Skype: The back to school surprise bill stopper

If you've seen "Transformers 2," you're well aware of the trauma that can occur when you're separated from a loved one at college, especially when there are robots or Megan Fox involved.

One of the ways to combat these problems is to use the Internet to stay in touch just like the stars in Transformers did. Unlike robots disguised as everyday objects, the ability to talk online complete with crystal clear video is real. One of the easiest ways to do this, and to conference in friends from all over, is with Skype.

So what is Skype? Skype is a service that lets you make and receive phone calls right from your computer, and with a Webcam you can easily add in videochat. New versions of the software let you share screens and even use your iPhone to make free calls to other Skype users over WiFi.

Getting started with Skype isn't just easy, it's cheap too. Most laptops come with everything you need to use Skype built right in. If you computer doesn't have a Webcam you can get one with a built in microphone for around $30.