The measurement is called real dollar terms.  Using today’s value of the dollar and applying it to the past, one writer says we’ve paid more of our incomes in the past for gas than we do today.

Factoring Inflation Offers a Different Picture

I’m reminded of an interview a young reporter did in 1998.  I was working my first few months as a television news director, and the price for a gallon of gas was just under a dollar a gallon.  The Asian economy was in recession and demand for oil had collapsed.  Eliot, the reporter, spoke to an economist.  The professor explained in real dollar terms, the price per gallon was the cheapest in 70 years.  Basically, in 1998, gasoline was the cheapest it had ever been.

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The story details how much more of personal income went into gas tanks.  During a time when most cars and trucks also had very low mileage ratings.  I believe this story is supposed to make us feel better about paying 60 percent more for a gallon than one year ago, however.

Modern Families Have More Gadget Expenses

When my dad was making 8,000 dollars a year and gas was listed at 40 cents a gallon, we didn’t have some other current expenses.  We didn’t have a cable TV and Internet package that today cost some families 150 dollars a month.  We had a landline telephone.  The charge was only a few dollars a month.  There was an additional cost on long-distance calls.  We rarely talked with anyone by telephone outside of town.  We mailed more letters when we needed to communicate.

Yes, gas may have been more expensive in real dollar terms at times in the past, but if you’ve got 5 smartphones in the family in addition to the other modern expenses, you may not be better off than your ancestors from 1960!

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