These 5 charts show how much 2 years of inflation have really cost you

Published Fri, Apr 14 20239:52 AM EDT


As of April, the pace of inflation has slowed from a year-over-year peak of 9.1% to 5%. That’s good news for struggling consumers, but doesn’t tell the whole story of how much more Americans are spending due to rising prices.

That’s because the year-over-year inflation only looks back one year, even though inflation has been persistently high for the last two years.

To get a more accurate sense of how prices have risen, CNBC Make It looked at consumer price index data since April 2021 to see how much more Americans are actually paying for everyday items.

In that time, the cost of essentials like groceries, utilities and gas increased by 20% or more. The cost of all items on the index increased by 13% in that time.

Inflation cooled somewhat in 2022, with the prices of many items leveling off or receding from their peaks, particularly gas. (Gas, along with food, tends to have the most volatile price fluctuations).

Even so, wages have not kept up with the rapid rate of inflation across a broad array of goods and services, putting further strain on Americans’ finances.

Here’s a look at what got more expensive in the last two years.

The cost of groceries is up by almost 20%

Since April 2021, the cost of food prepared at home has risen by almost 20%.

Within that category, the price of some cooking staples have skyrocketed. Margarine prices increased by 54%, largely due to the war in Ukraine, which is the world’s No. 1 exporter of sunflower oil.

That’s the biggest increase of all food items in the Labor Bureau’s consumer price index, with a 13-ounce tub of margarine increasing from about $3.25 to $5 in the last two years.

Relatedly, milk and bread production have also been affected by the conflict in Ukraine, with prices rising 19% and 21%, respectively. Rising fertilizer and labor costs are contributing factors, as well.

Chicken prices have soared, too, as wholesale producers struggled to meet demand after cutting back production early in the pandemic. Prices declined slightly after peaking in late 2022, but they’re still up 20% over the last two years.

Relatedly, avian flu decimated egg-laying flocks of chickens, which accounted for a dramatic surge in egg prices last year.

Car ownership costs level off, but remain expensive

Gas prices have been on a rollercoaster since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Despite the volatility in prices, the cost of gas has been on a downward trend since June 2022.

Regular gas costs $3.66 per gallon as of Friday, well below its June 2021 peak, when a gallon cost more than $5. The cost of gas is up 22% compared with two years ago.

Car buyers have been affected by a supply crunch, too. Car manufacturers cut production early in the pandemic and have struggled to meet demand since. A semiconductor shortage also drove up prices for new cars, which are 19% higher than in 2021.

On top of that, a car part and labor shortage led to increased prices for vehicle maintenance and repair.

Rising travel prices made vacations more expensive

Inflation has made travel and most other leisure activities more expensive.

Airline fares in the last two years have risen dramatically as labor shortages and fuel prices pushed up prices amid surging post-lockdown demand for travel. Compared with April 2021, prices are up 36%. Likewise, hotel prices are up 31%.

When the pandemic began to subside, consumers shifted from buying things to doing things, which was reflected in rising prices for events. Tickets for concerts and movies have increased 9%.

Curiously, the cost of televisions is 17% cheaper than two years ago. Improved manufacturing efficiencies and data collection revenue from “Smart TV” interfaces have been driving down prices for years — a trend that predates the pandemic. Similarly, computer prices have actually declined by 4%, primarily due to reduced consumer spending and excess stock.

A shortage of cars from early in the pandemic had a spill-over effect with car rental prices. While prices spiked in 2021 and early 2022, they have cooled off since, and are only 1% more expensive than they were in April 2021.

Costs are up, even if you don’t leave your home

The cost of utilities has surged since 2021, as a shortage of natural gas and coal drove up prices for electricity and gas piped into homes. Electricity and piped gas are up 21% and 26%, respectively.

Home renovations are also more expensive compared with two years ago, as pandemic-related labor and supply shortages increased prices for hardware and tools.

Likewise, elevated material costs, low inventory and supply chain snarls have led to increased prices for furniture. However, shipping times have improved and prices have been flat over the past few months. Prices for furniture and bedding are still 16% higher than two years ago.

Rent is measured differently by the CPI compared with information published by real estate companies, resulting in a lag in the way the data reflects rent price growth. However, as any renter that’s renewed their lease recently knows, rent has surged by about 20% in the last two years, according to data.