Jul 10, 2011  •  In Finance, Home, Information, Personal

What Costs More in 2011?

Living in an area with fairly good public transportation — in addition to having an infant who does not like car rides much — I hardly ever drive anymore. I even walk to the grocery store, pushing Claire in her stroller (thank goodness our stroller has a huge bottom compartment that fits 5-6 full grocery bags).

So when I took the car out Friday night and saw that I was running dangerously low on gas, I was in for a rude awakening.

$55 for a full tank of gas??!!!

Apparently this wasn’t that bad, either. Friends tell me that gas prices have actually decreased in the past month, and that they were regularly forking over more than $60.

And this was in the state of New Jersey, where gas prices are relatively low compared to the rest of the country (plus you get free full service!). I can’t imagine how bad it is in states like California, where gas prices have historically been the highest in the country.

I then thought back to a few months ago, when I had read a former student’s Facebook status update:

I remember waiting anxiously to turn sixteen and get my driver’s license. Now that I finally got it, all my allowance goes toward gas money. Wtf!

I had chuckled at this and commented, “I still remember how when I had first started driving, gas was $0.99/gallon. Did I just give away my age?”

Back in those days we could easily fill up a tank for less than $20. (I remember only getting Premium gas too. Now, it’s Regular or nothing.)

Even last year, I think that a trip to the gas station “only” cost $35-40.

I couldn’t help but dig through my Google Reader Shared Items to take a look at this chart again:

Courtesy of one of my favorite informational blogs, Flowing Data, the chart compares the costs of living between the dates of March 2010 and March 2011.

Based on what I recalled about gas prices, I wasn’t surprised to see that the cost of transportation had increased the most (9.8%), with gas prices alone going up 27.5%.

The price of food has gone up too — I remember my mother complaining to me that last year, she was able to purchase an entire month’s worth of groceries for $200, but now, $200 worth of groceries only lasts 2-3 weeks.

Do you find anything surprising or particularly interesting about this chart?

Have you found that the cost of living has significantly increased in the past year relative to inflation?

How much does a full tank of gas cost in your area?

20 Responses to “What Costs More in 2011?”

  1. Jessica:

    That is an interesting chart. For me, it’s difficult to say – as I’m just now getting to the point where I have more disposable income, I’m finding myself buying more expensive things – better food, more expensive restaurants, clothes, etc. I even remember a few summers ago not turning on the a/c to save money. For these reasons it’s hard to compare. But yes, I remember gas for under a dollar.

    I rarely drive, too, because I telecommute and walk to the grocery and other stores. I always buy 4-5 gallons of gas rather than a full tank. That way it doesn’t absorb water from the environment and I can always hope for a better price. Out here, it’s running $3.69.

    • I had never heard of getting full tanks of gas absorbing more water from the environment — can you explain that further please?

      • Jessica:

        From what I understand, a full tank is actually better — that is, until you start to use it. As the gas ages, it is more likely to take on water (from a possible leak – which would be bad news anyway, or even just from humidity in the air). The water can cause engine problems. This is something I’ve learned from a serious car guy (as in, spending way too much time worrying about stuff that might not ever matter) – and it stuck.

        For most drivers, it might not ever matter. For someone like me who rarely drives, I just like to keep as little gas in the tank as possible. That means I buy about 5 gallons every two months. And like I said, that also gives me the flexibility to watch for a good price when I know I’m going to need more gas for a longer drive.

  2. Yesterday I was super low on gas, so low the warning light was on, and it cost me $51 to fill my VW Beetle is Westchester (so just north of the city). Thank God I have a 20min commute and that Bug gets 30 mpg!

    I too remember when gas was 99 cents a gallon, I don’t know how people afford long commutes in their giant SUVs.

    I was surprised that communication and recreation dropped, because I think cable/internet fees are at highway robbery levels.

  3. Nodakademic:

    Tank of gas for my Honda Civic is about $30. But I live in the midwest..stuff is cheaper here. I remember being really shocked at how much things like tissues and toilet paper cost when I moved to oregon from minnesota for college..then when I moved to north dakota everything was cheaper again.
    That said, we have noticed in the past few years that some restaurants and such have started charging more…for example we went to a movie today and the tickets were 6 bucks…used to be 4.50 a couple years ago. I guess that’s getting older though. My grandparents remember things like 5 cent candy bars. And yeah, I remember the 99 cent gas :)

  4. Erin G:

    I can’t tell ya about gas because I also rarely drive (I, too, remember filling up in my youth for less than $20) but what I can tell you is that the price of chocolate has increased incredibly over the past half year. I’m the “Candy Buyer” for the dish at the reception desk at work. I’ve been buying more Starbursts and less mini Hershey bars! Eight bucks for a bag of wrapped chocolates? WHAT.

  5. Renée:

    I just thought: wow, I’d like to pay only $55 for a full tank of gas. I live in The Netherlands, and in Europe gas is expensive. I pay over €60 (currently around $85) for a full tank (40 liters, which Google tells me is 10.5 US gallons). Luckily my car is small and therefore relatively efficient :) The government here is stimulating the sales of smaller and fuel-efficient cars with premiums and lower taxes. Gas on the other hand is heavily taxed. I wish I could afford a hybrid or electric car.

    The differences in prices between Europe and the USA (or North America) are interesting though. What else is cheaper or more expensive? Milk, eggs, bread? I will look into the chocolate prices (very important!), although I try to only buy “Fair Trade” chocolate these days.

    • It’s the same here — we also get tax breaks with fuel-efficient/hybrid cars…but it sucks because they’re usually more expensive than regular gasoline-powered cars, so most people choose not to buy them. Also, America seems more obsessed with larger cars than Europe or Asia, and those are the ones that guzzle the gas.

  6. Jenn R:

    This is slightly off-topic, but I’ve been dying to know: do you tip the guy who pumps your gas when you fill up? I live in Philadelphia and occasionally buy gas in New Jersey (we don’t own a car but use PhillyCarShare – which reimburses you for all gas purchases BTW) and I never know what the protocol is. Generally, we give the guy a buck just to be on the safe side. What’s the right way to do it?

    • From the people I know, it’s half and half. And for myself, I tip when I have cash but if I don’t I can’t (because there is no tip section in the credit card receipt).

  7. Adam buckland:

    $55 is £88 (I’m in the UK… yest it’s that island off Europe with the queen and that lovely Prince William) and it costs £90 to fill up my Audi A5 which equates to $144…

    Enjoy your cheap gas… it really is cheap..

  8. Gas out here hovers a little under $4/gallon. If you want to feel better about yourself just think of me, filling up the Suburban the other day. 38 gallons. And the sucker wasn’t even on empty.

    Movie tickets are over $10 and 3D is $15 I think. A little less than NY but on par with SFO and LA.

    Seattle is generally an expensive place to live though.

  9. Dave:

    I’m in Canada. I hardly drive but everything is far away. Last time I took a car out (I am part of a car co-op) it cost me $60 CDN to fill up a Honda Civic. Our gas prices are about $1.40 per litre so, like $5.50 per gallon or something? I don’t know what a gallon is because we don’t have those here. We did send like 5 soliders out to Afghanistan so maybe we deserve a break too?

  10. I live in Los Angeles, and just finished a job with a 60 mile round trip commute, my husband has a 30 mile round trip commute. It costs me about $40 for 3/4 tank of gas, and that’ll last me a week. (I don’t ever let my car get below 1/4 tank because my dad is a mechanic and made me paranoid about letting the fuel pump run that low.) We paid $3.80/gallon yesterday. The costs of other things in CA are adding up too – between gas, rent, no public transportation and traffic, we’re ready to get out of here.

    The previous poster who mentioned chocolate – YES! The price has definitely gone up, dramatically – those bags of Halloween candy are now 4 or 5 bucks, at least. Oy.

  11. Ferret:

    In the UK $112 per tank, and I am guessing an 11 gallon tank is pretty small :( Yeah things are pretty bad here. A cinema ticket is about $16.50.

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