Topics: frugality, technology
Boy, humanity sure has come a long way. No longer do knights in shining armor wander the streets of downtown Detroit; a simple Kevlar vest will do the job fine. And gone are the days of the housewife slaving over a hot stove all day to prepare a meal for her husband and ten children; instead, she pops her TV Dinner For One into the microwave after working an office job for 14 straight hours.
With so many ground-breaking achievements over the course of history, it’s hard to pick out the best ones. But some of my favorite innovations are those which have saved people like you and me a lot of money. Here are my votes for the most important wallet-friendly inventions of all time along with how much money they’ve saved the typical person.
10. Ceiling fan. Forget air conditioning! This spinning marvel can cool a whole room for a fraction of the cost, and in reverse it can even help circulate warm air during the winter. Estimated savings: $20-100 a year.
9. Tin can. So you’re saying I can store some mushrooms in this little metal cylinder, and they’ll still be okay to eat in a year? No more daily trips to the mushroom farm! Estimated savings: Thousands of dollars over a lifetime.
8. Insurance. Oops, your cow just burned down an entire city. Good thing you have insurance. Sure, most people will pay more into insurance than they’ll get out of it, but it can be a life-saver for the unluckiest of people. Estimated savings: Maybe nothing, maybe millions.
7. Postal service. While crude delivery services have been around for thousands of years, an affordable way of sending messages to people far, far away is a development of the last few centuries. Can you imagine if we still had to hop on our horses and ride 50 miles down the road to pay our credit card bills? Estimated savings: Lots of money, lots of horses.
6. Public transportation. Having your own car is a luxury, but being able to get from point A to point B is a true necessity. In the long run, using public transportation almost always works out to be cheaper than owning a vehicle, maintaining it, insuring it, and keeping it full of gas. Estimated savings: $1,000 or more each year.
5. Digital camera. A couple centuries ago, if you wanted to record a moment for posterity, you sat around for hours or days while someone painted it. Up until ten years ago, you were at the mercy of photo developers charging 20 cents or more to help preserve your memories. Now you can record countless images and store them electronically for all of eternity at virtually no cost per picture. Estimated savings: The cost of film and developing.
4. Virtual pets. These tiny tech toys taught a whole generation of children and young adults that pets need a lot of attention, a lot of love, and a lot of money spent on them. And when people got bored with these creatures, it was a lot easier to toss them into a drawer than a poodle or goldfish. Estimated savings: As much as $10,000 compared to some expensive real pets.
3. Ramen noodles. Without these ultra-cheap, moderately nutrious, and slightly delicious packets of noodly goodness, millions of college students would have starved to death by now. Estimated savings: The difference between real food and 20 cents.
2. The internet. Instead of being restricted to a few dozen stores within driving distance or whatever mail-order catalogs you can get your hands on, you’re now able to compare prices on your next purchase at millions of stores all from the comfort of your toilet seat. Not only that, but you can use the internet to work from home, keep in touch with people, and even buy food. In fact, thanks to that wonderful mass of sophisticated electronics, you never really need to leave your home again. That means never needing to travel, buy gifts for people, shave, or wear clothes! Estimated savings: Ten BILLION dollars.
And the most important frugal innovation ever:
1. Wine in a box. For those of us who can’t tolerate the taste of beer, a 5-liter box of white zinfandel is as close as we can get to a frugal buzz. Why the number one spot, you ask? Simple–without wine in a box, this list would have never happened! Estimated savings: Priceless.
Did I leave a top money-saving invention off the list? Comment here with your picks!