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  • Millennials and Gen Z have all heard the frequent  Baby Boomer complaint: if you didn't spend your  

  • money on lattes and avocado toast, you could buyhouse. But, what did houses actually cost 50, 75,  

  • 100 years ago? And how much could you  buy back then for let's say...one dollar?

  • 1920: Picture it. A pandemic is  winding down and people who have  

  • been locked down for over a year are  starting to pretend it never happened,  

  • go out, and drink and party like there's  no tomorrow. That wasn't hard, was it?

  • A US citizen collects their paycheck and starts  figuring out their budget for the rest of the  

  • week. If you're a man, congratulationsyou have earned an average of $27  

  • a week! If you're a woman, we're sorry to inform  you your salary is closer to $12 a week. But hey,  

  • on the upside, in August of 1920  you're getting the right to vote.  

  • Hang in there, equality is coming right  along in the next thousand years or so.

  • A dollar in 1920 was equivalent  to about $13.58 in 2021.  

  • A man's cotton shirt cost on average around  $1.31. However, depending on the brand,  

  • they could run as low as 75 cents or as high as  $1.50 - that's pretty affordable. The bad news is,  

  • it's 1920, so men also required about 200% more  clothing to be adequately covered for the era.

  • A woman could get a cotton blouse for around  $1.58. However, let's not even go into how much  

  • more clothing women needed to bemodestback  then. A blouse ain't covering it, literally.

  • Since the pandemic was still kinda around, and  we now know that means hoarding toilet paper  

  • like you ate Taco Bell leftovers, you're  going to want to stock up on that.  

  • Two rolls of toilet paper run  around 25 cents. So for a dollar,  

  • a 1920s housewife - cause let's face it, who else  is doing the shopping - could acquire eight rolls!

  • Now what else is on the shopping list forgood ol' 1920s family? Groceries, of course!

  • Some things, like a loaf of bread, were very  affordable and roughly equivalent - accounting  

  • for inflation, of course - to what those  products would cost now. At around 7  

  • cents - $1.69 in today's dollars - a family could  buy almost thirteen loaves of bread for a dollar.

  • However, you may be surprised to discover  that some foods were relatively much more  

  • expensive in 1920. For example, a  dozen eggs cost around $0.34 - or  

  • $8.23 in today's dollars - way costlier  than the average 2021 citizen expects.  

  • A dollar in 1920 could buy around three dozen  eggs, or, just under three pounds of butter.

  • That's right, butter back then was 36 cents -  $8.72 in today's dollars, or around double what it  

  • costs in most places in the US. So why were some  foods so much more expensive than we're used to?

  • Well, in 1920, a lot of farm production  was still on the smaller side.  

  • Especially when it came to animal  products like eggs and butter,  

  • there was less efficient mass  production than there is today.

  • Eggs and poultry used to be luxury  items that American households would  

  • serve only once in a while. In the  first half of the 20th century,  

  • the average US citizen ate around 6 chickens  per year in total. In 2021, the average US  

  • citizen can probably eat 6 chickens in an extra  large bucket of KFC. More accurately though,  

  • US citizens consume chicken around 3-4 times  per week for a total of 30 whole birds per year.

  • today, and fed grain. So poultry and eggs ended up  much pricier than they are today. Cows also roamed  

  • around free and were almost all grass-fedThis was reflected in meat and dairy prices.

  • A sirloin steak cost around 25 cents  per pound, or $6.05 in today's dollars.  

  • So for a dollar you could buy four  pounds of steaks and feed your family;  

  • but that was a pricey proposition and only to  be used for special occasions and indulgences.

  • The other group of products that was surprisingly  pricier in 1920? Household appliances. Things  

  • like vacuum cleaners were just starting  to be marketed to American consumers.  

  • Cleaning the house was a much more exhausting and  time-consuming proposition for women back then.

  • For example, the new Hoover Electric  Cleaner, one of the countless things  

  • we're certain a radio announcer marketed to US  housewives as necessary for keeping their man  

  • or being a proper lady or whatever insanity  was happening in advertising those days,  

  • sold for about 39 dollars, or 503 dollars today.

  • The technology was new and mass  production was still being figured out,  

  • so women either had to budget almost three  weeks of paychecks on a vacuum cleaner,  

  • or, more likely, sit there  scrubbing the whole floor by hand.

  • How about home entertainment? What  could you get for a dollar there?  

  • We're still a long way off from television, but  surely radios were around every corner back then.

  • Well, not exactly. See, an average radio  back in 1920 cost over $200! That's even  

  • more than a radio would cost in 2021. But 200  dollars back then translates to around $2,577  

  • today. This was completely unaffordable  for the average American household.

  • However, the price of radios would drop  to around $35 by the end of the decade,  

  • as the technology became  easier and cheaper to produce.

  • That's why when it came to listening to  music, most people opted for vinyl records.  

  • Not because the sound quality is (a little  sarcastically) just like, not the same now,  

  • man, or whatever Williamsburg hipsters  tell you, but because it was the only  

  • other option for listening to music besides  hiring a live band to perform in your house.

  • An average vinyl record cost  between 85 cents and $1.25,  

  • so a dollar could probably get you  a pretty great album back then.

  • So this hypothetical 1920s family  has already bought their steaks for  

  • a special Sunday dinner and some other groceries,  

  • and the father has been listening to his hip new  album while his wife scrubs the floors. Now the  

  • couple realizes, it's the roaring 20s, they're  still young, and they need to go out on the town.

  • It's time to leave the kids at home - the  walls should be a good enough babysitter  

  • in the non-helicopter parenting year of 1920 -  and get ready! How are they getting everywhere?

  • Well, a family car, let's say a Chevrolet, is  still incredibly expensive to own at around $525,  

  • even though it sounds quite affordable compared  to our cars, at just around $6,790 in 2021 prices.  

  • And gas costs an average of 30 cents a gallon  nationwide, or around $3.87 in today's prices. We  

  • generally only pay that now in the US if we live  in a very expensive city or when one of our wars  

  • has gone terribly, horribly wrong and we've ruined  relations with several oil-producing countries.

  • The better option, if our hypothetical  1920s family is living in a big city,  

  • is to take the bus or the subway for justcents. That's equivalent to around 68 cents today,  

  • or in other words, much less than the $2.75  the MTA in New York currently charges you  

  • for your most likely delayed subway. In generalpublic transportation was much cheaper back then.

  • Our 1920s woman goes out first and stops  by the hairdresser to fix her split ends,  

  • which really got out of control  while she was in lockdown. The  

  • stylist charges her 65 cents forhaircut - $10.53 in today's money.

  • The hairdresser then asks her if she wants the  latest trendy cut and style - the bob! How much,  

  • you ask? Five whole dollars! Or $64.25 todayAnd an extra $2 a week to keep up the hairstyle.  

  • That's way out of our young lady's budget,  

  • so she'll have to settle for  keeping her longer hair for now.

  • However, with the cash she has left overshe buys a nice face lotion for 25 cents  

  • to make sure she looks extra fresh that night. She  now has ten cents left. And she's also realized  

  • there's a popular new trend coming up, started  by movie stars of the silver screen - makeup!

  • Makeup existed before 1920 of course, but up  until then it wasn't something polite women in  

  • society wore. Besides a little face powder  to even out the skin tone and give a fresh,  

  • youthful appearance, women were  not supposed to wear lipstick and  

  • eyeliner unless they were prostitutes or  entertainers. We're not sure why those two  

  • groups frequently get lumped together  in styles and trends, but there it is.

  • The social perception of make-up started to change  in the 1920s. The rise of the film industry meant  

  • the made up look of entertainers on the movie  screen became extremely popular. So with the  

  • last dime she has on her, our 1920s woman buys  a tube of lipstick to try out this new look.  

  • Since literally no one in her life has taught her  to apply it, it will probably look shockingly bad,  

  • but A for effort. That's how most  make-up applications in the 20s went.

  • What does our 1920s man do to  get ready with his dollar? Well,  

  • he stops by to pick up some aftershave for 21  cents - $3.40 in today's dollars. And he figures  

  • since it's a special occasion out on the town  tonight, why not make it the day he bathes?

  • Oh that's right, we forgot to mention  that. People bathed around once a week  

  • back in 1920. Before you scrunch up your face  in disgust, know that most dermatologists say  

  • we shower way too often nowadays and it's  damaging our skin, so the ideal bathing  

  • frequency seems to be somewhere between  1920 and now, or around 2-3 times per week.

  • So our dapper 1920s man, onmission to achieve cleanliness,  

  • picks up some shampoo for 39 cents  - $6.32 in today's dollars. This  

  • still leaves him with 40 cents in his  pocket. But much like the genders now,  

  • getting ready to go out is usually a cheaper  and less time-consuming proposition for men.

  • This dolled up couple decides to take another  dollar with them for a night out on the town.  

  • What can they do for each  dollar they have on them?

  • Well, a movie ticket cost 15 cents back thenunlike the car down payment a trip to the movie  

  • theater costs nowadays. So the couple buys two  tickets for 30 cents, and feeling hungry after  

  • the theater, they stop by a diner. A meal  for two runs approximately 70 cents, or $19  

  • in today's money, so about the same or  slightly cheaper than today's prices.

  • We've now followed these hypothetical  people out on the town and realized,  

  • with the exception of some things  like movie theater tickets, clothing,  

  • and haircuts, the costs of things out and  about aren't that much different than today  

  • when accounting for inflation. In factsome food products are pricier. So how did  

  • people have so much more spending  power back then than they do now?

  • Well, we haven't touched upon one huge  cost that most people in the US today,  

  • especially in urban areasstruggle to pay: housing.

  • In 1920, the average monthly rent for an  apartment in New York City, still one of  

  • the most expensive places to live in even back  then, was $60; equivalent to around $773 in 2021.  

  • Currently in New York, it's hard to even findsingle room/closet/trash can to crawl into a la  

  • Oscar the Grouch for that amount, nevermindwhole apartment a family can live in together.

  • The other big area where prices have  soared? Healthcare, at least in the US.

  • In 1920, a couple of dollars - specifically,  

  • $2 to $3 - would pay for a home visit from  a doctor. Hospitals were generally avoided  

  • by those who could afford it because  they were associated with poverty.

  • Also, to be fair, healthcare back then  wasn't really the healthcare we know today,  

  • resembling something closer to Gwyneth Paltrow's  GOOP than actual medical prescriptions. Penicillin  

  • still wasn't available, and most cures  consisted of placebos, snake oil, or the  

  • doctor telling you about the imbalance of your  humors while you impatiently waited for death.

  • In fact, the 1920s was the first decade in  which major medical advances started being made.  

  • A few decades later in the 60s, the boom in  health insurance companies followed along  

  • to make sure these advances were  needlessly expensive and semi-unaffordable.

  • And today of course, we find ourselves in  the beautiful position of having incredible  

  • medical advances we are overcharged for and  then refuse to take because we know better.

  • So now that we've time traveled back to the  present and you know what a dollar could and  

  • couldn't get you back in 1920 - and how much some  costs surprisingly differed from today - what do  

  • you think you could get for the price of an  avocado toast back then? Let us know in the  

  • comments! In the meantime, make sure to check  out one of our other videos here, or there!

Millennials and Gen Z have all heard the frequent  Baby Boomer complaint: if you didn't spend your  

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B1 dollar average cost expensive citizen week

Surprising Things $1 Dollar Bought 100 Years Ago

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    Summer posted on 2021/09/08
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