Tracking Inflation

Inflation is less likely to be noticed in items which you buy regularly. For example, I have seen auto fares in Bangalore going up from Rs. 2.30 per km when I first started traveling alone by auto, to Rs. 6 now (this is the official meter fare). However, since I’ve always been a fairly regular traveler by Bangalore’s autos (even when I was in Madras, I used to come to Bangalore fairly regularly, and travel by auto), I’ve seen the gradual increase in the price. And am hence not shocked by the high prices, and think it (the meter fare) is fair.

Or for another example, actually I can’t think about it. I don’t really remember the prices of too many things. And those that I do haven’t changed. For example, competition from SunFeast has ensured that a packet of Britannia Good Day still costs Rs. 12 – the same as about ten years ago. I buy so many things, but simply don’t track prices. As long as it’s not significantly different from what it was the last time I bought it I won’t crib.

However, it doesn’t work this way for goods that you don’t buy regularly. Rather, if you don’t buy it long enough that inflation gets compounded enough times, then you are bound to get shocked. For example, during my six years of hostel life, I didn’t really go buy bread from our regular baker (for the record, this is the Iyengar Bakery at the Jayanagar 4th Block circle. However, for the last year or so we’ve been buying bread from the Iyengar Bakery between Cool Joint and Pavithra. The new guy makes good brown bread, which the 4th block circle guy doesn’t make). And was shocked that a “pound” now cost 13 bucks. The last time I’d been there it was 7. There was a six year gap and prices in general had gone up enough for the baker to have slowly almost doubled his price. If i’d been visiting him regularly I wouldn’t have noticed.

Have you ever wondered why during your childhood your parents used to crib that everything had become expensive? If you recall, most of their cribbing would’ve been directed at goods which are usually consumed by kids. Fact is that the prices of these things would’ve increased at approximately normal rate of inflation itself (adjusting for lifestyle changes, etc.). Except that your parents would’ve last bought these things some thirty years back. A normal inflation rate compounded thirty times over indeed makes things look expensive.

The reason I thought about this was that I was checking out the Tinkle website only to find that it now costs Rs. 40 per copy. Chandamama now costs Rs. 15. I was shocked and decided that if I were a kid now, I wouldn’t be buying them. However, Tinkle used to be Rs. 10 some 15 years ago, and Chandamama was then Rs. 6 or something. The CAGR of the price isn’t that high! It’s only that you haven’t checked it for so long!

So the next time your parents crib that what you’re buying is way too expensive, ask them when was the last time they bought that. And then pull out a calculator or an Excel and calculate the CAGR (compounded annual growth rate). ??

Put Comment