1980s Prices

The fantastic 80s started in a recession left over by the 70s, but around 1983, everything started to change and reflected the 1980s prices.

President Reagan reduced taxes, which put more cash in pockets, making 1980s prices reasonable and spurring the decade of excess.

Salaries crept upward while many essential items stayed the same.

Things were not only new and exciting, but most of them were also much cheaper when it comes to prices than today.

The biggest purchase of many people’s lives is their house, and 1980s prices were much different than they are today. In the 80s, a house would set you back from an average of $75,000 earlier in the decade to about $150,000 at the end of the decade.

Of course, interest rates always play a big part, and they were one of the few things that were high in the 80s. Rates were anywhere from nine to 15 percent—sometimes higher.

For a car, a decent used vehicle is always a less expensive option, but if you wanted a brand new car, you would be looking at around $3,600 for a Yugo or around $21,000 for a shiny new BMW. To fuel up your new ride, you would be paying a price between $.90 and $1.25 for a gallon of gas.

Computers swiftly became the hot new item, appearing in homes everywhere. For only $400, you could buy a Commodore 64—or if you waited until 1985, you could have the new Commodore Amiga for a price around $1,200. In 1984, Apple introduced the MacIntosh for $2,500.

A new Atari was about $140, and the games were priced between $20 and $40 each. When the Nintendo Entertainment System hit the market, it went for $199.99. The games would run anywhere from $40 to $80. It might not appear so, but these prices were relatively high for the 80s—but so worth it.

Cell phones and car phones started making their way to the masses—if one could afford them. They were truly a status symbol, costing anywhere from $750 to $3,500, and that doesn’t include the plan or any minutes.

The items we use on a regular basis, no matter the cost, were cheaper in the 80s. A gallon of milk went for about $1.60 in 1980, but by 1989 was about $2.25. The price of bread started at $.50 in the beginning of the decade, and ended up at around $1.25 by the late 80s. Eggs were about $.90, and stamps started at $.15 and increased to $.25 by 1989.

Peanut butter and jelly were about $1.40 each, making for a cheap lunch, and for about $1.50, you could get a jug of laundry soap to get out the stains.

A pair of designer 80s jeans would start at about $50; Guess was the most coveted brand, and they started at $60. The coolest sneakers were also around $50, but like the jeans, that was the starting price.

T-shirts and other tops were between $10 and $15, depending on where you shopped, but as always, there were also designer labels that would charge more.

Two of the biggest 80s trends, jelly shoes and rubber bracelets, were some of the cheaper items. The generic jelly shoes—the ones everybody wore—only cost five to 10 dollars. The rubber bracelets, sold in packs of 10 or more, were affordable enough to buy tons of them for just a couple bucks.

Of course, all these 1980s prices are relative—the average pay during the 80s was also lower. Minimum wage was $3.30 an hour, and in 1980, the average salary was around $17,000 for the median household income, climbing to around $28,000 in 1989.

A blue money sign, a symbol for 1980s prices.