If you're on a cheap mobile phone plan, there's a good chance your monthly data allowance is woefully inadequate. This can lead to huge bills at the end of the month if you don't keep close tabs on your usage.
Instead of switching off your mobile data completely (or downgrading to a basic phone), try following these simple data-stretching tips. With plenty of discipline and a bit of know-how you can make even the flimsiest of data plans go the distance.
Keep a data usage tracker on your home screen
Most telcos provide data tracking widgets that let you monitor your data consumption in real time. You can also download third-party apps that provide the same service: some solid examples include Onavo Count for Android, Data Usage for iOS and Data Usage for Windows Phone. In addition to ensuring you don't exceed your data allowance, this will also train you to be more frugal with your day-to-day usage: watching that bar fill up is like having the Sword of Damocles hanging over your head.
Always check for Wi-Fi!
It sounds criminally obvious, but you'd be surprised how often people neglect to use their phone's inbuilt Wi-Fi when a perfectly good connection is available. Whether you're at a McDonald's restaurant, in a hotel lobby or just sitting in the office, free Wi-Fi is often right under your nose - all you need to do is check. Utilising public Wi-Fi can drastically cut down on the amount of mobile data you get billed for each month (especially when it comes to software downloads). Telstra customers can also make use of Telstra Air.
Use an offline reading app
There are times when you really want to browse the internet without a Wi-Fi connection - the daily commute to work is one obvious example. Instead of eating into your data allowance each day, you can stockpile a bunch of articles and videos via offline reading apps like Instapaper and Pocket. These are essentially PVRs for the web which let you 'record' online media for later viewing. By using the app through a Wi-Fi connection, you can store a bunch of material for the train without using a single megabyte of your phone's data. You can also save web pages directly to most mobile browsers.
The ever-popular Google Maps can provide you with offline access to whatever maps you may want on hand. The offline access tool supports over 150 countries and can store up to six large metro areas. (GPS will still work without data, since it’s a separate connection, and you can navigate yourself anywhere within that saved area.)
Turn Off Notifications
Smartphone notifications are a great idea in theory -- they alert you to everything from new emails and software updates to whether your latest Facebook "selfie" has received any fawning comments. However, they also encourage you to eat up more data by constantly diving into applications. This is especially noticeable with social networking apps -- instead of checking once or twice per hour, you'll open the app every single time your post receives a new comment. Switching notifications off will remove this sick compulsion.
Limit photo uploads
Today's smartphones are capable of uploading photos directly onto social media sites in just a few finger taps. While this makes it easy to share images with your friends, it also encourages you to needlessly waste data. Frankly, nobody is going to care if your holiday snap takes a few hours to appear on Facebook. Resist the urge to insta-share and wait until you have WiFi to upload your photos.
Haggle for more data
When it's time to renew your contract, you can sometimes get your telecommunication provider to bolster your data allowance as an incentive to stick around; especially if you don't require a new handset but want to stay on the same plan. Telcos are extremely keen to retain customers so it can't hurt to ask! An extra gigabyte a month can go a long way.
This story has been updated from its original publication.