money, movies

Oscar’s Alimony

In The Odd Couple, Oscar Madison admits to his ex-wife in California that he’s weeks late paying his alimony. He gets off the phone, sits down with his poker buddies, and announces: “I’m $800 behind in alimony. Let’s raise the stakes.”

Eight-hundred dollars. We wonder how much that would be today.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics hosts an inflation calculator that we can turn to in situations like this. If we calculate using the value of a dollar in 1968, when the movie came out (the play debuted in 1965), translated to 2008 dollars, we get:

$800 (1968) –> $5029.49 (2008)

Oscar’s five thousand dollars behind.

That’s some inflation. It’s hard to imagine a sports writer, or any kind of print journalist, being able to pay five grand a month for just about anything these days. But life was different forty years ago, and so was the dollar. Gas was cheap, food was cheap, rent was cheap. Or so it seems in hindsight; presumably some of these things were proportional in cost to today while others simply were cheaper in real dollars.

Speaking of rent, Oscar Madison lives in an eight-room apartment—in Manhattan, by himself, as a reporter.

Those were the days. Adjusting for inflation, I wonder how many rooms Oscar’s apartment would have today.

[Thanks to Alisa for the question, who uses a different inflation calculator.]