Feel trapped with Telstra by poor reception?

Dear Nicole,

I am a single mum with two teenaged sons. It is very difficult to make ends meet, although after being thrown into this situation seven years ago with little financial knowledge I now consider myself pretty savvy. I still feel it's my responsibility to provide for my boys, for example, paying my 18-year-old's car insurance as he's studying. I price check all our insurances every time I renew them, have a good not-for-profit health fund, as you suggest, and have just taken up a discounted electricity deal. But I feel trapped in my Telstra bundle, with our three mobiles, as it's the only carrier that gets decent reception at our house. Are there any alternatives?

Sarah, Brisbane

There's nothing like being thrown in the deep end with your finances to sink or swim ??? you should be really proud Sarah. It can't have been easy.

And the good news is there's something you can do about the exorbitant Telstra bill too, because you've told me you own your own phones.

There are now several Telstra network resellers that are all cheaper than Telstra itself, including Aldi Mobile, Woolworth's Mobile, Boost Mobile and Belong (which is owned by Telstra, so even the company knows prices are today beyond the pale).

A full $230 of your $329 bundle bill currently goes towards the mobiles so I've had WhistleOut.com.au on the case to help you almost halve that.

Today you have:

* Telstra - unlimited calls/SMS + 10GB: $95

* Telstra - unlimited calls/SMS + 10GB: $85 (with a $10 student discount you negotiated)

* Telstra - unlimited calls/SMS + 5GB: $50

Tomorrow you could have:

* Aldi Mobile - unlimited calls/SMS +12GB: $45 per month (so $90 for two)

* Belong or Woolworths Mobile - unlimited calls/SMS + 5GB: $30 per month.

That brings your mobile total to just $120 a month, a saving of $1320 a year. Just be aware the coverage can differ - check the supplier's coverage map to make sure it's adequate.

The remainder of your bill is $29 of Foxtel - and we all need our guilty pleasures! - and $70 for internet and home phone. Since you don't use the internet often (and landline never), you shouldn't be paying more than $60 for that, including the necessary line rental with, say, Optus or Belong. So if you can be bothered there's another potential $10 a month.

I have a question you might not be prepared for though: could your 18-year-old son cover a phone bill of only that amount? Then there'd be a spare $155 a month to take some pressure off you. It would also be a fairly gentle way to start passing on the financial nous you've had to learn the hard way.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is a money educator and consumer advocate: themoneymentorway.com. You can write to her for help solving your money problem, or with a consumer question, at nicolehelps@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

This story Feel trapped with Telstra by poor reception? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.