One of the mistakes I made this past year was my review of Verizon‘s new Share Everything Plan. My initial reaction was to reject it and recommend staying with its unlimited data plan that was grandfathered to many of Verizon’s longer-term subscribers. Part of my skepticism stemmed from years of putting up with the rules and restrictions that the cellular companies used to find new ways to charge us more for less. But, as it turned out, my skepticism was mostly misplaced.

At first glance, being able to have unlimited data seemed like something you would never want to give up. My own plan provided me with two lines sharing unlimited data, 1,400 minutes of voice calling and 200 text messages. One phone had a $20/month, 2 gigabyte data hotspot option, allowing me to connect my computer to the phone by Wi-Fi and then access the Internet over the cellular network. For all of this I paid $200 per month, including all taxes.

But, in using this plan, I had to monitor my voice calling minutes, my text messages and my hotspot data usage. While I rarely exceeded the limits, it meant some additional work and choosing a voice plan one level higher than I would typically need. That was generally less expensive than occasionally going over and paying 40 cents a minute.

But after passing up the new Share Everything Plan when it was first introduced, I began monitoring my data usage and was surprised to learn that it rarely exceeded 2GB per month and averaged closer to 1 ½ GB. The hotspot usage, whose data is counted separately, averaged only about ½ GB each month.

So just how important was it to retain my unlimited data plan? As it turned out, not very, because I never used the services that consume lots of data, specifically downloading videos and streaming video onto my phone. Those who regularly watch movies, TV programs and live sporting events on their phones can consume about ¼ GB data per hour. That can mount up quickly, and, if that’s the way you use your phone, then you do want to retain your unlimited data plan. Others who may want to retain the unlimited data option are those who send and receive dozens of high-resolution photos each day, such as professional photographers. But for the rest of us, even those with frequent use of email, Internet browsing, texting and most everything else, the data usage is quite small.

Going to the Share Everything Plan has proven to have some important advantages. My phone calls and text now are unlimited, so I never need to monitor whether I’m close to going over. My data allotment now includes all data, including my hotspot.

Although you need to monitor your data use, Verizon offers several tools for doing this easily, including dialing #DATA (#3282) and receiving a free text message report. You can also request free data alerts that let you know when you’re nearing or exceeding your limits, and can change your data allowance anytime without extending your contract.

However, the pricing plan for data tends to skew us toward taking more data than we might normally do: 1GB costs $50, 2GB costs $60, 4GB costs $70 and 6GB costs $80. Ironically, because of this pricing, it now makes more sense to add other family members to your plan. Each additional phone adds just $40 per month and comes with unlimited voice calling and texting. You would likely want to add data as you add more users, but the incremental cost is inexpensive; you can triple your 2GB of data to 6GB for just $20 for everyone to share.

As a result I’ve added my son’s and his wife’s phone to my plan. They’re thrilled because they were paying $150 from Sprint that will now be reduced to $90 on Verizon.

As noted, my original plan with unlimited data cost $200 per month. When I went to the Share Everything Plan, the cost dropped to $155. And when I add the two new phones, my plan costs $240, including the additional data. So now the four of us averages $60 each for unlimited text and voice with 6 GB data for all to share. Should you choose to do so, you can allot a specific amount of data to each person. Verizon allows up to 10 phones per account, so the savings can pile up if a large group utilizes a single plan.

While this plan is not for everyone, it is a big step forward in simplification and providing significant savings.