4 Things That Used to be “Too Expensive”

by Kay Lynn


While visiting my mom during the holidays she shared a story about a winter road trip where she barely made it to her grandmother’s funeral.  I questioned why she drove instead of flying.  She replied “it was too expensive then”.

Her response really made me think.  What do I take for granted in my daily life that was prohibitively expensive a short time ago?  I came up with this list.

Eating Out

Growing up we went to restaurants infrequently.  My parents did indulge their kids in fast food, but not more often than once a month. The lack of dining out wasn’t because my working mom wouldn’t have liked to have a night off in the kitchen.

It was too expensive to take out a family of six frequently.  I think there is a wider range of restaurant price points today plus more opportunities to save with coupons, daily deal sites and promotions.  Plus most families are smaller today which lowers the costs for many budget categories (food, clothing, medical, etc.).

Making Long Distance Calls

Although many blame the demise of letter-writing on email, cheaper long distance rates are also responsible.  Twenty years ago if we wanted to communicate with anyone out of the local calling, it meant writing a letter or sending a post card.

Even as a young mother, I went weeks in between calls home due to the high cost. Now, there’s no limit to the amount of time I can chat with family long distance – as long as we use the same cell phone carrier.

Cruise Vacations

I didn’t know anyone who had been on a cruise until my 30’s.  Until then it was a vacation for the retired or rich.  Or at least that was my perception.

There were far fewer cruise ships making the price higher due to scarcity.  There are dozens of cruise ships and you can easily find a cruise for less than $100 per person per night; sometimes half that!  We spend less on cruises than on land vacations.

Air Travel

Mom is right; air travel used to be more expensive.  Even though fares seem to be increasing right now due to higher fuel costs they are still a bargain.

I remember taking my kids to mom’s for Thanksgiving 20 years ago for $15 more per ticket than the price today.  You know there’s been inflation so effectively it’s much cheaper.

Although prices go up, sometimes the true cost goes down.  What can you afford now that was too expensive previously? 

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Money Beagle February 3, 2012 at 6:07 am

Desktop computers in the 80’s and 90’s were around $2,000 and laptops were $3-4k and that was with less income than we have today.

Michelle @ Making Sense of Cents February 3, 2012 at 6:38 am

I really want to go on a cruise, and the rates are so affordable!

Jeffrey February 3, 2012 at 7:11 am

Surprisingly, air travel hasn’t really increased in cost over the years. It’s pretty amazing how cheap it’s stayed, and it’s definitely to the consumer’s benefit. That’s why I don’t mind all the extra fees they’ve added (although I typically don’t pay them anyway)

Jai Catalano February 3, 2012 at 7:58 am

I have to disagree with number 1. I took my stepfather to a fancy pizzaria. The total bill was nearly $200.

Here is what we bought.

2 pies w 1 topping
1 Garlic Bread
3 side Garden Salads
3 glasses of Wines
2 cans of Sodas.
1 slice of cake
2 coffees.

Tax and tip it came to almost $200. I mean it’s just pizza no matter how delicious it was.

Hack @ Smart Money Hacks February 3, 2012 at 11:46 am

That’s some pricey pizza! I’ll stick with Papa John’s for this weekend 🙂

Desktop Calculator in 1960 – $100…today= free with any happy meal.

krantcents February 3, 2012 at 10:56 am

There are a lot of electronic things such as computers, big screen TVs, and cell phones to name just a few,

Dr Dean February 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I remember we only ate out when we had “company”. And that was to a local fish camp that cooked fried catfish, hushpuppies, and homemade fries. The fries were to die for.

It was definitely a treat.

Edward Antrobus February 3, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I don’t know that eating out necessarily cost more, although, I’m only looking at the past couple decades that I’ve been able to witness.

Growing up, my best friend and his family ate at McDonalds about 5 times per week. My family ate out at all between 1 and 5 times per month (depending on schedules). Ironically enough, I was the obese child and he didn’t become overweight until he finished law school.

These days, eating out is the biggest thing that my wife and I disagree about. Before we got married, she ate out almost every meal. Literally cooked about 3 times per month. I still have that eating out as a special occasion (or when I’m really tired/not in the mood to cook) mentality. If money weren’t a concern, she would still want to eat out 5-6 times per week and I would probably be interested in once a week.

Earn Save Live February 3, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Interesting post!

Nowadays, I take full advantage of lunch specials, Groupon, and Living Social to get discounts at local restaurants. I use Skype to call friends and family across the country and around the world, too.

In college, in the mid-1990s, I remember buying a pricey (but used) laptop with a black-and-white screen. I used it to type papers, but I couldn’t understand the lure of email. I also laughed at a friend who had both a cell phone and a pager. No one had those then! How quickly our expectations and our daily routines change.

Newlyweds on a Budget February 3, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I still remember the whole “long distance” thing, and collect calls. it wasn’t that long ago!!! but man, it makes me feel old…

Money Infant February 4, 2012 at 2:25 am

I honestly don’t think that eating out is any cheaper these days. I think that maybe our parents were more frugal then we are and so chose not to eat out on a regular basis. They valued the money saved more than the convenience.

Paul @ The Frugal Toad February 4, 2012 at 4:39 am

I would have to say most new technology when it first comes out is too expensive for my tastes. I wait until the bugs are worked out and prices come down before I buy. I remember when the first iPhone came out and people were paying $500 for one, I just bought my first iPhone 4s for $150.

Geoff February 4, 2012 at 8:13 am

You remembered a couple good ones here. I completely forgot how expensive these things were when I was little. Everyone used to worry about long distance plans and we rarely ate out in my youth…..now I eat out way too much! I haven’t taken a cruise yet, but definitely a vacation to consider and not just for the rich like it used to be!

Another thing that used to be out of range was TV’s! I remember when we just had one 20in TV that weighed a ton! Now we have a couple flat screens of various sizes that I sometimes forget are even a luxury!

SB @ One Cent At A Time February 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Technology got really cheaper. Creating any form of art is much more easier these days. Sharing memories is definitely an edge. Post it on Facebook and the whole world sees what you were up to.

Brad February 4, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Getting brand new clothes was a luxury that happened two, maybe three times each year. Maybe. And new shoes was an annual event and only right before the new school year.

Tyler S. February 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm

My experience has been similar to yours with going out to eat. My family rarely went out to nice restaurants with 7 kids, so it really was a great treat when we did. Now that I’m on my own, I have no problem making it happen more often.

I think just about all types of electronics have become much more affordable than in the past. It’s easy nowadays to get a brand new cell phone for free with a service agreement. Laptops, computers, and TV’s all can be had for just a couple hundred bucks now too. Of course if you want high-end stuff, it will be more, but so much has become significantly more affordable than in the past.

Travis @DebtChronicles February 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm

My mom still tracks her long distance phone calls on a wall calendar – including the time started and ended!

Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey February 6, 2012 at 10:16 pm

So true the things on this list! Long distance calls used to be SUCH a big deal on land lines. But, not with cell phones anymore!

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