How To Manage Your Wireless Data Plan
In the last two years, the focus for wireless customers interested in managing monthly costs has shifted firmly from controlling minutes to controlling data. Now, it’s not about how much you talk or text but how much you surf and watch video.
But a switch to data doesn’t mean that those monthly wireless bills have to be full of surprises. In many ways, data usage is easier to predict and control than minutes and texts used to be. That’s because data allowances can now be spread among several family members and because there are so many tools to help us.
If you are still struggling to get a handle on your data usage, then here are five suggestions that might help:
1. Identify the data hogs
Make sure you know how the devices in your household are being used and who is eating up the bulk of your allowance. Handling e-mail and occasionally surfing the Web are not going to put you over your data limit. The heavy data activities are streaming video and music and uploading or downloading large files, including photos. If you need help calculating how much data each device and activity consumes, then use online tools like Verizon’s handy data calculator to help build a profile.
2. Make Wi-Fi your friend
Whenever possible, encourage everyone on your data-sharing plan to switch their devices to Wi-Fi. This is particularly important when they are streaming or downloading video and music or when they are uploading or downloading large files. It’s a good habit for your plan members to wait until the evening to carry out these tasks, so they have access to the home Wi-Fi network.
Many data-hungry apps, like HBO Go or Verizon’s NFL Mobile app, include warnings to switch to Wi-Fi before you activate the service, but other apps are not so helpful. Encourage plan members to check on likely data consumption before downloading and activating all apps.
3. Set up notifications
Most wireless carriers allow you to set up e-mail or text notifications when you have used 50%, 75% or 100% of your data allowance. Make sure all plan members are receiving notifications or are aware of the data usage milestones. At month end, when you may be approaching your data limit, you always have the option of postponing non-essential data-using tasks until the following month.
4. Adjust your data plan
Remember that under most data-sharing plans you are allowed to adjust your data allowance at any time. With an incremental 2GB of data costing as little as $10 per month, it can be far cheaper to upgrade to a new data plan than pay expensive overages. It’s also worth remembering that tablets can be added to data-sharing plans for as little as $10 per month with no long-term commitment, so cellular-equipped tablets are now very affordable.
5. Consider a prepaid plan
If you are still concerned about staying within a predetermined budget, then it could make sense to switch to a prepaid plan for each device. Most carriers have prepaid plans with no annual contract for smartphones, basic phones and tablets.