Whenever I’m visiting the United States, I always take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade my computer, smartphone and wardrobe. For when it comes to purchasing consumer goods, the USA has some of lowest prices in the world. However, when it comes to paying for the following items, I cringe at how badly Americans are being ripped off.
1. Cell Phone / Internet / Television Subscriptions
I currently am paying $6/month in Russia for a cellphone plan the provides calling, texting and unlimited data. The lowest priced cellular plan I have ever had was in Ukraine, where I paid only $3/month and had unlimited data. Even in more developed countries such as Germany, my monthly cellphone bill was only around $10, and once again I had unlimited data. In addition, none of these plans ever required me to sign a contract. I could change my service provider at any time without penalty, and top up my account balance each month either in person, online or using a digital kiosk.
In comparison, the average monthly cellphone bill in the United States typically ranges from $50-$60, plus a $30 activation fee. If God forbid you ever go over your capped data limit, be ready to incur additional exorbitant charges.
I no longer even buy a US SIM card for short trips back to the United States. Instead, I just use the Whatsapp and Skype applications on my phone over a wifi connection for free.
Most cellphone, internet and cable companies have monopolies on different regions of the USA, and this lack of competition has allowed the market to stabilize at such high price points. At a minimum, an internet connection and cellphone are necessary items for almost every person to have for work, and thus people cannot opt out of purchasing them.
An American’s combined monthly cable, internet, home phone and cellular phone bills can even rival what some Europeans pays a month for rent.
While owning and fueling a car is often cheaper in the USA, those without a car are often at a large disadvantage. Public transportation outside of a few select major cities is often impractical, costly, uncomfortable and in many areas non-existent. Unlike Europe, which has budget airlines that let you fly between different countries for as little as 10 Euro, flying anywhere in the USA is much more expensive. The United States’ extremely limited, slow and expensive passenger train network makes flying almost always the better option. Long-distance bus services often take very indirect routes and use buses which are in bad condition. Albeit, the extreme vastness and distances in the United States makes the higher costs partially understandable. However, the US could still work on developing a better long-distance public transportation network.
3. Healthy Food
What we label in the United States as being organic/grass-fed/non-GMO for the purpose of charging a premium rate, the rest of the world just calls normal food. In the USA, highly processed fast-food, infused with addictive levels of sugar, fat and salt, are often cheaper than healthy alternatives. Low-income individuals can live in areas known as ‘food deserts,’ where healthy food options may not even be easily accessible. Being able to purchase healthy normal vegetables should not be a luxury reserved only for the well off.
The USA ranks top in the world when it comes to the cost of going to university. Many students come out of American universities with debt equal to that of a home mortgage. Even worse, many students don’t even finish their degrees or acquire skills that will increase their earning potential and ability to payback their loans.
In the many other nations, the cost of higher education is free for those who are admitted. I was able to study my master’s degree in Germany for basically free.
5. Medical Costs
You know somethings is messed up with health care in the United States, when American and other travel insurance companies are willing to insure you in every nation in the world for a low monthly rate if you are willing to singularly exclude the US from your travels. This makes sense given that a single night in an American hospital can cost thousands of dollars, even before any treatment is given. Incur injuries from a Somali pirate attack, no problem. Break your finger roller skating in California, you are on your own.
Are you self-employed and not able to get insured by an employer? Well good luck ever getting a decent rate. If you do find an affordable monthly plan, your deductible will likely be so high that minus a terrible accident, you won’t even be able to count on your insurance to pay for anything.