It’s Good to Be Wrong Sometimes
Before we take you down memory lane, we wanted to put some things into perspective. Just as TV shows and movies had begun to predict what the future would hold, economists did as well. This chart gives you an idea of what they thought 2010 prices would be, given the previous 20 years of inflation rates. How would you cope with these prices?
Orange juice, for example, was projected to cost almost $15 in 2010. Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for us) the most we have paid for orange juice since then is around $8. Shoes were predicted to cost a whopping $528.43 – wow!
So, some of these may be a little off.
1985 Wages: $3.35/hour
2018 Wages: $9.50 avg/hour, $7.25 federal/hour
The 2018 minimum wage in 1985 would’ve been around $7.85. Wait, what?
Yeah, that’s right. By evaluating the inflation and economy and comparing the prices in both, we calculated what the minimum wage would be if the 2018 economy were happening in 1985.
The minimum wage was higher in 1985 than it is now, according to our economy, cost of living, housing costs, and inflation.
So, that’s how our parents were able to pay for everything at such a young age (and why we’re all broke now). I guess that’s how the cookie crumbles.
Median Family Income
1985 Income: $20,494/year
2018 Income: $59,055/year
The 2018 income in 1985 would’ve been around $48,000. All things considered, this is a fairly substantial income for a single human being, but this is the average family income. So, a family of 4 would have to live off of this income alone, equalling around $12,000 per person, per year.
In California, the amount of money you would need to make to live comfortably is around $95K/year.
In New York, the amount of money you would need to make to live comfortably is around $100K/year.
In Hawaii, the amount of money you would need to make to live comfortably is around $122K/year.
1985 Price: $680
2018 Price: $2,299.99
So, fridges today are much more high-tech than we really need, but the prices have definitely been reflecting that. From a barely-freezing freezer to a fridge that verbally reminds you when you need to go grocery shopping, this might just be one of the few things that deserve the price increase over the last 3 decades.
The yearly energy costs for 1985 fridges was about $172.55 (read on to see what electricity cost back then!), while newer 2018 fridge models guarantee around $87 in annual energy costs, which is about $7.25 per month.
The 2018 price of refrigerators in 1985 would’ve been $1,592.60, which honestly could still get you a great fridge nowadays.
1985 Price: $1.89/lb.
2018 Price: $6.11/lb.
Bacon all morning.
Bacon in the day and night.
Let’s be real, bacon is the best breakfast food, but it eats a hole in your pocket almost as fast as you eat it off your plate. Has the price truly risen, though?
Including inflation and the economic changes that have occurred since 1985, the 2018 price of bacon in 1985 would’ve been $4.43/lb.
This actual price increase is around 38%, but there has also been a 41% increase since 2012 alone, which honestly does not give us a very hopeful look into the future of bacon breakfast items.
1985 Price: $.082 kWh (kilowatt hour)
2018 Price: $.139 kWh
Electricity may have been cheaper back then, but only because no one really knew what consequences came from using as much energy as they were using. From leaving lights on all day, having 5 fans running in a single room, and leaving appliances plugged in, the environmental costs were almost as high as electricity costs nowadays.
Given that the energy increase from 1949-1985 was 145%, and the increase from 1985-2017 was only 27%, the need for energy consumption decreases was pretty clearly indicated during the oil crisis of 1985, and this started the clean energy revolution.
The 2018 price of electricity in 1985 would’ve been around $.19. Lucky for us, this means energy prices have decreased significantly. Let’s hope it stays that way.
1985 Price: $1.09/gallon
2018 Price: $3.16/gallon
Got milk? I sure don’t, but that’s because I’m lactose intolerant just like approximately 15% of the US population, and 65% of the human population. However, in 1985, drinking a gallon of milk every other day ensured that you’d be the tallest or the strongest in the class (not proven, but sometimes it worked).
Your parents, however, were most likely paying a lot more than you think they did for your healthy bones. The 2018 price of milk in 1985 would’ve been around $2.56/gallon. Still quite a bit cheaper than the current rate, but really, who drinks regular milk nowadays (still not me!)?
1985 Price: $.59/lb.
2018 Price: $5.50/lb
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then what would 5 apples a day do for me? Well, it would raise the price of the apples, that’s for sure. Ever since the demand went up for these red and delicious treats, the prices followed with just a slight head start.
Fortunately, we are still getting pretty solid deals on apples bought in bulk, so head to your nearest bulk superstore to get the best deals. Or, if you’re reading this in the fall months, try to seek out your nearest apple orchard for fresh, hand picked apples!
The 2018 price of a pound of apples in 1985 would’ve been around $1.38.
1985 Price: $.10
2018 Price: $217
We all know Apple is one of the biggest current corporations in existence, but how much have things changed? Well, from their starting point in 1976 at $2.76 per share until 1983 when they rose to a staggering $10.
But after Steve Jobs left in 1985, they dropped down to around $.10 per share. The 2018 price of Apple Stock in 1985 would’ve been around $.23. This share increase from 1985-2018 is about 94,247.8% which, if converted to dollars, is the equivalent of 47,360 lbs. of lemons.
And now? Well, Apple was the first 1 trillion dollar company, which looks something like this: $1,000,000,000,000
1985 Price: $75
2018 Price: $14 for an original Walkman, $249 for an iPod Classic
Ah, the rise and fall of portable music players. What isn’t pictured, is the evergreen trend of holding a boombox up on your shoulder and walking around downtown. Bonus points if you’re wearing block-colored parachute pants.
From the walkman, we encountered the CD player, the portable minidisc (which no one actually remembers), the MP3 player, the iPod, the first phone/iTunes combo (does anyone remember the Beyonce phone?), and then the smartphone with music streaming.
The 2018 price of a Walkman in 1985 would’ve been around $175.65.
1985 Price: $1.50
2018 Price: $8.99
The New Yorker is famous for its social commentary, whether serious or not, and for influencing the more affluent and educated of New York, and later, the world. This 500% price increase since 1985 shows just how manipulative audience targeting and barriers to entry can be in businesses.
Just for reference, Gucci’s target consumers make an average of $450,000 per year, yet their target is still people between 20 and 50 years old who leave a tiny margin of people who can purchase their products.
The 2018 price of The New Yorker in 1985 would’ve been around $3.51.
1985 Price: $912
2018 Price: $449.99
In the age of smartphones, cameras have become obsolete for the general population. Most Americans only splurge on a DSLR if they have a blog, a large Instagram following, or a knack for photographic hobbies, but back in the good ol’ days, everyone had a camera to document literally every moment they could afford to (the film was a bit pricey, after all).
The 2018 price of a Canon F-1 camera with a lens in 1985 would’ve been around $2,135.96.
The cost of developing each roll of film (around 30-50 pictures each) was close to $10 back then, not to mention the cost of all the photo storage you had to invest in.
1985 Price: $0.55
2018 Price: $2.50
Fun fact: sliced bread was invented in 1928, but was banned briefly in 1943 due to war costs and lack of labor.
It may seem like bread has been around forever, but the modern loaf was only achieved once ovens and bread pans were put into everyday homes.
Following the late 20’s, homemakers tended to buy loaves of bread at their affordable cost instead of baking them, which has since been a constant trend.
The 2018 price of a loaf of bread in 1985 would’ve been around $1.29, which means the price of bread has effectively increased by 94%.
1988 Price: $3,000
2018 Price: $3,497.99
It may look like TV’s were cheaper then than they are now, but consider this:
- This 1988 TV was the 35″ Mitsubishi Diamond Vision II 3503 television with CRT display technology and a resolution of 480 pixels
- The 2018 TV is the 82″ Samsung Q6 QLED television with QLED technology and a resolution of 4,096 pixels
The 1988 TV may seem cheaper, but the 2018 price of this TV in 1988 would’ve been around $7,026.19. And, regardless, you can still find 4K resolution televisions for around $400, or around $187 in 1988 dollars.
Another way to find cheaper TV sets is by going on Craigslist, OfferUp, or LetGo to find deals near you.
1985 Price: $189
2018 Price: $465.95
Ah, waterbeds. Their beautiful, sexy, hypoallergenic peak was in the mid 80’s as Hugh Hefner advertised his Tasmanian Possum fur waterbed in the Playboy Mansion.
Soon, they were the hottest thing since sliced bread. “In Manhattan, the waterbed display at Bloomingdale’s department store for a while was a popular singles meeting place,” said Time Magazine in 1985.
At this point, 1 in every 4 mattresses sold were waterbeds.
The 2018 price of waterbeds in 1985 would’ve been around $442.65.
But the cost of the flooding from those things popping? Priceless (not really, it would’ve been about $5,000 to repair a flooded home, not to mention the furniture and appliance replacements).
1985 Price: $6-$47.50/hour
2018 Price: $50-$60/month
Take a minute to look at your phone. Your photos posted online in a matter of seconds, you have movies on demand with maybe 15-seconds worth of buffering, and your messaging or video is practically instantaneous. Now, imagine a world where dial-up internet is your only option, and you had to pay for the internet by the hour.
Yeah, that’s right — an average of $27/hour for internet (and that’s before it was calculated for inflation).
Considering Americans spend an average of 2-6 hours on their phones using the internet, these costs would hardly be worth it. Who knows, maybe we’d all still be reading books and newspapers!
The 2018 price of internet in 1985 would’ve been around $63.23/hour.
1988 Price: $2.74/lb
2018 Price: $9/lb
Coffee prices vary widely across the world; but on average, a small latte costs about:
- $0.95 in Italy
- $2.75 in the US
- $7.18 in China
- $12.32 in Russia
In 1988, a small 2018 latte costs around the same as 1 lb. of 1988 coffee.
The 2018 price of coffee per pound in 1988 would’ve been around $6.42/lb.
But, wait- let’s go back to Russia’s prices for a small latte. Image paying almost $13 just to function throughout the day? That coffee better have all my daily nutrients in it because I won’t be able to afford food with those crazy prices.
1985 Price: $14,900/year for private colleges, $2,984/year for public colleges
2018 Price: $42,732/year for private colleges, $9,970/year for public colleges
Even though American household incomes haven’t quite doubled in the last 33 years, college tuition has grown 5x the amount since the 80’s. Most students are unable to receive financial aid if their parents make a middle-class income, regardless of whether their parents are helping them financially or not.
In the 80’s, the wage-to-tuition gap was much smaller, and students were able to work during their schooling to pay off their tuition. Now, students would need to work 5.5 part-time jobs to pay off their yearly tuition.
The 2018 price of college tuition in 1985 would’ve been around $34,896.74 for private schools and $6,988.72 for public schools.
1985 Price: $1.12/gallon
2018 Price: $3.74/gallon
We all know how volatile gas prices are nowadays, but we often find ourselves daydreaming about the days when it was below $.50 (from about 1918-1973). According to this chart, those prices were still pretty high in our inflation-calculated rates, but as you can see, the absolute cheapest gas that has ever been was around 1998 when it was $1.48.
This great American time was when the current economy related most closely to the past economy. It also seems as though that time held more peace compared to now, but nostalgia is almost always just a little warped.
So, if you’re looking to daydream about gas prices, dream about 1998.
The 2018 price of gas in 1985 would’ve been around $2.78.
1988 Price: $9,392
2018 Price: $27,701
Weddings are always expensive, but in the last 30 years, they seemed to have gone up in price quite a bit. In the 70’s, it was very normal to spend less than $5,000 on a wedding, but today’s average wedding is almost $30,000 above that.
As someone with friends on both ends of the spectrum, I’ve seen weddings cost people as much as $150,000 (she spent $8K on gold plated bird cages to put the cards into on the gift table), or as low as $1,500 (she made all the food herself and held the wedding at her home).
The 2018 price of a wedding in 1988 would’ve been around $21,996.66. Surprisingly close, don’t you think?
Cabbage Patch Kids
1985 Price: $49.95
2018 Price: $32.99
The funniest part about this is that people used to pay essentially double the price for these dolls since the 2018 price of a Cabbage Patch kid in 1985 would’ve been around $117.10. A modern-day equivalent to the Cabbage Patch Kids are the American Girl dolls, which are currently priced at about $60.
There are, however more knock-offs than there were in the 80’s. Today, you can find very similar looking dolls with the American Girl tag on them for around $15, which is a considerable steal. As long as you don’t mind some knotted hair and a big ol’ “Made in China” sticker on the forehead, you’ll barely notice the difference.
1985 Price: Used Mustang II, 1975, $995.00, Used Dodge Colt, 1981, $3,100.00, New Pontiac Sunbird, $8,676.00
2018 Price: Used Mustang, 2010, $10,995, Honda Civic EX-L, 2013, $13,500, New Kia Sorento EX AWD, $25,990
New car smell? Do they make a candle for it? Well, that new car smell as we know it didn’t exist until the late 90’s, but that’s partly due to the low production costs for vehicles up until around 1993.
Only recently did they start switching to lighter metals and cheaper parts, while using more expensive interior materials and products to achieve the highly sought after scent.
The 2018 price of a car in 1985 would’ve been around $20,319.74 for a new Pontiac, and about $2,330.35 for a used 1975 Mustang II (which are priced currently at $27,000).
1985 Price: $2,500 for a Macintosh
2018 Price: $1,799 for a MacBook Pro
Buying a new laptop usually hurts the bank accounts quite a bit, especially if it’s a last-minute my-laptop-crashed-right-before-this-super-important-deadline kind of thing.
However, the price you pay for a current MacBook Pro has a lot to do with the convenience, brand name, speed, storage, and features rather than the laptop itself.
Nowadays, people only spend $5,000 on gaming computers with insane storage and huge processors.
And, don’t forget people used to have to pay $27 an hour just to use their $6,000 computer with impossibly low data speeds.
The 2018 price of a computer in 1985 would’ve been around $5,855.16.
Renting a House
1985 Price: 2 bedrooms, $440/month in LA
2018 Price: 2 bedrooms, $3,500/month in LA
The price increase of a 2 bedroom house in LA from 1985 to 2018 is approximately 700%. Yes. The housing markets are always changing, but 2018 is in a low housing market, and it’s still a terrifyingly large change.
And, depending on the city, it can be even larger. For example, my parents own a home that could be sold for a little over $1.4 million, and they pay $500 less per month than I do to rent a 2 bedroom apartment in downtown San Diego.
Just don’t start imagining what housing prices will be in the 2040’s. Trust me; it’s a bad time.
The 2018 price of renting a house in LA in 1985 would’ve been around $1,030.51.
Buying a House
1985 Price: $80K-$100K
2018 Price: $378K-$493K
So, this is why people are purchasing tiny houses and living out of vans. Somehow, the thought of living in a van for the next 4 years is more appealing than owing $500K-$1M in mortgages to the state of California. Maybe that’s something I’ll get behind considering this price difference.
Or, maybe I’ll follow the crowds and move to Colorado or Texas (right next door to you, mom — you can’t get away that easy!).
Never before have I dreamt of living in the middle of nowhere in a wooden mansion– yet, here I am, daydreaming about decorating a Lincoln Logs cabin to my liking.
The 2018 price of buying a house in 1985 would’ve been around $210,785.69.
1985 Price: $3,995
2018 Price: $1,149
The first handheld mobile phone was released in 1983. Unfortunately, it was, quite literally, handheld — as in you needed both hands to use it. It also only had 30 minutes of talk time and 6-hour battery life, but after seeing this promotional commercial, everyone was on board.
Although many cell companies worked on getting smaller and smaller, it was discovered that, in some cases, size does matter. People preferred the larger cell phones, especially as smartphones began coming out. Thus, the iPhone pluses were created.
The 2018 price of a cell phone in 1985 would’ve been around $9,356.54.
1985 Price: $3.55
2018 Price: $12.99
How long has it been since you went to the movies? Probably at least a year — maybe more if you have more than 2 movie streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO.
Well, for one, movie theaters are sticky, cold, and loud.
Plus, no one follows the no cell phone rule anymore so when you do take a chance at the old theater, you get a bunch of rectangular blue lights, teenagers making out in the first 3 rows, and that one person whose laugh can wake the dead.
The 2018 price of a movie ticket in 1985 would’ve been around $8.35.
1985 Price: $5.96 for The Jets Vinyl
2018 Price: $17.99 for a Drake CD
From vinyl records to tapes to CD’s to iPod’s, and now, to online streaming. The age of physical copies of music and movies is a dying breed, but that doesn’t mean the price for the newest physical albums has gone down.
To keep up with the notoriously cheap payoff of online streaming — from Spotify, Pandora, 8tracks, and other streaming networks — the prices of the “OG” albums (CD’s or vintage-looking vinyl) have to be higher than ever before.
After all, each play on Spotify only pays $.0048.
The 2018 price of a music album in 1985 would’ve been around $13.96.
85′ Fashion Trends
Sweaters draped over your shoulders, popped collars, mom jeans, tulle appliques, exercise clothes, stirrups, geometrically-patterned shirts, colorful plastic earrings, neon, suits with pastel shirts and ties, fanny packs, iron on’s, leg warmers, acid-washed denim, Members Only Jackets, sweatbands, shoulder pads, perms, rat tails, pastel barrettes, overalls, big hair bows, hair feathers…
…matching tank top-cardigan duos, fashionable gloves, sweat suits, men’s crop tops, jelly shoes, and pantsuits.
Oh, the good ol’ days. Yes, people proudly sported these fashionable items in their everyday wardrobes, and lucky for me, my mom still has a few of them that she pulls out for special occasions (hello, puffy color-blocked, vinyl snow jacket).
The 1985 Year in Review
January – The first mandatory seatbelt law is implemented in NY
February – The Breakfast Club comes out in theaters
March – Keira Knightley is born
April – New Coca-Cola flavor was tested and failed miserably among the masses
May – Michael Jordan is named NBA Rookie of the Year
June – Michael Phelps is born
July – Live Aid rock concerts are held for famine relief in Ethiopia
July – Back to the Future appears in theaters
September – Growing Pains and Golden Girls premiere
October – Nintendo releases NES, and later, Super Mario Bros
November – Calvin and Hobbes debuts in newspapers for the first time