Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Prices Seem To Be Skyrocketing
by James Glaser
January 14, 2011
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I have heard that gas prices are up every where, but it seems to me, except for real estate, everything is going up. With a tip, breakfast is costing us almost $20 dollars if we eat out, and dinner is easily $40.

I was at the grocery store tonight, and a can of tomato sauce is $1.59, and that can is only 14.5 ounces. It is the same with a lot of things. They not only raise the cost, but they lower the size. I was buying a pound of coffee, and the price didn't look that bad, but on closer inspection I realized what I thought was a pound was really only 11.5 ounces. So when you figure out the cost per pound, coffee is way up there. I didn't even see those three pound cans they used to have, I bet nobody can afford them any more.

I asked the butcher for a couple of really good steaks. They were over $12 dollars each. I said I'd take the baked potato and house dressing on my salad. He didn't even crack a smile.

Last week I stopped at the "touch-less" automated car wash, and that is now $8.50. That seemed high to me. Last night I stopped to vacuum out my truck, and that was still seventy five cents, but it only stayed on long enough to do the driver's side. I think they saw what they did to the coffee cans and decided to do the same to the vacuum's timer.

I saw this cute little van that Ford has out now, and I thought that would be cool to have for moving my art work around. It doesn't get very good mileage, and base price is over twenty three grand. With just a few options you are in the high twenties.

Man I am glad I don't smoke. I was in the check out of a store that had a sign touting the "Cheapest Cigarettes in Town." They were $4.75 a pack. That is almost a quarter each. I bet you have to think when people come up to bum a smoke.

For some reason building materials haven't gone up much, but you would have thought with the lack of demand because of so little building going on that the prices would have dropped. I have noticed several independent lumber yards closing up, so maybe they can't lower prices and stay open.

It is true though that some things are down. We bought a ceiling fan for our porch that cost $29 dollars. I don't know how you can make something with that many parts and package it in a nice color printed box for that price, and you know the company making it isn't getting close to what we paid for it.

You know it is harder as you grow older, because you can remember what prices were when you were young. What kills me about the South is that there are people, skilled people getting paid at the same rate I was paid up North in the 1970s. Almost every construction worker I have met down here hates even the thought of joining a union. I'll tell you though, union construction workers make a lot more money, they have benefits like family health care, and they get vacation pay. About the only thing I can figure is that the contractor down here makes a lot more money. He is selling his house for the same as up North, but his labor costs are about half. I am sure that isn't true every place in the South, but it seems to be in North Florida.

Thinking about things that have gone down in price, we have a friend who just became a realtor, and her first house sale was a fixer-upper that sold for $12,000. It wasn't long ago that you couldn't even get a small buildable lot for that price.

When I think about it though, all-in-all, prices are going up, and they are going up fast. LP gas is at $2.59 a gallon. Back in Minnesota I would use about 1,200 gallons a winter, but that was 5 years ago, and the price was 69 cents a gallon. I know if I were still up there I would be back to heating with wood. Who knows, we may be doing that down here. We have a nice fireplace, but the lady who owned the house before us had a gas log put in, and I like that, but I haven't had to fill the tank yet.

It was reported yesterday that one million homes were foreclosed on last year, and more will lose their house in 2011. With the way prices are going, I don't know how those people who have hit bottom will ever save enough to make a down payment so they can buy again.

Maybe though, house prices will continue to plummet, and they will need nowhere close to what they needed the first time they bought. I remember in Canada they sold gas by the liter, and it seemed so cheap. Yes, it is an illusion as a liter is so much smaller than a gallon, but it wouldn't surprise me if the gas companies here try that gimmick in the future.

So how about this, with prices going up on almost everything, maybe my artwork should cost more, too—eh? (I threw the "eh" in after thinking about Canadian gas prices.) But what the heck, the price of art should go up, too—right? Oh, oh, how about this. I keep my prices the same, just make everything smaller. The only trouble is the amount of work would be the same. In some things you just can't win.

However, Wanda and I are happy. You can't put a price on happy, but it sure is worth a lot.

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