We can all agree on one thing in these polarized, divided times — 2020 changed everything for the worse regarding personal finances. Whether it’s owning a home, building an investment portfolio, or heating one’s home, most people have experienced a decrease in their living standards. With the global financial climate’s backdrop of war and civil unrest exacerbating the problem, some activities are becoming less inviting to the average American consumer.
1. Movie Tickets
Figures show that movie theater attendance has fallen since 2020. In 2020, fewer than 250 million tickets were sold, compared to 2002’s high of 1.5 billion. Even two years later, numbers are way below what they were in 2019, which saw 1.2 billion ticket sales. With the rise of home-streaming services, movie theater attendance figures may never recover.
2. Road Trips
A simple cross-state road trip would have been considered a low-cost excursion a few years ago. However, as Micheline Maynard of The Washington Post explains in her article, it isn’t only the gas-price hikes deterring formerly willing explorers; hotel, motel room, and restaurant prices are also pushing people away.
Visitors to the United States have always returned home raving about dining out in the land of plenty. However, recent reports show restaurants are trimming down portion sizes while inflating prices. Moreover, a 2022 story on CNN explored how wealthier diners were resorting to chain restaurants like IHOP and Applebees.
How many hardworking people do you know who need a vacation yet cannot afford one? I can think of several, although this isn’t the case, according to a 2023 Deloitte Holiday Travel survey. During the 2023 Thanksgiving season, predictions said that record numbers of people would be flying after a few years of restricted travel. However, the cost of flying a family of four and accommodating them forced many families into taking cheaper trips.
5. Practicing Hobbies
George Orwell called Britain “a nation of hobbyists” in his wartime essay, “England Your England.” His affection for the everyman and everywoman working around their interests is obvious, though would he see the same country today? Like Britain, America is a land of hobbyists, though some of them, like golf, rock climbing, or watersports, may be out of reach now. These activities were affordable a few years ago.
6. Going to a Bar
A 2023 CNBC analysis of drinking habits showed the price of alcohol consumed away from home has risen over 100% since 2000, and the average price for all alcoholic products was estimated at 79% over the same period. Commuting to a bar where a beer could cost upward of $10 has lost its drawing power.
7. Sporting Events
In October 2023, sporting event ticket prices rocketed by 25% compared to the year before. There are many reasons for this, namely the rise in demand and inflation rates pushing energy prices higher. Not long ago, the U.S. Betting Report published data showing alarming price hikes on NFL tickets, using a Fan Cost Index (FCI) to measure average prices for a family of four. The differences between 2012 and 2022 are as high as 90% for a certain Las Vegas team.
8. Junk Food and Desserts
A recent post showed how high junk food prices have rocketed lately, with a gentleman sharing his photo of a Connecticut McDonald’s menu. “This was at a rest stop,” says Learner in a post on X (formerly Twitter), “but these McDonald’s prices are nuts, right???” He refers to an $18 Big Mac combo. Even though this was a service station restaurant, it demonstrates how a small family might reconsider their Friday-night takeout rituals now.
9. Visiting Disney World
Last summer, analysts discovered a drop in attendance at Disney’s theme parks, which was strange for the summer months. Even after lowering its projections in the previous quarterly report, numbers were still much lower than expected, forcing Disney’s management team to offer Christmas discounts this past holiday season. A five-day family trip to Walt Disney World can cost up to $5,000, which is not feasible for many families.
The Wall Street Journal named 2023 “The Year of the $1,000 Concert Ticket,” with good reason. With average ticket prices reaching $113 and fans admitting they would contemplate a second job to afford the cost of attending, serial gig lovers may be suffering a crisis of fiscal confidence these days. The problem is young fans can max out a credit card and spend the next few years paying it off, while responsible families don’t have that option.
11. Living in the West
Although the statistical data is not current, the U.S. State Department estimates that 9 million Americans live abroad. The Association of American Residents Overseas (AARO) puts the current number at 5.4 million people. There is an argument that Americans are leaving the continent in high numbers, with Britain as the preferred destination. A HireAHelper study found that in 2023, 30% more Americans moved to Britain than the year before.
12. Visiting the Doctor
Some unfortunate Americans must view the American healthcare system like Rocky’s arch nemesis, Ivan Drago. His famous line, “He dies — he dies,” could sum up how the current 8.4% of uninsured citizens feel they are treated. However, having cover doesn’t guarantee treatment for many issues, forcing even the insured to avoid their doctor. A 2023 PBS interview with the clinical professor of primary care at Stanford University, Dr. Maya Artandi, showed that 40% of U.S. adults admit to delaying care due to financial costs.
13. Spontaneous Fun
A trademark of living in the modern ’20s might be the decline of fun, especially for children. It isn’t that fun activities aren’t plentiful in America; they just cost a lot, and their parents may be too busy working. Sadly, the implications of not giving kids outdoor playtime are dire. Therefore, parents must rekindle their love of spontaneous fun for the kids’ sake.
14. Living Independently
When I lived in the United States, it was striking to the outsider how young Americans were when they left home — 18 years old, some of them. However, a recent Bloomberg report found that 48% of American adults between 18 and 34 still lived with their parents. That’s not a surprise, with the median rent costs now at a huge $2,052. Rising interest rates force property owners and landlords to tighten their belts and inflate fees.
15. Going for a Coffee
Remember those halcyon days when you could pass a Starbucks, rummage in your pockets for some loose change, and grab a quick latte? Labor shortages, inflation, and meteorological factors have pushed the average Main Street takeout coffee to $6 a cup. These hostile caffeine conditions bring to mind the famous Louis Theroux line in Jason Derulo’s song: “My money don’t jingle-jingle; it folds.”
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