Just Occurred…Why a $100.00 Bill is the New $20.00


Whenever I want a reality check on my real age, I reflect on the stories my parents told us about what a nickel would purchase when they were children.  Of course, it seemed absolutely ancient to us, a loaf of bread for a nickel?  A gallon of gas for 15 cents?  Ten tootsie rolls for a penny?  Unthinkable!  Today, I reflected on finding a quarter under the floorboards of the unfinished space outside of our bedrooms, where our clothes hung on two long poles, before my parents remodeled the ‘upstairs’, built closets, and covered the floor with tile and carpeting.

I remember reaching under the floorboard, scrambling through old coloring books, doll parts, jacks, marbles and, then..a coin. Was it a nickel?  No, it was a quarter!  That quarter purchased a bag of huge, round, shiny malted milk balls from the neighborhood Woolworth candy counter.  Woolworth and Kresge (later Jupiter) were only a block from our home. My parents permitted me to walk there all alone, or with one of my siblings, anytime I felt like it.  I remember one day after finding that first quarter, I was home alone searching for another, not really expecting to find anything.  It was a sunny, summer afternoon and my siblings were outside playing like most kids in the neighborhood.  I recall sun glistening through the window and dust particles dancing in the trail of sunlight.  Every time I scooped another handful of trash, another quarter, or two, appeared.  I couldn’t believe it…the more I scooped trash, the more quarters I discovered.  By the time I had reached as far under the floor as my short little arm would stretch, I had accumulated $4.50!

The first person I told was my sister Claudia.  We decided to go to Woolworth where I purchased a bag of malted milk balls, a new book of Cutout Dolls-with seven days worth of outfits (my favorite amusement), the most beautiful outfit for my doll complete with red shiny shoes and purse, and a pair of matching high heel shoes for me and Claudia.  I was rich and as happy as a little girl from Joy Road and Grand River could be!  Christmas in July!

I remember trying to figure out where all of those quarters could have come from.  Were they stashed by the former owners of the house?  If they were, then it was after the house was moved from its original site on Joy Road.  We learned from Mr. Johnson, our neighbor from across the street (the builder of most of the houses on our block), that our house consisted of only a living, dining and bathroom when it was moved from Joy Road.  After it was moved, the kitchen, downstairs bedroom and upstairs bedrooms were added.  So, maybe my quarters were stashed in the floorboards on purpose.  Or, maybe they were lost over time, after we had moved in, gifts accumulated and lost from our grandfather who made a point to leave one with each of us whenever he came, ‘downtown’, to Detroit from Inkster.

I realize now how ancient this story must sound to my nephews and nieces – as ancient as my parents’ recollections sounded to us.  When it is time for their birthdays or graduations, I understand how they feel getting a twenty-dollar bill instead of a hundred.  Though, when you consider all of the young people who have birthdays in a month or in a year, doesn’t take much calculating to see how a hundred dollars per occasion wrecks a budget really fast.  But, what can a young person do with a twenty-dollar bill these days?  Maybe catch a matinee?  Surely won’t purchase a new Polo shirt they are so fond of.  Or, a pair of Mauri shoes that are all the rave – not even a hundred dollars will purchase the pair of Mauris.

Recently, I have begun to dip into my savings for monthly expenses, something I have not done in over fifteen years.  When I think about it, this current state of financial affairs is a culmination of several factors.  Ever escalating gas prices have surely begun to take their toll on my budget.  The exorbitant food prices and insurance rates for inner-city Detroiters, like me, are just outrageous.  Then, add to this deteriorating mix the fact that I have not had an income increase in over seven years.  Yep, It Just Occurred to me that inflation has finally overtaken my budget and its way past the time for me to readjust my thinking, my planning, my earnings and my spending.


11 responses »

  1. $100 was less than $20 five years ago in NYC. And ever mind the gas, because you’d easily spend $20 in a cab just to get to the grocery store……you are right, it is a mindset, that well-heeled families had a long time ago…….invest your money to beat inflation and maintain purchasing power over time….and utilize credit to grow your money, not to burden yourself………these are lessons that should be taught when you learn how to count money….not when your in credit counseling……

  2. When I reached retirement age and was sharing with my co-workers that I was soon to be retiring, I remember a lady suggesting for me to work part time about 15 to 20 hours a week She went on to say you know for those extras, like birthdays and weddings and graduation gifts.She was absolutely correct about those being extra expenses. I find myself tapping into my savings too, sometime just to have a fun time. However I have not reached the stage where my outgo exceeds my income therefore my upkeep have not become my downfall. I am often giving thought of ways to increase finances. In the meantime I will continue to use what seemingly works for me and that would be sticking as close as I can to a budget frugality.

    • Carlene: Thank you for stopping by and especially for leaving a comment. I am still trying to adjust to not being able to multitask and as I try to make the adjustment, the world just keeps on spinning and my finances just keep on shrinking. BUT…I understand where I am and have begun to investigate additional employment..even full time for the healthcare benefits. Keep Hope Alive 🙂

  3. Love your blogs Jaune. They make me remember, reminisce, and sometimes ramble, but I think that’s ok too. 😉 On the exchange market the American dollar today is not even valued at 100 pennies almost anywhere other than “third world” countries. What we have been watching with the collapse of an out of control economy is like a slow weight gain. You feel it little by little, then look up one day and it has become something that you now have to figure out a way to manage. The good thing about it is that we are blessed to be resourceful, intelligent thinkers…and doers…who know how to make it happen!

    • Inspyerd: Thank you for stopping by and especially for leaving a comment. Responses from readers are almost as enjoyable as writing this blog. I truly appreciate your metaphor and encouragement. I will keep them in mind next time I’m juggling income and outgo. Please check back often.

  4. Jaune, I LOVE your blogs. They bring back so many memories from the past then smoothly take you back to the present. I look forward to reading them. Keep up the great works!

  5. OK, finally I arrived at the point in which I can say that there is no new $100.00 bill! All of this is a smoking gun! When I think that people can pay $40,000.00 for a dinner that would cost me $20.00 to purchase…I mean $100.00 and maybe five hours to prepare; which comes to about $20.00..ops I mean $100.00 in man hours….I realized that the new agenda of government does not include me! For us to have economical crisis on every level as a nation and have the power brokers flaunt their “political war chest” is a disregard to the women and men whom they are suppose to represent! Let’s say that the $20.00 bill is the new $100.00 bill, then that means that dinner still cost too much $$! I heard on Fox2 News this morning that the DPS – Detroit Public Schools will only have around 60.000 children enrolled this fall, well, how about freezing some of the overpriced dinner to share with the children who has parents that are making $400.00 a week in salary, bringing home buying power of $80.00, in a spiraling recession, where milk, bread, cheese, fruit for the week cost them 50% of their earning! I’ll say, there is only a shift in the social structure and the erasure of the middle class…some will be poor and their $20.00 bill will represent their old $100.00 bill and some will be rich and indulge in $40.000.00 per plate dinners! And that my readers would represent the “new direction of America”!

    • Claudia: Thank you for stopping by and especially for leaving a comment. I feel your concerns and unfortunately, I think the ever expanding war chests will only balloon wider. I think what I get most from your comment, though, is your awareness of the two Americas that are becoming more and more divided based on class (money), power (money) and political affiliations (money).

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