I’m a tech geek. I love my gadgets. But tech comes at a cost, and a recent Modern Geek Podcast on how geeks communicate got me thinking: how much does all this newfangled technology really cost us? For a household of six, my family's monthly entertainment/communications costs are outrageous (cue the “Get off my lawn!” sound byte). I know -- I’m getting older and I'm complaining about things like the cost of a gallon of gas or a carton of milk. But I wanted to find out if there was any truth to my increasing sense of expense fatigue, so I did a little research. In the end, I found I was right: all this new technology does indeed cost us more per month than it used to. However, the real question isn’t how much we're paying for our devices -- it's whether the increased cost is worth it.
I grew up in the relatively modern world of tech. Instead of pinball at the arcade, I played Spy Hunter. I played Pac-Man and Space Invaders on my Atari 2600. My parents bought me a Commodore 64 computer, and I learned how to program in Basic. I had a pager in college. Shortly after getting my first job I had a Motorola flip phone. I owned one of the first Pentium-60 computers. And since 1998 I’ve enjoyed both cable TV and internet access at home (dial-up AOL at the time). But the cost back then was relatively low: in the U.S., the average monthly mobile phone bill in 2000 was $45. The cost of AOL dial-up was $22 per month for unlimited access, and the national average cable bill was $37 per month.
Today in 2011 those costs have increased pretty significantly. The minimum monthly cost for a smart phone with a decent data package is now about $90/month. If you have DSL or broadband, the base price is likely around $40/month, and it's no longer unlimited. The average national cable/satellite bill is now $75. This does not include the additional costs of services like Netflix, Qwikster, Hulu Plus, Xbox Live, or a data-type mobile hotspot or tablet costs. Also removed from the equation are the costs of the games you might be playing. And I have not yet researched the change in cost of the tech hardware over the last decade, nor the rising cost of electricity that powers our digital addictions.
So sticking to basic communications services, the average bill in 2000 for a mobile phone, dial-up, and cable was only $104. Adjusting for inflation, that price today would be about $130. In 2011 the price of those same services is $205. That is an adjusted increase of 72% in 11 years -- for just those basic services. If you have any of the other services, the number just goes up. Also note that this is not taking into consideration any “bundling” that may or may not be available to individual consumers that might lower the overall bill.
But before we go any further I’d like to point out one thing. That $205 buys you a LOT more than that same $104 did in 2000. First of all -- increased speed. Second, there is vastly more content available through the web today. Thirdly you are getting the entire internet on your phone wherever you are. There may be additional benefits in 2011 that were not available in 2000, but those three are substantial on their own.
Based on those benefits, my conclusion is that the additional costs are indeed worth the price. I can Hangout on Google+ with my geographically separated friends. I can Skype or Facetime in with my parents. I can get on Xbox Live and play cooperatively through amazingly developed action or adventure games. I can read my e-mail or text my kids wherever they are. I can work poolside, watch a movie in my doctor’s waiting room, or write a blog post from the hockey rink. I can tweet a joke from the bathroom of an airplane. The possibilities are endless. But most importantly, the possibilities are worth my money.
What do you think? Are your communication capabilities worth the higher prices to you? Drop us a comment below!
The cost of tech is not just in the price of the hardware and software, but in the price of time.
I’m the type of person that if I let myself buy into all this new tech I would have a complete virtual life, but not much of a real one.
I believe it is important to use this new technology responsibility as well.
While it’s possible to talk on a cell, text, and surf the web 24/7 any place anytime these days… Should we? It seems like the tech is advancing faster that society’s edicate for using it. Look at the incidents of people texting while driving or the idiot shouting on his cell at a resturant.
I suppose some people can get trapped into living a virtual life by using all of the communications technology available to them. However, for the traditional American family with children it would be difficult for that to happen. I’m so busy with family-member functions, events, games, and appointments that for me, the current crop of technology advancements are exactly what keeps me sane.Otherwise I would probably feel lonely and isolated most of the time.
Yeah I see your point. I have yet to have children myself (although my wife and I are planning to sometime soon) I can see how it could be a time saver as well.
I would have some concerns with all of this tech and having children these days.
I’m not sure if many of the children and young adults I know even know how to “disconnect” (even for a little while).
I’d like to see a Modern Geek podcast with advice on how teach our kids to be responsible and safe while using all this tech. How to protect/monitor kids internet experience and when is a good age for a kid to get a cellphone, or texting capability. That sort of thing.
I agree that we’re paying more and getting more, but I also think you can get trapped into staying with providers. We’ve been with AT&T so long that HubAZ and I grandfathered in to $30 unlimited data for our iPhones. We can’t afford to walk away from that, even though my workplace- inside the library of a high school campus- is an AT&T deadzone.
I saw our last cable bill- combined internet,cable TV (STARZ/HBO) and HubAZ’s business phone/fax lines – is about $220 a month. That isn’t including mobile phones ($25 for each SonAZ) or the land line (different provider). It’s likely we’re paying to much.
In the spirit of full disclosure our cable bill was $190 until last month when I stopped some premium channels. Our bill is now $159/month which includes 4 DVRs & assorted programming tiers. The reasons for that really haven’t changed even with whole-house DVR options available. This cable package is still cheaper for us plus we have a few other TVs scattered throughout the house on basic cable so satellite or U-verse isn’t an option. We have 3 smartphones with unlimited data packages and three other lines through Verizon totalling $310/month. My landline phone and DSL is $92/month. And yes I’m looking at consolidated options now which is why some of you have started receiving a different e-mail address from me lately. We also carry Netflix and XBox Live but have recently divested ourselves of XM satellite radio in our vehicles. So I admit our expenses are above the average US household which is why I started thinking about this topic to begin with. Also, as for being trapped by providers, I would recommend a bi-annual look at various options just to make sure you aren’t paying an outrageous amount more than you need to or aren’t missing out on some expense saving capability.
I’m guessing you can also just listen to Modern Geek to see if there is anything you are missing. =)
I feel your pain about the ever increasing expense of tech gadgets. BUT, I don’t think I could go back to simpler times (ok, maybe I could – kicking & screaming!)
I love all the gadgets, always have. Some I could afford, others, not so much. They expand my world. And they are soooo much fun.
I went back to simple a few years ago: got rid of cable, hooked up a new antenna with a coax cable, and got Tivo ($12/mo), since I am never home when my shows are on. I watch less TV and I have lost weight and gained muscle. I haven’t missed a single moment of watching other people exercise (aka pro sports), the “what color should I paint my wall” channel, or the “what should I have for dinner” channel. And we all know there isn’t much on SyFy these days. 🙂
In all, I dropped my monthly expenses about $125, and I haven’t regretted anything.