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?



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.