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The U.S. government has a real inflation calculator anyone can use

If you want to see how bad things are, take a look at the U.S. inflation calculator

Inflation, inflation, inflation.

It’s a word that continues to appear in headlines, on social media, and in every conversation you have after looking at your latest grocery bill. Is the constant coverage just “doom porn” and clickbait, or is it real?

a ton of $20 bills
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The U.S. government has a real inflation calculator for you to decide for yourself.

The tool comes courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The inflation calculator allows you to determine how much buying power a certain amount of money would have in one specific month of a year compared to another. It may sound confusing to explain. However, it’s intuitive, and a cinch to use, though looking at the results may bring about a significant cringe.

For example, perhaps you live in New York and filled your tank with 10 gallons of gas before heading somewhere for the holidays in December of 2022. The average price of gas a month ago in New York was $3.49 per gallon. If that were the price at your usual gas station, you’d have paid $34.90. How much buying power would that have had in December of 2000? A few inputs, and you’ll see — that $34.49 would have been worth $58.83 two decades ago — more than two-thirds more (68.57%).

Of course, 20 years is a long time. What would $34.90 have been worth in December 2019, before COVID-19 and supply chain issues changed the world and global economy? Again, re-input the numbers, and you’ll see a slighter difference. The $34.90 you spent on gas would have stretched to $39.83 in 2019. It’s slightly less than a $5 margin, but it adds up when you consider all the other expenses you have.

The inflation calculator currently shows figures from January 2000 to December 2022, and it doesn’t allow for future projections. That’s probably a good thing.

It’s been a challenging few years living through a global pandemic that’s domino effects on the global economy included layoffs, furloughs, shortages, and supply chain issues. It would be nice to feel like we’ve burst through the tunnel and reached the light, but thousands of tech sector layoffs from Twitter to Microsoft, freefalling cryptocurrency, and inflation are all among the new headlines that may give you a headache as you scroll through social media or watch the news. The R-word — recession — is also being thrown around a lot. On the bright side, the caviar market is hot.

Jokes aside, know that you’re not alone in your concerns about the economy, finances, and job security right now. A recent survey showed that more than 70% of workers were getting more and more concerned about their financial security, and fewer than half of the respondents reported feeling financially stable.

Using an inflation calculator to see just how bad things are getting may not be the best idea if you have worries. However, it’s there for you if you’re an economic wonk or need to prove a point to a friend who hasn’t been following the news.

BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on and In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
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