(Photo by Julie Denesha/Getty Images)

As I’ve said before, I know what things cost today: too damn much. But now I want to know what things cost in 1993, which is 30 years ago.

 

This all started simply enough. My youngest wanted some Doritos. He loves Doritos. But we shop at Trader Joe’s and they don’t sell Doritos. So to procure some Doritos, I was going to have to make a run to my to the big chain grocery store down the street. I only shop there when I there’s something I can’t get at TJ’s, like Doritos, so I wasn’t prepared when I saw the price stamped on the bag.

 

The grocery store wanted $6.99. For a bag of Doritos.

 

I won’t make you suffer through my rant again. I’ll just leave it at this: Doritos don’t cost $6.99. The global COVID-19 pandemic, the accompanying supply chain shortage, and the suspicious bout of inflation that has accompanied record profits for corporations (funny how that works, isn’t it?) have created the perfect storm of consumer goods costing more than the should. But was it always like this?

 

What Things Cost in 1993: Another Hard Look at Historic Prices

The short answer is: yes. Consumers have been taken advantage of to varying degrees for as long as there has been a free market with consumers and consumables. But as I said in this look back at what things cost 20 years ago, in 2003, I don’t want to go all the way back to the 1950s, because of course a gallon of milk 70 years ago was dirt cheap. But 20 or 30 years ago? That standard of comparison seem to make more sense.

 

So away we go in our wayback machine to 1993. I’ll stick to the same products I looked at for my piece on 2003, and even keep those prices in the mix for frame of reference. Again, my thanks to the Morris County Library’s Historic Prices lists for providing the info.

  • Doritos

    2023 price: $6.99. Sure, you can maybe get them cheaper if you price shop or luck into the sale, but we need a base price here.

    2003 price: $3.50according to this calculator.

    1993 price: $2.88. I feel like this is what a bag of Doritos should cost today. And another 30 years from now.

  • Milk

    2023 price: $2.80according to this study.

    2003 price: $2.76, which was the average price that year. So factoring in inflation, you’re actually making out OK if you’re still drinking cows milk. I drink plant milk, so I’m losing out.

    1993 price: $2.09. Again, these prices are for a gallon of milk. Big jump from ’93 to ’03. Wasn’t expecting that.

  • Average Car

    2023 Honda Accord: $27,295according to Kelley Blue Book.

    2003 Honda Accord: $18,665according to this great piece from the Morris County Library that lists prices of goods in 2003. I’ll be using it as a resource for the rest of these comparisons.

    1993 Honda Accord: $17,630. These prices are for the four-door sedan. Jumped up a little over $1,000 in 10 years, then almost $10,000 in the next 20 years. Not cool. Not sustainable.

  • Gas Grill

    2023 CharBroil Gas Grill: $428 on Amazon

    2003 CharBroil Gas Grill: $249. This price hike over 20 years feels particularly steep. Has there been some groundbreaking gas grill technology that’s been discovered recently that I didn’t hear about?

    1993 CharBroil Gas Grill: $135. Yeah, this 10-year increase feels a bit steep, too.

  • Air Conditioner

    2023 5000 BTU window unit: $179 at Home Depot

    2003 5000 BTU window unit: $85. OK, maybe Energy Star ratings have improved over the last two decades. But I don’t feel like an in-window AC unit should more than double in price over that period.

    1993 5000 BTU window unit: $200. Back in ’93, an in-window AC unit for a home was a luxury. So this price makes sense. Now that it no longer is and that the units are cheaper to make and mass produced, today’s AC shouldn’t cost as much as 1993’s AC.

  • Thanksgiving Dinner

    2022 average: $64.05, per the Courier-Journal.

    2003 average: $36.28, which would be $46.73 in today’s dollars. Still, turkey prices are said to be dropping in anticipation of the 2023 holiday, so at least the overall meal will be cheaper than it was last year. I guess.

    1993 average: $27.49, which would be $42.33 in today’s dollars.

  • Houses

    2023 median single-family home price in MA: $616,450

    2003 median single-family home price in MA: $180,200

    1993 median single-family home price in MA: $126,500

    Again, I have no words.

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