10 Expenses Our Parents Didn’t Have in the ’80s and ’90s


Looking back to the ’80s and ’90s, it’s clear that our parents’ financial landscape was quite different from ours today.

From technology to lifestyle choices, here are 10 expenses that have become commonplace now but were virtually nonexistent in our parents’ day.”

1. Cell Phone Bills and Data Plans

These days, a cell phone is pretty much a must-have, but it comes at a cost. Unlike the old landline days, we’re not just paying for the phone service. There’s the data plan too, which can be pricey, especially if you use a lot of internet on the go.

Back in our parents’ time, this kind of expense didn’t even exist. Now, it’s a regular line item in most of our budgets, and for many of us, it’s not a small one.

2. Internet Service

It’s hard to imagine life without high-speed internet at home now, but this is an expense our parents didn’t have.

Whether it’s for work, streaming movies, or just staying connected, paying for internet has become as common as the electricity bill. It’s one of those things that’s shifted from a luxury to a necessity over the years, and it adds a noticeable amount to our monthly expenses.

3. Childcare Costs

Over the past three decades, the cost of childcare has surged dramatically, by about 220%. This steep increase has made childcare one of the most significant expenses for families today. It’s a stark contrast to what our parents experienced.

Now, with both parents often working, many families find themselves allocating a considerable portion of their budget to childcare, a cost that was much more manageable or even non-existent for earlier generations.

4. Student Loan Payments

The landscape of student loan debt has drastically changed over the years.

The average 1996 college graduate had about $12,750 in student loan debt, which would be around $24,740 in today’s money. Fast forward to now, and the average student loan debt at graduation has climbed to an estimated $37,650.

5. Streaming Services

Gone are the days when TV meant just a handful of channels. Now, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ are part of our daily entertainment diet. While each service might not cost much on its own, subscribing to multiple platforms can add up quickly.

6. Online Subscriptions

Beyond streaming movies and shows, we now have subscriptions for a variety of online services. From music platforms like Spotify to software subscriptions like Adobe Creative Cloud, and even online learning sites like MasterClass, these monthly or annual fees are part of today’s digital lifestyle.

7. Increased Health Insurance Costs

Health insurance costs have seen a significant rise. For example, the average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in a family coverage plan increased from about $5,791 in 1999 to around $20,576 in 2019, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

These numbers starkly contrast with previous decades when health insurance was more affordable and often covered a larger portion of healthcare expenses.

8. Eco-Friendly Products

The rise of environmental awareness has led to a greater demand for eco-friendly products. These items, ranging from biodegradable cleaners to sustainable clothing, often come with a higher price tag compared to their conventional counterparts.

While our parents might have been less exposed to, or concerned about, ecological impacts, today’s consumers are increasingly willing to pay more for products that promise to be kinder to the planet.

9. Organic Food

Similarly, organic food has become a significant part of the modern grocery market. Organic produce, meats, and packaged goods are typically more expensive than non-organic options due to their more costly farming practices and certification processes. This trend towards organic food for health and environmental reasons is a relatively new phenomenon.

In our parents’ time, much of what they ate was organic by default, as industrial farming practices and the widespread use of pesticides were not as prevalent then.

10. Vehicle Maintenance Costs

Back in the day, any mechanic could fix just about any car. But that’s not the case anymore. Modern vehicles come with advanced technology and complex systems, which means repairs and maintenance often require specialized knowledge and tools.

This shift has led to higher vehicle maintenance costs. The need for specific parts for different models and the specialized training required for today’s mechanics add to the overall expense.

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