Does A Dollar Buy What it Did a Year Ago? (Answer to win $10)



Winners update!! -- Congrats to the following winning submissions:

  • A dollar goes further this ... Submitted by Carole (comment #19):  "A dollar goes further this year than last year when buying gasoline."

  • @MMMeg "$1 now buys more stuff you don't need, but less stuff you do" 


I notice it every time I go to the grocery store to shop for my family of six: Same food = higher prices.  With a little ingenuity, I can come away with about as much merchandise as did a year ago, and with only a slight increase in my total bill -- but it’s much more work.  Other items, like things I find on Craigslist and those hard-to-sell McMansions, are facing drastic crashes in their price points. 


What pricing trends have you noticed in the last year?  Are you taking advantage of some of the pricing dives by refurnishing your living room on the cheap or working out amazing barters?  Share your before and after example from the past 12 months, and you will be entered to win a $10 gift card!

Those of you who aren’t familiar with the “drill,” read below for full details:

Win a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate

We're doing two giveaways -- one for random comments, and another one for a random tweets.

How to Enter:

  1. Post your answer in the comments below, or
  2. Tweet your answer.  Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBTrivia" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

At the end of the drawing, we'll update this post to include (and link to) all of your helpful responses.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Thursday, July 23rd at 11:59am CST. Winners will be announced after July 23rd on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter both drawings -- once by leaving a comment and once by tweeting.
  • Only tweets that contain both "@wisebread" and "#WBTrivia" will be entered. (Otherwise, we won't see it.)

 Good luck!  

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Guest's picture

I think I can stretch my vacation dollars much further this year than last. There are some great travel deals out there now that allow for some upgrades and nicer vacation packages. Thanks for the contest!

Guest's picture

There are great deals right now for vacation packages that weren't so cheap last year!

Guest's picture

Banks seem to be falling all over themselves this year to get my business: Wachovia = $25, WaMu/Chase = $100 for opening new accounts with money I have on hand anyway. The credit card co's are also trying to get me to take interest free cash loans or trying to give me cash rewards. Gosh, I must be the only person left on the planet with a good credit score or something...

Guest's picture

Food costs > 1 year ago. From downsizing product sizes (tuna fish from 8 oz to 7 oz but the price stays the same)to increases in the price of staple items, it's harder to feed my family for the same amount.

Vacation costs < 1 year ago. Last year, the resort we're going to next week was out of our price range. This year, we're paying 1/2 the price (High daily rate but a couple of free nights.) And, kids eat free there too!

Guest's picture

I got to go to ireland for very cheap this year =)

Prices were a lot higher the year before

Guest's picture

Price increases - frozen dinners. They used to go on sale at my grocery store for 4/$5. Now those same ones never drop below $2.50 a package.

Good trends - Lots and lots of freebies and gifts with purchases. Since stores just want you to buy ANYTHING, they'll more willing to throw in something extra. Just look at the free pastries at Starbucks today!

Guest's picture

Well, one thing's for sure. A dollar sure buys you more gasoline now than it did this time last year!

Guest's picture
M. Cruz

Over all, not only it doesn't buy what it did a year ago -- when it comes to food and household items (maybe it does for gas, but utilities are on the rise, too), but with the salary reductions most of us have had to take in order to keep our jobs, earning that dollar has become more difficult... think about that one.

Guest's picture

I always buy the cheapest headphones because I break them so easily. At Wal-Mart, their price has gone from $.99 to $2.49! This is for the exact same product!!!

Guest's picture
Jamie G

I think that a dollar buys more than it did one year ago, with the exception of groceries, which have been ever increasing. But luxuries, gas, and retail nonessentials have been noticeably (and possibly desperately) cheaper this year.

Guest's picture

Certainly not! With inflation being so high over the past year, it takes more money to get the same basic things you had before, not to mention that travel to Europe has become nearly impossible unless you're making at least six figures. All of my bills have went up by at least 1/3, and groceries keep going up much more often than I've ever seen my entire life. Yet, no one is getting raises, people are getting laid off left and right, and companies are actually SLASHING pay down to it's barest minimal. Which is why I got fed up with it all and started my own business while working part-time (mostly for health insurance). We all have to work harder to live on less. Not to mention that they raised the cost of stamps twice in a year, thank goodness I can pay most of my bills online.

Fact is, the dollar is getting less and less valuable as the days go by. The economy really isn't helping and I really wonder when they are going to do something about this. It's been going on for a long time now.

Guest's picture

a dollar buys the same thing as a year ago at the dollar store in town, for which i am very grateful.

it actually buys more food now, because there are so many weekly doorbuster deals at all the grocery stores around me that are eas to take advantage of. last year at this time everything had gone up in price but there were fewer food sales as well.

and it buys fewer stamps now, thanks to the increase in prices at the po.

Guest's picture

has definitely gone up.

Guest's picture

Some weeks back it was a deflation situation in India and $10 (one year back) should be less valuable than $10 (now), but in actual public was seeing soaring prices everywhere. For examples, I can see the most expensive vegetables around since last few weeks.

Guest's picture

Used to get a pound of pasta on sale 3/$1 - never less than $1 each these days. And finding anything useful (other than cleaning supplies) in the dollar store is getting really tough.
If I should win please donate the $10 to USO - they do great work keeping our heroes sane!

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I get cheaper rent now due to the overabundance of condos in the area!

Guest's picture

The current financial news is that consumer prices in June went up by seven-tenths of a percent. But monthly statistics don't give the entire picture. As an example, the run-up can be tied to rising gasoline prices in the month of June.
A more important statistic to note is that there was zero inflation over the last year. So a dollar today buys you more than it did a dollar year ago.The Wall Street Journal reports that prices overall are declining by the biggest amount seen since 1950. (sic)
Prices will continue to get better on the things we buy. What that means is that even if you didn't get a raise, your buying power has not declined.

Guest's picture

A dollar goes further this year than last year when buying gasoline.

Guest's picture

I get cheaper car rentals and car than even before. I got a very nice car for $2500 recently. I couldn't think of getting a nice car for $2500 last year.

Guest's picture

It feels like a dollar is worth a lot less than a year ago. Everything seems to be climbing, and I have already cut back. I know I should figure out a way to barter...

Guest's picture

CDs (that is, compact discs, not certificates of deposit!) are cheaper, perhaps due to both the decline in luxury spending and the advent of easy music piracy. I've been able to buy music in good conscience for remarkably cheaper, thereby doing my part to prop up my local music store.

Guest's picture

Last year you would've had to offer $100 for me to answer this.

There ya go.

Guest's picture

No, I don't think a dollar goes farther today than a year ago, except for maybe gas. Even if travel is cheaper, I can't afford it. I do make a dollar go farther today however, when it comes to cleaning products for my home. I recently moved, and decided that I had too many different products, so as I used up products, I didn't replace them, but switched to substitutes for commercial cleansers such as baking soda and vinegar. I have a lot more space in my pantry, now, too. I also use less laundry detergent and bleach than I used to, by actually MEASURING, rather than DUMPING it in!

Guest's picture

Frozen Burritos have gone up in price, even though they might be considered a giffen good.

Guest's picture

There seem to be a lot of deals lately to make your dollar stretch further.

Guest's picture

Rent is a lot cheaper in this area with slashes up to $1000 off a month, it's kind of crazy. But at the same time, groceries keep going up. Does anybody else remember when you could get quite a few cans of tuna for a buck? Now it's always $1.29 for just one can, what's the deal?

Guest's picture

Considering that my pay is the same (wage freeze), my housing costs the same, utilities cost more, and groceries cost CONSIDERABLY more, it doesn't offset the decrease in the cost of gas. Not for a family of three, particularly since we do not travel very much.

Therefore I'm going to say a dollar does not buy as much for me as it did a year ago. However, it may be different for someone who travels a great deal as there are great deals out there. If you eat out you may also be seeing some savings, as restaurants are practically giving meals away. The upscale wine bar near me is giving away free sushi, for example. Ruby's has the two for one special. Some service industries are trying to stay in business and are willing to throw a customer a bone.

But for me? No.

Guest's picture

I was at a bachelor party last weekend and commented that even with inflation and the devaluation of the dollar, $1 still gets the same thing it got 15 years ago, when I first stepped into a gentleman's club.

Guest's picture

The dollar seems to be worth more in some instances because we have been forced to zero in on every dollar spent. Houses cost less, rents are lower, gas is cheaper, milk is affordable, etc. The same items last year this time at the Dollar Tree that i purchased (chips, cleaning supplies, deo sprays, salami, etc.) are the same $1 this year for the same size and brand. A year ago even rice and beans, the ultimate meal, became expensive but fast forward to 2009 and we can afford to buy rice again in bulk and not worry about creating shortages and price spikes:)

Guest's picture

Yes and No.......If you are at the lower end of the pay scale it is a repeat (if not worse) of the scenario in the mid 70s...High unemployment, high rent/utilities etc.. Grocery prices, at least in our area, are much higher than one year ago. Come to think of, a pound of hamburger was $0.29 in the mid-70s, and the minimum wage somewhere around $3.40. Now I buy hamburger at $1.39, and that's the price for the stuff close to the "sell-by date".
If you are a higher wage earner and established you can find bargains galore starting from almost new motor homes to cheap vacations, plane tickets, etc..
Like my mother said 50 years ago - it takes money to make money, and she was (is) so right

Guest's picture

Food prices across the board are soaring right now, almost to the point that junk food and healthy food cost the same! Gas on the other hand has definitely become more affordable this year, which is good because my husband has been laid off and rehired by the same company (not typical in his line of work) 6 months ago and now has had to take a pay cut on top of more work. The dollar is harder to earn and in general is worth less then it was before (which is such an oxymoron)

Guest's picture

Everything has gone up in price it seems! When we go out to fast food places-we do order from the $1 menu! I mean you can't really beat that for a cheap meal! :) Also, at Burger King, call the survey # on the back of your receipts and get a FREE Whopper or Chicken sandwich--I'm not sure a lot of people know about this!! I do it all the time and I can get my drink, onion rings and chicken sandwich valued at $3.29(free)! Plus, free refills on drinks! Comes to only $2.12. :)

Guest's picture

It doesn't go very far now days. I used to find bargains at the Dollar Bargain Store. Now it's not called the "Dollar Bargain Store" anymore, just "Bargain Store". Still it's cheaper than most big name grocery chains.

Guest's picture

Certain items are less--gasoline certainly, and if you're looking to buy a house, definately. Food (some items higher, some lower) and fast food meals seem to be about where they were a year ago. There are deals out there on furniture, computers, etc,--the discretionary purchases--but it seems the more important categories are up relentlessly.

Someone mentioned postage stamps (good one), but add in the following to the increase category: health insurance, car insurance (ours jumped 20% due to a regulartory change), utilities, anything medical, anything education, car repairs, movie tickets (up about a dollar per year), sales tax, real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, and fees for childrens sports activities in our area seem to go up about 10% each year.

Someone also mentioned paying the same for less quantity or service--seems to be common these days.

If this is the 'deflation' we're being told about, we're all gonna get smoked when prices start rising. (Don't stop visiting personal finance sites!!!)

Guest's picture

As a college student, I have no idea about purchasing power vs. a year ago when it comes to groceries. I never had to buy them until last year, and you can't really compare prices at a chain store on Chicago's north side to a suburban family owned place (I regularly shop at both, depending on where I am).

Retailers are tripping over themselves to offer you a good deal. I went into a Crocs store recently (to buy the non-foam shoes, ok?). They were out of my size, and without skipping a beat the saleswoman offered me free shipping and 10% off on the site. I don't think that would have happened a year ago, therefore, I think your dollar is worth more.

Guest's picture

Since the recession began it seems like many businesses are working harder to get/keep customers by offering more inexpensive items (more dollar menus at food establishments, dollar aisle items in mass merchandise stores, etc.).

Guest's picture

Compared to a year ago, items that you might buy everyday will have gone up. The local Coffee shop has rose their price of their Weekly special from 99 cents to $1.59. My favorite places to eat all have little marks on their menus, increasing the prices of all of their dishes. A little cafe I frequent gives a 12 oz cup with their combos instead of a 20oz drink.

At the same time, when there are deals, there are deals. A local used movie/cd store had a deal, Buy $50 worth of items, get a $25 discount on your next purchase. A local bookstore gave out free paperbacks with any hardcover purchase.

So can a dollar buy you the same it did a year ago? It depends on what you're shopping for. When you buy small, they nickel and dime you here and there. But when you're dropping $1000 on a new laptop, expect $300 of extras.

Guest's picture

Okay, it's not the same currency but we're experiencing a drop in prices this side of the pond. Certainly in the travel industry. I'd say on average hotel prices were down 15% across Europe and there's a lot of bargaining to be done.

Guest's picture

I think that our dollars are going as far as they did last year this time...if not more. Right now we are able to get things for awesome bargains. The buyer has a little more wiggle room when it comes to negotiating.

Guest's picture

I track my expenses to the penney and have done so for the last 13 years,since I retired. I have seen a big increase in costs over the years(26%), but it is not so easy to judge the real cost of living increase from year to year.
It appears whenever we get a stimulus check to encourage spending then the cost of non- discretionary expenses increases. i.e. taxes and fees. The price of gas has decreased and increased again to a lower point than Aug 2009. The price of gas was deemed to be the cause in the food prices spiking, which are now decreasing. Energy prices equal inflation! My utilities have decreased due to lower useage, but disposal and water/sewer have increased, which makes the total bill about the same.

Entertainment costs have decreased at restaurants giving perks and hotels with 30% reductions. Airline fares have reduced, but the taxes and fees are still there and no meals.I agree with my mother who said 50 years ago when we were in another recession (1959), that those with money get more.

Mortgage interest decreased for me when I refinanced( Adjustable rate to fix), but then I decided to just pay off the loan so I did not have to pay any interest. There is a good stretch since I paid 4% more in interest than I earned on the same money. I came out ahead on that one.I am debt free.

Income taxes will be less, since my income has decreased in several ways. The level of income now makes me eligible for 20% discounts on my utilities, which helps stretch. Property taxes go up every year 1% in Calif. but the new budget suggests that forced loans of those property taxes are to be given to the State to balance the budget, thus lowering the local services in police,fire and public utilities. ( Watch for an increase in local taxes) Petition to lower property taxes if house value has decreased. They eliminated the tax rebate on Senior property taxes proportional to your income. Home repairs labor has decreased some, due to competion is high for the work.

Home and auto insurance increased a little, but I increased my deductibles to lower the payment. I drive less, so car upkeep is low. With retirement, I am able to be more flexible in my spending and not feel the urgency to spend. My needs have decreased as the years have progressed. I have been following Simple Living for 13 years and one learns more with each year passing.

The general feeling that most people are feeling pinched for money, helps one to be more frugal. Activities like gardening are more widely enjoyed as hobbies, which is also good way to stretch the dollar. These are just some of the ways the dollar has stretched further for me in the last year, but the most non discretionary expenses do not seem to have decreased significantly. Whereas there was more money to help those with low incomes in their later years, now that money is being cut from the budgets.
You win some and you lose some! Where the business is decreasing due to discretionary spending decreasing and incomes decreasing then we have lower prices to entice us to spend there. All in all, the cost of living is about the same, but their are increases and decreases. This is a long answer, but it is not an easy question. Cheers! Track your expenses!

Guest's picture

For me, a dollar is buying more than it did last year. We have gone from a two income house to a single income household in the last few months, this has forced me to rethink many purchases. Even though food has gotten more expensive, I am now buying generic and looking at sales and coupons. Last year, I would buy whatever brand I had heard of and bought before. I am making a lot less money stretch to buy the same amount of stuff.

Guest's picture

Maybe a dollar goes further for some things. But not food! (At least in NYC.) I'm spending more than ever at the grocery store.

Guest's picture
Mariel Martinez

I am not in the United States right now. I used to be for a very long time. When I was there, one dollar alone could not help me out too much, but overall, I used them alone to buy ONE item on sale in some stores, mostly stuff from the 99 cents shops...

I went again to the US a month ago... The 99 cent shop was gone, and it charged 1 dollar and 10 cents for all the articles that last year were 99 cents. It´s not a lot, but it does count...

I heard from an economist professor that Inflation needed to be determine by location, not by product... I agree... At the end, because of arbitrage, certain products end up at the end being about the same price everywhere and anywhere you may look for it, but not always...

I believe, that one dollar BUYS you, according to your taste, MORE stuff now, mostly because, since competition is increasing, and people are cutting back, and more and more products are available in the market... However, one dollar will not give you the same VALUE of last year, it will give you LESS, in the sense that the value of that dollar was used for creating a sense of security in people by paying for a house, paying for going out anytime you wanted, and basically, living the moment and not worrying about that dollar; while right now, due to interest rates, due to the loss of the credit market and several other issues, no matter how much dollars you may have- except if you are extremely rich- you feel it is not enough to keep up the standard you once had...

Guest's picture

A dollar doesn't buy as much anymore - especially at the grocery store. Yes you can get a container of icecream for the same price, but the trick is that instead of being 56oz it is now only 48oz.

Guest's picture

Well, here's a strange one. We have a local consignment "extravaganza" for kids' clothes/toys/gear here in Charlottesville, Virginia twice a year. I noticed at the last one (late May) that the prices of items were substantially higher than they'd been in the past (the sale is usually held every May and October). Since consigners are the ones who assign a price to their own items, I can only assume it meant that everyone was trying to squeeze just a little more cash out of the items they were consigning. Probably a reflection of money being tight all around, and people trying to earn extra wherever they could. This increase, though small, was really noticeable. Regardless then, of whether a dollar buys more or less than last year, it seems like individuals have the perception that it buys less, and want to maximize how much of it they can make.

Guest's picture

I have to admit, I think last year prices were actually higher on staples. Milk was edging towards 4 dollars at my local Publix, and meats were climbing too. Now they're advertising Basics/Staples at promised lowered prices...milk, chicken, bread...everyday items. I appreciate this because we can go through a gallon of milk in a week! I'm certainly becoming more frugal with my grocery money though, so that helps one chicken, make 2-3 meals from it, etc.

Guest's picture

Hmm, I think the price for travel has dropped, but with it has come an increase in airport fees, taxes, etc.

"Dollar Store?" I don't think so- there's tax! So it's really the "1.07 Store." Plus the ones near me have started selling really really horrid quality items- children's toys containing lead, toothbrushes that snapped in half, tuperware with warnings of not to store food inside (honestly!)..

The dollar really is getting us nothing this year.

Guest's picture

I'm starting a Ph.D. program this fall. On the downside, the tuition per credit is many dollars more than last year (or every year before that), but if I waited another year or two (or ten) to start this degree, then it would cost me exponentially more every year that I waited. So in that respect, I guess I'm getting a great bargain.

Guest's picture

I love Wise Bread! The only time my dollar goes further is when I buy gas. Groceries are higher, so I've changed what I'm willing to buy. A $1 coupon might be worth as much as last year;)

Guest's picture

The biggest change I've noticed is that while prices have remained the same, the amount sold has decreased. From ice cream to cereal manufacturers have shrunk the amount in boxes that remain the same size. If you're not careful you can get fooled.

Guest's picture

A dollar definitely doesn't go as far as it used to, but there has been some good to come from the bad economy. We are more aware of how we spend our money, and we tend to focus on needs rather than wants. We have also learned ALOT about being frugal (from using coupons to making your own cleaners). So in a way, we are actually getting more for our money than we did before! And, we have eliminated much of the useless junk we use to accumulate.

Guest's picture

Yes and no. Since I started couponing I have been able to make the dollar last alot longer. However, you can not go into a gas station and get 2-3 things for 1.00 anymore. I remember when I was young you were given a dollar and you could get a coke and a candy bar from the gas station. And the sizes of items have decrease but te price is still the same.

Guest's picture

Looking at this from the upside..

A year ago, a dollar was only worth 0.63 Euros but now, it's worth about 0.70 Euros. While the difference in the exchange rate isn't huge, it sure makes a big difference in affordability if one is trying to do international business, study abroad, or plan a honeymoon!

Guest's picture

i think this is the kind of cycle we cannot avoid even if we tried or even meet it when we try to avoid it.

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