2 Useful Calculators: Inflation and Percentage

This first calculator addresses a pet peeve of mine: when an article mentions a historical dollar value—or worse, compares it to a current value—and completely ignores time and inflation. A dollar today isn’t worth as much as a dollar twenty years ago. When writing about an old dollar value, it often helps to make it more relatable for current readers.

To easily do that, use an inflation calculator. There are a number of good ones out there, but this one’s my go to fave, direct from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics itself:

Here’s a typical example we encounter in articles: “The first Godfather movie only cost $6.5 million to make!”

I know it came out in 1972. Using the CPI Inflation Calculator, we can then easily calculate that $6.5 million in 1972 is about $43 million in 2021 dollars. Impressively still not huge by today’s blockbuster standards, but we get a way more accurate feel for what the numbers really mean. Better, don’t you think?

This next calculator is for those of you who aren’t really all that good with the math thing, something I’ve observed afflicts quite a number of writer-types. This one’s specifically for percentages, something that appears quite often in articles and other writing.

The best part is that it guides and lets you calculate the percentage a number of different ways, using plain language as you’ll probably write it, making it easier for you to select which method will work for your needs.

Here’s an example we see often, especially in consumer-related articles: percentage change. “Widget sold for $19.95 last year. Now it’s $24.50, an increase of ??? percent!” Using this nifty tool, we can easily figure out that ??? is a 22.81% price increase. That’s pretty huge in a year.

If you think about it, you can use that very same percentage change option to calculate the percentage difference in price between two competing items. Is that cool or what?


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