June 6, 2023

Tool Kit: Packages Lower Cost of Travel With a Cellphone

Actually, overseas cellphone bills do not have to be huge anymore, as long as you do some planning.

After facing years of stinging criticism that they charged exorbitant fees to subscribers traveling to other countries, several major American mobile carriers have come up with overseas calling packages that cut costs to a small fraction of what they once were.

As a result, the additional cost of using a cellphone in many other countries may end up being a minor inconvenience, rather than motivation to take out a second mortgage.

Unfortunately, no one solution will work for everyone. Which approach you take depends on your current carrier, the countries you are visiting and your tolerance for changing calling habits while away from home.

THE FIRST STEP You can keep your existing cellphone number and buy a data package, a voice roaming package or both from most American carriers.

Alternatively, if your phone is unlocked (meaning it will work on any other network) and you are going to a place that uses the GSM phone standard, which includes Europe and the United States (the ATT and T-Mobile networks), you can buy a local SIM card. This gives you your own phone number based in the country you are visiting.

ROAMING PACKAGE VS. SIM CARD If you buy a reduced-rate roaming package from your carrier, you will still use the regular mobile number that your friends and relatives know. If they are calling from the United States, they will pay only for a local call in the United States, which for many cellphone and landline users means they actually do not pay anything extra, whether you are in Turkey or the Shetland Islands.

If you would rather buy a local SIM card, it may prove a challenge if you are going to a country in which the local mobile phone store employees are unlikely to speak English (although many cellphone stores have airport outlets with English-speaking employees).

SIM cards for various countries can also be bought from American suppliers, including Telestial, but expect to pay more for the card and its use than you would if you were to buy it in your destination country.

For example, one Telestial SIM card option charges users 84 cents for the first minute of outgoing voice calls, while outgoing texts cost 69 cents. Data costs 49 cents per megabyte from Britain (double the ATT package price) and a whopping $15 per megabyte from Israel and Russia.

Still, depending on the country and your American mobile carrier’s rates, buying a local SIM card may prove cheaper than the roaming rates you will pay your carrier.

Trying to find out the cost of a local SIM card and phone charges can be a challenge, though, even if you speak the language. I called two cellular carriers in Britain, Orange and Vodafone, to ask about rates. After waiting 10 minutes on hold at Vodafone, I was cut off in midsentence.

The man I spoke to in Orange customer service had no idea how much data I would use for particular applications. “I cannot say,” he said. “It depends on how long it takes to open the e-mail and the quality of the connection.” He advised that I ask about costs when I arrived in London.

One SIM card caveat: if you love the romantic idea of having your own Turkish or Swedish or Italian phone number and decide to go the SIM card route, make sure that your friends and family back in the States have an international calling plan of their own.

When my wife and I traveled to New Zealand, a family member in the United States spent $25 for a five-minute call to our local Auckland number because she had never signed up for reduced overseas calling with ATT.

MY PHONE IS LOCKED Ask your carrier to unlock your phone. ATT will unlock your phone when your contract is up. T-Mobile will do so after 40 days of service, or 18 months if you are under a two-year contract. Verizon, which uses the CDMA standard, sells 20 models of “world phones” that have SIM cards for use overseas; typically, those phones are unlocked out of the box.

If your carrier will not unlock your phone, you can do it yourself, with one exception: according to a ruling last year by the United States Copyright Office, phones bought after Jan. 26, 2013, may legally be unlocked only by your mobile company.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/technology/personaltech/packages-lower-cost-of-travel-with-a-cellphone.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Today’s Economist: Casey B. Mulligan: Varieties of Not Working


Casey B. Mulligan is an economics professor at the University of Chicago. He is the author of “The Redistribution Recession: How Labor Market Distortions Contracted the Economy.”

Today’s Economist

Perspectives from expert contributors.

Employment can be a better indicator of labor market activity than unemployment, because unemployment is not the only way that a person can be without work.

The blue series in the chart below shows the reduction in unemployment since March 2012, expressed as a percentage of the population (e.g., in a population of 100 million, 0.1 percentage points means 100,000 people and 0.5 percentage points means 500,000.) In order to correct for the movement of baby boomers into retirement, I used Bureau of Labor Statistics data only for people 25 to 54 years old (this group is about 124 million and has been falling a little). Over the subsequent year, and especially since mid-2012, unemployment was reduced significantly.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

But reduced unemployment is not the same as more employment, because the third labor force classification is “out of the labor force.” Neither the unemployed nor those out of the labor force have a job, but only the unemployed are actively looking for one.

The red series in the chart shows that the “out of the labor force” ranks have increased roughly as much as unemployment has been reduced, and the difference between the blue and the red series indicates the change in the fraction of the population that is employed. For the months when the blue series is above the red series, employment per capita has increased since March 2012.

Because the blue series hardly exceeds the red series, if at all, the large majority of the reduction in unemployment has been associated with offsetting increases in people out of the labor force.

While the reduction in unemployment and the growth in the out of the labor force more or less cancel each other out, jobs are at least being created fast enough to absorb the growth in the working-age population. That additional population increases demand, which contributes to the jobs being created.

Retirements and going to school could increase the number of people out of the labor force, but the data I’ve shown are for an age group in which retirement and schooling are rare. For the 25-to-54 age group, “out of the labor force” typically represents people who are finding ways to get by without working.

Some people moving out of the labor force devote their time to caring for their young children while their spouses obtain cash income for the family. That some of the growth in those out of the labor force has occurred among married people suggests that such specialization in the family could be part of the story. But the fact that this group is growing especially among unmarried people suggests that family specialization explains at best a minority of the aggregate changes.

Unemployment insurance benefits are paid only to people who report that they are actively looking for work. Some unemployed have long been skeptical that they can find a good job and are just going through the motions of job search to satisfy the unemployment program’s requirements (see this testimony to a House subcommittee by Stacey G. Reece, co-owner of a recruitment firm in Gainesville, Fla., who said he witnessed people “applying for jobs only to protect their status for unemployment insurance”).

When such a person’s unemployment benefits run out, he may look less actively for work, which changes his classification from unemployed to out of the labor force.

The termination of unemployment benefits can, and sometimes does, have the opposite effect, because the loss of income can make out-of-work people more seriously consider accepting a low-paying job. But unemployment insurance is by no means the only safety-net program. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) is a major and newly expanded safety-net program and does not require its beneficiaries to work or be looking for work. Curiously, SNAP has been expanding while the unemployment rate falls.

People without jobs increasingly take part in the disability insurance program, which does not require people to look for work because “disability” means that the person is unable to work. Medicaid is another major safety program that does not require its participants to work.

A significant part of the recent reductions in the unemployment rate may reflect movements of people between safety net programs rather than any significant change in their job-finding prospects.

Article source: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/varieties-of-not-working/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Your Money: Six Keys to Saving by Starting at Community College

He ended up graduating in 1981 from the University of Puget Sound, a private college in Tacoma, Wash. “Nobody ever asked where I went the first two years, and I don’t think anybody cares,” he said. “And I bet I saved myself $30,000.”

When it came time for his son Bret to start college, Bret decided to take the same path, choosing smaller classes, a more flexible schedule and a price that was a fraction of what he might have paid in Washington’s state university system.

He is hardly the only one. A few weeks ago, in a “Your Money” special section of the newspaper, I wrote about Mino Caulton, a high school senior in Shutesbury, Mass., who was weighing the virtues of a community college versus a more prestigious private university that would have required him to take out lots of student loans.

Advice for Mr. Caulton poured in on our Bucks blog, and it became clear that there were few centralized resources for families who had made a strategic financial decision to attend community college first as a cost-saving measure.

Merely deciding to attend community college does not guarantee that you will save money. If the goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, anything that goes wrong along the way, like taking the wrong classes or getting a bad grade in a required class, means extra semesters and extra expenses.

So what follows are a list of six of the most important things you need to think about if you’re trying to save money in this way. Please add your tips to our discussion on Bucks over the weekend.

A CULTURE OF TRANSFERRING First, pick the right community college.

“The first thing you have to assess is whether or not the community college has a transfer-going culture,” said Stephen Handel, who is executive director of community college initiatives for the College Board and began his undergraduate education at one himself.

Call or visit the advising office of community colleges you’re considering and ask what percentage of students who complete an associate’s degree transfer to a four-year university. Also, which universities do they end up going to and in what numbers?

Then, call the admissions staff at your target transfer university and ask them how many transfer students they take each year. Which community colleges send them the most students? What tends to get in the way of them gaining admission and then succeeding?

Pretty quickly, you’ll start hearing horror stories of students who took the wrong classes at community college and couldn’t get into a four-year university or ended up having to spend three or more years at the university making up credits.

Thankfully, a number of state universities and community colleges have made it easier to figure out all the rules ahead of time. The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers has put together a state-by-state guide on its Web site, at bit.ly/h8ebPk.

Keep two crucial questions in mind here. Which credits will count toward the general education or distribution requirements at your four-year college or university? And if you have a target major, which community college classes could you take that would count toward that as well?

AN EARLY START Budget cuts are posing enormous challenges for higher education systems just as more people are trying to return to retrain and retool.

The resulting enrollment bottleneck has hit many community colleges especially hard. So if you’re going to get into the classes you need and get out in two years or less, you need to be first in line come registration time. Don’t wait until a few weeks ahead to sign up.

Peter Reagan, a 19-year-old student at Santa Monica College, a community college in Santa Monica, Calif., hopes to be eligible for enrolling in a University of California campus this fall after just over a year at Santa Monica.

But it wasn’t easy to pile up the credits he needed. Many of the classes he had hoped to take were closed to online enrollment by the time he logged on.

So he scrambled. “During the first two weeks of classes, I was going to different ones all day every day trying to add the ones I needed, taking whatever I could get,” he said.

“I’d heard that inevitably, even if you don’t get in on the first day, the worst-case scenario is that you keep showing up and hope that somebody drops the class,” he said. “That happens in every class. But I didn’t have to do that. I got rejected from a lot of classes, but I also got into enough of the ones that I needed.”

This approach requires flexibility, which will complicate matters for people who also need to work. Try to find a job ahead of time that has at least a little bit of flexibility.

SPECIALIZED ADVICE Most community colleges will have at least one adviser who knows how to work the transfer system. Your task is to hunt down those people before you enroll and pick your classes.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=111c08ce69c620e75cb1c6b190dc5949