Today’s Luxuries were beyond your Average Ancestor: Cost Comparison 1910 to Today

Today’s Luxuries were beyond your Average Ancestor: Cost Comparison 1910 to Today

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Throughout most of the 20th century, once the average income had housed, fed and clothed a family, there wasn’t much left for life’s little luxuries.  Any disposable income probably went on a few pints at the pub, or the odd trip to the cinema.  If you were lucky, a year’s worth of saving might stretch to a week’s holiday at the nearest seaside resort in the summer.



The average annual salary in the UK today is around £26,000, for working a 40 hour week.  In 1910 it was around £70 for men and £30 for women (the equivalent of £6,500 and £2,800 today) for working a 55 hour week.  Skilled workers, such as iron-moulders and cotton mill overlookers, could earn over £100 (£9,400) per year; unskilled labourers might only earn half that.

Housing was much cheaper.  In 1910 a 3 bedroom house could be rented for around £15 (£1,400) per year, compared to around £7,000 per year today.  Buying a house was also, in theory, more affordable.  In reality, banks were far more choosy about who they lent to; the maximum loan was usually 75% of the house’s value and the repayment period was typically 16-20 years.  Most working people in the first half of the 20th century rented rather than owned; a 25% deposit would have been beyond their means, and anyway, many regarded a mortgage as an unwanted millstone around their necks.

While property prices and rents have rocketed ahead of earnings over the last 100 years, mass production and modern transportation have meant that food and luxury goods are now much more affordable for those on average incomes.  In 1910 the amount of money that average workers had left over for rent or house purchase was tiny because so much was dedicated just to paying for food; as much as 75% of a weekly wage could go on groceries.  Wars and economic crises throughout the 20th century meant that luxury goods remained a rare treat that families saved hard for.  Even as late as the 1970s, large luxury goods such as televisions tended to be rented rather than bought outright by those on average incomes.

To compare the changing cost of goods against wages, I have picked the examples of a police constable and a staff nurse; their pay has hovered around the national average for the last 100 years.  For the household goods, I have tried to highlight a ‘lineal ancestor’ to the modern items we know today.  For example, while televisions weren’t invented in 1910, a hand cranked ‘mutoscope’ could have provided a moving picture show in the home, and while Atari video games were all the rage in 1977, the Edwardians were going mad for table tennis, or ‘ping pong’ in 1910.  Also, some items such as the radio receiver in 1910, the television in 1938, or the personal computer in 1977 were still very new and experimental, so a very high initial cost to the consumer was to be expected.  I have put today’s equivalent cost against the old time prices, so you can see the effect that government legislation and market forces have had on them over the years.

Police Constable's Annual Salary

191019381977Today
Police Constable - 1910Police Constable - 1938Police Constable - 1977Police Constable - 2012
£80 in 1910£230 in 1938£3,500 in 1977£32,000 now
(= £7,500 now)(= £12,300 now)(= £19,850 now)

Staff Nurse's Annual Salary

191019381977Today
Staff Nurse - 1938Staff Nurse - 2012
£40 in 1910£80 in 1938£3,500 in 1977£24,000 now
(= £3,750 now)(= £4,300 now)(= £19,850 now)

Houses

191019381977Today
3 Bed Semi - 19103 Bed Semi - 19383 Bed Semi - 19773 Bed Semi - 2012
£250 in 1910£550 in 1938£16,000 in 1977£190,000 now
(= £23,700 now)(= £29,400 now)(= £78,400 now)

Cars

191019381977Today
Ford Model T - 1910Ford Prefect - 1938Ford Escort - 1977Ford Focus - 2012
Ford Model TFord PrefectFord EscortFord Focus
£220 in 1910£350 in 1938£3,000 in 1977£13,000 now
(= £20,600 now)(= £18,700 now)(= £17,000 now)
275%
of annual police salary
152%
of annual police salary
86%
of annual police salary
41%
of annual police salary
550%
of annual nurse salary
438%
of annual nurse salary
86%
of annual nurse salary
54%
of annual nurse salary

Bicycles

191019381977Today
Raleigh Model Superbe - 1910Raleigh Irish Police Bicycle - 1938Raleigh Chopper Mark 2 - 1977Raleigh Mission Mountain Bike - 2012
Raleigh Model SuperbeRaleigh Irish Police BicycleRaleigh Chopper Mark 2Raleigh Mission Mountain Bike
£15/15s (£15.75) in 1910£8/8s (£8.40) in 1938£71 in 1977£100 now
(= £1,475 now)(= £450 now)(= £403 now)
20%
of annual police salary
3.7%
of annual police salary
2%
of annual police salary
0.3%
of annual police salary
40%
of annual nurse salary
10.5%
of annual nurse salary
2%
of annual nurse salary
0.4%
of annual nurse salary

Telephones

191019381977Today
Magneto Call Wall TelephoneGPO 200 Series TelephoneNokia 2220 Mobile Phone
Magneto Call Wall TelephoneGPO 200 Series TelephoneGPO 706 Series TelephoneNokia 2220 Mobile Phone
£3/3s (£3.15) in 1910£1 in 1938N/A - rented£30 now
(= £295 now)(= £54 now)
4%
of annual police salary
0.4%
of annual police salary
0.09%
of annual police salary
8%
of annual nurse salary
1.3%
of annual nurse salary
0.13%
of annual nurse salary

Televisions

191019381977Today
Kinora MutoscopeT22 Ultra TVPhillips 22 Inch TVPhillips 22 Inch Digital TV
Kinora MutoscopeT22 Ultra TVPhillips 22 Inch TVPhilips 22 Inch Digital TV
£2/2s (£2.10) in 1910£29/8s (£29.40) in 1938£290 in 1977£180 now
(= £197 now)(= £1,570 now)(= £1,640 now)
2.6%
of annual police salary
13%
of annual police salary
8.3%
of annual police salary
0.6%
of annual police salary
5.2%
of annual nurse salary
37%
of annual nurse salary
8.3%
of annual nurse salary
0.75%
of annual nurse salary

Radios

191019381977Today
Homemade Radio ReceiverMurphy A46 RadioFidelity Rad 15 RadioBush DAB Digital Radio
Homemade Radio ReceiverMurphy A46Fidelity Rad 15Bush Digital Radio
£1/10s (£1.50) in 1910£9/10s (£9.50) in 1938£20 in 1977£40 now
(= £140 now)(= £510 now)(= £114 now)
1.9%
of annual police salary
4%
of annual police salary
0.6%
of annual police salary
0.13%
of annual police salary
3.8%
of annual nurse salary
12%
of annual nurse salary
0.6%
of annual nurse salary
0.17%
of annual nurse salary

Music Players

191019381977Today
Victor GramophoneColumbia 100 Record PlayerFidelity Rad 25Creative ZEN MP3 Player
Victor Portable GramophoneColumbia 100 Portable Record PlayerFidelity Radio Cassette RecorderCreative ZEN MP3 and Video Player
£2/5s (£2.25) in 1938£9/10s (£9.50) in 1938£45 in 1977£80 now
(= £120 now)(= £510 now)(= £255 now)
5.3%
of annual police salary
1%
of annual police salary
1.3%
of annual police salary
0.25%
of annual police salary
10.6%
of annual nurse salary
2.8%
of annual nurse salary
1.3%
of annual nurse salary
0.33%
of annual nurse salary

Cameras

191019381977Today
Kodak Folding Pocket BrownieKodak JuniorCanon PowerShot Digital Compact
Kodak Folding Pocket BrownieKodak JuniorKodak InstamaticCanon PowerShot Digital Camera
£1/1s (£1.05) in 1910£2/5s (£2.25) in 1938£7.45 in 1977£50 now
(= £98 now)(= £120 now)(= £42 now)
1.3%
of annual police salary
1%
of annual police salary
0.2%
of annual police salary
0.16%
of annual police salary
2.6%
of annual nurse salary
2.8%
of annual nurse salary
0.2%
of annual nurse salary
0.21%
of annual nurse salary

Watches

191019381977Today
Workman's WatchMickey Mouse WatchLED WatchDigital Multi Function Watch
Workman's WatchMickey Mouse WatchLED WatchDigital Multi Function Watch
£1/5s (£1.25) in 191015s (75p) in 1938£25 in 1977£5 now
(= £117 now)(= £40 now)(= £142 now)
1.6%
of annual police salary
0.3%
of annual police salary
0.7%
of annual police salary
0.016%
of annual police salary
3.2%
of annual nurse salary
0.9%
of annual nurse salary
0.7%
of annual nurse salary
0.02%
of annual nurse salary

Word Processors

191019381977Today
Remington Model 7 TypewriterBaby Empire TypewriterCommodore PET Personal ComputerToshiba Satellite Laptop
Remington Model 7 TypewriterBaby Empire TypewriterCommodore PET Personal ComputerToshiba Satellite Laptop
£21/7s (£21.35) in 1910£8/18s (£8.90) in 1938£700 in 1977£280 now
(= £2000 now)(= £480 now)(= £3950 now)
27%
of annual police salary
4%
of annual police salary
20%
of annual police salary
0.9%
of annual police salary
54%
of annual nurse salary
11%
of annual nurse salary
20%
of annual nurse salary
1.2%
of annual nurse salary

Games

191019381977Today
Ping Pong setElectric Speedway gameAtari Video Computer SystemXbox 360 and Kinect Sensor
Table Tennis setElectric Speedway gameAtari Video Computer SystemXbox 360 and Kinect Sensor
8s (40p) in 1910£1 in 1938£200 in 1977£250 now
(= £37.50 now)(= £53.50 now)(= £1,135 now)
0.5%
of annual police salary
0.4%
of annual police salary
5.7%
of annual police salary
0.8%
of annual police salary
1%
of annual nurse salary
1.25%
of annual nurse salary
5.7%
of annual nurse salary
1%
of annual nurse salary

I am sometimes accused of being a bit old-fashioned.  I think it’s true that many of today’s problems could be solved if we ‘harked back’ to the past a bit more and if we enjoyed the simpler things in life.  Most of the exciting new gadgets listed above were indeed out of the reach of my grandparents and great-grandparents, but I don’t think they hankered after them – what they didn’t have, they didn’t miss.  Even when I was a young girl in 1977, I was much happier with my £2 doll than I would have been with a £200 video games console (though my older brother would have a different view!).  However, as I sit here typing this on my laptop, browsing other pages on the net, with the telly blaring in the background and my mobile phone bleeping with a text from my mum at the other end of the country, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t go back to the way things used to be.  Would you?

Now, anything yummy in the fridge………?

Fridge

191019381977Today
Empire FridgeElectrolux Fridge
Empire FridgeElectrolux FridgeFridge 1970s (Photographic Print from Mary Evans)Bush Fridge Freezer
£3/10s (£3.50) in 1910£19/10s (£19.50) in 1938£200 in 1977£200 now
(= £328 now)(= £1,044 now)(= £1,134 now)
4.4%
of annual police salary
8.5%
of annual police salary
5.7%
of annual police salary
0.6%
of annual police salary
8.8%
of annual nurse salary
24%
of annual nurse salary
5.7%
of annual nurse salary
0.8%
of annual nurse salary

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