Yesterday I put up a list of things that were different 100 years ago. Reader M. M. sent me a link to a USA Today article about how money and costs looked that long ago. Here's an excerpt.
Take-home pay in 2015 vs. 1915. Census Bureau data show that the median household income, measured from 2009 to 2013 (the most recent data available), is $53,046. Back in 1915, two years after income tax came on the scene, you were doing about average if you were making $687 a year, according to the Census. That is, if you were a man. If you were a woman, cut that number by about half. Today, that $687 would be comparable to earning $16,063 a year, according to an inflation calculator on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' website. So Americans' buying power has improved considerably in the last century.
Buying a house in 2015 vs. 1915. Today, the median home value in the U.S. is $177,600, according to the Zillow Home Value Index. In 1915, purchasing a house would have typically set you back $3,200, according to Census records.
Buying a car in 2015 vs. 1915. If you buy a car today, expect to pay $31,252 on average, according to August 2014 data from TrueCar.com, a car dealership. In 1915, the journal Motor Age indicated that a typical car's sticker price was $2,005 ($46,879 today).
Filling up your car in 2015 vs. 1915. As of late December, the average price for a regular unleaded gallon of gas was $2.29, according to AAA. In 1915, you would have paid somewhere around 15 cents a gallon. As is the case today, what you paid to fill up depended on your location. For instance, according to a 1917 report by the Federal Trade Commission, if you lived in Massachusetts, you were paying 15 cents a gallon in January 1915 but 23 cents a gallon by December 1915. In California, the rates remained steady, starting off the year at 12 cents a gallon and ending at 14 cents.
There's more at the link.
I suspect the conversion to allow for inflation isn't quite right. I think the article doesn't provide a realistic correlation between prices then and prices now, certainly not when I compare it to resources such as 'The Value of a Dollar' (which I have in my reference shelves). Nevertheless, it's a usable comparison. Also, it can't take into account the added functionality of modern products for which we pay extra. A vehicle in 1915 would have no power assisted steering or brakes, no air-conditioning, no radio (let alone a CD player, MP3 compatibility, or a Bluetooth link to your smartphone), be a lot less comfortable and a lot less safe, and so on. There's no way to factor that into a direct price comparison.