Your monthly data limit–that mysterious barrier that lies somewhere between downloading Angry Birds and watching the season finale of that show you love on Netflix. Do you know what your monthly mobile data use is? Do you know what the MB at the end of 500MB means? What will you do when your 3G inevitably shuts off on the train ride from home to work? These are things you need to ask yourself. These are things we all need to ask ourselves. But even more importantly, we need to know how to check how close we are to that monthly limit and pay attention to how much data we’re using. Only then can we make sure we never hit our data limit in the middle of a boring conference meeting again.

So here’s the billion dollar question: How do I check my monthly data usage? You can go online and check through your service provider’s site and your account summary to figure out how much data you’re using, if you’re the kind of person who likes to do unnecessary things. Otherwise, save yourself the hassle and look below for a few shortcuts to figuring out your data usage.

Download the App

Most service providers were nice enough to create a free downloadable app that tracks how close you are to your mobile data usage for the month, as well as your minutes and text usage. Simply head over to your nearest Android, iPhone, or other app store (probably the one in your pocket) and look up apps distributed by your service provider. Simple.

The Hands-On Method

Although the settings section of a smartphone is the most unfairly ignored phone feature, there are plenty of things there that you might find even more useful than Doodle Jump. These days, most phones come with a counter deep within the settings menu that measures your data usage since you turned on your phone. Important to note here, however, is that this number represents your mobile data use from the last time you reset the counter, so if you’ve been using the phone for a year you’ll see how much data you’ve used for the whole year. If you want to track your data usage this way, simply reset the counter at the beginning of each billing cycle. For iPhone users, you can get to this feature by doing the following:

1. Press the “Menu” button

2. Click the “Settings” icon

3. Click on the “General” icon

4. Select the “Usage” option

5. Scroll down and click on “Cellular Usage Data”

6. Click “Reset Statistics”

Using the Phone as a Phone

Back in the early ages, when flip phones were the pinnacle of what a phone could be, service providers created textable and dialable shortcuts that users could use to check their minute and text usage. If you ever wondered what the mysterious “Check Balance” and “Check Text” contacts that came with your phone were, there’s your answer. By dialing these numbers, you’d get a message screen that told you how close you were to your limit. Now you can do that to check your mobile data use, too. Each service provider has a different shortcut, so go and take a look and find the one for you.

Thanks to us, you’ll now never have to worry about having a How I Met Your Mother episode cut short again. Just stick to any of the methods above and presto! The mystery is forever gone. Now if you find yourself still having trouble keeping under the data limit, you might have to look into changing that MB at the end of your data limit to a GB, and that’s an entirely whole different bag of cats.