Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The High Cost Of Living

Earlier today, I went shopping for a few staple items at a large retail establishment once known for their low prices.  Items numbered in the teens, and included soap, cat food, bird seed, milk, a few vegetables, and a few other supplies that came to a grand total of 96 dollars and 50 cents.  96.50?????  I was floored!  On my way home I couldn't help but notice gas prices were the highest I've ever seen them, ranging from $3.89 per gallon at the low end, topping out at $3.99.  This made me wonder exactly how much have prices gone up over the last several decades, and here is what I found...

We all know how much most items cost today,
so let's start with the year I was born, 1964...
Gas per Gallon 30 cents
Average Cost of a new car $3,500.00 
Loaf of bread 21 cents
United States Postage Stamp 5 cents 

Bananas 10 cents per pound
Beef Chuck Roast 49 cents per pound
Cambells Soup 89 cents for 6 cans
Cheerios Cereal 28 cents per box
Colby Cheese 39 cents per pound
Green Peppers 5 cents each
Ground Beef 45 cents per pound
Ham 39 cents per pound
Heinz Catsup 28 cents
Hickory Smoked Hams 49 cents per pound
Ice Cream 79 cents half gallon
Jello 35 cents for 4 pks
Kraft Miracle Whip 51 cents for a large jar
Kraft Processed Cheese 39 cents 8 ounces
Land O Lakes Butter 67 cents per pound
Large Eggs 45 cents per dozen
Lettuce, iceberg 25 cents per head
Macaroni and Cheese dinners 39 cents
Oranges 89 cents for 2 dozen
Pack of chewing gum 5 cents
Potatoes 39 cents for 10 pounds
Skippy Peanut Butter 79 cents
Sliced Bacon 29 cents per pound
Sugar 38 cents for 5 pounds
Tide detergent (42 load box) 19 cents
Watermelon 2 1/2 cents per pound

WOW!  At these prices, I could have bought a whole YEAR's worth of groceries for that same $96.50!

Now the year I graduated high school, 1982...
A gallon of gas $1.99
A gallon of milk $1.59
Cheer Laundry Detergent (42 loads) $1.59
1 dozen large eggs: $0.65
Whole wheat bread: $0.80
Corn Flakes, 18 oz.: $1.63
Apple Juice 99 cents per gallon
Apples 39 cents a pound
Bacon $1.69 cents per pound
Blue Bonnet Margarine 50 cents per pound
White Bread Sliced 55 cents
Broccoli 39 cents per pound
Flour 99 cents for 5 pounds
Ground Beef $1.39 per pound
Heinz Ketchup 99 cents
Kraft Singles Cheese $1.47 for 12
Miracle Whip $1.27 Large jar
Navel Oranges $1.39 for 10
Peanut butter, Skippy $1.49  large jar
Pork and Beans 40 cents
Pork Chops $2.49 per pound
Pork Loin $1.39 per pound
Pot Roast $1.49 per pound
Potatoes $1.00 for 5 pounds
Tuna, Star Kist 99 cents per large can

Let's compare cars in 1964...
Buick Skylark GS $2,596
Buick Le Sabre $3,356
Cadillac De Ville $5,427
Chevrolet Biscayne $2,230
Chevrolet Camaro SS $2,588
Chevrolet Corvette $4,589
Chevrolet Malibu $2,156 
Chrysler New Yorker $5,680
Dodge Coronet V8 Club Coupe $2,595
Dodge 330 Series 2 dr Sedan $2,245
Dodge Coronet 440 $2,264
Dodge Lancer 4 dr Sedan $2,312
Ford Bronco 4 Wheel Drive $2499
Ford Galaxie 500 $2,881
Ford 100 Pickup $1795
Mercury Cougar $2,851
Oldsmobile Cutlass $2.713
Pontiac Firebird $2,667
Volkswagen beetle $1,769

And now, 1982...
Chevrolet Cavalier $7,171
BMW 325 $21,330
Buick Regal $6,119
Camaro Coupe $7,571
Chevy S10 Pickup $6,993
Datsun 210 sedan $4,516
Dodge Ram Charger 4 wheel drive $6,203
Ford Escort $5,189
Ford Mustang $6,572
Lincoln Zephyr $4,973
Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme $6,695
Plymouth Colt $4,999
Pontiac Firebird $5,992
Volkswagen Rabbit $6,994

Average 2000 square foot new home prices


1964 Federal debt: $290.5 billion
1982 Federal debt: $946 billion
2011 Federal debt:

Prices have really changed, and I would have to say not for the better.  Maybe the debt counter above holds the key to why our economy has changed so drastically.  I can't help but wonder where it will all end.


  1. Interesting stuff. Of course the question is whether average wages etc. have increased slower or faster than the average prices. After all, if you can by 100 times less with the "same" amount of money but you need to work 100 times less to earn that amount (not saying that this is actually the case), then the situation is pretty much the same.

    In a way the two worries about increasing prices and increasing debt may actually cancel eath other out. A quick calculation with the numbers you provided reveals that in 1964 the federal debt was about 23 million new 2000 square foot homes, and in 1982 it was only about 20 million new 2000 quare foot homes, so at least according to this single measure anchored to some tangible reality, the debt actually decreased!

  2. There is a conversion that you can do to see what the price of something in the past was in today's dollars. there's some websites that do it for you, but I cant remember the calculation or the website. Been a while since i took macroeconomics.