Few things inspire dread like this message from your wireless provider:
But you don’t need to panic! Really, you don’t: Cutting down on your data usage is incredibly easy. Play your cards right and you can probably shift down to a cheaper data plan than you’re on now.
The big-picture solution is simply to connect to Wi-Fi and use it whenever possible. Doing so will prevent your device from using mobile data, which means you can stream video, go on Facebook or play video games in peace without demolishing your monthly plan. In a sense, if you’re on your smartphone but not connected to a Wi-Fi network, you’re burning money.
Of course, it’s not always the perfect solution. You might think twice about using a public network because of security concerns, for example. But consider some of the following adjustments to reduce the overall data you use when you’re out and about.
Check on your apps
The first thing you want to do is figure out which apps are using your data plan. This is pretty simple. On an iPhone, open your “Settings” app and then tap “Cellular” for a list of apps.
You might consider disabling any apps that you don’t need to use outside of a Wi-Fi network. Looking at my list above, I’d probably uncheck the App Store to avoid absentmindedly downloading any beefy programs using mobile data, for example.
The process is a little different on Android. Tap into your Settings app, then select “Data usage.” Scroll down and you’ll see a list of apps sorted according to the resources they consume.
If you tap onto a specific app, you’re given options to disable mobile data or limit usage.
All of this information can help you control how much data you’re using. Maybe you never realized how much you stream on Spotify, for example — now you can take corrective action.
Look at the options in your most-used apps
Some apps, particularly ones involving streaming media, will offer ways to reduce how much data they use.
Let’s look at Spotify, for example. If you tap into the app’s preferences and select “streaming quality,” you’ll be able to manually control how much data the music streaming service uses.
If you’re not on Wi-Fi, flip stream quality to “normal.” You should also make sure “download using cellular” is disabled, which will prevent the service from downloading weighty music files unless you’re on Wi-Fi.
Netflix has similar settings. Check your preferred streaming apps and see if they do, too.
Don’t make video calls
They’re fun, but they use a lot of data.
Use “data saver” in Google Chrome
This one is only for Android users of the Google Chrome web browser. Enabling this option will help reduce the overall bandwidth used when you load a website, which means less stress on your data plan.
Reconsider social media
This one might sting, but social media apps — particularly ones that feature video, like Facebook and Snapchat — can use a lot of your data. If you’re running into problems with your data limit, try to use these sparingly when you’re not on a Wi-Fi network.
Avoid uploading photos and video
Even more than consuming content on social media, uploading your own pictures and video via cellular data can take a major toll on your monthly allowance. If you’re snapping footage at a party, consider waiting until you’re home to upload.
Play games cautiously
Certain games, like the recent “Miitomo” from Nintendo, connect to the Internet a lot to download and upload information. That can eat through your data plan (not to mention your battery) surprisingly quickly — so be careful about playing them when you’re out.
Tell your family
All of this might be for nothing if you’re on a family plan and wretched little Timmy just won’t stop with his facesnaps and chatgrams. Make sure everyone’s got these tips to avoid ruining your carefully laid plans.
Got some of your own to share? Tell us in the comments.
Disclosure: The Huffington Post’s parent company, AOL, is owned by Verizon. HuffPost continues to report independently on technology and the telecom industry.
Would you like to improve your relationship with money? Sign up to join our 30-Day More Money, Less Stress Challenge to demystify one of the most important and empowering areas of your life. We’ll deliver tips, challenges and advice to your inbox every day during April. Sign up here!