Are you paying too much for mobile data?

Woman looking at her phone

Mobile data can be one of the biggest line items on your cellphone bill each month, but do you need all that you’re paying for? It’s possible. It’s also possible that you’re paying for more data than you really need. Here’s how you can avoid waste and find the right plan for you.

Data usage on the rise

In December 2013, Verizon found that their customers averaged between 1 and 2 GB of data every month, per device. That average usage increased to 2.9 GB in 2015 according to NPD Group. And it’s no doubt increased again due to the amount of video content now available on social media and the fact that people tend to spend more time on their phones. If you’re watching Netflix or other streaming services on your phone, or playing video games, you can be sure that your data usage is high.

Finding the right amount of mobile data

The cost of mobile data can be hard to define, though. The various service providers charge different rates for a variety of data plans. And, those plans are for up to a certain amount of data. If you don’t use it all, you still pay the same rate. Pay-as-you-go plans can be a little easier to control when it comes to cost, but you first need to figure out how much data usage you average. Paying for a low data usage plan then adding more if you need it can cost more than purchasing the right amount to begin with.

The best way to figure out how much data you need and if you’re overpaying is to determine how much you’re currently using on a monthly basis. And the best way to figure this out is by taking an in-depth look at your cellphone bill for the last 3-6 months. Somewhere in all the fine print of your charges, you’ll find your data usage for each month. If you can’t locate the information, contact your service provider.

When figuring out your data usage, it’s important to calculate it for your whole plan, not just your individual usage. If someone else is on your plan, you can, or probably already do, get a lower rate for shared data usage.

If you discover that your data usage is too high, there are a few things you can do to lower your bill. Most importantly, stop using your phone to stream video or music, or scroll through social media while using your mobile data. Connect to your Wi-Fi when you’re at home. And when you go out, search for an available Wi-Fi connection wherever you are. Just be sure that you’re not logging into your bank, email, or any other personal accounts when you’re on an open Wi-Fi network.

You can also look at switching to a pay-as-you-go plan to reduce your data costs. This way, you only pay for what you actually need. Google’s Project Fi offers you an unlimited data plan for no more than $60/month. Pay just $10/GB until you reach 6 GB. If you use any more, it’s free for the rest of the month. If you use less, your bill is less than $60.

Lunar Wireless offers a pay-in-advance plan. Just fund your account and use your apps and services. Each time you want to use a service, it will let you know that you will be charge $.25 so you only pay for what you need. You can manage your available balance through their handy app and add funds whenever you need them. There’s no monthly bill to pay.

Chances are, you’re overpaying for your mobile data. Determine how much you’re using on a monthly basis and determine if you can lower your plan or switch to a more affordable plan for what you need.

Need more info and advice on keeping your cellphone costs down? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Cellphone Bill

Tagged in Reducing expenses, Budget tips

Emilie writes about overcoming debt, while balancing trying to eat healthy, stay fit, and have a little fun along the way. You can find more of her work at

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.