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Old 06-08-2014, 08:26 PM   #41
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Clark Howard once noted that the "Bermuda Triangle" of restaurant bills are appetizers, desserts and alcohol, because that's where the profit margin is.
It's always amazed me that the main course plate may cost $12 and one slice of cake is $7.50.

What really grinds my wheels to a stop is paying 3X the retail price for a bottle of wine. Paying almost $50 for a $15-$20 bottle of wine is outrageous. If I want a bottle of fine wine that is on the expensive side I will bring my own and pay the corking fee. Otherwise, I may order one glass and nurse it through dinner,
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Old 06-08-2014, 08:39 PM   #42
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It's always amazed me that the main course plate may cost $12 and one slice of cake is $7.50.

What really grinds my wheels to a stop is paying 3X the retail price for a bottle of wine. Paying almost $50 for a $15-$20 bottle of wine is outrageous. If I want a bottle of fine wine that is on the expensive side I will bring my own and pay the corking fee. Otherwise, I may order one glass and nurse it through dinner,
Well, when you get down to it - what ISN'T "marked up" 3x (or more!) the retail price at any restaurant? Even that slice of cake could be had at a store for probably $2.50 - which in and of itself is high.
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Old 06-08-2014, 09:08 PM   #43
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My very own totally unscientific take on inflation is my overall cost of living for the two of us since ER has been surprisingly level. Once I take our hobbies out of the equation, our annual expenditures have remained remarkably constant, pretty much consistent with a 1-2% annual increase. Sure, individual items go crazy but just as often seem to go crazy in the opposite direction at some other time. I don't know if a substitution effect is taking place or what but when I look at the annual expenditures in Quicken that's what I find. I might add that our standard of living feels about the same throughout.
Same here. I have found my expenses in the aggregate to be pretty stable in the 5 years I have been ERed. Some rose while others fell from one year to the next. What I have found the most often is that some expenses have risen for reasons which had little if anything to do with inflation. For example, in 2010 I increased the liability limits on my car insurance. That caused a one-time increase in my car insurance bill, nothing to do with inflation. Also in 2010 I had to pay more for my cable TV when they forced everyone to rent a descrambler box every month. Before that, I had an unusually good deal from them so that went away, too, greatly increasing my monthly rate. Neither had anything to do with inflation.

You have to exclude income taxes, too. First, the tax brackets are adjusted for inflation, so modest income growth will not be taxed more. But also in 2010 I had some large (short-term) cap gain distributions which shot up my income tax bill, something which did not repeat in 2011, so the income tax bill went back down. Nothing inflationary about that.

Other expenses may rise by a large percentage very rarely then remain stable for many years. The parking fee I pay to my co-op went up in 1994 when I switched from an outdoor spot to an indoor (garage) spot, not inflationary. That fee did not change until 2005 when it rose about 13%. It has not risen again since.

Other expenses may rise and fall for different reasons. In 2010 (again), we had a very hot summer so my A/C use zoomed upward, pushing my electric bill up. The 3 summers since then have not been as hot so my electric use has dropped slightly along with my bill.

My health insurance premiums have been all over the place, too. First, they rose 20% in 2010 and another 25% in 2011. I then switched to a cheap, bare-bones plan in the middle of 2011, knowing that the ACA had already passed. I knew I would drop that non-ACA-compliant plan at the end of 2013 so my premiums would rise in 2014 (still lower than they were in 2009 before the two huge increases). Some of these increases were inflationary, but changing my plan twice was not.
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Old 06-08-2014, 09:24 PM   #44
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I'm not seeing a lot of inflation overall. Sure, items here and there are more expensive.

Beef seems to be $3+/lb for the cheapest cuts or ground, and it wasn't that long ago that $2/lb was a good price. Eggs seems to have gone up along with cheese in the last few years.

We still eat plenty of eggs and cheese, but probably tend to substitute pork and chicken for beef. For a lot of what we cook, pork and chicken are just as good, or better than beef, so it's not a big deal.

Oven cleaner is still $1 at my dollar store, but it may have shrunk over the decades (I've only bought it twice in my lifetime and can't recall ever cleaning my oven).

Food overall doesn't seem to be experiencing massive inflation, notwithstanding a few examples of big price rises. Staples like flour, oil, rice, and milk don't seem to have increased at an exorbitant rate.

Cars, electronics, and appliances are decreasing in price relative to inflation, all the while getting better (with a small asterisk by appliances). In the last year, I've certainly spent plenty on the latter two items, and some maintaining the former item. Well, that's almost a lie because electronics are so cheap and so much better than a decade ago. $210 for the laptop I'm typing this on?

As for restaurants, I seem to recall cheap lunches at Mexican restaurants have been $4-5 for 15+ years. Now some places are a whopping $5-6 for lunch specials. A large pizza with a coupon has been $10 or so for a decade or more. I'm not seeing inflation at restaurants. Unless you consider the expansion of the breadth of restaurants available. When a new restaurant appears with a unique offering, they can name their price absent competition. When the food becomes ubiquitous, market forces act to drive the price down (pizza, Mexican food, Chinese food, for example)
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Old 06-08-2014, 09:27 PM   #45
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For what it's worth, the folks at MIT did a thing called the Billion Prices Project, which hoovers up prices from online retailers every day and computes a rate of inflation. They publish charts comparing the price index with the government CPI series data for annual, monthly, and daily samples.

US Daily Index » The Billion Prices Project @ MIT

Overall, they show the same gross trends.

The MIT work has been commercialized at PriceStats where one can see the collected data and daily inflation series for many countries.
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Old 06-08-2014, 10:19 PM   #46
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Helium keeps going up.
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Old 06-09-2014, 11:32 AM   #47
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I know there are numerous items that can be tracked. One specific one that stood out for me just recently was oven cleaner. We do a lot of grilling, and I had a real grungy BBQ grill. Decided now that it is warmed up, time to give it a serious cleaning. Being a cheapskate, I used to buy the generic cheap oven cleaner at the dollar store for (you guessed it) $1 within the last 10 years. Well a few years ago it was $1.25. Now it is $2.25 for the same thing Not sure why the significant increase, but my suspicion is a lot due to transportation costs, and not because of absolute raw materials cost increases. Certainly more increase than the rate of inflation would justify.

Also noticed that a 12-pack of beer has gone from around $9 to now $13 range, even on sale prices for regular American lager type beer. If I get a good microbrew type it is even more. Have you priced beef lately? Holy cow (sorry bad pun....) has the cost of beef gone up recently. Seems to be near double what it was just a couple years ago.

Vehicle antifreeze is another, it has increased at far greater rate than inflation. I could continue with more examples, but you get the point.

Now, without getting political I realize that the gov't official inflation rate does not include energy and food, which are two main items that we as consumers are exposed to daily. But why do some items seem to have increased so much more than others? Especially when they are not oil related products.

End result: now it costs me a lot more to drive my vehicle to the store, buy a steak and 12-pack, then cook it up on my now cleaner grill, while drinking a cold beer
Actually, the government inflation rate, the CPI, does include food and energy.

Core CPI is only used for month-to-month variation and pretty much only by the Fed in making policy/rate decisions. Everything else uses the CPI-U or variations that include food and energy. Any time you see a year over year number, it's the CPI. Any time you see something presented in "real" terms, it uses the CPI.
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Old 06-09-2014, 11:43 AM   #48
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I'm amazed at how much some restaurants charge for a glass of soda or lemonade. Their profit margins on soft drinks must be off the charts! That stuff can really add up over time.
Yep. Years ago I switched to tap (not bottled) water in restaurants.
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Old 06-09-2014, 11:52 AM   #49
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I go out to eat to enjoy my meal out, so I still enjoy my iced tea with my meal, even though it's outrageously priced.

Of course, my budget easily covers iced tea when eating out.
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Old 06-09-2014, 12:18 PM   #50
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For some reason, I prefer water when eating out.

It amazes me that when I eat at restaurants, I can get what I believe is the healthier drink, and one that quenches my thirst better, for free. Some day, somebody is going to realize this and start charging more for water than for soda or tea at restaurants.
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Old 06-09-2014, 01:19 PM   #51
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What really grinds my wheels to a stop is paying 3X the retail price for a bottle of wine. Paying almost $50 for a $15-$20 bottle of wine is outrageous. If I want a bottle of fine wine that is on the expensive side I will bring my own and pay the corking fee. Otherwise, I may order one glass and nurse it through dinner
Yeah, that. Usually the corkage fee (unless that's been inflated recently, too) is around $10-15 in my experience. If you bring a good but not great bottle of wine (say $20ish), you'll still be enjoy it a lot more cheaply when you BYOB rather than paying their price for the bottle.
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Old 06-09-2014, 06:55 PM   #52
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Yeah, that. Usually the corkage fee (unless that's been inflated recently, too) is around $10-15 in my experience. If you bring a good but not great bottle of wine (say $20ish), you'll still be enjoy it a lot more cheaply when you BYOB rather than paying their price for the bottle.

We recently went to a restaurant where my GF ordered a $6.50 glass of wine. Waitress said if you are going to have a few glasses of wine it is a lot cheaper to buy it by the bottle. Asked her much the bottle was and she said $24. I asked her how many glasses of wine could she get out the the bottle. She said about 4.......We told the math genius waitress we will stick with buying it by the glass this time.


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Old 06-09-2014, 08:44 PM   #53
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We recently went to a restaurant where my GF ordered a $6.50 glass of wine. Waitress said if you are going to have a few glasses of wine it is a lot cheaper to buy it by the bottle. Asked her much the bottle was and she said $24. I asked her how many glasses of wine could she get out the the bottle. She said about 4.......We told the math genius waitress we will stick with buying it by the glass this time.
Should have gone with the bottle. Go light with the pour and you can get 6-7 glasses out of a bottle.
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:10 AM   #54
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<< I'm particularly indignant about the cost of services. It now costs $125 just to have a plumber come to our house, and that's before work begins. >>

I got lucky recently. I needed a tall ladder to get to something way up near the roof. Renting a ladder would be $49. And how to get the ladder to my house? Luckily I found a handyman with a ladder who came out to my house to do the work. It took some cajoling on my part to get him away from his other projects, but I finally got him out to my place and he did the repair for only $40. I didn't find him in the phone book. A building maintenance supervisor at my church recommended him and gave me his number. A common charge around here for a handyman to even appear at your house is $100. But if you have the time (big if) you can find a sane, non gouging price.

The handyman was 68 years old, and I got the impression he loved his job, and enjoyed being the best deal in town. What a find !
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Old 06-13-2014, 01:23 PM   #55
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Casino buffet 3 people ate lunch 18 years ago for $15 today it is $14 for one person.
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Old 06-13-2014, 02:35 PM   #56
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In 1974 (40 years ago) a can of Wilson or Penn tennis balls could be purchased for about 2 bucks. Fast forward to today, you can still get them on sale for about 2 bucks.
Must be due to advances in tennis ball production??
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Old 06-13-2014, 02:39 PM   #57
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That is funny I bought some Wilson tennis balls yesterday for $2.69 full price. Normally get them on sale for $2 like you said but was spur of moment and still cheap enough.
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