9 Things That Are Cheaper Than They Were in Decades Past

Woman with car
UfaBizPhoto / Shutterstock.com

The good ol’ days were always better. Life was simpler, roads were clearer and — most of all — things were cheaper. Right?

Kind of. The good ol’ days had their moments, but not everything was better or cheaper.

Some things actually have dropped in price over the years.

The reasons are varied. Some products are easier or cheaper to manufacture. Others face competition, which drives down prices. Or a technology changes the business model, as with streaming video, for example.

If it seems prices are just rising too fast and too high, here are some happy exceptions.

1. Televisions

Couple in shopping for a new tv.
Dusan Petkovic / Shutterstock.com

How about a fancy television for viewing that blockbuster film? A few years ago, a CNET reporter examined the history of TV prices going back decades, comparing prices per square inch. One early flat-panel TV cost more than $30 per square inch back in 1997. Twenty years later, a similar set was priced at under $2 per square inch.

2. Certain new cars

Chimpinski / Shutterstock.com

New cars are never cheap. But, rev up your engines! Some popular models sell for less — after taking inflation into account — than they did decades ago.

Publications such as the Washington Post have crunched the numbers and come to that conclusion. Who knew?

3. Classified ads

unemployed job seeker classified ads newspaper looking for work man
VGstockstudio / Shutterstock.com

Need to sell a couch, buy a used car, find an apartment? In ye olden days, you would peruse the classified ads in your local newspaper for what you need or place an ad to sell something, meaning you would pay to buy the paper or to place your own want ad.

Now you have online options that don’t cost a dime, including Craigslist and Indeed.

4. Home delivery

Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

Getting groceries, clothes and other necessities delivered used to be a luxury, reserved for those with lots of cash. Maybe pizza was the only thing regular people splurged on for home delivery.

Then came Amazon, and Amazon Prime‘s free two-day shipping.

Other stores are forced to fight back with delivery deals of their own, although restrictions or a minimum purchase requirement may apply. Just take a look at “26 Retailers That Offer Free Shipping — With No Minimum Purchase.”

5. Long-distance calls

talking on cellphone
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Maybe you remember waiting for certain times of day when prices dropped before making a long-distance call.

Try explaining that to a 20-something or teen. Their cellphone plan — and yours — doesn’t care if you call Alaska or Alabama, or what time of day you’re calling.

Google Voice also charges nothing for calls in the U.S.

6. Amazon Kindle

stickasa / Shutterstock.com

E-readers, such as Amazon Kindle, are a popular way to read most anything, whether a best-seller or comic book. As the technology has improved, prices have dropped.

Amazon launched the Kindle in 2007 for — sit down! — $399. That’s $495 in today’s dollars. That didn’t stop determined buyers, and the device sold out in 5½ hours. Now you can find a Kindle for as little as $90, although the cheapest devices may have sponsored screensavers, special offers and personalized advertising. Refurbished devices go for even less.

Want to read e-books for free? Download the Kindle app for your smartphone — no charge.

7. Ikea Poäng chair

Ikea.com / Shutterstock.com

Furniture, generally, is cheaper than it used to be, probably because of globalization, analysis website FiveThirtyEight says.

But furniture giant Ikea’s wildly popular Poäng chair, now at $79, is exceptional: It costs a fraction of what it once did. Each year, 1.5 million of the bent-birch chair are sold.

“In the early 1990s, the chair couldn’t be had for less than $300, adjusted for inflation,” FiveThirtyEight notes.

But Ikea changed some of the chair’s parts from steel to wood, allowing it to ship more efficiently.

Other Ikea products have also gone down in cost but few can touch the Poäng’s price drop.

8. DIY learning

Art_Photo / Shutterstock.com

Want to learn how to apply makeup like a pro, change a tire, fix your furnace, speak Spanish? There was a time when you might have turned immediately to a community college extension course or another fee-based class.

While those still are good options, now we often test the waters in a chosen subject for free. For a quick “Do I really want to learn this” or a simple “How do I begin using my Instant Pot,” YouTube is likely to have the answer.

9. Solar panels

Worker installing solar panels
zstock / Shutterstock.com

Harnessing the power of the sun is getting easier as solar-panel costs come down.

A research study published by MIT in the fall of 2018 takes a deep dive into the reasons. In short, improved manufacturing efficiency and increased plant size have helped drive down prices for the energy alternative.

Chime in with your thoughts on the deals we enjoy today for less money than in the past. Post a comment below or on Money Talks News’ Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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