HomeBloggingWhat Monthly Expenses Exist Today That Weren’t There in the Past?

What Monthly Expenses Exist Today That Weren’t There in the Past?

The other day I had an interesting conversation with Helaine Olen, an infinitely more talented writer than I, about what is holding back my generation and the generation below me from financial prosperity.  I was responding to a recent article by Ms. Olen titled “The Problem with Finovate” in which it is her contention that,

The cost of everything from healthcare to education and housing has increased at rates significantly above that of inflation over the past several decades, even as our salaries stagnated and slowly collapsed.

While her point is obviously valid it made me start to think about how many of my monthly bills are considered a “necessity” by most:

  • Cable Television – 30 Years ago this industry was in its infancy
  • Internet
  • Cell Phone
  • Lease Payments
  • Insurance Payments on those Cars – Not every state had a mandatory insurance requirement 30 years ago (some don’t have it now)
  • Gym memberships
  • PMI –While it existed it was very hard to obtain since most had to put 20% down

What Expenses are I missing?



  1. Gym memberships – maybe not the membership itself, but the different varieties of workouts. Crossfit? Yoga? Zumba? Krav Maga? Spin Class?

    Give me a rack and 2-3 visits a week, thanks!

    • I live very close to a nationally known gym that is old school with just massive amounts of weights and machines and it seems they are still busy despite HARDCORE competition from designer gyms that cost $120+ a month

  2. The only necessity out of all those would be car insurance because my state requires it. I guess you could say my cell phone too because my job requires me to have a phone and I don’t have a landline but I could change that. The rest of them are not necessities though but our generation seems to think they are.

  3. It’s crazy to think how much the world has changed in 30 years to the point where not just monthly expenses but things that we “need” to have didn’t even exist then (personal computers anyone?). The sheer amount of technology that is becoming a necessity for each individual person is amzing to me.

    • I don’t know any 12 year olds, but I feel like they all must be good on the computer just by sheer need for school work and a social life

  4. Psychiatrists! People didn’t have that many problems back then… Personal grooming like mani pedis was done at home, for some it is a weekly must have, and some salons charge a monthly fee so you can go anytime.

  5. I’d have to say that of all my expenses, most didnt exist 30 years ago. I pay all those things listed, and wish I could cut them back, but I cant, unfortunately.
    you can add starbucks to the list of things that was not around 30 years ago and is in just about everyone’s ‘needs’ category!

  6. I think you hit most of the big ones. A lot of them started out as luxuries that have become “necessities” according to most people.

  7. I think you can add funding public schools. When I was a kid – my parents didn’t have to pay for workbooks, in-class supplies such as tissues, pencils, and folders, not to mention having to pay to participate in school sports. I paid $500 over the summer so my step-daughter could be a cheerleader. It was mandatory that she went to camp, paid for her uniform, her pom poms, and her shoes. Had to pay for my son’s cleats and his practice uniform. I guess the $1200/yr I pay in public school funding out of my property taxes isn’t cutting it!!!

    • In-class supplies is border line criminal! I would/will be so pissed when my kid gets older and I get that bill.

      Sports is an interesting problem since it is part of the school but it is not really a curriculum sort of thing. Growing up my parents had to buy my wrestling shoes but that was it…but since ice hockey wasn’t a school sport then they had to pay for ice time for my brother.

  8. What about the things everyone had 30-50 years ago that you don’t need to have/pay for now? Landlines, long distance, TV antennas, newspapers, news magazines, encyclopedias. Not to mention the things that are relatively much cheaper now than back in the day: airplane travel, TVs/VCRs (well, all electronics), food as % of income, clothing as % of income.

    This is based on my memory as a child in the 50s and young adult in the 70s.

    • Excellent point Mary. Do you think the net real income went up or down with those subtractions from the list?

  9. Transportation. Throughout most of history, when there was a working class, the working class lived where they worked. People didn’t travel much whether for work or pleasure. The entire family lived nearby.

    Power — whether electricity or gas…

    Clothing… someone in the family could make it for everyone… or if you buy / trade from someone else, you usually didn’t have a wardrobe full of options each morning… unless you were rich.

    • I think you are bringing it WAYYYYY back, but I wonder if power is more expensive in today’s world vs the 70s when they were having the shortages


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