Cost of living

Costs Your Parents Never Had to Worry About

Cost Of Living

In the 1950’s, consumers paid the equivalent of a few thousands dollars for television sets that showed only a handful of channels--for free. And the costs ended there.

Fast forward to today. A wide range of gadgets, computers, and home entertainment systems offers endless hours of enjoyment--and costly monthly fees.

Related calculator: How much am I spending?

The average household pays about $90 a month for cable TV, $40 for internet, and $140 for family wireless plans. The annual cost of connectivity? More than $3000 a year, according to J.D. Power, a global market research company. That's about what the average family spends each year on gas!

“The hardware costs have come way down, but that hardware needs care and feeding, and services. And those up to a lot, probably more than we pay for the device, over the years that we own it,” says Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports.

Consumers paid about $500 in 1955 for an analog color TV--that’s the equivalent of more than $4000 today! These days, the average flat screen TV wholesales for about $500, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Meanwhile, a VCR cost almost $3,000 in 1974. Today, you can get a Blu-ray player for about $100.

Reynolds says that lower prices have changed the way we buy electronics. We can--and do--replace them more often, just to keep up.

Related: How Long Will Your Flat Screen TV Last?

Just think of how cell phones are sold. “At the end of a two-year contract you are offered a new phone, and the way the technology is evolving, chances are, the phone will have new features and capabilities that you may want," explains Reynolds. "Or at least you see your friends using, so it starts become a part of our lives and you want to keep up with that.”

Related calculator: What's the value of foregoing expenses?

Adults aren’t the only ones who want the latest and greatest. Today, even school age kids want and get their own phones, tablets and other electronics. And families are footing the bill.

So, how can you stay connected and keep costs down? First, spend as much time researching your service plans as you do your choice of hardware, since that’s what’s where costs really add up. Consider bundling your services with a single carrier, and check your monthly bills to make sure you’re not over-subscribing for time or content you don’t need or want.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for a better price. With all the choices available, you’re in a stronger position to get the deal you want.

Got any tips for saving money on your gadgets? Find me on Twitter @veragibbons, hashtag #costofliving.

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