The unfortunate part of the holiday season is that someone has to pay for it: you. All of us are stuck with paying for part of the bill. And while retailers (the entire economy, really) rely on the holidays for a large part of their financial success, we are constrained by what we earn (assuming we spend responsibly). That seems to be a problem for many of us, who aren’t seeing much in the way of raises, especially while we are seeing increases in prices that continue to shrink the value of every dollar we make. According to data released Thursday, our average weekly earnings went up by 1.8% over the last year, to $753 per week, yet the prices we pay for stuff increased by almost 4%. So, in “real” terms, our wages have gone down over the last year. That is not exactly setting the mood for the upcoming celebrations.
Now think about our average wages in terms of the cost of the new iPhone 4S, which was apparently oversubscribed. These phones start at $199 dollars, plus all of the monthly connection fees, internet usage, and apps that go along with it. The cost of the phone by itself is 26% of an American’s average weekly earnings. And we aren’t about to give up our lifelines to today’s information economy. Yet we haven’t even touched food, rent, utilities, healthcare, or gas (which, at the current average of $3.47 per gallon can easily cost over $50 for a tank). It’s hard not to notice how much a pint of ice cream, or a box of cereal, costs these days. A bag of potato chips can easily reach $5. At this rate something’s got to give. Hopefully for you it’s your salary – and a big increase at that.