These days, our cell phones are pretty much attached to us. But they don’t work without service, and a cell phone plan can cost a lot. Whether you’re sucking down tons of megs of data each day, calling internationally, or just looking for the most budget-friendly option, finding the best cell phone plan for you can save you big money. It takes some research to find it, but it can definitely be worthwhile. Here’s how to find the best cell phone plan for your needs.

1. Assess your needs

The first step in your quest for the perfect cell phone plan is to take a look at how you use your phone. Start by tracking how much data you use each month, and review your calling and texting habits. Are you streaming a lot of videos, or are you mostly browsing and checking emails? Do you call overseas, or are most of your calls within the US? Answering these questions will give you a clear picture of your needs, which is the key to not paying for features you’ll never use.

2. Compare plans

Once you have a good idea of your usage, you can start comparing plans. Don’t just look at the big players; smaller carriers might have offers that suit you better. Websites like WhistleOut or Wirefly make it easy to compare plans based on your specific needs. You can filter results by the amount of data, talk time, text messages, and even international features, helping you narrow down your options quickly.

3. Consider a family plan

If you have other people in your household who need cell service, family plans are usually much more cost-effective than individual plans. Most carriers offer discounts as you add more lines to your plan. Plus, you can often share data, which is ideal if one person uses a lot more than the others. Be sure to compare not just the cost but also how the data is allocated among your family members, and whether everyone needs the same amount of data.

4. Don’t overlook prepaid

Prepaid plans used to be kind of a janky corner of the cell phone world, but they’ve come a long way. If you want to avoid contracts and credit checks, or you like to control exactly how much you spend each month, prepaid could be the way to go. A lot of prepaid plans offer the same quality of service as contract plans but without the long-term commitment. They also often include international features which can be great if you’re traveling.

5. Read the fine print (always)

Before you commit to a plan, make sure you understand the fine print. Look out for hidden fees, like charges for activating a new line or specific services that might not be included in your plan. Also, check the policy on data throttling—some carriers may reduce your data speed once you hit a certain threshold each month, even on ‘unlimited’ plans. Understanding these details will help you avoid unexpected charges.

6. Check network coverage in your area

The most affordable plan in the world isn’t worth much if you can’t get service where you live, work, or travel frequently. Before switching carriers, check the network coverage in your area. Most carrier websites have a map you can check out to see how strong their service is in various locations. Remember, just because a carrier is big doesn’t mean it has the best coverage in all areas.

7. Look for discounts and deals

Always be on the lookout for special offers, especially if you’re willing to switch carriers. Many offer significant discounts or even free smartphones when you sign a contract. Additionally, check to see if you qualify for any discounts through your employer, school, or associations you belong to—many carriers will give percentage discounts that can shave a fair amount off your monthly bill.

8. Reevaluate regularly

The cell phone industry is always changing, with new plans and technologies constantly coming out. Make it a habit to review your plan and usage at least once a year to make sure you’re still getting the best deal. This is especially important if your lifestyle or usage habits change; you might find you can save money by switching plans or carriers.