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If you're like me, you just set your monthly carrier bill to autopay and pay it every month without a second thought.
But you may be spending more than you need to. If your monthly bill is creeping up, here are a few ways to cut down on the cost.
The first thing you want to do is see how much data you use each month and adjust your plan accordingly. You might have signed up for a 10GB family plan, for example, and your family might only be using 8GB of data, which means you're overpaying for the additional 2GB you never use. You can check how much data you use in your monthly statement online, which breaks this down by phone line. Maybe you'll find out that one family member is using wireless data when they're at home — switching to Wi-Fi could help save a few bucks.
Carriers frequently adjust their plans to attract customers away from competitors. This means you should check your carrier's options a couple of times a year to see if there are any new options available. In some cases, you might automatically be switched to a better plan, but sometimes you have to ask. All the carriers list their plans in plain sight, so see how they stack up to what you're paying now.
Your employer might provide a company-wide discount for a wireless carrier. CNBC employees have a choice of several major carriers, for example, and I recently switched my family to a new plan that offered more features, such as HD streaming and hotspot access, for the same price as I was paying without them.
A lot of the carriers let you add in extra features for a monthly fee. So, you might pay a few extra bucks per line each month to stream HD video instead of 480p. Or maybe a couple of lines are hotspot-enabled, which lets you use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect your computer to the internet. If you don't use the hotspot feature, or usually only stream movies at home anyway, cut out these add-ons.
One of the best ways to cut back on your monthly phone bill is to pay off your cell phones, then hang on to them as long as possible so that you don't need to pay a new fee.
If you have decent credit, you probably aren't paying interest on your devices, but the monthly fees can still give you heartburn. If everyone in your family of four upgraded to an iPhone XS last year, for example, then you're probably paying around $166 a month in equipment installment plans each month.
If you're flying solo on a wireless plan, try to hitch on to a family member's family plan. Often, the first line pays the most, while additional lines can cost about $40 a month or so. I have my brother on my family plan, for example, so that he doesn't need to pay around $100-$130 each month and instead pays me the $40 or so it costs to add him to my existing bill. Just offer to pay a bit more if you want to seem like less of a mooch.
You're likely paying a premium on AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. You might want to consider one of their prepaid brands, which run on the same network but often cost less. Here's just one example: MetroPCS, which is T-Mobile's prepaid brand and runs on the same network, will cost you $120 for four lines with 15GB of hotspot data each month and Amazon Prime included. By way of contrast, four lines on T-Mobile with 3GB of LTE hotspot data per line, Netflix in SD and in-flight Wi-Fi costs $160 a month.
Or consider Google Fi, which switches between Sprint's and T-Mobile's networks, giving you the best of both worlds. Google Fi costs $20 per line for unlimited talk and text and then $10 per GB of data until you hit 6GB, after which the rest is free. Google slows down data after you hit 15GB on a single line, however, but this is common.
Pro tip: Google Fi also offers some of the best deals on data-only plans. Consider them if you have an iPad that you want to add data service to. You'll just pay $10 per GB you use each month and don't have to sign on for more if you don't end up using it.