How to Save Money on Your Data Plan

December 24, 2012

cellphone dataSmartphones and tablets have taken consumers by storm. You can be constantly connected with slick apps to thousands of different services wherever you have a cell phone signal.

There’s only one problem: all of that connectivity uses a lot of cell phone data, and cell phone data is not cheap. With cell phone bills rising across the country, how can you save money while still staying connected?

5 Ways to Save Money on Your Data Plan

Here are some tactics to save money on your data plan costs each month.

1. Tether off of your smartphone.

The easiest way to save money on your data plan is to drop it for any non-smartphone devices you have. If your current cell phone plan has additional charges for tablets you can most likely drop that extra data plan charge from your smartphone plan.

How? Easy: you can simply tether the device off of your smartphone. Verizon, for example, used charged for this in the past, but the FCC stepped in and said they couldn’t charge you double for the same data. (You use your phone’s data allowance when you tether your tablet or laptop to it, so by charging you the carriers were getting to bill you for the data on the phone and then again for the right to use that data on your device.)

A great read about how this works can be found over at with What Verizon’s FCC Tethering Settlement Means to You.

However, this solution is not perfect. Here are some problems with tethering off of your smartphone:

  • It does use your phone’s data allowance, so you could go over your allowance faster by using multiple devices on the plan.
  • Hosting the access can drain your phone’s battery faster.
  • If you have an unlimited plan your carrier may still believe they can charge you for the right to tether the phone (see the article above for an in-depth explanation).

At the end of the day tethering off of your smartphone only saves you money if you have multiple data plans you are paying for and your total data usage can fit under the smartphone plan.

2. Drop to a lower tier data plan.

What if you don’t have other devices you need to tether to your phone? Can you save money on just your smartphone’s usage?

Yes, absolutely. It just depends on your usage. The next easiest method to save money is to analyze your data usage on the plan you have. If you have a 6GB monthly data limit but only consistently use 3.5GB, then you could drop to the tier below (normally 4GB) and save the difference in the monthly plan charges.

3. Share data on a family plan.

The next step would be to combine plans with a family member and chip in together for a larger data plan. You can not only share minutes and messages, but the data too. All of the combining should save you money if you are careful with your plan choices.

4. Use FreedomPop.

A new device is out called the FreedomPop. Instead of charging you for monthly data like a carrier, the company charges you for the device and then gives you 500MB of data each month for free. This won’t work if you use a ton of data, but for light use this is an easy fix. The device is portable and as long as you are traveling in an area where FreedomPop has service then you’ll be able to connect over WiFi to the FreedomPop connection.

5. Change carriers.

Your last option is of course to change to a cellular carrier with a more affordable plan for your situation. A regional carrier may offer better service in your area at a lower cost than a national company. If you don’t travel a lot this may be a simple solution to your data plan cost problems.

How do you plan on saving money on your data plan in the future? Leave a comment and let us know!


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Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He's building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for, Discover Bank, ING Direct, and many others.

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