Here’s How Much a “Cheap Date” Cost Every Decade Since the 1940s
Big dates, little price tags.
While we may get to our dates in hybrid cars, pay for our meals with our phones, and send flirty emojis rather than flowers, the core components of a typical date night haven’t changed much over the past 50 or 60 years. When push comes to shove, nothing beats grabbing a burger and going to the movies for a fun cheap date.
If there’s one thing that has changed since the ’40s and ’50s, however, it’s the cost of showing your sweetheart an affordable night on the town. From 1980 to 2000 alone, the cost of living increased more than twofold, and the price of all those essential date accoutrements, from meals to movie tickets, have gone up accordingly, too.
In order to highlight just how far money used to go back in the day, we’ve crunched the numbers to come up with how much a cheap date used to cost. So what exactly constitutes a “cheap date?” For our purposes, we’re defining an affordable romantic outing as two hamburgers, two sodas, and two tickets to the cinema.
In order to keep things consistent, all of the hamburger prices are straight from McDonald’s menus past and present (save for the 1940s, when McDonalds didn’t exist), all of the prices for the sodas are from Coca-Cola, and the data for the movie tickets comes from the National Association of Theatre Owners. (For decades with limited information, we averaged what was available to come up with a rough ticket price estimate.) So read on to find out how much your grandparents were spending when they were in love way back when—and for more trips down memory lane, check out The Most Popular Menswear Style the Year You Were Born.
Movie tickets: 72¢ for two
Hamburgers: 28¢ for two
Sodas: 10¢ for two
When adjusted for inflation, this comes out to $11.73.
In the 1940s, catching a movie at the cinema was still a relatively new and novel concept. That’s likely why, according to data from Elon University, more than 60 percent of the American population was going to the movies at least once a week in the mid-1940s. Some of the most successful movies from this decade—and ones that many couples likely watched during their date nights—included Dumbo, Lady in the Lake, Casablanca, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Citizen Kane.
Movie tickets: $1.18 for two
Hamburgers: 30¢ for two
Sodas: 10¢ for two
When adjusted for inflation, this comes out to $17.
Not unlike today, teens growing up in the ’50s enjoyed taking their dates to inexpensive joints where they might run into their friends; one article in a 1959 issue of Seventeen noted that popular hangout spots included ice cream and pizza parlors, drive-in theaters, and coffee shops. The only difference? Back then, boys and girls didn’t need to bring more than a few dollars to pay for the entire night! And if you want to enjoy the same movies that people were watching in the theater once upon a time, check out The 40 Greatest Teen Movies Ever—Ranked.
Movie tickets: $2.08 for two
Hamburgers: 30¢ for two
Sodas: 27¢ for two
When adjusted for inflation, this comes out to $22.86.
“Drive-ins gained immense popularity… during the 1950s and ’60s with the Baby Boomer generation,” notes a report published by the New York Film Academy. According to the film school, there were more than 4,000 drive-ins nationwide during this time, all of which served as “an affordable date night option.” And really, affordable is an understatement; in the ’60s, movie tickets cost an average of just $1.04 per person.
Movie tickets: $4.20 for two
Hamburgers: $1.20 for two
Sodas: 80¢ for two
When adjusted for inflation, this comes out to $30.08.
And if you’re a ’70s kid, don’t miss these 20 Photos Only Kids Who Grew up in the 1970s Will Understand.
Movie tickets: $6.98 for two
Hamburgers: $2.70 for two
Sodas: $1.00 for two
When adjusted for inflation, this comes out to $25.59.
With hamburgers going for just $1.35 in the ’80s, most folks probably had plenty of money leftover to buy their dates a 55¢ side of fries.
Movie tickets: $8.96 for two
Hamburgers: $4.60 for two
Sodas: $2.40 for two
When adjusted for inflation, this comes out to $26.84.
Though nearly $9 for two movie tickets is a far cry from the minuscule price tags of the ’40s and ’50s, it’s still cheap in comparison to what a “big date” costs today. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the average price of a movie ticket in 2018 was $9.11—and that’s per person!
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