Living with Less continued; the Real Price of Things

Ruth Haag
Sep 17, 2013


Last week I wrote about how to live with less money along with ideas about how to get a higher paying job.  Many felt that I must never had been poor.  Some felt my ideas on how to live with less were time consuming and they didn’t want to do them.  Some said they felt that they should be able to enjoy the same things that rich people enjoy.  Others felt that my ideas were good and useful and these people helpfully added other cost savers into the mix.  Still others lamented the fact that while minimum wage has risen since the 1960s, that the cost of items has too, and therefore we are worse off financially now than in the 1960s and 1970s.  


I first started to think about this when I read an article that compared not the actual dollars, but the number of hours needed to work in order to buy an item.  Now this is really for thinking people, so take a deep breath and think with me.  When I was first working in 1969, I made $1 per hour which I believe was the minimum wage for part-time workers.  At that time if I wanted to buy a new pair of shoes, they cost me $17, so it took me 17 hours of work to purchase a pair of shoes.  They were nice shoes, discount outlets were not available then or at least not where I was living.  Now the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and I can go to TJMaxx and find a nice pair of shoes for $30.  So it would take me about 4.25 hours at the current minimum wage to purchase a nice pair of shoes.  If I want a really nice pair of shoes that cost say, $100,  I would have to work 14 hours at minimum wage.  The conclusion that I come to is that it takes fewer hours of work to purchase a pair of shoes in 2013 than it did in 1969.


Here are some charts that I made up in 2011 to look at this.  I used items that I could track the price of over the years, such as a McDonald’s hamburger or a Ford Mustang.  I divided those prices by the then-current Federal Minimum Wage.  Interesting isn’t it?




I think you might be missing a few variables in your example that are important when comparing wages, goods and services in one year vs. another.

Your example uses a gross wage calculation vs. net income. I don't know all the taxes that would have been taken out of your pay in '69 vs. today, but I would suggest using net income in your wage calculation. And speaking of taxes, it'd also be important to note the sales tax on those pair of shoes in '69 vs. today.

I found the following website that has cost comparisons between 1966 (close enough to 1969, I think) and today:
As you can see, the federal minimum wage for 1966 in 2013 dollars is actually higher than today's federal minimum wage. What would be interesting to know is the cost of a pair of 1966 shoes converted into 2013 dollars. Still, I assert it would be important to convert 1966 numbers into 2013 equivalent dollars, then make sure to use net income figures to determine after-tax net income.


Found an even better website to help in comparing 1969 to 2012 (close enough for example purposes):

Using the site's calculator, $1.00 in 1969 has a purchasing power equivalent in 2012 of $6.26. Since the website's calculator is pegged to the CPI, this would therefore seem to indicate the $7.25 wage in 2012 had more buying power when compared to 1969, which in turns supports your conclusion it would take fewer work time hours to purchase a pair of shoes today than in '69.


Anyone ever notice how every privileged white person over the age of 50 has a story about how poor they were way back when?

I bet her minimum wage job was answering phones at her dad's office. Then she went to a good private college without taking on debt because her dad paid for it then she got a good job through family connections.


Not every "privileged white person" has a story about how poor they once were, just the ones who actually had to get off their butts and work hard for their well-deserved success.

Sure, some of them are a lot more successful than others. But I'll bet they spent some serious sweat and tears getting there! And no, not everybody who deserves more success gets it. But on balance, you get what you pay for. And that goes for education, career, even family. Your envy is showing...


You sound like you've enjoyed a very privileged life.


It depends on how you define "very privileged." Have I ever had to sleep under a bridge? No. Have I ever had to go hungry for a few days? Yes. Have I ever considered applying for welfare? No. Have I ever had to buy clothing and other items at thrift stores because I couldn't afford retail? Yes.

In comparison with some people in some places in the world, you're right: I'm very privileged! But then in comparison with those same people, even the poorest Americans are very privileged! Maybe more of us should stop crying about how privileged we're NOT, start appreciating how privileged we ARE, and then work hard to become even more so! Oh, but wait, that might require effort...


Quite a few assumptions . . . Assuming the "privileged white person" you are writing about is Ruth, perhaps Ruth did indeed answer phones at her dad's office, but what if her "pay" was in the form of deferred payment where her father paid for her college education? And perhaps Ruth answered phones ever since she was a little girl. Even if her Dad did pay for her college, it was still up to Ruth to attend classes and do well in school. Perhaps she did well enough that she was then hired post graduation based on her skills and work output.

Sandusksquach, I have no idea how old you are or your life circumstances, but I would request you not envy others you consider "privileged" as you have not walked a mile in their shoes. Our lives are what we make of them.


Most of your life is a result of factors beyond your control. Being over 50 means you automatically have privileges I will not receive. Just admit you were lucky.


We disagree: I don't believe most of my life is a result of factors beyond my control.

As a 54-year old, I truly am interested in learning what privileges you believe I have automatically received that you will not.


A chance to be a young adult during the greatest economic expansion in world history, for starters.


"A chance to be a young adult during the greatest economic expansion in world history, for starters."

I wish that the internet was around in the 1960s like it is today. The internet allows a person to get a great education. I don't waste time on Facebook, twitter and the other social garbage. Get to know the truth about this once great nation and try to make change. Stop voting in the rich ruling class into public office. You do really have a choice and a chance to make change to our country.

Use the internet to start a business from home. You could buy wholesale and sell retail. Start with an eBay store as a start. You never get rich working for somebody. You get ahead by saving, investing and working for yourself.

Work to change some stupid laws. Legalize hemp and start up new businesses. The farmers will grow the crop and you will sell the products online.

Get started now to make change. Time will not wait for you.


Sanduskysquach...racist much?


Old white people were given everything and then they ruined the country. Is that racist?


"Old white people were given everything and then they ruined the country."
Is that racist?

Yes, that is really racist. White people, now old, worked for civil rights in the south during the 1960s. Young blacks were given opportunities, sometimes more than whites. There was reverse discrimination against whites when it came to education and jobs.
"Does affirmative action punish whites?"



I'm white and over 50. Want to trade stories of jobs, education and sacrifice?


So you were given every advantage society can provided and you managed not to go bankrupt too many times. Way to go!

The Big Dog's back

The one thing about people coming from a privileged home is that they can afford to make career mistakes. The family has their financial backs. Just facts, nothing else.


Too bad the federal minimum wage was paid mostly to kids back then, and was a starting wage. Now it is paid for many adult jobs, and there are a whole lot more things to pay for than a car and some McD's. I'm not complaining, I think Ruth gave a lot of helpful hints about saving money. I'm white and over 50 as well, and I'm neither rich nor poor. Those are relative terms. I am, however, feeling the pinch financially, as are a lot of us. Here is another point to consider: When you did buy something in the 60s or 70s, it normally lasted a very long time, because it was made here in the U.S. by decently-paid American workers, and if it broke, a repairman could be called to fix it. There were people who fixed your shoes and service stations where you could get gas, oil, air for your tires, and your car diagnosed and fixed. Doctors made house calls and charged very little. A lot of women stayed home with the kids. I'm not saying one era was better or worse than another, but I am saying that minimum wages are not going to stretch as far as they used to.


I buy broken stuff at garage sales and fix it all the time. I fix my own car. I don't want a doctor to make a house call, because he won't have the tools to do me much good.


We had a family doctor, when I was a child, who would do house calls. He was the most caring person. My mom didn't drive, and a couple times I remember him coming over and bringing medicine for me. Of course it tasted horrible back then, and I didn't have the appreciation for it as a kid, but I do now. They don't make them like Doc Parker anymore. Again, being nostalgic.


Good point, My mother had a electric skillet and other appliances which lasted almost 40 years! People in those days took much better care of their belongings. Everything, back then was made better.

Nowadays, it's a dinosaur after 6 months, I had a brand new microwave which didn't last much over one year before the motor burned up. It wasn't used that much or used hard, either.

Kottage Kat

In 1969 as a new graduate LPN I made 2.03 an hour. Working full time at Memorial Hospital


Excellent fact Starryeyes. Witnessed 1rst hand with my father who was an authority with a company & their products from Detroit. (He was with a "branded" dealership). Further when replacing an axel seal on a 1989 Chevy, figured I'd replace rear brake shoes rather than de-greasing them. Purchased new brake shoes from NAPA. Went to install new shoes & noticed that about the same amount of brake material was equal to old shoes. Finished the repair, returned cores to NAPA & told them. Parts man stated that most companies put less new product on shoes & charge more. My point is this: years ago products were better. Now they are cheapened & cost more. Not to mention most vehicles & other related OEM equipment isn't meant to be readily serviced by individuals anymore. The non-service of products is engineered by manufactures that way. Read Ward's Auto World or consult S.A.E, Society of Automotive Engineers. That's one of the many differences today's people face compared to R. Haag's time.


The rich can't get enough money.

That's why they moved their businesses to foreign countries.


"Not to mention most vehicles & other related OEM equipment isn't meant to be readily serviced by individuals anymore."

Many of the things on cars are required, by regulations from the gov't, to be controlled by the on board computer. No points to set and change, even the brakes on newer cars have to have a computer told to recognize that new parts have been added so the "idiot light" won't go on and such. Most people don't have the hookups to "talk" to the on board computers. One of the reasons you don't need a tune up every 12,000 miles, now the plugs last 100,000 miles. It is called "progress". Some people need to be dragged into the present from trying to hold onto the past. Struggling to hold onto the past in such things never has worked. You have to keep up with the new tech. Welcome to the present, quit trying to stay in the past.


Tires now last 80,000 miles, unheard of only 15 years ago. When was the last time you had to pump the gas pedal and coax a car into starting, a regular winter occurance back in those golden days of which you speak? How jaded people are by progress.


Kurtje is right about the vehicles, too. Even as a young lady with limited mechanical skills, I could get the big Chilton's book (remember those?) at the library, and do a lot of my own car repairs. When I did need a mechanic, I had a great guy (who, by the way was black and owned a very successful service station) who would do the repairs, show me exactly what he was doing, and let me make payments. And fed me a plate of soul food! Now, you can't even begin to fix a vehicle yourself, or get decent parts. We also used to be able to buy re-tread tires and take them to Wassner's to have them mounted (all cheap)and get where you had to go on a few bucks worth of gas, even in a great big car with a V8 engine.


"Now, you can't even begin to fix a vehicle yourself"

Bull. I fix my own cars all the time. If anything, it's gotten easier. Take it to Autozone, they'll plug in a code reader and tell you what's wrong.

The price to drive a mile has actually decreased, IF you don't buy a status symbol car.


I can just do the very basic stuff with mine, I don't want to screw things up even worse by trying to fix some of the things myself. I am a bit limited on vehicle repairs these days. However, I am a pretty good troubleshooter with home appliances and things like that, and do a pretty decent fix. I have a 10 year old SUV, and my ex once put a battery in, and everything went haywire. And he is excellent with the older vehicles. I did make my battery last a whole lot longer than it was meant to, but kept off interior lights, radio, etc. When the guy plugged it in, he said I was about 600 cold-crankin' amps short of what it took to start it. Yet it started, hesitantly, every day. I'm not super religious, but I think when I would say "Please God let it start" someone was listening...


You can do far more these days. For $35 you can buy an ODBCII code reader, which will read the diagnostic codes. Often, the googling the code will tell you exactly what to do to fix it, and odds are good someone has posted illustrated instructions or even a video of the procedure online.

And yet some whine about technology making it so you can't fix your own car.


Complain to the gov't regulators. They require the new cars to have most things controlled throgh the on board computers. The brakes won't recognize the new parts and will light an "idiot light' and reduce the performance of the car till a computer tells the car computer that new parts have been added. same with many part on the car. You can buy a computer or interface for your PC and the software to "speak" to the cars computer, then get the training to talk to it. Those are some of the gov't regulations that have happened over the last 20 years or so. welcome to the present, No use kicking and struggling to try to remain in the past, it never works. Embrace the present and try to keep up with the present tech and keep up with the gov't regulations that your gov't requires of you. Don't complain about the changes the gov't requires of you. grit your teeth and smile, you voted for the change.


I'm not complaining, just being nostalgic. It is what it is. I just really miss the old-school service stations!


Grumpee you have to be mentally challenged. Our family has always walked independent. Past, present & future. You clearly must not be mechanically inclined. The Ford 9N tractor is still fuel efficient & reliable for small farmers - not Agri-buSINess. Why throw stuff away if it can be re-built, re-furbished, etc. Again you oldsters paid less for fuel. In my families time they created (some still do) their own transportation. That saves major dollars; spend it for farm ground. Duh.


A few years ago when gas prices were close to or above $5/gallon, a few farmers in very rural areas decided to bring their horses and buckboard wagons out of retirement. Twas amazing.


doubled again.


Talk about mentally challenged. Where did I say anything about old farm tractors? IIRC 9N's were last made in the mid-50's. Not what I would call a new car. I stated NEW cars with computers. But that would require some reading comprehension for you to see and remember that.

Sorry if I don't take seriously your "claim" about walking independent. You seem to follow the sheep and the gov't too closely for such a claim to be taken seriously. The gov't needs more like you.


I spent the first 18 years of my life in Sandusky. Since '89 I've been living in Oregon, and judging from many comments on this thread, my family is extremely fortunate . . .

I can't pump my own gas. Oregon is one of 2 states in this regard. And at the major oil company locations such as Chevron, it's common for the attendants to clean the windows.

Almost all the grocery stores ask if they can help you out with your groceries. Tis true.

When I purchased our Maytag washer and dryer a few years ago, I also purchased a 5 year extended warranty. Probably one of the best decisions I've made because our local, small town appliance store has been at our home at least once/year to fix issues such as the washer rubber cowling having a tear in it (replaced the cowling) or the motor needed replacement. And we can usually count on getting a repairman out to the house within a day or two after calling, except during elk hunting season. Same with a plumber, electrician or HVAC guy. But it's all good as I usually get bones from the guys to make bone broth. I've gone out on an elk hunt, and it's pretty amazing. But I digress . . .

Starting in early July and running through mid-September, we drive out to the Oregon Northern Coast (~1 hour), buy albacore tuna (this year it was $2.80/lb) right off the boats when they come in, then spend a couple of days canning it. This year we processed 100 pint jars.

While our boys were still living at home, we purchased a chest freezer and would join in with another family each year to purchase a whole steer from a local farmer, ending up with ground beef, roasts, steaks and such that averaged out to less than $4/pound. We also get eggs from this same farmer. And did you know eggs can keep 3-4 weeks without ever being refrigerated as long as you don't wash them off until you're going to use them? There's a natural preservative coating on them, so we leave them out on the counter, out of direct sunlight, and simply wash them off just before using them.

My three sons, now in their early to mid 20's, all actually walked to/from grammar school on occasion. When the eldest reached driving age, at the advice of a good friend we purchased a '95 BMW sedan w/101k miles on it, picked up a Bentley manual, and the boys and I became adept at auto repair, though to this day I don't know why those truly amazing German engineers ever decided the best place to put a back-up light switch, which is about the size of an adult male's thumb, smack dab in the middle of the undercarriage such that the entire car has to be lifted up to get to the part. Took me 20 minutes to elevate the car enough to reach the switch, and only 5 minutes to reach the switch. But again, I digress . . .

Given my wife's nutritional therapy career, we ditched our microwave 6 years ago, using mostly cast iron cookware but also some stainless steel.

Goodwill in Oregon has the highest overall sales of any state, and we mostly shop at the local Goodwill stores, often finding new clothing with the original tags still attached. I have a rack full of Polo and J. Crew dress shirts, most looking brand new, that I picked up for as little as $5/shirt. We've also found numerous household items at Goodwill. We'll still purchase new for some items like running sneakers, but when I can find bargains like last year when I grabbed 5 new pairs of Nike running shorts at a local Goodwill that were Nike seconds (I never found the flaws), at $7/pair that's over 70% off the original retail price, that's an incredible bargain I can't pass up.

My local mechanic is a reluctant mechanic. Why reluctant? His grandfather opened an auto repair shop, and his Dad kept it running. My guy grabbed a couple of degrees at the U of Oregon, with one being in philosophy, never intending to follow in his family's footsteps, yet when my mechanics Dad became ill, he helped out his Dad and then eventually took over the business. But they guy is incredibly kind, efficient and honest. There's been numerous times where he's told me what's wrong with a vehicle (including the BMW when the Bentley manual didn't have the info), how I could exactly fix the problem myself if I wanted to, and doesn't have a problem with doing so.

I don't watch much television, other than the Buckeye's on Saturday's in the Fall, because I'm usually too busy fixing up an old piece of furniture my wife purchased or working on yet another renovation project in my old money pit of a home or helping a neighbor on a project or . . .

I'm not saying all is Heaven here in Oregon, just that there are still opportunities in this day and age to save money. It takes time to build a network, change a lifestyle and be diligent, but it's still very much possible.


Cool journey OSU.... thanks for sharing !


Again you got your stuff wrong grump. The 2N came in the 40's...I think 1942. It had a 4speed. 9N's were 1rst with a 3speed. Back on topic - this article & prior discourse demonstrates vividly how years ago everyday items could be MUCH more easily renewed or re-used. Now it seems purchases aren't meant to endure as much. Planned obsolescence? (Still eating nettles, 1rst harvest was March 30) R.Haag has valid points, though things have shifted much. Check out R. Buckminster Fullers Dynamaxion Car. Avant-garde. Or the VW-X1.


Sorry I got the years the 9N was made wrong. I should have done what you did... look it up on the wiki. A tractor that is actually used on less than .1 of 1% all farm ground in this country today. Probably closer to .01 of 1%, if that much.


Uhh..memory on mine. The Buckeye Trencher is in Mich. My lineage's patent is expired, though they invented the 1rst tile machine. F.Hill/Fremont, Ohio. One of his units is in The Henry Ford Museum Wanna buy some hedge-apple posts for pasture?


As I stated earlier, stuck in the past, can't or won't evolve with the times. I hope some day you can actually embrace the 21 century before it is half over. Some people can't keep up with the changes and decide to live in the past as much as they can. Enjoy the past... hint times change and things modernize.


Grump I'm here to help you. Learn from the past & embrace the new. Buy stocks in Tata Motors. They hold the patent for the Singh Grove. (look that up) Hoping to make a bit when other OEM's use it. (HEMI design got utilized in similar fashion too) Sunrise in Norwalk. Ask them about low propane usage fee. I no longer pay that either. Some learn to depend on themselves beside having conventional income. It is called being independent.


Sorry I rarely buy individual stocks. last I bought was Apple, which I sold before the founder Jobs died. He could navigate the rapids with that oversized behemoth, but those he left behind... not so much. You can roll the dice all you wish in buying individual stocks. I haven't heard about about Singh Grove for a decade. Is he still pushing his squish cylinder deal? Same thing he did near 15 years ago? Hasn't he proved it by now? Wasn't Tata the one who bought Hummer?


Tata bought Land Rover & Jaguar. Not sure on HumVees Tata is very diversified too. More than low cost autos. India's economy shows much promise imo.


Go to google and enter Jaguar reviews, land rover reviews, jaguar build quality, and land rover build quality. Then you will see why I would not consider buying stock in the parent company, nor one of the vehicles.

Truth or Dare

Hey OSU; If you're out there, I'm just curious, but you driving to Astoria to get that Albacore? I lived there from Sept. of 77 until Sept. of 80. Went to school at Clatsop Community College. Boy do I miss it, along with the Columbia River, the Gorge, Seaside, the Pacific and Ocean Hwy., the fresh Albacore and Salmon off the boats (my boyfriend at the time worked on the docks). I worked for Bumble Bee Sea Foods. I miss those huge orange mushrooms you hunted for in the forest. They were like eating steak, and no folks, you didn't get stoned off them! We ate goose, elk, and it was hunted for, not bought at the store. It was the first time I ever ate a pig cooked in the ground, w/a goat in a pit next to it, gooseberry pie, an avocado, and I dug for my own clams. We went camping in the forest, rock-hounding and beachcombing. I still have my collection. I also learned how bad of a sunburn you'll get from swimming in salt water. We watched Mt. St Helens spew it's guts from the top of another small inland mountain. Oregon changed my life, my mind, my spirit. It gave me a new appreciation for all things, people included and especially my family. It was 3 yrs. of many firsts! God knows I miss it and if you do go to Astoria, throw it a big kiss from me. I'll make it back there one day to visit, hoping to find at least a few of the people that were more than willing to open their arms and be kind to a young stranger, helping to teach a whole different way of life. They don't call it God's Country for nothing!

To stay on topic, I think they call it inflation, right? It's amazing what you can do w/less. By the way, most people don't miss what they've never had. Nor do they covet others for what they do have, and one should never be so bold as to say that they don't think those that are poor, aren't. Tell that to the millions of U.S. children that don't know where their next meal will come from, that go to bed hungry and wake up even hungrier.


Things have gotten expensive. The furniture stores are now charging $100 to deliver furniture and the appliance repairman wants $100 just to step foot into your house not counting the repair and parts. Appliances don't last more than 10 years anymore and TV's about five years and you have to trash them. They sure don't make things like they use to anymore. What a shame.