No matter the carrier, the days of free and discounted phones are over.

Remember, a smartphone is a small computer, and computers are expensive. Even older-model phones can cost hundreds of dollars, never mind the $1,149 you'd have to pay for an iPhone X with 256GB of storage, or the Samsung Galaxy S9, which costs upwards of $950.

In fact, there are phones that rival the iPhone and Samsung you may have never heard of before now. Click here for the 10 best smartphones.

No matter the carrier, the days of free and discounted phones are over, at least among mainstream providers. The pressure to own a smartphone is high, so how do you keep those expenses as low as possible? Here are five smart ways to keep that bill manageable.

1. Check out the secret carriers

“Secret carrier” sounds sketchy, but it’s shorthand for a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). These are wireless communication service providers that do not own the wireless network infrastructure they use. Instead, they operate “virtually” on another carrier’s network.

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