Wireless providers would love for you to believe that your lifestyle requires an unlimited stream of data. At first glance, there’s probably nothing wrong with this assumption: After all, think about how much of your day is spent on data-dependent activities like streaming video or music, or searching the internet.
But the fact is, all of these things can actually be done while using far less, and sometimes even none, of the data from your cellular plan. If your data needs aren’t really unlimited, you could save considerable money on your wireless plan with these simple tips.
Tame the video beast
Watching video on your smartphone is convenient, but it’s a data glutton. A full-length Netflix movie consumes about 1GB of data per hour in standard definition video, and up to 3GB per hour in high definition. At that rate, you’ll burn through even the most robust data package in no time.
Try connecting to Wi-Fi instead. It’s widely available, and lets you stream without using any cellular data at all, often with a faster connection. While connected to Wi-Fi, you can also download videos, TV shows or movies to your phone or SD card to watch anytime at your convenience, with no data required.
In addition, when you’re streaming video on a small screen, such as a cellphone, you really don’t need high resolution. Many apps give you the ability to change video quality settings, and therefore consume less data. For Netflix, log into your account and switch to one of three settings: low (using 0.3GB per hour), medium (which uses 0.7GB per hour) or high (using up to 3GB per hour). In the YouTube app, just tap the three-dots menu and click “Quality” to lower it.
Manage social media and streaming music
Videos have also become a standard part of the social media experience. Adjusting your settings to prevent videos from playing automatically will prevent them from eating up your data. The steps to change this setting can vary between applications. On most platforms, like Facebook, you’ll go to your Account Settings and either disable the “Autoplay” feature, or change it so that videos will only play automatically when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.
All of the popular audio streaming apps offer ways to listen to your music without having to use a network connection, or even Wi-Fi. Spotify lets you download your albums and playlists right to your device. If you use Apple Music, you can add songs, albums and playlists to your library.
Try a smaller plan for bigger savings
While an “unlimited” plan may seem like an easy answer to your data needs, they can be more enticing than practical. Read the fine print: Most actually limit your high-speed data to a certain number of gigabytes per month. Once you use up that allotment, you’ll still have unlimited access, but at much slower speeds. This makes it more difficult to load pages quickly, or to stream video, even though you’re paying a premium for “unlimited” access.
Instead, take a look at a carrier like Consumer Cellular, which a offers a range of affordable choices from a talk-only 250-minute plan to 3GB, 10GB, 15GB or unlimited data options each month. Plans are also completely flexible: You can switch right up to the last day of a billing cycle with no extra fees, and you’re also automatically upgraded if you go over your data usage. That means you get the best rate for what you actually use, rather than having to carry an unlimited plan just to prevent an overage.
Follow these tips and you’ll enjoy streaming movies, listening to music and so much more while also keeping money in your pocket for things other than a colossal data plan. You can have it all, without needing an unlimited budget to do it.