Greensboro, NC -- Alex Benitez recently found himself at an intersection many of us face every month. It's where business and technology meet; a place where balancing our electronic lives collides with balancing our budgets.
"I pay, I think, $30 in addition to the basic plan," Benitez said of his monthly iPhone 5 data plan bill. "Plus $20 for the internet plan. So it's $50 extra ... so it comes out [to a total of] like $130."
That's more than $1,500 a year! And Alex isn't alone in shelling it out.
"It was almost $300 a month to have our children on the phones as well as ourselves," Charles Lankau said.
Lankau once paid more than $3,000 a year to keep his family connected. But the Wake Forest University professor of business law and negotiations can teach us all a few things about saving money.
"There are more opportunities than we as consumers realize for significant savings," he said.
Lankau says it starts with tearing up your contract.
"I think the best option are these prepaid smartphone plans," he said, "and finding out what ones are good ones is essential."
It's going to take some effort on your part, but Lankau says you should shop around. Don't just start with the biggest names in the business. Do some research. Getting service from a lesser-known prepaid company keeps you out of a contract and able to constantly look out for the best deal.
"One caveat is, you might not be able to use your preferred phone for these services" Lankau warns. "But we're talking about saving a lot of money. We're talking about really reducing the stress on your wallet considerably."
Yes, a prepaid plan might mean you won't be able to use the latest and greatest in smartphones. But so what? If you're really committed to saving money, you'll find an older phone can do just as good a job as the newest one -- and it'll be cheaper, too.
"I asked my students the other day, 'Hey, what's the big announcement?'" Lankau said. The students said, "'Oh, the newest iPhone is out!' I said, 'No, the best announcement is you can get the previous generation iPhone for nothing!'
"And that's where I get excited, because those are significant savings."
There's another way to save that's already all around you, and you might not be taking advantage of it: Wi-Fi. Connect to a wireless network every chance you can. It'll cut down on the data you use and possibly allow you to cut down on your plan.
And remember Alex - the guy with the big iPhone 5 bill? He does something Lankau says we should all try: negotiating.
"Every month, I talk to AT&T," Alex said. "I call to see if they have any new promotions."
That's a good move, according to the professor.
"We have more power than we know, as a consumer," Lankau said. "I think that everything is negotiable when it comes to purchasing and buying products and services for ourselves and our family."
WFMY News 2