NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Worldwide smartphone sales exceeded $1 billion for the first time last year, growing by 39% from 2012, according to International Data Corp.

They're not cheap – an average $335 in 2013, although IDC expects that price to decline to $260 by 2018.

Even half the price of today's smartphones may be too much for some budgets, but there's good news: You don't have to wait until 2018 to get a big discount on a new phone. They're available now if you know where to look.

Try these tips to get going:

Aim for a no-contract phone plan. The heavier the smartphone contract, the more you'll pay for a mobile device. Instead, opt for a no-contract plan that gives you some options, including a path to a free phone. Try GIV Mobile, which offers a no-contract smartphone service that starts at $35 per month and comes with a free Android smartphone.

Recycle your old phone. Never, ever deep-six your old mobile phone. Instead, recycle it and get some financial value out of it. Verizon Wireless offers a gift card for every mobile device recycled through its phone service network.

Grab an unlocked device. Phones that are unlocked – not linked to any specific smartphone provider - can offer big savings, both on the device and on the smartphone network you choose. Unlocked phones can be less expensive, as they run on a GSM cell network via SIM cards, making them great buys for international travelers and consumers who don't want be tied down to a pricey two-year phone plan. Try Gazelle.com, which sells unlocked phones online at good prices. For a no-contract deal and an unlocked phone, give PTel a look - it offers low-obligation smartphone plans starting at $20 per month.

Lease a phone. Just like you can lease a car or truck, you can lease a smartphone. Sprint offers an "iPhone for Life" deal, which gives customers an Apple iPhone 6 with no cash down for $20 per month. After two years, you can exchange your current iPhone for a new device. Just a note: This deal is good for consumers who can't pay the full price for a smartphone upfront, but you will wind up paying almost full price for the phone, eventually.

By Brian O'Connell for MainStreet