17 Things We Used to Pay For But No Longer Have To

Most people will agree that it’s more expensive to live today than it was a few decades ago. However, this isn’t so true. Many of the things you had to pay for can now be accessed for free and in greater quality, as the following 17 examples show.

Credit Freezes

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It sounds absurd, but victims of identity theft before 2018 had to pay monthly sums to freeze their accounts. Many saw this as a major barrier to financial security, but thankfully, the federal government stepped in. This means that today, credit freezes are 100% free, as the CFPB announced.


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Before the internet, if you wanted to learn anything about the world, you couldn’t just pull out a smartphone and get it from the Internet. Instead, you had to reference a physical encyclopedia—a book with diverse information that could cost over $1,000 to own!


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In the old days, the only way to create a personal playlist of your favorite music was to purchase vinyl records and albums. This got seriously expensive, but now, you can access all the latest and oldest tunes for free through streaming platforms. Don’t take that for granted!

Credit Reports

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Do you need a credit report to get a loan for a house, car, or personal expense? These days, that’s free, but it used to cost money that you just didn’t have. Thankfully, federal law now gives you the right to free annual reports, as the FTC reminds us.

The News

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Newspapers have never been particularly expensive, but you still had to spend a couple of dollars from your hard-earned paycheck just to learn about current events. Today, you can get breaking news in real-time for free, as long as you have access to the internet.

Voice Calls

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Many phone service providers still charge outrageous fees when you make long-distance voice calls, and in the past, we had no other option. Thankfully, we now have the alternative of internet-based communication services such as Whatsapp, meaning long-distance calls are free–even for video calls!

Sending Messages

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Just like calls, sending messages to loved ones used to be surprisingly expensive, as those stamps and envelopes added up! That’s a problem that is unimaginable to today’s youth, who all benefit from free instant messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and, once again, Whatsapp.

Data Backups

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When computers first came about, backing up megabytes of data could cost thousands of dollars. Many cloud storage services still charge for backups these days, but you’re talking $5 a month instead of thousands, and most providers offer several gigabytes for free.


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Before services like Google Maps, you had to part with cash to navigate any road that you weren’t familiar with. The first ever GPS units cost as much as $3,000, but as the technology became increasingly available, the cost of owning one fell into the hundreds, and now it’s free.


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Bookworms of the past spent massively on hard-cover books, and the only way to navigate this was to borrow books from the library. Now, eBooks for your phone or Kindle cost just a couple of bucks, and many are even available for free!


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Investing before the smartphone revolution was very expensive, as you had to part with an average 2% fee on your investments. Whilst such fees are still present within institutional investment platforms, Maddyness reminds us that modernized mobile trading platforms such as Robinhood and Vanguard rarely charge any commission at all.


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Most flashlights these days are rechargeable, but we used to have to spend a ton of cash replacing their batteries when camping or working the graveyard shift. However, this is completely unnecessary these days because our smartphones feature flashlights that are powerful enough for most tasks.


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Spending a few bucks every year on a new calendar used to add up, especially if you wanted a fancy one. These days, they’re still available to buy and are highly customizable, but most people just use personalized digital calendars on their phones for free.


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Photography used to be an unbelievably expensive hobby. You’d pay for camera film or photo shoots, yet sometimes, you still wouldn’t get the results you wanted. That isn’t a problem in the smartphone era–even the cheapest phones feature cameras that would be impressive in the ‘90s.

Educational Courses

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Another invaluable privilege that the internet provides us is the freedom to learn anything you want, without having to part with thousands of dollars. Whether you browse Wikipedia, or YouTube, or sign up for free online courses, there are countless ways to learn online without paying a cent.

Classified Adverts

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Before the internet, if you wanted to advertise a product or service, you’d need to pay newspapers to feature in their ‘classified ads’ section. These days, platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist offer this for free, which Forbes estimates has cost newspapers $5 billion in lost revenue.


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Finally, let’s talk about movies. We used to enjoy movies at cinemas and movie rental stores, and each film cost money. Now, it’s all about streaming platforms, and while you still have to pay for these, the sheer number of movies you get for your money would shock cinema-goers of the ‘90s.

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