Money

It's not your imagination: Things are more expensive than they were 10 years ago

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during news conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 9, 2017 in Washington, DC.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during news conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 9, 2017 in Washington, DC.

If your sense is that most of what you pay for month to month, from child care to health care, costs way more than it did a decade ago, even accounting for inflation, you're right.

An infographic originally published on the blog of the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute makes clear that while a few items have gone down, proportionally, in price, a lot of the things that matter have gotten more expensive.

This version, provided by AEI, has been updated slightly from the one previously published.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it shows that Americans now get great deals on TVs. Clothes, home furnishings and cars are also cheaper.

But for many crucial fixed costs, prices have shot up. Medical care, child care and education all cost significantly more than they used to.

Helaine Olen wrote about this phenomenon in her book "Pound Foolish."

"Housing, health care, and education cost the average family 75 percent of their discretionary income in the 2000s. The comparable figure in 1973: 50 percent."

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AEI's Mark Perry tells CNBC that "competition breeds competitiveness," and that manufactured goods are more affordable now because they're made more cheaply overseas and then sold here by mega-stores that compete to offer the lowest price.

Unfortunately, there's no effective way to outsource fixed costs like child care or education. Since the government has a stake in all of those matters, Perry says, it imposes regulations or adds subsidies that drive up prices.

In nations like Canada and throughout Europe, government involvement in education and health care actually helps keep costs down. America's market-driven health care system is the most expensive in the world — and yet produces lackluster results, especially given how much patients are forced to spend.

Still, there's no denying that inflation has affected different sectors differently, and some of the most crucial fixed costs have risen the most. Given that incomes were flat for so long, it's no wonder Americans are finding it so hard to save.