Inflation: How Things Have Changed Since the Year of My Birth

My, how things have changed! Inflation has made quite a difference in the 30+ years of my existence.

For my birthday, my parents sent, among other things, a “Remember When” booklet that shares insights and information about my birth year. I discovered that Heath Ledger, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Claire Danes, and Brandy were all born in the same year.

There were some fun ads for things like VCRs, and my little geek heart beat faster at the thought that Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released that year (too bad the movie is so boring).

There was also a cool page detailing the cost of living for my birth year.

Inflation since my birth year

So let's take a look at some of the big differences.

I thought it was interesting to compare my own costs now to what they would have been had I been at this point in my life during the year of my birth. A house? You can only get a house that cheap now if you are buying a foreclosure—and it probably needs a lot of work to make it happen.

When I bought my new car two years ago, it cost way more than a new car in 1979. And movie tickets aren't even that cheap at the cheap theater! And we all know that we'll never see gas at 86 cents a gallon again.

Of course, on the other hand, I also make quite a bit more than the $17,533.00 per year that was the average income. Today, the median household income (which is not the same as the average, I know, so it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but it's my birthday, so I'm just finding things quick and dirty) is $51,017. And, even though income as adjusted for inflation hasn't really done a great job of keeping pace—at least for those at the lower end of the income scale, chances are that you probably make more than $17,500 a year.

Food inflation: WOW

Food is another area that has seen inflation as well. I'm looking at the list, and my husband could easily have done our food shopping for the week for less than $20. And that's with buying the expensive stuff.

I'm not sure I'd want to live then, though. Being born that year is fine, but I am really quite fond of all the technology I have right now. If I had reached my mid-30s in the year of my birth, I'd likely be stuck at home, without a cool job as a writer, with fewer opportunities than I enjoy now. My life includes a great deal of flexibility, and I am fortunate, even with the “problems” I have, that my income has kept pace with inflation and that I have the opportunities I do.

It is kind of depressing to see the effects of inflation, and see that things do cost more now, but at the same time, many of us have higher incomes, so we can handle it. What's hard is dealing with it if your income hasn't kept pace or if you have experienced a major financial setback.

What do you think? How have things changed in price since you were born? What is your favorite thing about being alive in this time period??

7 thoughts on “Inflation: How Things Have Changed Since the Year of My Birth”

  1. Personally, I’m still upset when I can’t get candy bars for 50 cents. I don’t even buy them. It’s just that seeing an 89 cent tag pisses me off.

    1. Ha. You’re right. 50 cents seems like a nice, reasonable number. And easy for a kid to purchase with allowance money. Of course, now I’m appalled at the allowances that some of my son’s classmates get…

  2. John S @ Frugal Rules

    It’s crazy how much prices have gone up, but that is the beauty of inflation I guess. 😉 I’m glad to be alive now because technology allows my wife and I to work from home and run our business. I’m sure we could’ve done that in times prior, but is much easier now.

    1. I can’t even imagine trying to freelance during without the Internet. I know it was possible, but I’m sure it was extremely frustrating! And those selling products from a shop would have to focus on a mail order business. Yikes! I agree that technology is a god-send for the home business owner.

  3. Your article drives home the point that we need to be much more future-oriented and a lot less present-oriented when it comes to our personal finances.

  4. My goodness, aren’t you young? I was born the same year that Ferranti released the world’s first programmable computer!

    I swore I would never do that old people thing of saying “In my day we could go out for an entire weekend on sixpence and still come home with change” because most people only focus on what they spent rather than on what they earned. So kudos to you for remembering both sides of the equation.

    Of course, you’ve left out the worst effect of inflation – how it destroys plans for the future. I remember people in the Sixities putting aside a nest egg of ?20,000 for their retirement in the Eighties only to find that it would not support them for a year let alone their whole retirement when the Eighties finally arrived. Whenever people come to me for advice about their retirement, I always tell them to find an investment that will at least keep up with inflation. At the moment, when the rate is between 3-7%, that is not too hard. However, it does become a challenge when inflation is 26% as it was in 1972 and will be again with all of this qualititative easing madness.

  5. shobir | Find Some Money

    I sometimes look back at the prices and think how crazy things are now, I can remember when ?10 went very far, now it’s virtually worthless when you take it to the supermarket. I would love a system where inflation was at 0 and interest rates or profit rates were at 6%, this would show us the true value of money. Great post Miranda, thanks for sharing.

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