Times are tough. Even if you’ve got a regular income, it can sometimes be hard to make ends meet. It’s in times like these that we suddenly find out what it means to live cheap, lower our expenses and cut out all the rubbish that’s costing us a fortune every month.
According to the Bureau of Labour statistics, housing is the single most expensive component of consumer expenditure. The latest data suggests that it vacuums up more than 19.6 percent of income, paying for things like rent, utilities, and furnishings.
The good news is that technology is about to bring the price of many of those elements down – even rent.
Take solar panels, for instance. In the 1970s, you would have paid millions of dollars for a home, photovoltaic system. Now, with falling prices and the help of the Hero Program for solar, it’s less than a few thousand dollars – within the price range of most Americans.
Or what about furnishings? The average American parts with more than $2000 a year in exchange for furnishings of one kind or another. That’s about 20 percent of all money spent on housing. But where exactly is all the money going? Mostly it’s being spent on things like sofas and televisions – goods that are coming down in price inexorably thanks to the march of technology. TVs, for instance, are currently embroiled in their own version of Moore’s law. Every couple of years, you get twice the pixel density for the same price. Sofas too will come down in price as soon as 3D printing masters the art of printing out fabrics.
Then there’s the problem of rent itself. How can technology help with that? According to reports from Read Plain Text, prefab housing can reduce construction costs by between 20 and 30 percent. If enough houses could be built, and in the right place, that’d have a knock on effect, that would cause rents to fall. 3D printing is also being discussed as an option. The ultimate 3D printed house would be printed out on site to the owner’s specifications, requiring practically no labor input, besides somebody to make sure that the printer is correctly set up. In China, a developer printed out more than 10 houses in a single day using 3D printing processes.
Besides housing, the other main area where people are spending their money right now is in transport. In total, 17 percent of consumer expenditure is spent on going from A to B. The average household spends $3300 on vehicles, $2500 on gas and $1100 on auto insurance. In total, more than $6900 gets sunk into conventional transportation each year – and that’s not counting the train.
Technology is going to change all this. Lyft and Uber want transport to be an on-demand service. You won’t own a car – instead, you’ll be a renter without any assets, and all your movements will be tracked by big tech companies and the government, just like all your online actions are already.
It’s possible that with autonomous vehicles, on-demand transport, and electric cars, we could see transportation costs going down by an order of magnitude.