Ask the Readers $200 Giveaway: How Do You Stay in Contact with Family and Friends Without Breaking the Bank?

By Ashley Jacobs on 19 March 2014 (Updated 2 April 2014) 156 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Lisa for winning a $100 Skype gift card and to Bri and Karrie who each won a $50 Visa gift card in this week's contest!

Staying connected to family and friends that live far away from you is important in maintaining your relationships with them. However, sometimes trying to keep in touch can be expensive! It is important to find frugal ways to stay connected so you don't have to spend an arm and a leg on communication costs.

How do you stay connected to family and friends without breaking the bank? Do you use any particular tools? What money-saving strategies have you found most useful when connecting with family and friends who live far away?

Tell us how you stay connected to family and friends without breaking the bank and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $100 Skype Gift Card or one of two $50 Visa Gift Cards!

Win a $100 Skype gift card or one of two $50 Visa Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways via Rafflecopter — here's how you can win!

Mandatory Entry:

  • Post your answer in the comment section below, then enter the name and email address you used to post your comment into the Rafflecopter widget to confirm your entry. (Your email is kept private, other entrants will not be able to see it! We just use this information to confirm your entry.)

For an extra entry:

  • You can tweet about our giveaway for an extra entry. After you tweet, use our Rafflecopter widget to confirm your entry:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest starts Tuesday March 18th, 2014 and ends Monday, March 24th, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific. Winners will be announced after March 24th, 2014 on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
  • You can enter all the drawings — once by leaving a comment and once by tweeting then confirming your entry through Rafflecopter.
  • NO PURCHASE NECESSARY VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.
  • Open only to permanent legal U.S. residents 18 years or older physically residing in the fifty (50) United States of America and the District of Columbia, excluding the state of Rhode Island.
  • Prizes are delivered by Wise Bread. Wise Bread is the host and administrator of this contest.
  • Additional terms and conditions apply. Click here for more details.

Here is a message from our sponsor:

Sponsored by Skype - Use Skype Credit to call mobiles and landlines home and abroad at low rates.

Good Luck!

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Guest's picture
Jenn W

We use cell phone plans with unlimited talking & texting. I'm from a large family and we're spread all across the country. It's the only way that works for us!

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Jeremy

Email and Facetime primarily - Skype for those without apple products.

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I've been using WhatsApp to text with a friend in London so that we're not getting charged extra for worldwide texting!

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Perry

I use Vonage for my telephone. So all long distance calls are include in the $30 monthly fee. Plus I have a virtual number where I used to live for $5 a month so anyone from there can call me locally. and of course Facebook.

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Nicole N

I use Skype to keep in touch with family!

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Guest

Skype, Facebook, Text messaging

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Ernest S.

Skype, Facetime, LocalPhone and Whatsapp are my go-to apps for keeping in touch with long-distance family and friends.

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Jeff Shapiro

Facetime is the way to go!

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Susan D.

We use email almost exclusively. Phone calls are for emergencies!

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Margaret Smith

With my Dad and my brother & his family living out of state, we keep contact mostly by talking on the phone. My kids and I also travel from NJ to SC every summer via Amtrak, which is much less expensive then plane.

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We text or FaceTime!

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Gina

Facebook and email.

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Gina

Facebook and email.

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Jo G

I like Skype for friends overseas and goodchat/hangout for domestic friends and family.

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Sara C

To stay connected to family and friends I take advantage of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and also Facetime and texting.

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Sara C

To stay connected to family and friends I take advantage of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and also Facetime and texting.

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Tomiann Parker

As 'uncool' as it might be I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family. I feel more in touch by seeing the photos and comments than I ever did using the gossip method :P

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Guest

I use skype $10 for unlimited calls to my family who dont have internet or smartphone. Also with friends or family members who have smart phones and access internet. I use viber to call them. Its free!

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wong

text. facetime. games, i.e. ruzzle.

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Kristine R.

Definitely use online networking and Skype to save money on keeping in touch :)

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Kristine R.

Definitely use online networking and Skype to save money on keeping in touch :)

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Thrifty Writer

Skype, email and before I deactivated my account, Facebook (though Facebook was a bit more passive).

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T K

I use Skype and Facetime for video calls, and Line for international texts.

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Denise S

I keep in touch via email and with cards and letters occasionally.
lazybones344 at gmail dot com

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Judy

Facebook, Skype, Facetime, text and email.

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Geoff K

Skype and Google Hangout have been my go-to apps for video chatting with friends, family, and colleagues from around the world -- when video isn't necessary, I have used IM services (or just the IM on Skype) to stay in touch for free.

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KelR1

I text and email as much as possible, make phone calls when I have to, and visit when it's necessary or convenient (I try to group my errands geographically when possible).

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Alona

Facebook, Skype, Viber

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Emily

Gchat, WhatsApp, and sometimes we'll even do the old fashioned postcard.

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An Gooch

I use unlimited text messages to stay in touch with texting and sending pics.

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Anu

I have a schedule for calling my parents overseas, using an international caling website. I also have scheduled weekly emails to my grandfather (also overseas) to make it easier to stay in touch, without juggling around schedules.

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Lisa Jones

besides the obvious facebook and skype, i honestly love finding 99-cent cards at CVS or small drugstores and mailing mom a card. it is nice to get a card, with my handwriting, something NOT digital, but personal. the card costs a dollar, then a stamp, big whoop. it's the thought that counts and with so many nice cards at a dollar now, and hallmark is offering more at the $1.99 price, too, so it's not a cost prohibitive thing. and it's just the nice surprise that really says 'i was thinking of you' and that makes me happy to know my mom is happy.

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Roxana

Gchat!

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Adrienne gordon

We use social media and skype to stay in touch.

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I use Google Voice to make calls for free.

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Lisa Jones

buy the 99-cent hallmark cards just as a way to mail an old-fashioned bit of love. a cheap but warm, thoughtful way to say i was thinking of you...i do this for my mom and favorite aunt.

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Therese

We use Skype, Google chat, and messaging to keep in touch.

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Lance

I normally just chat on the phone with my brother, although he does fly out to visit us once in a while. I helped him keep his costs down by using Southwest Rapid Rewards to book his flight. Saved him over $500!

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Jen

Phone and internet!

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Susan P.

We use texts with an unlimited family plan as well as calling. My sister and I Skype so we can be hands free.

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Ann Fantom

We use Apple's FaceTime to stay in contact with family who live out of state

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Guest

I use Facebook and email to stay in touch with family and friends.

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Cynthia C

We use our cell phones with unlimited plans constantly and sometimes do video calls for face time.

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Mary Happymommy

We communicate with family that lives abroad via Skype, Facebook, and Google Hangouts.

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Olivia

Email to those who have it and letters to our older relatives who don't.

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Liz

I use whatsapp and skype all the time. Twitter/instagram/facebook are great too!

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Christie

I Skype with my bestie who lives 1000 miles away! My family and friends are scattered throughout the world and we use Facebook to keep in touch. It's lovely to make new friends, keep up with old friends, and stay in touch with family members there. I love being connected in such a way!

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joti

I use skype and viber most to stay connected!

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lostAnnfound

I email my daughter in college or we talk on the phone. Same for other family members. Facebook is great for seeing pictures of family & friends who don't live nearby.

We use Skype at some of the holidays (like Easter) or birthdays when college kids can't come back home. We set up laptops by the dinner table and it's like they are right there with us!

Guest's picture

I stay connected with out breaking the bank by making calls with my laptop and also using FaceTime on my phone. We can visit and chat with my parents with out having to buy a plane ticket!

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Erica

With skype

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Lisa Voyce

I use the phone, e-mail, facebook and Skype to stay connected with friends and family.

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Allison

We have unlimited texting between our phones. Also we use facebook and skype a lot!

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Kirstie L.

We have family in Spain and we use both FaceTime and WhatsApp. We have to avoid calling and texting obviously so WhatsApp is perfect for chatting and sending pictures during the week. FaceTime is what we use on the weekends when we can find time to chat face to face so to speak. Without these two apps we would most likely only be able to communicate via email or every two years when they visit. We also have family in other states and primarily communicate via text or Facebook. This way we can see and share things going on almost everyday. Facebook is amazing to not only keep in touch with family and friends but it allows you to keep up with so many people at once. Although a bit less personal, it takes a lot of time to connect with people, let alone many people. With busy schedules that do not line up, it would be nearly impossible to stay in connect with friends and family from out of state. Not only are these apps convenient, but they definitely do not break the bank.

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Richard Hicks

Most cost efficient way is via email, facebook or similar social media.

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Tiffany S.

To stay in touch with family and friends, we often Skype or send text messages or Snapchats.

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Julie Fields

We call each other. Facetime and Skype as often as possible

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Karen L @love2lovemykids

I Skype or use included minutes in my cell phone plan

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Leo

Social networking tools have been key! I have family all throughout the country and keeping up with how nieces and nephews are doing would be a lot tougher without facebook & instagram.

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Judith Barbuto

Use the same wireless carrier and all calls between you come under that one bill. Write real paper letters. use email.

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CR Williams

I use skype and facetime a lot to do that.

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Abby

Unlimited texting helps a lot. It's real time communication without breaking the bank.

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Martina F

We use FaceTime for those of us with apple products. For those of us without, we Skype!

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CR Williams

I use skype and facetime most of the time.

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Martina F

We use FaceTime for those of us with apple products. For those of us without, we Skype!

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Elena

I use Skype and emails

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Elina

I use either Skype or Google Hangouts... (whichever one my friends/family prefer) and talk away for hours! :) But this happens maybe once a month, to catch up when some serious catching up needs to be done. What I do most often is write letters (and no, I'm not 75 years old... I'm only 23!); I send a letter pretty much every other day. That way, I don't have to make sure the other person has time for a long phone call, or has decent internet connectivity (an issue with Skype oftentimes where I live)... I can just sit down and write a note every time I think of a friend, and send it out that same day. Granted, I won't get a response for several days, but I can wait, and when I receive the response, I can read it on my own time (instead of having to answer a phone call immediately). This method actually works best for busy bee me.

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Elina

I use either Skype or Google Hangouts... (whichever one my friends/family prefer) and talk away for hours! :) But this happens maybe once a month, to catch up when some serious catching up needs to be done. What I do most often is write letters (and no, I'm not 75 years old... I'm only 23!); I send a letter pretty much every other day. That way, I don't have to make sure the other person has time for a long phone call, or has decent internet connectivity (an issue with Skype oftentimes where I live)... I can just sit down and write a note every time I think of a friend, and send it out that same day. Granted, I won't get a response for several days, but I can wait, and when I receive the response, I can read it on my own time (instead of having to answer a phone call immediately). This method actually works best for busy bee me.

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Katie W

My sister and I text and or chat on Google Hangouts, daily! She's in Florida and I'm in Chicago. We keep in touch with my grandparents in NC through email. My Grandpa has Alzheimer's and my Grandma is hard of hearing, so she likes long email letters to keep her in the loop since phone conversations are tough.

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LaCinda Brooks

My primary method for keeping in touch is via cell with unlimited talk and text. I have been wanting to try Skype though, I've heard great things about it and it sounds like a more realistic way to stay close. I also adore a written letter as well, the charm lasts a lifetime.

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Monique Rizzo

Mainly facebook and email.
Thanks for the chance.

Donna Freedman's picture

E-mail and phone calls, mostly. I do occasionally write letters.
I use frequent flier miles to visit family/friends (i.e., free place to stay) and try to combine business with visits so that at least part of the trip can be deducted. This will be the third year in a row that my daughter and I will both attend the Financial Blogger Conference and then stay an extra couple of days in order to hash out what happened at FinCon and also just visit.

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Kristin Welch

We have unlimited talk/text on cell phone which helps, use skype for a friend in England and sometimes email or snail mail a card

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Jillie

We use Skype to keep up with our family, especially the ones out of country!! Love the free video calling!

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Holly S

Facebook!! Although I can get really frustrated at some of the stuff on Facebook it's definitely been a fabulous tool to keep in touch with friends and family that aren't close by.

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Roger

We use email almost exclusively.

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Mandy

I use e-mail and social media. Whatsapp is great for staying in touch with those in other countries.

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Mary

I keep in touch with most of my friends and family through Facebook - we're all on there and it's the cheapest route for us

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Kim Kihega

To keep in touch, we use Facebook and email.

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Kieran R

I only pay $10/month for phone usage... here's how:
For local friends, we arrange a lot of our plans on facebook and email so I rarely use the phone. I have one for emergencies and free texting (in case I'm running late, as is often the case)! I live overseas in Italy while I have friends and family around the world. I own an old-school flip phone with a local Italian number ($US 10 per month for pre-pay!).
To keep in touch, I adapt to my loved one's needs. Some are always on Gmail, so I can do Google chat with them without any planning beforehand. Others don't have a Gmail account or prefer Skype, so I organize in advance.
For most calls to accommodate the time difference, I set up an 'open line' Sunday evenings with both Gmail and Skype open. While I do laundry and clean in my apt., I get surprise calls from everyone! I make my open line common knowledge on facebook, email, etc.
I also work in freelance, so I set up a separate Skype account with my professional title and organize calls with clients or - if necessary-buy Skype credit to call their cell phone or landline. It's easy to call anywhere with it!

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Margaret

For family here in the States we use a combination of the Viber app and Skype. For international family we use Skype and Facebook.

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Tamra H

We use Skype to keep in touch internationally - it's cheaper than a long-distance plan! We also send old-school letters. It's fun to get something in the mailbox!

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Guest Bonnie

I send ecards to my family and friends for all occasions. With many options to choose from, I can always find an appropriate message. They are animated and musical.

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I stay connected through text messages and Facebook posts.

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Bethany

We use facebook.

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Rebecca B. A. R.

We use our cell phones (with unlimited talk/text), email, and even written letters with my grandma!

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DeeDee

I use my Go Phone and Facebook.

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Emily

I'm into long weekend catch-up calls when minutes are unlimited. Also, if you have T-Mobile calls made via wireless are free.

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Suzanne K

Mainly by email because of the time difference (here to Germany), or occasional phone calls using Magic Jack (to east coast).

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Misty

We use unlimited talk and text on our cell phones

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Karl

Facetime and texting eachother!

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Crystal F

I use my phone since I have unlimited minutes and texts. I also use Facebook since it's free. thank you!

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Alissa A

Email, text, facebook, twitter, and Skype!

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Tamar

We use Skype and Google Hangouts.

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Guest

My wife moved two states away from me over six month ago now to care for her very elderly parents, and my sons and grandson also live hundreds of miles away. To stay in touch with them economically, I use email, Skype, and have a flat-rate phone plan so I can talk with them now and then. It's not easy, but the best we can do for the time being.

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Kim

Call parents using FaceTime or Skype so Internet connection is used. And I use gchat and email to keep in touch with friends. My girlfriends from grad school and I have a standing chat time every Monday - we've kept it up for almost 3 years!

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Tasha S

My best friend and I met over the internet (I know, I know), but we've been friends for almost six years now, have met and adventured in real life... but we live 3500 miles away from each other. We Skype for 6-10 hours once a week when we find the time around full-time college and working too. We'd never be able to speak -- let alone see each other -- and may not have ever met each other if it weren't for Skype!

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Lynda

i use phone cards to call my parents who live mostly in asia.

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Mihaela Day

Skype, Facebook, Text messaging

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homeschooling mom

Mainly Straight talk ($45/month) Facebook, and cards ($1-2)