If you're like many Americans, what you've been paying for cell phone service has been going up. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way.

The Wall Street Journal  reports new data from the Labor Department finds that household spending on telephone services rose 10% from 2007 to 2011 at the same time that it shrunk by 5% on entertainment and nearly 20% on vehicle purchases.

A lot of the run-up in what people are paying can be attributed to having your iPhone through AT&T and Verizon. I hear all the time from people who say they can't leave their cell phone carrier because they're "under contract" or "have a family plan."

The reality is you have to start planning your exit strategy now, regardless of where you are in your contract. If you have a fancy smart phone, especially an iPhone, you can sell it on eBay and probably get enough money to cover your early termination fees.

Leave AT&T and Verizon to the big fat cats in corporate America! If you need to watch your wallet, you need to migrate away from them. (Sprint and T-Mobile are in their own orbit and can in fact offer some deals for families.)

In general, you'll get a better deal from any of the Big 5 discounters: Straight Talk, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Cricket, and Metro PCS. They offer smartphone service that's effectively less than half the cost per line than AT&T or Verizon.

If you're still using AT&T or Verizon, you are throwing away maybe $1,000 a year. Check out these other companies and you'll have a great shot of saving big dough.

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off. View More Articles

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