Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What is $200 Really Worth?

They sold a painting at Sotheby’s today. One of Andy Warhol’s earliest, actually a silk screen, 200 One Dollar Bills, sold for $43.8 million. Looking back, I was just reminiscing about how much $200 could buy when I was a girl and what it’s worth now.

For starters, my parent’s mortgage on their house in 1953 was $11,000 dollars. This is the house that I and my three brothers and one sister grew up in. A three bedroom, one and half bath with formal dining room and fenced back yard, on a large lot on a monopoly board, all-the-same, suburban neighborhood in the East Bay of SF. With an added full bath and family room, the same home that my parent’s still live in, worth $650,000 two years ago, now about half that. Today, there is probably somewhere in the US where $200 would pay the rent, but not anywhere that I would want to live.

A family of four would eat rather well on a lot less than $200 a month back then. The drive-in restaurant that we frequented and can still remember had hamburgers for 19 cents apiece. Today the whole wad could be blown on a meal in a nice restaurant for my childhood family of seven, not including alcohol.

My mom sewed all of our clothes, or we gratefully wore hand-me-downs from the neighbors with smaller fabrics. Going shopping before school, meant new underwear, socks and a pair of brown and white oxfords. I doubt that my mom spent more than $200 on clothes for all five of us. Now, $200 might buy one outfit, including shoes, or maybe only the shoes alone.

The point being not only have prices changed but the perception of money itself. There is an entitlement attitude today, that such expenses are necessities. Adults teach children that they must have the latest and the greatest at any cost. It is an expendable attitude towards all goods and merchandise. Few things are used up, made do, or done without. The current economic crisis is not making the impact that it should. There are still people with money spending and people without trying to catch-up with them. The consumers of our country need to change their attitude and start treating $200 like its worth the Andy Warhol print.

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