The advent of the online world has transformed the way people communicate, the way we receive and find information, and the way we manage our lives.

In particular, the internet has changed how people shop, analyze data, and handle their finances.

Looking back to how money was managed 10, 20, and even 50 years ago, and comparing it the way people control their finances today, there are a few clear conclusions.

For one, today’s individual has much more control and access when it comes to handling their own money. Secondly, emerging financial trends impact the economy and the way consumers spend their time and money, and the way company’s conduct business.

Here are some of the top money trends of the 21st century, including how money, banking, and shopping has changed over the years.

Cash and Cards

Paper money has been around for thousands and thousands of years. It wasn’t until the 1950s that credit cards were introduced, and the 1970s when debit cards were invented.

Around that same time, the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) was also invented. These innovations laid much of the groundwork for many money changes to come and opened up purchasing options when paying for goods, as well as establishing a solid way for people to track their finances.

Credit cards and debit cards gained considerable popularity because they reinvented spending and made conducting transactions as easy as swiping a card. Debit cards connected consumers straight to their bank account, and credit cards gave the purchaser a credit, where they could instantly make a transaction as a loan from the card’s issuer and pay them back at a later date.

Today, credit and debit cards are used everywhere. Almost every retailer has a machine for credit/debit payment. What’s more is that cards today have “chips” in them as an added security measure (to prevent fraud), where individuals can simply tap the chip on some retail machines to pay instantly.


There are many speculations about where and when checks began, with some experts tracing back their usage to Ancient Romans in 352 B.C. However, in Amsterdam, Holland, the concept of checks became more evolved when people began depositing their money into bank accounts, and cashiers gave out “notes”, which were essentially debits out of the user’s account.

The first printed check was used in 1762 in England by Lawrence Childs. At this time, serial numbers were also added onto checks as a way to keep track of them.

From then on, checks have been a relatively consistent form of payment. During the 80s and 90s, it was the norm to go into the bank on payday, cash your check, and pay your bills all at once. Now, checks are still used, but instead of going into you financial institution, some banks allow you to deposit them straight from your mobile device using their app.

Getting Paid

Employers have also adapted with the changing financial times. At first, cash or coin was how a business dispersed wages to its workers. Later, checks replaced cash as a traceable way to pay employees.


It is unclear when exactly “direct deposit” started, which gave the ability for a payer to deposit funds directly into a payee’s account. In 1996, the U.S. federal government put a law in place to make direct deposit available by 1999. Today, employers pay their workers by check or direct deposit in order to keep track of payroll and employee taxes.

Offline to Online


The trend towards digital has also shaped the way people shop, bank, and manage their finances.

While brick and mortar stores still exist, e-commerce websites have grown exponentially, changing the way we buy gifts, shop for clothes, order supplies, consume media, obtain an education, and so forth.

That is not to say that people don’t frequent malls, shops, or offices to get what they want. In fact, while a new, more convenient way to shop has been introduced, people tend to shop more on average in shopping centers per month as opposed to online, and actually spend more time in retail stores than they would on a single retail website. And it’s been recorded that consumers will spend more money in physical stores than on an e-commerce site.

With that said, statistics show that growth in the areas of e-commerce are way above those of in-store purchases— a fair indication that the online market is going to continue to grow.

Credit cards are the main form of payment accepted online, as well as other online payment services, such as PayPal. PayPal came out in 1998 and is linked directly to an individual’s bank account. It even has a consumer protection benefit that lets you contact them if there is need to refute charges for any reason. A growing number of e-commerce sites are adopting PayPal as a mainstream payment option.

Buy and Sell

If you wanted to sell something years ago, you had several options. You could:

  • Put an ad in a newspaper, classified newspapers, or local newsletter
  • Put up a physical sign in your yard or neighborhood
  • Tell friends, family, or colleagues about the item, and spread news of the sale through word-of-mouth
  • Hold a garage or yard sale
  • Put up a sign on a local bulletin board

If you wanted to buy something years ago, you would often just go directly to the source, or check one of the newspapers or above methods for leads. It was often that friends, family, or colleagues connected buyers and sellers on a deal.

Today, online classifieds, such as Kijiji, Craigslist, and others have taken over private sales and made it possible for people to post items for sale online, and to connect them with buyers in their local area.

Banking, Paying Bills, and Managing Finances

Before computers became mainstream, people usually went into their banks to pay bills, or visited the payee directly to make payments. You could mail in checks by snail mail to pay your bills too, but it took time for the check to reach its destination, which could be a problem if the bill was due before the money made it there.

Online Banking

One of the biggest innovations in finance has been the introduction of online banking. It was started in the 1980s in New York, and only a few exclusive banks offered it at the time.

While it was referred to “online” banking it was really better labeled telephone banking because the person could contact the bank by phone and have access to their funds. It allowed people to pay their bills and transfer money by telephone.

The bank of Scotland set up the UK’s first online banking system called “homelink” in 1983 which was connected through telephone or television, allowing people to see their bank statements.

Online banking as we know it today was born from telephone banking, and began in the early 90s. By 2009, over 54 million US households were banking online, and before long, in 2011, online banking was used by the majority of Americans.

The population today has instant access to their bank accounts online, whether they need to pay bills, apply for a credit card, or transfer money by email. Everything has become streamlined with automated processes.

Now people have a choice whether they wish to visit their local bank branch, or simply sign into their bank’s account via a computer, mobile device, or tablet.

Other Online Innovations

Among other financial advances that have been made possible by the internet include filing your taxes online, and managing everything from personal accounts and investments, to keeping track of a company’s payroll and expenditures.

The Evolution of Personal Finance

Personal finance has seen significant changes in the last century.

Technology has saved consumers an immense amount of time and money because everything is available to them through a click of a mouse, or the tap of a screen. It has also imparted a sense of control over how to budget and save, pay bills and spend.

In the future, finance will likely see continual changes as a result of digital innovations, such as new software programs, online services, and efficiencies that will make managing our money more practical, convenient, and manageable.

Which financial innovation has made your life easier?

Posted by Kristy DeSmit

Kristy is a blogger, Twitter enthusiast, and company legalese interpreter.