It is the year 2018 and the world runs on data. With LTE, 4G or 3.9G internet speed, the world is literally at your fingertips.

Nevertheless, even with today’s technological tools and capabilities, how much data you use can still be a mystery (even to you). As such, you will always wonder why your phone bills are consistently high, with the costs of the data you used often being the largest percentage of the total amount you must pay.

Selecting the appropriate data plan can help you avoid or cut down the huge costs that you keep getting with data usage. And you can pick the best data plan by paying close attention to your lifestyle first.

Here is how to choose the right data plan for your lifestyle.

1. Figure out where you use data

First and foremost, you want to figure out where you are using your current data. The initial step is to assess your current spending. You may want to check if your carrier offers a bill reviewfeature or service to get accurate month-by-month figures.

Then, over the course of a couple of months (one month isn’t enough time for proper observation as every month will be different), track how much data you are using and for what purpose. These patterns will be different for every person, which is why it is necessary to discern the correlation between your usage and your plan on a personal level.

You must track data used forbrowsing the web, social media, streaming music and videos, app updates and downloads. Also, be realistic with yourself about how much of this data usage could be reduced and performed while on Wi-Fi (see #3).

For example, you might find out that you regularly talk on the phone for hours but don’t often use data at home or at the office. In this instance, you would want to be on a plan which offers plenty of calling time but limits data.

On the other hand, if you tend to use your smartphone as a game console or for regular high-quality video streaming, you will want to choose a larger or even an unlimited data plan.

2. Discern whether you need an unlimited plan

For many people, an unlimited plan is unnecessary as you may find you are paying for far more than you need.

You probably don’t need an unlimited plan if you:

  • Only use mobile data for basic web browsing and email
  • Use the majority of your cell phone data while connected to Wi-Fi (at home or the office)
  • Are not a heavy data user (less than 4GB a month)

You probably do need an unlimited plan if you:

  • Stream lots of high-quality music or video
  • Routinely want to tether your phone’s connection to your laptop
  • Are a heavy data user (more than 4GB a month)
  • Use the majority of your cell phone data while not connected to Wi-Fi

Unlimited plans tend to be much more expensive than those with a monthly data cap. However, exceeding your monthly data cap will most likely lead to added fees. So, if you find yourself frequently exceeding your monthly cap, contemplate upgrading to a more substantial data plan or to an unlimited plan.

3. See where you can make changes

If you find that you are using too much data, before you switch plans, see where you can make smart changes. The most intelligent reform will be embracing Wi-Fias your best friend. Any data you use while connected to Wi-Fi will not touch your monthly data allocation from your carrier.

Using data for web browsing, chats, emails and accessing the basic version of Facebookwon’t cause your monthly bill to double or triple. But if you keep using it for data-intensive applications such as gaming and streaming music, movies and podcasts, expect your bill to be really high.

An easy way to combat this is to commit to only watching or listening to media that you’ve previously downloaded directly on your device while still on Wi-Fi.  Many apps allow you to download their content to your device, ensuring you won’t require a data connection to watch them later.

Some other ways to reduce data usage: disable autoplay for videos in Facebook and Twitter, enable travel modes for apps, and use the data saver mode in Google Chrome.

4. Understand your deal-breakers

Once you have analyzed your data patterns, do some research. Find out what the different plans offer and take note of their deal breakers.

For example, if you have a large family, you will want a plan that enables several people to stay connected at a budget-friendly rate. If you often travel internationally, you most likely want a plan with free or budget international roaming. If you know that you always stream music on the way to work, a plan that only offers 1GB a month is going to be a deal-breaker.

Again, deal-breakers are going to vary from person to person. As such, be honest with yourself about what you need from your smartphone.

However, any smartphone is rendered useless if you are unable to get a connection consistently. So, while you are choosing the right data plan for your lifestyle, keep in mind that excellent, far-reaching coverage should be an essential priority.

For most people, the idea of switching your phone plan can seem laborious and annoying. But, if you don’t look for new options, you could be missing out on data plans that offer far better value for your lifestyle.