The U.S. was a much different place 100 years ago. The country was just entering World War I and prices for just about everything surged to an all-time high. Most people’s wages at that time were less than $2,000 a year –the equivalent of $41,511 today — according to statistics by the IRS.
Although people living in 1917 felt the effects of inflation, by today’s standards, some prices look downright cheap. Check out this cost of living comparison that shows you how prices then compare to the same items now.
In 1917, you would have paid about $5,000 for a home — or about $103,777 in today’s money. The next 50 years saw a boom in the housing market as real estate prices increased by more than 175 percent. The average home in 1967 went for $24,600 — more than $180,000 in 2017 dollars. The real estate market has kept its upward trend. The average home sold for $372,500 last year. That’s an increase of more than 300 percent over 1917 housing prices.
Related: 8 Ugly Truths About Buying a Home
While many wartime products went up in price in 1917, cars went down. Less than four months after the U.S. entered World War I, Ford Motor Company drastically reduced its prices to bring cars within reach of more Americans. Prices for Ford cars ranged from just $325 to $645 — or $6,745 to $13,387 in today’s money. By 1967, the price had risen to $3,215 — $23,730 by 2017 standards.
But today’s car prices have rolled back to a trend not seen since 1916. With an average price point of $34,000, most American families can no longer afford to buy a new car.
In 1917, you only had about 300 colleges and universities to choose from in the U.S., but you also paid a lot less to attend. Tuition at a private college ran from $75 to $150 per year, with higher numbers at Ivy League schools like The University of Pennsylvania, which charged $200 for tuition. Add in room and board at $185-$350 and textbooks for up to $25 and your cost could be close to $600 per year for private school.
That’s $12,453 in 2017 dollars, a bargain considering the same will cost you more than $45,000 per year today. In 1967, a Penn education would have cost $25,833 in today’s money or $3,500 actual dollars then.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, says conventional wisdom. In 1917, you could stay out of the doctor’s office for just 2 cents per pound — a shockingly low 15 cents in today’s economy. By 1967, modern apple favorites such as the Fuji hit the markets, and you could sink your teeth into one for 6 cents per pound, 44 cents in today’s money.
In 2017, apples cost you an average of $1.43 per pound, but you’ll pay about $2.76 a pound for specialty varieties like Honeycrisp.
A tried and true grocery-shopping hack is to serve up dishes made with cost-effective corn. When World War I brought food rationing to the U.S. in 1917, you could buy a pound of cornmeal for 6 cents ($1.25 in 2017 dollars) and whip up johnnycakes, cornbread or other stick-to-your ribs chow. A 20-ounce can of corn averaged 18 cents — $3.74 in 2017 dollars — making a cheap side dish for a large family at less than a penny per ounce.
Corn is still a cheap way to feed your family. You can pick up 5 pounds of cornmeal for $2.36 today, or a 15-ounce can of corn for about $1.
Sliced bread was unheard of in 1917. If you were headed to the bakery, you would swap a dime for a whole, un-sliced loaf. That works out to $2.08 by 2017 monetary standards. By 1967, the convenience of store-bought sliced bread had found itself en masse onto store shelves, bringing the cost to 22 cents, or $1.62 in 2017 standards. Today, Americans pay an average of $2.31 for a 1-pound loaf.