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How to Manage Your Cell Phone Bill

Even though cell phones and smartphones have become ever-present in our daily lives, many people can still be surprised when they open up their wireless bills. Data overages plus unexpected roaming charges can lead to lead to some sizeable variations on a month-to-month basis.

Yet it doesn't have to be that way. There are a number of simple things we – and our families – can do to make sure our cell phone expenses stay within budget. Here are 7 ways to start managing that bill:

1. Understand your existing plan

Checking and understanding your existing plan is perhaps the biggest money-saving move you can make. Although most people pay their cell phone bills without checking the charges, it’s important to understand why a single bill is high or why the bill can vary from month to month. It’s also important to check your bill if you have been abroad or if you have made a temporary change to your account. Understanding your existing contract is the first step to getting on a plan that will save you money.

2. Switch to a prepaid or pay-as-you-go plan

If you are operating within a strict budget, then a prepaid or pay-as-you-go plan could be the right option. Both types of plans offer cost certainty, meaning you will never have to worry about those dreaded overage charges! And while many people think that a prepaid plan might restrict the number of talk and text minutes, that’s not necessarily the case. Verizon offers a prepaid plan for basic devices with unlimited talk, text and web for just $50 a month. A similar prepaid plan for smartphones offers unlimited talk and text and 2 GB of data for $60 per month with no annual contract. (See Verizon’s web site for complete details of prepaid and pay-as-you-go packages.)

3. Consider a family share plan

If your spouse or kids have cell phones, it will almost certainly pay to switch a family share plan, where voice and text is unlimited and data is shared among all the devices on the plan. Verizon's Share Everything plans can cover up to 10 different devices, including tablets, hotspots and even connected cameras. There are various data plans to choose from depending on your needs, and you can move your monthly data allowance up or down without incurring any change fees or extending the life of the contract.

4. Monitor data charges

As data is the new variable in most cell phone plans, it's important to monitor how much you will need and how much you have used at any given point in your monthly billing cycle. Verizon has an excellent Data Usage Calculator that can help you estimate your needs. Once you decide on a data plan, there are a number of different apps that can help you keep an eye on your data usage. You can also request text alerts from your carrier when you approach your monthly limits.

5. Set up an international plan before you go abroad

One of the biggest shocks on a cell phone bill are the roaming and international voice and data charges when you come back from an overseas vacation or business trip. Make sure you set up an international plan before you travel to minimize these charges. Your carrier will also make sure your phone will work in the countries that you are visiting.

6. Utilize Wi-Fi networks

Get into the habit of switching off cellular networks and utilizing Wi-Fi whenever you are handling large amounts of data, such as downloading a movie or uploading photographs. Any activity over Wi-Fi will not count against your data allowance. Also, many apps run in the background and use up your data allowance without you realizing it. Switch them off when you are not using them, or uninstall them if they are no longer required.

7. Talk to a representative

Visit your carrier’s web site, where you can chat online with a representative. They can explain how plans work, answer any questions, and even sign you up right there over the Web.

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