Cell phone plans are one of those expenses that are a must-have for just about everyone these days. They can be expensive, but there are a number of ways you can save. Here’s how to get the best price on the right plan for you, without compromising on the quality of your service.

1. Evaluate your needs

Before you start comparing cell phone plans, take a minute to think about your needs. How much data, talk time, and text messaging do you use each month? Knowing your usage patterns will help you to pay for only what you’re likely to use.

2. Shop around

Don’t sign up for the first cell phone plan you come across. Shop around and compare the plans from different carriers. Look at the major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, but also consider the smaller ones—the MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators. Who knew that’s what they were called!)—because they often have more budget-friendly options. A couple of popular MVNOs are US Mobile and Visible.

3. Consider prepaid plans

Prepaid cell phone plans can be a good way to go, especially if you want to avoid contracts and credit checks. These plans generally offer competitive pricing and the flexibility to heavily customize and pay for only the services you need.

4. Family plans and shared data

If you have multiple family members or devices, explore family plans or shared data plans. These plans often offer discounts for additional lines, helping you save money on each line you add.

5. Negotiate with your current carrier

If you’re happy with your current carrier but not your plan’s price, try negotiating with them. They may be willing to offer you a better deal, especially if you mention competitive offers from other carriers.

6. Look for discounts

A lot of carriers offer discounts to certain groups, like military service members, veterans, seniors, students, or employees of certain companies. Check to see if you qualify for any of these discounts; they usually carry significant savings.

7. Buy your own device

Buying your phone instead of leasing one through your carrier can save you money in the long run. Look for deals on unlocked phones, or consider buying refurbished devices to get a high-quality phone at a lower price. If you do this, it’s a good idea to buy from a site like eBay that will protect you from fraud or other problems, or use a payment method like Paypal that offers protection.

8. Data usage monitoring

Keep an eye on your data usage to avoid overage charges. Set up data usage alerts or use apps to track your consumption and adjust your plan accordingly.

9. Wi-fi calling and texting

Use wi-fi calling and texting whenever possible. It allows you to make calls and send messages over a Wi-Fi connection instead of using cellular data, which can save you money if you have a limited data plan.

10. Limit extras and add-ons

Carriers often offer additional services like device insurance, roadside assistance, or streaming subscriptions. While these can be convenient, they can also add up quickly. Evaluate whether you really need these extras and if you don’t, remove them to lower your monthly bill.

11. Check for promotions and deals

Keep an eye out for carrier promotions and special deals. Carriers frequently offer discounts, free phones, or limited-time offers that can lead to significant savings.

12. BYOP (bring your own phone)

Some carriers offer BYOP plans, where you bring your own device and get a reduced monthly rate. If your phone is compatible, this can be an excellent way to save money.

13. Reevaluate your plan periodically

Don’t let your cell phone plan become a set-it-and-forget-it expense. Periodically review your usage and compare it to your plan to ensure it still meets your needs. Adjust your plan as necessary to avoid overpaying for unused services.

14. Use wi-fi whenever possible

Connect to free wi-fi networks whenever you can. This reduces your reliance on cellular data and can help you stay within the limits of a lower-cost plan.

15. Explore international options

If you travel frequently, look for cell phone plans that offer international coverage or consider getting a local SIM card in the countries you visit. International roaming charges can quickly add up, so having a plan for the places you’re going can be cost-effective.

The bottom line: getting the best price on a cell phone plan

To get the best price on a cell phone plan, you’ll need a combination of careful assessment of your needs, comparison shopping, and exploring money-saving strategies. Whether you opt for a prepaid plan, negotiate with your current carrier, or take advantage of discounts and promotions, there are a lot of ways to keep your cell phone costs in check. By following these tips, you can find an affordable plan that meets your needs.