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How to save money on mobile internet data

Knowing when to connect to the internet using the mobile data on your device or your home internet connection can save you money. We discuss the steps you can take to more easily stick to your monthly mobile data allowance. 

What is mobile internet data?

Data is the way you measure how much internet you use on your mobile smartphone each month. You can use your mobile internet data to read emails, share photos, watch videos, listen to music and more on your smartphone. 

Mobile internet providers, such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, etc., use quantity of data to determine how much to charge for an internet service. They also keep track of how much data you use each month. Data is measured in gigabytes, often abbreviated to GB.

It’s useful to know the difference between your mobile internet data, which can be used anywhere within range of a mobile tower, and your home internet data, which is available over a Wi-Fi connection from a network set up in your home. In addition to your home, you can also connect to Wi-Fi at places like cafes, shopping centres and airports, which usually have their own Wi-Fi networks. 

Internet providers are usually much more forthcoming with data over Wi-Fi networks. Some plans even allow you to use unlimited data each month, while often the data limits are so high that the average user would never reach them.

Mobile internet data limits, on the other hand, tend to be smaller – often much smaller – than home internet data plans, and as a result you need to be a lot more careful with how you use your mobile data.

How to save money on your mobile data 

There was a time – think back to the 90s and early 2000s – when the costs of phone calls and SMS messages were your key consideration in choosing a mobile plan.

Nowadays, because of smartphones, apps and the internet, the focus tends to be on the cost of data instead.

First of all, it pays to know your mobile internet data limit. It could, for example, be 5GB, 10GB, 15GB – check this with your mobile internet provider. You can usually keep track of how much of your data limit you have used each month with the help of your mobile provider’s smartphone app.

If you go over your data limit, the costs can build up quite quickly, as data is charged at a much higher price beyond the limit of your plan.

Once you know your mobile internet data limit, follow these steps to make sure you don’t go over your limit:

  • Connect to Wi-Fi as often as possible. As mentioned, home internet providers tend to be much more generous with their data limits. Assuming you have a Wi-Fi network set up in your home, you should connect to this whenever possible and save your mobile data for when you’re out and about.
  • Know what activities eat up your data. Some internet activities, such as emailing and texting, require very little data. Other activities, however, are very data-hungry. The biggest culprit is watching videos. That means if you’re using platforms like YouTube, Facebook or Netflix to watch videos while you’re out and about, you could be eating up your data limits quite quickly.
  • Control access via your phone’s settings. You can go into the Settings app on your smartphone and switch off data for individual apps. For example, if you find that you’re watching a lot of videos on Facebook, you can go to the Facebook section of Settings and switch off mobile data so that you can only use Facebook when connected to data. This is a relatively extreme measure to take, but if you find yourself lacking self-control then it might be worth considering!
  • Keep track of your usage and downgrade if necessary. If your plan allows for 15GB per month but you find that you’re only using 2GB of internet data, then you are probably paying for more than you need. Your mobile provider’s smartphone app tracks how much you data use each month, so keep track of this and if you’re not going anywhere near your limit, approach your mobile provider to discuss a less data-heavy plan.