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

The internet has changed so much in our short lifetimes—for those of us who remember life before the internet was everywhere. And while life seems to keep getting more expensive, we can be thankful that we no longer have to pay for these 17 things.

Email Accounts

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Once upon a time, we would pay for internet packages that included several email addresses. How Stuff Works says, “AOL has always offered e-mail service, but only to its paying customers and only through its proprietary, all-in-one software package.” Though there were free emails back then, free is the norm now.

Data Backup on Physical Media

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We used to backup all of our data to CDs, or, going back even further in history, floppy disks. Cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive have replaced the need for floppies, CDs, and even external hard drives, for the most part.

Standalone GPS Devices

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Before there were smartphones or navigation systems built into cars, we used to buy navigation devices like the TomTom to get us where we were going. They may sound archaic now that GPS is built into the pocket computers we carry everywhere, but they were a huge step up from printing out MapQuest directions or pulling out a map.

Newspaper Classifieds

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Newspapers used to, or maybe they still do, have a section called the classifieds. There you would find job listings, things for sale, and even dating “ads,” all of which people would pay per word to have printed. Now we use online marketplaces for everything from job postings to selling our toaster to a stranger on Facebook for $5.

Physical Maps

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The art of learning how to read a map to figure out how to get from point A to point B is probably lost to the history books. Some of us still remember buying updated maps at the gas station and keeping them in the glovebox in case we got lost. Digital maps on smartphones and GPS devices have replaced paper maps.

Long-Distance Charges

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When landline phones were the main form of long-distance communication, we had long-distance charges. If you wanted to call your friend in a different state, it would be quite a bit more expensive than calling the people next door. Even when cell phones came out, there were different charges at different times of the day for long-distance.

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

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Every family used to have a set of encyclopedias on the shelf and at least one dictionary that they invested a pretty penny in. Kids and adults today do most of their research on the web. With the ease of updating information, online research tools tend to be more accurate than printed copies, making them obsolete and no longer worth the money.


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We send more emails than letters, use the internet to fill out forms and applications, and even keep our calendars all in the digital world. Most of the things we used to use paper for daily have gone digital, meaning the average person is buying less printer paper and notebooks than they did in the past.

Text Messages

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When cell phones first came out, we had to pay per text, and depending on your plan, it could be outgoing and incoming. Parents everywhere dreaded the cell phone bill to find out their child had sent 1,000 texts at 10 cents each. Can you imagine the bills we would have today if this was still how it worked?

Newspapers and Magazines

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How do people even send hostage messages anymore without buying magazines and newspapers to cut out letters? Most magazines and newspapers have online versions these days. And while some do have subscription fees, you can generally find any information or article you are looking for for free somewhere on the internet.


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We used to go to the mall to pick up the latest CD or CD single from our favorite artists. Today, with streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, people can listen to new music as well as hear their favorite songs and artists any time they want without having to go to the store or flip through their CD book in the car.

Film Development

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If people still use film in a camera, it is because it is a fun hobby of theirs, and they probably develop it in a dark room themselves. For the rest of us, casual photo takers and professional photographers alike, digital photography has taken over. So no more trips to Kodak to print our roll of 35 mm and hoping most of the pictures turned out decent.

Travel Agents

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There was a day when travel required talking to a travel agent who would book your flights, hotels, and any activities you wanted to do on your trip for a fee. The internet gave us the option of jumping online and searching for the best rates ourselves, putting travel back in our hands and saving the agent fee.

Banking Fees for Basic Services

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Bankrate writes about how online banking has changed the traditional banking system, saying “One significant change in traditional banking over the past few years has been the elimination or reduction of overdraft fees.” Online banks have been offering lower fees and higher interest rates, making traditional banks have to step up their game by lowering their fees.

Learning Resources

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A wealth of educational materials and courses are now available for free online, making the old way of going out and buying the software for a course obsolete. Free apps like Duolingo have significantly decreased the need for Rosetta Stone kiosks in the mall, because why pay for something when you can get it similarly for free and without leaving your bed?

Video Calls

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A remote work necessity and a savior to many long-distance relationships, video conferencing and calls, once costly services, are now freely available through platforms like Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet for basic use. FaceTime and WhatsApp are also free to use for person-to-person video communication.

Microsoft Office

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We once had to buy software to write all our documents and make our spreadsheets and PowerPoints. Now, Google Drive offers all of the features and abilities of Microsoft Office, plus cloud storage and accessibility, for free.

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