During the last 15 years, cell phones have evolved from a luxury item to a necessity. Cell phones are not just communication devices, they are computers, game consoles, televisions and social media hubs. While these developments have been exciting, they have also greatly increased consumers’ monthly telephone bills, particularly now that people need data plans. The average consumer of the most popular providers (Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon) pays more than $90 each month. People with iPhones spend even more. Clearly, with numbers like this, it’s essential to curb your phone bill. Here are some was to save money.

Go Off Contract

Multi-year contracts are bad for consumers. Although it seems like a good idea to sign up when companies offer you a $500 iPhone or Samsung for $200, it is actually better financially to pay full price for the same phone on an installment plan. The payment plans are no-interest and usually include less for line access fees. More importantly, once the phone is paid off, your bill will drop. On yearly contracts, you have no hope of ever seeing a lower phone bill.

Many people are already locked into bad multi-year contracts. If so, explore your options with the carrier. Sometimes there are not high fees to drop to a cheaper phone. In addition, you might be able to switch to a new provider. Sprint, and now T-Mobile, have promotions where they will buy out your contract.

Check Your Data

To start lowering your monthly bill, you need to cut into your data plan. Right now, carriers can sell you on higher data plans without ever telling you how much data you currently use. To properly assess your current usage, use an app like My Data Manager. You will find that like other people, you only need 1 to 2 GBs per month. This will work for you if you keep your data use connected to Wi-Fi.

Choose a Smaller Carrier

Dissatisfaction among the big four carriers was much higher than those with smaller companies. TracFone, Ting, Consumer Cellular, Net10 and Virgin Mobile are minority carriers in America. They have lower prices and their service reports are not negative.

How much can you save? Consumer Cellular will give a family of three 1,200 voice minutes, 15,000 text messages and 2.5 GB of data for just $80 dollars a month. And that is for three lines! You can buy a phone from them on the cheap. If you really want the latest iPhone, you can get it for just $150.00 up front, plus $25.00 installment payments for just 20 months.

There are carriers like Ting that charge under a pay-as-you-go method. That means you pay $6 a month for each phone line, and then low rates for actual use. How low? How about $9.00 for 500 minutes, and $19.00 for 1GB of data. You’ll find that this compares very well with larger carriers. As long as you know your usage rates, you can find a plan with better rates.