4 money problems that didn't exist 50 years ago (and how to fix them)

In many ways, the world is a better place than it was 50 years ago...but it's certainly more complicated, especially when it comes to personal finance. While the multitude of financial tools we now have at our disposal can be extremely helpful, they can also make our lives considerably more expensive when we make poor choices about them. And even sound financial decision-making can't save you from all the money problems that plague us these days.

Credit card debt

While specialty credit cards such as the Diners Club card have been around for a while, general-purpose credit cards are a more recent addition to our wallets. The first general-purpose credit card, the BankAmericard (now known as Visa), appeared on the scene in 1966. In the years since, credit cards have proliferated to the point where the average American now holds 2.6 credit cards -- and $8,377 in credit card debt.

How to fix it: If you're stuck with a lot of credit card debt, getting it paid off can seem about as easy as eating an elephant. The solution for both problems is the same: stay calm and tackle the problem one bite at a time. Temporarily cutting back on nonessential expenses can help a lot, because the faster you pay off that debt, the less interest you'll pay and therefore the less money you'll need to pay off the whole thing.

RELATED: 50 everyday expenses that are a complete waste of money:

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50 everyday expenses you need to stop spending money on
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50 everyday expenses you need to stop spending money on
ATM fees

"Take a bit of extra time to withdraw money from your bank's ATM and save on the cost to withdraw your own cash or if your bank has a mobile app, use it to find an in-network ATM near you."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Lottery tickets

"According to the Powerball, the odds hitting the jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338.00, and CNN cites that Americans spent $70.15 billion in 2014. Let's save our hard-earned money."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Coffee

"A daily cup of joe adds up if you purchase it at places like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Save by brewing at home."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Credit card interest

"Maintaining a balance on your card usually you to pay interest each month. Try to pay off your credit card balance in full each month or send more than the minimum payment. As always, use your credit cards responsibly."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Kids meals when dining out

"When you do dine out and if you have kids with you, be sure to take advantage of 'kids eat free' specials. Most restaurants have specific days of the week when they offer free kids meals."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Gas station food and snacks

"Although it may be convenient, prices are always marked up when compared to other stores. So take the time to shop for food in advance at your grocery store and pack emergency snacks in your car."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Pumping premium gas

"Some vehicles may not require premium gas, which is the most costly of the gasoline grades. Stop trying to be fancy, check the owner's manual, and save."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Banking fees

"Don't pay to manage your money at a bank. Find banks that offer free banking or bank online for free like CapitalOne 360. Earn $25 when you open a free checking or high-yield savings account."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Change-counting machines

"Many of us like to keep our loose change in a jar and let it collect over time. Once it's full, don't pay machines to count it for you, go to your bank to deposit your savings or have it exchange for cash."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Wasting gas due to low tire pressure

"You may not know this, but having low tire pressure affects your mileage significantly. Save gas and money by improving your gas mileage by simply checking your tire pressure and maintaining it at the proper level."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Single car washing

"Many car wash places offer a flat monthly rate for unlimited washes, so check with your local car wash to find out if they offer a monthly rate and cash in on a clean car. Or, you can get a discount when you pump your gas."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Bottled water

"Unless you live in an area where potable water isn't safe, don't waste your money on bottled water. Often times, it's simply bottled tap water. Buy a reusable water bottle or invest in a quality water filter, and save (plus you'll reduce plastic waste)."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Cigarettes

"It's a tough addiction to beat, but it is a very expensive to purchase cigarettes daily. Aside from causing deadly health effects, according to Time, smoking can cost you $1 to $2 million in a lifetime. Make an effort to better your health and wallet."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Gift bags and wrapping

"Reuse bags from previous occasions if they are still in good condition. We started doing this last year and no longer have to run out and by $3+ gift bags when we go to events or parties."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Plastic bags fees

"For those living in an area where stores charge for plastic bags (*cough cough Chicago*), bring your own reusable one. Those cents add up!"

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Utility bill payment fees

"Skip the line at the currency exchange or grocery store and pay online using checking account or debit card. Some companies charge to use a debit card, so schedule e-check payment, which is typically free."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Travel size toiletries

"For the frequent traveler, you should buy empty travel containers and refill with shampoo, lotion, etc. as needed."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Paper

"Unless you're a student, you probably don't really need to buy a lot of paper – reuse already printed pages and use both sides."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Magazine and newspaper subscriptions

"Save money and paper by keeping up with free online news services."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Paying for premium streaming music services

"In the digital age of music, don't pay for premium services. Streaming companies like SoundCloud and Spotify allow you to listen to music for free."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Buying books

"If you'd like to truly own a book, then save on the paper and extra cost by purchasing the digital version, or go to your local library and check them out for free."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Library late fees

"Remember to return all materials on time. It'll save you money and allow for other library patrons to enjoy the material in a timely manner. If you do have library fees, wait for a month when they accept canned goods as a payment method (usually around the holidays)." 

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Brand new video games

"Skip the early release and commotion of having the latest video game. Save major bucks by purchasing a used version of the game online or at stores like Game Stop."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

In-app purchases

"Gaming apps are meant to entertain, and while most of them are free, don't fall for the "purchase bonus lives" trap. In-game purchases add up."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Greeting cards

"Take some time to make your own personal cards or send an eCard and skip on the expense."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

New phone chargers

"If you forget your charger and your phone needs to be charged, some time you'll be inclined to purchase a new one, but it can be costly or even poor quality. Always keep your charger handy, look for a charging station where you're at, or simply ask to borrow one."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Expiration dates

"Sometimes, expiration dates may not reflect the true shelf life of a product. Don't waste food (and money) by throwing out a product which may still be fine to consume. Check out Eat By Date and see for yourself the true shelf life of your groceries."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Stuff on your birthday

"When you're heading out and can't or don't want to drive, consider calling Uber or Lyft instead of calling a cab so you can save money on the ride. You can use my linkto get $20 off your first Uber ride."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Batteries

"Save on disposable batteries and purchase rechargeable ones. They can last up to two to three years."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Pens

"Many offices, banks, insurance companies, etc, give them away for free. Save them and skip on the purchase."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Insurance

"Be sure to get the best rate for your individual needs, whether it is car, health, home or life insurance."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Garbage bags

"If your area doesn't charge for using plastic bags, reuse the ones you get from shopping as garbage bags. I do this all the time."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

More house than you need

"While some families "grow into" their homes, sometimes less is more. Save on mortgage and the possibility of purchasing more for a larger home. Downsize and save."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Club/bar full cover charges

"While having a spontaneous night out is fun, if you RSVP when possible, arrive early, or take advantage of online ticket sales, you can skip out on paying in full at your favorite nightlife places."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Leaky faucets

"If you pay for water utility bill, according to the EPA, fixing leaky faucets saves you 10% on your bill. By ignoring it, you not only lose money every day it goes unfixed, but you also waste clean water, at a rate of 10,000 gallons per year."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Fast food restaurants

"Improve your health and wallet by not eating fast food often. It may be cheap, but it adds up, especially if you eat out a few times per week. Instead, spend the money and the time to grocery shop and prepare meals."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Cool drafts

"Save on heating and electric bills by fixing drafts and keep the warmth and cool in your home during the winter and summer."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Unnecessary data phone plans

"Unless you need unlimited data for work, you should not spend much on your cell phone bill. I save a ton of money on my cell phone bill by using Republic Wireless."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Pet food

"You may not be able to cut out this expense completely if you have pets, but you can score free cans of pet food with coupons occasionally so you won't have to spend as much."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Buying lunch

"Sometimes you're running late for work and don't have time to pack a lunch. Buying lunch often costs much more than preparing and bring a meal to work. Spend some time planning, purchasing and preparing meals ahead of time so they're ready to go, even when you're in a hurry."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Leaving electronics plugged in

"Even though you may not use them often, electronics that are plugged in still consume energy. Unplug appliances you don't you often and keep other electronics on a power strip, turning them off when not in use."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Prepared grocery store meals

"When you do go grocery shopping, sometimes the already-prepped sub or diced fruits and veggies tempt you to buy them and save time, but you'll be paying top dollar for those products. Plan a list ahead of time and buy the individual food items, then spend the time prepping them yourself in order to save.

If you have trouble making grocery lists and figuring out what you're going to eat each day, I'd highly recommend trying out the $5 Meal Plan so you can receive healthy meal plans and recipes to your inbox."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Vending machine snacks

"Not only are these snacks typically unhealthy (there goes your healthy habit), they are typically much more expensive than their grocery store counterparts. If you find yourself buying vending machine snacks, try to save the money instead and see how much you have leftover at the end of the month. You can probably invest it."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Transportation

"When you're heading out and can't or don't want to drive, consider calling Uber or Lyft instead of calling a cab so you can save money on the ride. You can use my link to get $20 off your first Uber ride."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Brand name items

"Save money by skipping on the brand names, like medicine, toiletries, and certain foods. Remember that healthier options with fewer additives may cost more and in that case they may be worth it. Otherwise, generic is the way to go."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Buying smaller/single packs

"Save money by skipping on the brand names, like medicine, toiletries, and certain foods. Remember that healthier options with fewer additives may cost more and in that case they may be worth it. Otherwise, generic is the way to go."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Purchasing paper towels/paper napkins

"You are purchasing these to eventually throw them out. Save on the waste and save money by buying reusable, washable towels and napkins. Your wallet and the environment will thank you."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Paying extra for night time movie showings

"Primetime showings are typically 2x higher than those during the day. Go to morning matinees or take advantage of weekly specials ($5 movie nights during the week)."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

Movie theater food

"Often times, movie theater food can cost more than the ticket to get in. Try to keep food purchases to a minimum when you can or eat a filling meal before you go see a movie."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

DVDs and On Demand

"Instead of spending money on purchasing the movie, subscribe to streaming services and find an alternative or go to your local library."

Credit: My Debt Epiphany

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Saving for retirement

Once upon a time, everyone worked for the same company their whole working lives, and at the end of their career they retired with a fat pension. Today, only 32% of retirees have any pension at all, and that number is trending steeply downward as employer pensions continue to vanish. That means the responsibility for financing a worker's retirement falls almost entirely on the worker. And given how bad Americans are at saving money, a lot of retirees run into serious income shortages as a result.

How to fix it: The earlier you start saving for retirement, the easier it will be: Money that sits in your retirement account for decades has plenty of time to be fruitful and multiply. If you didn't start saving right away, though, your case is definitely not hopeless. You'll just have to work a little harder to squeeze more cash out of your budget and be disciplined about paying yourself first. Luckily, workers today have access to powerful tax-advantaged retirement accounts, like 401(k)s and IRAs, that can help maximize whatever savings they manage to accrue.

Identity theft

While identity theft in one form or another is probably as old as mankind, it didn't become a significant issue until fairly recently. For example, the rise of credit cards meant that fraudsters could simply steal someone's wallet and go on a spending spree with their cards instead of being limited to whatever cash was in the victim's possession. And computers and the internet provide fraudsters with unprecedented access to sensitive financial information. In 2016 alone, 15.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft.

How to fix it: The first step in preventing identity theft is making it hard for people to get at your financial information. Even presenting something of a challenge makes it likely that fraudsters will go elsewhere in search of easier prey. Checking your credit report on a regular basis can also help you catch any fraud early on, thereby minimizing its magnitude.

(Ridiculously) high healthcare costs

The healthcare industry has made huge scientific advances in the past 50 years, but all that work has come at a very literal cost. In 1967, Americans spent $43.5 billion on healthcare expenses. In 2016, we spent $3.4 trillion, which adds up to about $10,350 per person. That's a whole lot more of an increase than inflation alone can explain -- and far more than most people can afford.

How to fix it:Health insurance is a financial necessity these days; virtually no one can pay such high healthcare costs unassisted. You can save quite a bit on insurance premiums by picking up a high-deductible plan paired with an HSA, then putting enough in the HSA to cover at least one year's deductible. That way, you'll have enough saved up to pay for any medical expenses until the insurance plan kicks in and takes over for you.

Protect yourself from financial disasters

Prevention is typically the best cure, and one of the easiest ways to keep yourself out of financial disasters is to have an emergency savings account. For example, if you have enough cash to cope with financial crises and big expenditures, you'll never have to run up a mountain of credit card debt in the first place. Think of your emergency savings as the cheapest insurance plan you'll ever buy.

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