife and I now have two Sprint SERO plans that we will use for voice communication. Honestly, I’m looking forward to losing the landline. For the last six months or so, at least once a day we receive a phone call that proves to be nothing more than an interminable beeping sound. Aargh! I don’t know what causes it, but it’s enough to drive a man crazy!

Aside from eliminating the dreaded beeping phone phantom, there were a number of other issues we had to consider when making the decision to ditch the landline.

DSL Internet

If you have DSL, are you required to have a landline as part of your package? My plan through AT&T does… or at least it DID. As so-called Dry-Loop (or naked) DSL gains in popularity, I hope to see more companies offering it.

As I found out, dropping your landline with AT&T is easy, provided they offer dry-loop DSL in your area.

Alloted Minutes and International Calling

I don’t tend to spend hours talking on the phone each day, so I’m not too worried that I will exceed my 500 alloted minutes each month. If you DO tend to go over your minutes each month, you need to consider an easy way to track your minute usage. On my Sprint plan, I can dial *4 at any time to check my minutes.

There’s also a nifty little program called watchmycell (for Windows XP and Vista) that can automatically log into your phone account and notify you (via text message or e-mail) if you are close to using up your minutes. Oh, it’s FREE.

skype_logo.pngBefore I ditched my landline, I used Skype a lot to communicate with friends and family. It’s my software of choice for video chats. All calls from computer to computer are FREE. I have the Skype Pro service, so for $3 a month, I have unlimited computer-to-phone calling to anywhere in the USA or Canada.

Provided you have a decent broadband internet connection, the quality of the calls are quite good. I used Skype as my sole means of long-distance calling for well over a year, and I had only one or two dropped calls that entire time. Now that I have a cell phone, I doubt I will need Skype Pro anymore, but I can still use it if I run low on minutes.

Skype also has decent international calling rates. For instance, calls from the USA to Greece are just over 2 cents a minute. See their prices page for a complete listing.

GrandCentral

I’ve been using the FREE GrandCentral service (by Google) for several months now, and I think it’s incredible. Without a doubt, it has made the cell-phone-only switch much more seamless. What is it? You simply must visit the GrandCentral site to learn more.

While my wife and I each have separate numbers for our cell phones (of course), we registered each number with GrandCentral. I give my close friends my specific cell phone number, and I give the GrandCentral number to everyone else.

Depending on the caller, GrandCentral will ring my phone, my wife’s phone, or both! I also LOVE the ability to mark callers as Spam, just like junk e-mail. Telemarketer harassing you? Mark their number as Spam in GrandCentral, and never hear from them again! Yeah! 🙂

Since my phone has unlimited web access, I can also log into GrandCentral’s mobile site and listen to voice messages, manipulate contacts, etc.

Oh, GrandCentral is currently in Beta and requires an invitation to join. I currently have 4 invitations available. All out, sorry! Open to US residents only.

Speaking of Google, don’t forget to add GOOG-411 to your phone. It’s a free 411 service that will auto-connect you to your destination. Nice!

Emergency Calling and Faxing

In case of emergency (from a landline), dial 911. In case of emergency (and you call from a cell phone), dial 911 – and then tell the operator your location. To my knowledge, that’s the main difference.

If you have minimal needs for faxing, there are a number of services that will allow you to send PDF or DOC files to a fax machine over the internet. One such service that I have used is faxZero. Their FREE service allows you to send up to two faxes a day (3-page maximum per fax). For greater needs, they also have a premium service. Fax1 allows you to send faxes for 12 cents a page.

To receive faxes, you can try the FREE, but limited version of eFax. More advanced users can always try the eFax Plus service.

These are some of the issues that I considered when I decided to ditch my landline, and I think my new setup will work well.

How about you? Have you dropped your landline as well? Did you run into any obstacles?

Dropping Your AT&T Landline is Easy

old-phone.jpgThat’s what I just found out, anyway. Since my wife and I just got cell phones through the Sprint SERO plan, we decided that we no longer need a landline, especially since it costs us more than our DSL Internet.

I was afraid that convincing AT&T to drop our landline would be difficult, but it was actually quite easy. While searching their site, I came across this page offering Internet plans without a phone line. Of course, you cannot just sign up online, but there IS an 800 number to call for more information.

So, I called the number, though I admit I was bracing myself for someone to endlessly elaborate upon the benefits of keeping my landline available. To my surprise, the conversation basically went like this:

Me: Hi, I want to drop my landline and keep my DSL.

AT&T Rep: Ok, let’s do it!

Me: Really? Awesome!

Of course, the phone call took longer than that, but most of it was simply re-entering my data as a new account. Since I already have existing DSL service with them, I was able to avoid all the one-time setup charges and equipment fees. My Internet connection is simply supposed to go down this coming Monday and reappear the next day.

Here are the prices for standalone DSL that she quoted me:

Basic (768 Kbps) – $20 a month (contract required)

Express (1.5 Mbps) – $30 a month (no contract)

Pro (3.0 Mbps) – $34 a month (no contract)

Elite (6.0 Mbps) – $39 a month (no contract)

I currently have the “Pro” level, and I opted to keep the same speed. It is a slight price increase from what I have been paying, but my overall bill will now be roughly $20 lower each month. Nice!

I tried to haggle a bit with the CSR, but to no avail. I thought about flirting, but decided that it may actually cause the price to increase! 🙂

Availability?

One thing to consider – the CSR first had to verify that DSL Direct was available in my area. Luckily, it was. Of course, your mileage may vary.

The only question I have is whether or not AT&T’s standalone Internet plans are available for customers who do NOT already have a phone line with them. A friend of mine claims to have called and been turned down for Direct DSL because he did not have an existing phone with them, but I’m just wondering if this is the norm, or if he just talked to a clueless CSR.

I admit, I’m pretty excited to finally ditch my landline for good. Now, if only America’s average broadband speed could keep up with parts of Europe and Asia! 🙂