Consumer Price Index Shows That Consumers Like Eating Out, Gasoline

The New York Times made a pretty cool graph out of the Consumer Price Index, which tracks changes in prices for many consumer goods over the past year. Turns out, gas prices went up.

The Times graph, a form of Voronoi Treemap, divides consumer spending into numerous categories and subcategories, allowing you to see what percentage of an average consumer’s spending is used for food versus transportation, or on citrus fruit versus tires. Some interesting highlights:

  • Electronics took the biggest dip in prices. From March 2007 to March 2008, TVs dropped 18.3% and computers dropped 12%.
  • Not surprisingly, the biggest price increases were in fuel: Gas went up 26%, propane and firewood went up 23.4%, and fuel oil (for home heating) went up 48.4%.
  • The only non-fuel item that increased by more than 20% was eggs, which went up 29.9%.
  • Consumers spend the same amount on “alcohol away from home” (0.5%) as they do on health insurance.
  • We spend too much damn money on fast food. The only categories where we spend more money are rent, gas, electricity, new cars, and meals at non-fast food restaurants. Yes, this is because other categories like groceries are subdivided into produce and meat and so on, but 2.4% is still a sizable chunk of spending.

All of Inflation’s Little Parts [NYT]
(Photo: =Rah=)


Edit Your Comment

  1. BlackFlag55 says:

    The best restaurant in town is my kitchen. I don’t eat crap and neither should anyone else. And commercial food is mostly crap.

  2. cynu414 says:

    @BlackFlag55: I agree completely. My kitchen is the best restaurant in my town.

  3. BugMeNot2 says:

    Unfortunately the service is crap in both of your kitchens. No tip!

  4. man_in_plaid says:

    I agree with both of you, Both of your kitchens are the best restaurants in town! They’re booked solid for the next 8 months! ;)

  5. munkles says:

    :pause snark:
    When you’re wildly underpayed and worked like a dog, too exhausted when you get home to even think about how exhausted you’ll be the following day, let alone sit down for an hour to plan, shop for, prepare, and pack a nutritionally balanced lunch for that next exhausting day, in lieu of everything else that you need to do with the 4-6 hours you have to yourself that doesn’t involve under-sleeping, the idea of saving that hour grabbing a bite at the fast food restaurant 2 minutes from where you work is at the very least tempting.
    :resume snark:

  6. TechnoDestructo says:


    I don’t think there are any restaurants within 20 miles of me that even do reservations.

  7. jamesdenver says:

    hmm – like the above I do a lot of cooking at home, enjoy chopping veggies, baking, and making food for myself and friends.

    I also bike to work, and do most of my errands via bike.


  8. Alex Chasick says:

    Obviously, all of you are un-American.

  9. Lambasted says:

    I love my cooking (what little I know how to cook) but I hate cooking it so I usually don’t. I purposely didn’t put a TV in my kitchen because I never had any intention on being in there long enough to watch it. Although, I wish I could be one of those people who skips and sings around the kitchen because there really isn’t anything better than a great homecooked meal.

    If you have a family, especially children, you have no choice but to cook. As a single person, I have only myself to feed. And there are times when I don’t feel like going out for something to eat nor do I feel like cooking, so I always make sure I have deli meat in the fridge to make a quick sandwich for dinner. Give me a sandwich and a Coke and I am satisfied.

  10. Carl Everett's Fossil Collection says:

    As a college student, I’m just counting the days until I don’t have to worry about papers and exams and garbage. I’ve got a fair amount of cookware that’s currently crying out to be used again because it hasn’t been touched in forever.

    Yes, contrary to popular belief, some of us don’t cook because we don’t have the time, not because we can’t. Whether something that’s made in a college kitchen is edible, though……

  11. dollywould says:

    I stopped eating fast food back in 2000, but it looks like somebody’s been picking up my slack!

  12. forgottenpassword says:

    fast food is my only weakness. It tastes soooooo good & is so convenient! :(

  13. pecheckler says:

    With the exception of family get-togethers for holidays, I’ve not eaten a home prepared meal in 6 or 7 years.
    And by home prepared Im talking not even having gone so far as to bake a pizza or make some roman noodles.
    I mean hell, if I had to open a box of frozen fish sticks to bake them I would gnaw my fingers off in anticipation.

    My diet consists entirely of pizza, subway, wendey’s, tacobell, and Arby’s.
    All I drink is orange juice, v8 fusion, diet cola, and water. Generally about two liters worth of water a day. All bottled.
    I fill a garbage bags worth of plastic bottles each week. (of which I recycle!)

    My ever-so-satisfying diet leaves me broke, and with the metabolism of a tortoise. Oddly enough I maintain about 21% body fat, and i’m not really over the ideal weight.

    Am I your average 25ish year old single American guy?

  14. @pecheckler: You sound like my husband before I met him. He’s got the metabolism of the gods though, and has maybe 10% body fat at 35 years old. Since all of the anti-fast food rhetoric available points to the obesity epidemic, he shrugs it off, but I worry about his heart, since high cholesterol runs in his family.

    We both cook a lot at home, but if I cook something with too many vegetables, he’ll leave and go to the Burger King across the street.

  15. bohemian says:

    A certain percentage of fast food & restaurant purchases probably will not go significantly down unless more people figure out they have other options. Over worked underpaid people see the $1 menu at fast food joints as an easy solution. It does take effort to plan, cook and just figure out how to cook things your willing to eat.

    We went to a new local restaurant in the trendy part of town last week. It was awful in every way possible. My kitchen is frequently becoming a better option.

  16. MoogleLally says:


    I was coming here to post this. We’re working harder than ever for little pay. Sigh.

  17. HIV 2 Elway says:

    How many Americans are forgoing paying their mortgage because they pay the cable bill and the pizza delivery guy first?

  18. chrisjames says:

    @Lambasted: That’s true. I find that with one or two people, it’s also almost impractical to save money grocery shopping, which is easiest done by buying in bulk. We can’t get many meats because they expire in a few days after purchase (my wife won’t eat anything after, or sometimes near, that date), and produce is just so damned hard to keep. We try to save on non-perishables, but we haven’t found many meals that work on just that that we can enjoy.

    We prefer cooking our own meals, but sometimes we save a little by eating crap a couple days a week.

  19. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @HIV 2 Elway: Probably a fair amount and why not? If you pay your cable bill, chances are you’re getting all the channels you originally paid for and if you pay for your pizza, chances are the pizza guy isn’t charging you for a full pizza and giving you a box 3 slices short.

    I refuse to get into a debate about the “moral” implications of intentionally defaulting on your mortgage, but one has nothing to do with the other here. People will pay for the services they are getting a fair return on and will refuse to pay off loans for which they are not.

  20. alice_bunnie says:

    People are complaining about the high cost of insurance, but it’s the same as the cost of alcohol away from home at .5% of income??? Granted, not everyone’s is .5% of income, but I know my family’s is a small portion of income.

    I know a friend of mine was complaining about the cost of paying for health insurance and how she couldn’t afford it, and then she told me the cost. I realized that what she would be paying was less than what I paid in 1994 when I made $8k less than her. :/

  21. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: Intentionally defaulting is a different story. I read editorial after editorial about how homeowners in my area can’t afford their house payments and I don’t believe it. I think the truth is their ego can’t afford to give up the luxuries they can’t afford. Info like this, seeing such a high percentage spent on eating out, supports my belief.

  22. wring says:

    @BugMeNot2: rofl

  23. JMH says:

    Alcohol away from home is only 0.5%? Man, this country is a bunch of goddamn lightweights. I think that’s at least 3% or 4% for me.

  24. lasereric41 says:

    I discovered not long ago that I can save a TON of money, and eat better by eating at home, and making things from scratch. boxed meals and pre-fab stuff from the grocery store is really expensive! When I can use a few random ingredients and make the same thing for 10% of the cost, I’ll take it.

    I think my problem is I love eating at nice restaurants. It’s become part of my budget to have one nice meal a month. Guess it’s all about priorities.

  25. eeebee says:

    I love to eat out and drink out too, but our health insurance is about $8000 a year and there’s no way we spend that on “alcohol away from home”.
    I guess I’ll have to start ordering more cocktails.

  26. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @munkles: Yep. Ditto for chips, Twinkies, boxed mac-n-cheese, frozen pizzas, and all other convenience foods.

    I cook all of our meals from scratch. How can I manage that? It’s easy — I don’t have a job.

  27. CapitalC says:

    I can’t believe I’m the first one so snicker and comment about “eating out”. :D