Everyone buys different kinds of goods. For example I don't smoke tobacco so I'm not affected by increased tobacco prices. I also don't have a car so I'm not affected by the reduced oil prices either. But my landlord increased the monthly fee of the apartment so my cost of living per month suddenly increased more than 10% relative to the same month a year before.

Based on this I think this "personal inflation" can vary wildly from person to person.

But the inflation data that's published by a country is based on some standard consumer basket, which is currently 0.5% in our country. What does this number mean to me? Is it meaningful from the personal finance perspective?

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    The 10% hike is probably not really related to inflation. It could be due to a number of factors such as the property value of the neighborhood has gone up or the landlord trying to get rid of you Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 20:27
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    @Calmarius I see. I think you've answered your own question with "Based on this I think this "personal inflation" can vary wildly from person to person." I think what you are experiencing in Budapest could be considered a "spike" rather than inflation.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 21:02
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    For what it is worth, I don't think oil prices are included in the Basket of Goods considered by the Government for calculating inflation.
    – JohnFx
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 22:52
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    Oil price affects everything. Seriously. Farms run on oil. Anything that is shipped from one place to another relies on oil. If oil suddenly vanished, do you think your life would not change just because you don't have a car? Think again.
    – J...
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 13:50
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    @MonkeyZeus to be fair I personally haven't had too many rent increases over the last few years, but pretty much everyone I know usually sees $100+ at a time Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 13:57

6 Answers 6


Inflation as defined in the general, has many impacts at a personal level.

For example, you say that the reduction in the price of oil has no impact on you. That's absolutely not true, unless you're a hermit living off of the land. Every box or can or jar of food you buy off the shelf of the grocery store has the price of oil baked into it, because it had to get there somehow. High fuel costs for trucks mean increased costs to put food on shelves, which mean increased prices for that food.

Even tobacco prices can affect you, because they affect what other people are spending. Demand is always a significant factor in prices, particularly retail prices, and if people are spending more money on tobacco, they're probably spending less on other things - either buying less snacks, for example, or buying cheaper brands of those snacks. So the price of Doritos may drop a bit (or not rise), for example.

General inflation also tends to drive raises, particularly in industries with relatively small performance ties to raises. If inflation is 3%, wages need to raise 3% or so in order to keep up, on average; even if your personal cost-of-living went up 0%, or 5%, or 10%, the default wage inflation will be closer to that of the national average. Any raise less than national average is effectively a pay cut (which is one reason why inflation is needed in a healthy economy). So your company probably has a cost-of-living raise everyone gets that's a bit less than inflation, and then good performers get a bump up to a bit more than inflation. You can read more on this topic for a more in-depth explanation.

Finally, inflation rates tend to be major factors in stock market movement. Inflation that is too high, or too low, can lead to higher volatility; inflation that is "right" can lead to higher stability. An economy that has consistently "right" inflation (around 2-3% typically) will tend to have more stable stock market in general, and thus more reliable returns from that market. There are many other factors that lead to stock markets rising and falling, but inflation is one very relevant one, particularly if it's not in the "right" zone.

  • +1 - my answer: the quoted inflation rate is important to the individual because it drives what government will do. Your government cannot affect your personal inflation rate without being unfair to others. So it must act on an inflation rate that is applicable to all. Thus the inflation rate which the government acts upon is the 'basket of goods' inflation rate. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 22:16
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    To add to the point about oil. Anything you buy that contains plastic is made from oil also. It is not just the transportation costs where it impacts you.
    – JohnFx
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 22:53
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    The general basket already includes food prices etc. So if I don't have a car, I can totally drop that one from my personal basket. However oil affects food prizes doesn't matter. It is included anyway
    – Christian
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 16:15
  • @JohnFx: and methane is used to produce N-fertilizer. A few years ago, IIRC, it was close to 1/6 of the world methane production was used to make fertilizer. As gas and oil prices are more or less coupled, oil price affects food prices also this way. Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 0:59

Inflation data is a general barometer for inflation that a typical consumer would experience. Generally when calculating inflation for yourself you would only include items that you use and in percentages of your budget.

Personal inflation is much more useful when attempting to calculate safe withdrawal rates or projections into the future.


The general discussion of inflation centers on money as a medium of exchange and a store of value. It is impossible to discuss inflation without considering time, since it is a comparison between the balance between money and goods at two points in time.

The whole point of using money, rather than bartering goods, is to have a medium of exchange. Having money, you are interested in the buying power of the money in general more than the relative price of a specific commodity. If some supply distortion causes a shortage of tobacco, or gasoline, or rental properties, the price of each will go up. However, if the amount of circulating money is doubled, the price of everything will be bid up because there is more money chasing the same amount of wealth. The persons who get to introduce the additional circulating money will win at the expense of those who already hold cash.

Most of the public measures that are used to describe the economy are highly suspect. For example, during the 90s, the federal government ceased using a constant market basket when computing CPI, allowing substitutions. With this, it was no longer possible to make consistent comparisons over time. The so-called Core CPI is even worse, as it excludes food and energy, which is fine provided you don't eat anything or use any energy.

Therefore, when discussing CPI, it is important to understand what exactly is being measured and how. Most published statistics understate inflation.

  • personally, i think most published statistics overstate inflation. e.g. the CPI substitutions you mention nearly always substitute a superior product. do you have any evidence to support your claim that inflation is understated somehow? Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 17:41

It means that your money does not have the same amount of buying power.

  • The point of the OP is that the "buying power" is a average with a doubtful influence on him/her. Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 9:02

Everyone buys different kinds of goods. For example I don't smoke tobacco so I'm not affected by increased tobacco prices. I also don't have a car so I'm not affected by the reduced oil prices either. But my landlord increased the monthly fee of the apartment so my cost of living per month suddenly increased more than 10% relative to the same month a year before.

This is well known, also by the statistical offices. As you say, the niveau of the rent is not only time- but also location specific, so there are separate rent indices (German: Mietspiegel). But also for the general consumer price indices at least in my country (Germany) statistics are kept for different categories of things as well.

So, the German Federal Statistical Office (Statistisches Bundesamt) not only publishes "the" consumer price index for the standard consumer basket, but also consumer price indices for oil, gas, rents, food, public transport, ...

Nowadays, they even have a web site where you can put in your personal weighting for these topics and look at "your" inflation:


Maybe something similar is available for your country?


short answer:

any long term financial planning (~10yrs+). e.g. mortgage and retirement planning.

long answer:

inflation doesn't really matter in short time frames. on any given day, you might get a rent hike, or a raise, or the grocery store might have a sale. inflation is really only relevant over the long term. annual inflation is tiny (2~4%) compared to large unexpected expenses(5-10%). however, over 10 years, even your "large unexpected expenses" will still average out to a small fraction of your spending (5~10%) compared to the impact of compounded inflation (30~40%).

inflation is really critical when you are trying to plan for retirement, which you should start doing when you get your first job. when making long-term projections, you need to consider not only your expected nominal rate of investment return (e.g. 7%) but also subtract the expected rate of inflation (e.g. 3%). alternatively, you can add the inflation rate to your projected spending (being sure to compound year-over-year). when projecting your income 10+ years out, you can use inflation to estimate your annual raises. up to age 30, people tend to get raises that exceed inflation. thereafter, they tend to track inflation.

if you ever decide to buy a house, you need to consider the impact of inflation when calculating the total cost over a 30-yr mortgage. generally, you can expect your house to appreciate over 30 years in line with inflation (possibly more in an urban area). so a simple mortgage projection needs to account for interest, inflation, maintenance, insurance and closing costs.

you could also consider inflation for things like rent and income, but only over several years. generally, rent and income are such large amounts of money it is worth your time to research specific alternatives rather than just guessing what market rates are this year based on average inflation. while it is true that rent and wages go up in line with inflation in the long run, you can make a lot of money in the short run if you keep an eye on market rates every year.

over 10-20 years your personal rate of inflation should be very close to the average rate when you consider all your spending (housing, food, energy, clothing, etc.).

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