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  • Many companies charge the entire 99 cents even if you only reach an answering machine and hang up right away. Try calling first on your regular long-distance plan to see if the person you're calling is available (so you're charged for only 1 minute, not 20). Then hang up and call back immediately on the 99-cent plan.

    Another way to reduce your phone bill if you call friends and family out of state regularly may be to get a cell phone. Some cell phone plans offer huge amounts of free long-distance calls.

    Using email to stay in touch

    As long as you don't have per-minute service charges connected with your email or Internet service, sending an email is free. And what's a better price than that? Some people have a home computer but don't want or need com- plete Internet access. If you're one of these people, you can get email-only services, often for free. Ask at your local computer store or talk to your friendly neighborhood computer geek for local ideas for free email-only services.

    If money is really tight, sending an email greeting card from an online card company is much better than sending no greeting at all. (For a large collection of free email greeting cards and messages, go to www·bluemountain·com·)

    Another way to save on the cost of a stamp or a long-distance call is to use online video-conferencing and instant-messaging services. You can also set up meeting times with family and friends in online chatrooms or message boards to exchange greetings.

    Rediscovering the joys of letter writing

    Letter writing seems to have become a relic of the past, as archaic as dinosaurs or Model Ts. But nothing can match the thrill of finding a hand- addressed envelope from a good friend or favorite family member in your mailbox. Sending cards and letters doesn't have to be much more expensive than the price of a first-class stamp if you watch for specials on stationery while you're shopping. You can often find beautiful note cards and stationery at garage sales and thrift stores for pennies. Dropping an inexpensive card or letter in the mail is still much cheaper than making an extended long-distance phone call or paying for Internet access.

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