My mum was born in 1931 and one of the birthday cards she received on a recent birthday listed the price of everyday goods the year she was born. It made fascinating reading:
Petrol – 7p a gallon
6 Eggs – 3p
Pint Guinness – 4p
Post letter – 0.5p
1/2lb bacon – 6p
Depending on which survey you read the average income in 1931 was between £100 and £150 per annum, so let’s take an average of the two at £125. So your annual income in 1931 could buy you 25,000 eggs at 3p per half dozen.*
Today 6 eggs can cost £1.50 and the annual average salary is around £25,000 so you could buy around 100,000 eggs.*
In 1931 you could buy 14 gallons of petrol with every pound you had, or 1750 gallons if you spent all of your salary filling up your car, for those who had a car in 1931 that is! Today at an average of £5 per gallon you could buy 5000 gallons!*
In 1975 when I started my first job on leaving school I was paid £16 per week and a pint in the student union was 19p so I could drink around 80 pints per week. Today the average salary is £442 per week and although a pint can cost as much as £5 depending on where you drink it you could still buy 88 pints with your £480, an increase of 10% over 1975 consumption.
So although it looks as though we’re much better off today it never really seems that way and figures are strange things since in 1931 you could get 200 eggs for £1 but today you’ll be lucky to get 4! In 1931 you could buy 14 gallons of fuel with £1 but today you’ll need £5 to buy one gallon! And although I could get 5 pints for £1 in 1975 today I might need £5 to get 1 pint!
I asked some Moneysucks readers what they earned in their first job and what they did with their first pay. The answers were interesting:
A month’s rental of a Sony C7 betamax VCR. Can’t recall the cost…think it was about £19. Didn’t leave me with much left over!
First week’s pay was £18.25p. I worked in Glasgow and I lived in Rothesay so the majority of that went on the following weeks travel expenses oh and I gave £2.00 to the miners at the central who were striking. lol well it was 1985
100 franc (£10) a week for my summer job on a French camp site when I was a student. Spent it on gauloises.
Got £400(for two months work, just started in bank) – first thing I did was give met mum 200 quid! Still couldn’t spend the rest
I did my first day’s work aged 9, no kidding, knocking out the inside of an old butchers shop in Lanark…and didn’t get paid. Family Business of course
I got my pocket picked and lost the lot!
How much did you earn from your first job and what did you do with it? And do you think your money goes further now than it did then?
*All of these figures are ‘rounded-up and ignore the effect of tax, NI and all the other things that we have to spend our money on, both in 1931 and today but you get the point!