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3 Smart Ways to Keep Your Phone Bill Down

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Is your cellphone bill depleting your bank account?

If so, you're certainly not alone.

The average Verizon customer pays $148 for their cellphone bill alone each month, while the average Sprint customer pays $144. T-Mobile customers pay the least among the major carriers, at $120 per month.

That's just for openers, though. According to data from the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation, wireless customers pay an average of 17% in extra taxes and fees on their cellphones, including about 11% in extra state and local charges.

Seven states, including Nebraska, Washington, New York, Florida, Illinois, Rhode Island and Missouri, charge more than 20% in combined federal, state and local taxes on cellphone bills.

"Accessing new sources of information on our mobile devices may be getting easier, but paying cellphone taxes is not," foundation vice president Joseph Henchman says. "State and local governments should not single out one product for stealth tax increases as they are doing with wireless services."

Since that isn't exactly going to change anytime soon, consumers are mostly on their own in figuring out ways to cap their wireless bill burden. Omar Abhari, senior vice president of GIV Mobile, might help, though.

Noting that Americans were likely "horrified" to discover they were paying an extra 17.2% on their wireless bills, Abhari offers some money-saving advice:

Leverage Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi hotspots are worth the effort, as most smartphones tend to default to the consumer's own phone network when a Wi-Fi connection is unavailable or lost. That chews up data and adds charges to a bill.

Shed unneeded services. You don't need extra services such as Internet downloads and directory assistance, but you probably have them on your phone bill, and those charges can accumulate. Abhari advises turning to free directory assistance numbers such as 1-800-FREE-411. Consumers should also scour their phone bills for "tiny" charges that add up, and delete their causes from their account as soon as possible.

Limit texting. Simply put, the more texting you do, the more it adds to your bill (up to 20 cents per text, Abhari says.) That's especially true if you add texting to heavy social media and data use from the Internet, which also hikes costs. Take action by cutting all "notification texts" and switching to free texting apps such as iMessage or textPlus.

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