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The Cost of Living: Why America Needs a Cheap Date

The Cost of Living: Why America Needs a Cheap Date
  • PublishedMarch 12, 2024


In the bustling cities and quiet towns across America, a subtle but significant shift is taking place. What was once considered an affordable luxury—a simple night out for a burger and a beer—is now becoming a financial strain for many. This shift reflects a broader trend in the economy, where the luxuries of yesterday have become the necessities of today, making any increase in cost feel like a step back in quality of life.

The Rising Cost of Dining Out

A few months ago, while traveling in a city less expensive than New York, a ride-share driver shared with me his weekly date night routine with his wife. They would go to a sit-down restaurant for a burger and a beer, but he noted that the cost had doubled to about $80 after tax and tip, compared to pre-pandemic prices. Despite earning more, the financial strain of date night was becoming palpable.

The Changing Landscape of American Spending

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that in 2022, spending on food consumed over 11% of income, the highest in 30 years. This is a significant departure from the past when food once dominated household budgets. In 1933, Americans spent a staggering 25% of their money on food. However, the modernization of agriculture and late industrialization led to a decrease in food prices, making dining out a more common occurrence.

The Evolution of Dining Habit

In 1930, “food away from home” accounted for only about 3% of disposable income and 13% of total food budgets. In 2022, it represented approximately 50% of food budgets. This shift is not due to an increase in the cost of dining out, but rather its increased prevalence in American culture.

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The Impact of the Pandemic on Food Prices

Since the pandemic began, food prices have risen by more than 25%, with grocery prices up just 1.2% last year—less than the rate of inflation. However, restaurant prices continue to rise, up 5% last year, in addition to their post-pandemic increase. This, coupled with higher minimum-wage laws and a tight labor market for service jobs, suggests that dining out will become even more expensive in the coming years.

The Luxury of Today, the Necessity of Tomorrow

The 20th century saw many consumer goods and services become cheaper and more accessible, including TVs, air conditioning, and air travel. More recently, car services and worldwide overnight delivery have become commonplace. However, once these luxuries became common, they ceased to be luxuries. Taking them away, or pricing them like luxuries, can feel like a significant drop in standard of living for many.


As the cost of living continues to rise, it’s essential to recognize the impact on everyday activities like dining out. What was once a simple pleasure—a night out for a burger and a beer—has become a financial decision for many Americans. As we navigate these changes, it’s crucial to consider how the evolving economy shapes our quality of life and what measures can be taken to ensure that simple pleasures remain accessible to all.

Written By
Brook B Taube

Brook B Taube has amassed a wealth of successes spanning several decades, marked by his prowess in investing, entrepreneurship, and business development. A graduate of Harvard University, Brook Taube began his career in the financial services sector before transitioning to the role of founder in multiple billion-dollar enterprises. Through these ventures, he has contributed significantly to job creation, with his companies providing capital to over 500 businesses and fostering economic growth across North America. His business interests have diversified to include technology, healthcare, and other rapidly expanding industries, further solidifying his reputation as a visionary leader and strategic thinker. https://icespicemom.com/