Here’s What $1000 Would Have Bought You In 1950

50 days in hospital

The cost of healthcare is one of the most contentious issues in the United States. While America has never had free healthcare – unlike many European countries – procedures and medication were a lot more affordable in the 50s, with a hospital stay costing around $20 per day.

Adjusted for inflation that’s about $255, while in 2023 you can expect to pay $2,880 for every day you spend in hospital.

2,000 hours of childcare

The cost of childcare is often cited as one of the primary reasons women struggle to reenter the workforce after having a baby.

In the 50s, childcare was significantly more affordable, costing around 50 cents an hour. Adjusting for inflation this works out at $6, which is about a third of the hourly rate commonly charged today.

A car

In 1950, the average cost of a new car was between $1,000 and $1,500.

In today’s money, that would be about $12,000. In 2023, the average cost of a new car is between $19,400 and $24,000, which means that – in real terms – cars have almost doubled in price over the last 73 years.

A degree

On average, students in the United States leave university with $38,000 worth of debt, which is why student loan forgiveness has become such a charged topic in American politics.

In the 50s, however, you could pay for an entire degree – including lodgings – for a little under $1,000. In today’s money, that would be about $12,000, less than a third of what a degree now costs.

505 chairs

During the 1950s, the average cost of a normal chair – the kind found in kitchens and dining rooms across the United States – was $1.98, meaning you could buy 505 of them with $1,000.

Even in budget furniture stores like Ikea, the average price of a chair is now $13, meaning $1,000 would get you a mere 76 chairs.

200 x-rays

X-rays provide doctors with an easy, non-invasive way of diagnosing a wide variety of injuries and illnesses. In the 50s, you could get an X-ray for $5, which works out at $63 in today’s money.

In 2023, the average cost of an X-ray in an American hospital is over $300, which is prohibitively expensive for many.

Five top-end TVs

Television was still a relatively new technology in the 1950s, and it was unsurprisingly expensive. With that said, a brand-new TV would only set you back about $200, and cheaper models could be picked up for $150.

These days, a high-end TV will easily set you back $2,000.

Seven domestic flights

In the 50s, international flights were prohibitively expensive for most families, with tickets working out at well over $3,000 when adjusted for inflation.

Domestic flights were more affordable, but they still weren’t exactly cheap. The average cost of a flight between two American cities was $138, which would be $1,760 today.

4,000+ packs of cigarettes

Smoking was not only commonplace in the 50s, it was believed to have active health benefits. As a result, cigarettes weren’t subject to the extraordinarily high taxes they are today, and a pack would cost around 24 cents.

That means that you would have been able to purchase more than 4,000 packets for $1,000, whereas these days that sum would get you around 125 packs.

20,000 eggs

In 1950, a box of a dozen eggs cost just 60 cents, meaning $1,000 would have bought you 20,000 of them.

According to the US Bureau Of Labor Statistics, the average price of a carton of eggs in 2023 is $4.25, meaning that $1,000 would get you a measly 2,820 eggs.

200 prescription medications

During the 1950s, prescription medications were significantly cheaper than they are today, with prices for popular drugs ranging from $1 to $5.

These days, the average cost of prescription medicine ranges from $13 to $97, which – even when adjusting for inflation – is a steep rise.

3,703 gallons of fuel

In the 50s, the average price for a gallon of fuel was just 27 cents, meaning that $1,000 would get you 3,703 gallons.

In recent years, dwindling supply and rising demand have sent the price of fuel skyrocketing, with a single gallon now costing $3.44.

13 months rent

These days, most people who rent dedicate at least half of their monthly salary towards living costs. In the 50s, however, rent was considerably cheaper, with a medium-sized apartment costing $75 a month on average.

This means that $1,000 would have paid for almost 14 months of rent.

7,000+ loaves of bread

Bread in the 50s was considerably cheaper than it is today, with a single loaf costing just 14 cents. In addition, it would have been of a much higher quality, with each loaf baked by a professional baker.

$1,000 would have bought you over 7,000 loaves of bread, whereas the same amount today would buy you 250 loaves from a supermarket.

550+ dress shirts

People generally dressed much more formally during the 50s, and dress shirts would be commonly worn on a daily basis.

They also cost considerably less, with $1,000 buying you over 550 individual shirts. These days you’d be lucky to get even 100 dress shirts for $1,000.

1,120 gallons of milk

The average price for a gallon of milk currently sits at around $4.36, meaning $1,000 would get you just shy of 230 gallons.

In the 50s, however, milk was considerably cheaper, and you could comfortably get more than 1,120 gallons of farm-fresh milk for $1,0000.

10,000 cans of tomato soup

If you buy online, you can pick up Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup for around $1 a can, which certainly isn’t terrible. In the 50s, however, a can of tomato soup would set you back just 10 cents, meaning you could buy 10,000 cans for $1,000.

With prices that low, you can understand why tomato soup was so popular in the 50s, with people even using it to make cake.

166 nights in a hotel

Travelling abroad wasn’t particularly common in the 1950s, and most families would vacation within the United States, staying in hotels in seaside towns like Cape Cod’s Provincetown.

Hotel rooms cost an average of $5.90 a night, meaning $1,000 would buy you more than 166 nights.

20,000 phone calls

Before mobile phones became ubiquitous, pay phones were routinely used by Americans from all walks of life. In the 50s, pay phones cost just 5 cents to use, meaning $1,000 would buy you 20,000 calls.

By the time pay phones became obsolete in the early 2000s, the price of a call had risen to 25 cents.

12,500 pounds of sweetcorn

If you’re a fan of sweetcorn, you’re probably going to wish you were alive during the 50s.

As well as being a staple part of many Americans’ diets, sweetcorn was also incredibly cheap in the middle of the 20th century, with $1,000 buying you 12,500 pounds of the stuff.

335 pairs of women’s shoes

Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find a pair of women’s shoes for under $20, and if you want good quality you’ll likely be paying ten times that.

A pair of leather women’s shoes in the 50s, meanwhile, could be purchased for around $2.98, meaning you could buy 335 pairs for $1,000.

Four washing machines

Prior to the 1950s, laundry was mostly done by hand. While automatic, electric washing machines started becoming popular midway through the 20th century, they were still prohibitively expensive for many.

A new washing machine cost around $250, which works out at $3,120 in today’s money.

33,333 stamps

With emails still two decades away from being invented, and four decades away from becoming widely adopted, most people in the 50s communicated via letters.

Fortunately, doing so was incredibly cheap, with a stamp costing just three cents. This meant that you could have sent 33,333 letters with $1,000.

2,000 copies of The New York Times

Before the invention of the 24-hour news cycle, Americans relied on daily newspapers to keep them abreast of developments both at home and abroad.

The New York Times was one of the most popular papers, and it cost just five cents per issue. These days, a copy of The New York Times will set you back around $6, although it’s cheaper if you sign up for a subscription.

1,538 movie tickets

Even before the pandemic, cinema visits were on the decline, with many citing high ticket costs as a reason.

Back in the 50s, meanwhile, going to the movies was a popular pastime for just about everyone, and it was much more affordable, with a single ticket costing just 65 cents.

350 records

While CDs have become virtually obsolete, vinyl has been enjoying a resurgence in recent years, and individual records often retail for around $20.

This is almost ten times as much as they would have cost in the 50s. Whereas these days records are seen and priced as trendy items, in the 50s they were used by almost everybody.

5,263 McDonald’s cheeseburgers

The first McDonald’s opened in 1940, and by 1950 the company had already become an incredibly successful chain.

In addition to serving food quickly, McDonald’s also lured in customers with its incredibly cheap prices. A cheeseburger cost just 19 cents, a price which has increased tenfold over the last 70 years.

20 vacuum cleaners

Prior to the Second World War, vacuum cleaners were seen as luxury items available only to affluent households. This started to change in the 50s, as vacuum cleaner ownership increased in the middle class.

That said, they still weren’t exactly cheap, retailing for $49, which would be around $625 today.

1,298 pounds of sirloin steak

Steak has always been one of the most expensive cuts of meat, and this was as true in 1950 as it is today.

However, everything was cheaper in the 50s, and steak was no exception, with a pound of sirloin – generally seen as one of the most desirable cuts – costing 77 cents on average.

555 boxes of chocolates

In the 50s, a box of chocolates cost around $1.80, meaning you could buy $555 boxes for $1,000. While that might sound cheap, $1.80 actually works out to just under $24 in today’s money.

The price of chocolate has been driven down in recent years by competition between manufacturers, with American consumers now having literally thousands of options to choose from.

1,612 jars of mayonnaise

While there is evidence that the Ancient Egyptians made a sauce that was remarkably similar to mayonnaise, the condiment as we know it became popular in the 1910s.

A jar of Kraft’s mayonnaise – one of the most widely available brands – cost just 62 cents in 1950, meaning you could have bought 1,612 jars for $1,000. Why you’d want to do that is another question entirely.

182 date nights

During the 50s, date night would often involve a steak dinner followed by a movie at the cinema. This would cost around $5.48 for two people, which works out to $68 after adjusting for inflation.

Today, that figure probably wouldn’t even cover dinner, let alone any other entertainment.

50 clothes irons

Although they were invented in the 1880s, clothes irons didn’t become common household items until well into the 20th century.

In the 1950s, a Westinghouse Open-Handle steam iron would set you back $19.99, which is equivalent to roughly $255 in today’s money, illustrating quite how expensive they were back then.

1,123 pounds of sugar

Sugar is another commodity that has actually come down in price over the last 70 years. In 1950, ten pounds of sugar cost 89 cents, which is equivalent to $11.30 in today’s money.

Most supermarkets in the United States currently sell ten pound bags of sugar for about $6.

Four Chanel bags

Chanel has been seen as one of the most luxurious designer brands since it was founded in 1910, and its products have steadily become more expensive in real terms.

In the 1950s, you could buy a Chanel handbag for around $220. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $2,800, which is significantly less than some Chanel bags cost today.

28 men’s suits

Suits were commonly worn by men during the 50s, and prices usually started around $35, which is $450 in today’s money.

The reason that suits were generally more expensive back then is that they would be individually tailored, and they would normally last for years, if not decades.

1,694 pounds of M&M’s

M&M’s were invented in 1940, and they quickly became one of the most popular sweets in America.

The candy-covered chocolates could be bought in one-pound packs for 59 cents, meaning – should you have wanted to – you would have been able to buy 1,694 pounds of M&M’s for $1,000.

500 ski-lift passes

These days, skiing is generally regarded as a pastime for the wealthy, and skiing holidays often cost thousands of dollars.

In the 50s, skiing was much more accessible to the masses, and a ski pass could be purchased for as little as $2 per day. This works out at about $25 in today’s money, far less than is charged by most modern ski resorts.

Three refrigerators

Home refrigerators started becoming widely adopted in the 1930s after it was discovered that freon could be used as a safe alternative to the toxic gases previously used.

A medium-sized fridge cost $299 in 1950, equivalent to $3,820 today. As with other consumer electronics, refrigerators are significantly cheaper these days due to the outsourcing of manufacturing.

2,000 pairs of stockings

You can currently buy a three-pack of unbranded nylon stockings on Amazon for $16.99, which means that $1,000 would get you 176 pairs.

While that doesn’t sound too bad, in the 50s that same amount of money would have bought you 2,000 pairs. Even one you account for inflation, that’s a steep price increase!