Most people today, from teens and 20-somethings to those in their 40s, 50s, and over, have expenses that didn’t exist “back in the day,” and much less when their parents were younger. Some of these expenses are pretty close to being necessities in modern lifestyles. Others are luxuries their parents probably never dreamed would be available but might become the norm in the next few years. How many of these expenses can you live without?

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1. Smartphones

Plain old cell phones aren’t enough for many people: many of us have come to rely upon Internet connectivity, cameras, powerful apps, GPS navigation systems, access to documents, and a whole lot more while we’re on the go these days. While even cell phones of 15 years ago were able to handle text messages, calendars, and basic email, (oh, and phone calls), powerful computing at one’s fingertips have become integral to many lifestyles, and are especially essential to those who are mobile for career purposes.

For many, this expense replaces an old standard monthly bill: the one for a land line. About half of Americans are estimated to not have or not use a land line in their homes as of 2012.

2. Wi-Fi Internet

Not just home Internet connections, but Wi-Fi Internet at home is pretty much a must-have for many households. We’re not only hooked up from home to perform crucial business such as paying bills and sending correspondence (how often do you buy stamps these days?), but we’re doing it from wireless devices.

Wireless routers, once reserved for the most nerdy home computer networkers (this author included) are now the norm around households. In addition to the rising use of Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as smartphones, tablets, and other devices, few newer laptops come with hook-ups for Ethernet cables. It might even be hard to purchase such a cable locally if any laptops do come equipped.

For those who don’t know what an Ethernet cable is, it’s a cord that is a bit wider than a phone cord, and has a similar, but larger plastic jack on each end. If you have never seen a phone cord, it’s truly a sign of how dramatically times have been changing.

3. Multiple computers at home

For a lot of families, gone are the days of the single family computer in one part of the house. Students of all ages have homework which needs to be done on a computer, and parents are using computers more for things like researching household fixes, recipes, and communicating with family, not to mention playing the Internet’s most addictive games. One computer is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of an entire household, so multiple computers, laptops, and tablets have become household staples for many.

4. Laptops

While plenty of us still have a bulky desktop computer, lots of people are living on a laptop alone. Once considered unthinkable, laptops have become powerful enough and have enough storage ability to replace desktops for many people. Even many gamers and home theater buffs are meeting their needs with modern laptops, areas once only able to be served by high-powered desktop systems with multiple cooling fans.

5. ATM Cards

Who carries cash anymore? ATM cards have become ubiquitous, and not only for purchases and cash withdrawals. Many people in their 20s and 30s have never written a paper check (and have never owned a cassette tape and player, either) because it’s easy to pay bills online or to send money for purchases.

With the perceived necessity of ATM cards has come a variety of fees charged by banks for their use. Lots of us have seen fees on our statements of unknown origin, in amounts of a dollar here and a dollar there or more. No doubt most of us have experienced sticker shock when we’ve gone to make a withdrawal from an out-of-brand machine and been hit with fees of several dollars from both the bank, which owns the ATM, and our own. Some banks charge for the privilege of having an ATM card, and some charge for certain kinds of transactions. Many of us pay for ATM charges every month without knowing it. Are you up to date on what your ATM card fees?

With the emergence of new payment technologies for use with smartphone apps and other means, it will be interesting to see if ATM cards go the way of the transistor radio. It may seem unlikely today, but not long ago, few people would have expected to be living without a landline. It will also be interesting to see how the technology path evolves as Internet and television worlds collide.

What are your predictions for the next essential technologies no one will want to live without?


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