8 surprising purchases that cost the same (or less) than they did in the 80s


After a long hiatus in public discourse, inflation is once again a hot topic. It seems the prices of everything are skyrocketing.

While it’s important to understand how inflation works and its impact, it’s good to realize that the real prices of some things have held steady or even fallen over the past few decades. Of course, inflation is still real. It makes sense to to save money and or earn extra money where you can.

Here are eight things that cost the same or are actually cheaper today than they were in the 1980s in inflation-adjusted terms. We used the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI Inflation Calculator to convert original prices to inflation-adjusted prices for true comparison.

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1. Gas

It’s strange that the price of a finite resource has fallen over the decades, but falling costs of extraction and refining are among the factors that have helped drive down the price of gas over the past 40 years. Yes, even despite all the price changes of recent times.

There are cyclical highs and lows, but for the most part gas has stayed within a very specific range that is generally lower today than it was 40 years ago.

In 1981, the price of a gallon of gasoline was $1.49, or $4.84 in today’s dollars.

The average gas price in the United States on May 24 this year was $4.59, according to AAA’s daily survey.

Pro Tip: If the cost of running your car is eating away at your funds, you can save some money by shopping around for the best car insurance policy.

2. Phone calls

Phone calls were billed by the minute in the days of landlines. In the 1980s, most local telephone systems in the United States made local calls (within the same area code) for free under monthly service charges ranging from $5 to $17 per area. These service fees are approximately $17 to $51 in today’s dollars.

Long distance calls were billed based on distance, time of day and time of day. Longer distances were charged more and calling during business hours during the day cost more than talking at night and on weekends. In 1980, a five-minute call between Los Angeles and Detroit on weekdays cost $2.17, or $7.36 in today’s money.

Cell phone plans today offer unlimited talk minutes to any area or region of the United States, and you can pay less than $50 depending on the carrier. Phone calls to anywhere in the world are free over Wi-Fi with VOIP applications such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime and Zoom.

3. KitchenAid Mixers

KitchenAid mixers became ubiquitous in home kitchens in the 1950s when designer colors were introduced with the idea that home cooks would leave them on their counters. Because manufacturing costs have fallen, the price of a good KitchenAid home has fallen steadily over the past 70 years.

We couldn’t find prices from the 1980s. But back in the 1950s, the retail price of the 4.5-quart KitchenAid Stand Mixer with Chopper/Grinder Attachment was $124.50. Take that price in 1955 and advance it to today, and it’s the equivalent of $1,340.61.

Today, you can pick up the KitchenAid Ultra Power Plus 4.5-quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer in a trendy color for $399.99, with the chopper/grinder attachment for an additional $49.99, for a cost total of $448.98.

4. The newspaper

In 1985, a daily copy of The New York Times cost 40 cents. If you bought the newspaper every day for a year, that would be $146 a year, or $394.51 in today’s dollars.

While it’s always possible to get hard copies of the NYT, most of us read it online on a tablet, phone, or laptop. A digital subscription for “news access” costs $4.25 per week or $221 per year. And you can often get it for much less during sales.

5. Big red chewing gum

In 1980, gum manufacturer Wrigley advertised the cost of a 7-stick pack of Big Red cinnamon-flavored gum as going up to 25 cents, which meant that each stick cost about 4 cents. This is equivalent to 11 cents today.

Today, Wrigley has increased the number of gum sticks in each pack to 15, and you can get a 10-pack containing 15 sticks per pack of Big Red Gum for $11.90. This means that the price per stick is only around 8 cents.

6. Televisions

In 1985, a 20-inch color television sold for $500, or about $1,351 in today’s dollars.

Today, you can get a 55-inch LG LED smart TV for $700. It’s hard to find a 20-inch TV now, but you can get the Vizio 24-inch LED Smart TV for $170.

7. Mortgage rates

Mortgage rates skyrocketed in the late 1970s due to inflation and spent the next 40 years returning to a lower, more consistent rate.

The average mortgage rate in 1982 exceeded 16%. The average mortgage rate today is around 6%, depending on the type and term of the mortgage.

While soaring house prices are a huge concern, mortgages are more affordable. Thus, home buyers pay less interest relative to the price of the home.

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8. Shoes

In the 1980s, a pair of women’s heeled sandals from JC Penney cost $24, or $64.85 in today’s dollars.

Today, the style is back and the same shoe from JCPenney is $65.

At the end of the line

It is encouraging to see that real prices have fallen for these common items that are an integral part of many consumers’ daily lives. Televisions, shoes, gasoline, etc. can be manufactured more cheaply and that cost is passed on to consumers to help beat today’s high prices. Despite the fact that these items are more affordable now, inflation still impacts our wallets. Consider ways to save money to help reduce your overall expenses, or earn extra money where you can.

Advances in technology are likely to drive down the real prices of these and other products we use daily over the next 40 years.

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This article 8 surprising purchases that cost the same (or less) than they did in the 80s originally appeared on FinanceBuzz.

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