17 Things The Middle Class Can’t Afford Anymore

The average income at the start of the century was $48,000, which isn’t far off of today’s $55,000 average. Sadly, we can’t say the same for the cost of living. With Americans having experienced an almost 200% increase in expenses since 2000, here are 17 things that the middle class can’t afford today.


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While top earners in the upper middle class and upper class are still getting married, marriage rates have fallen for the lower middle class and lower class. The average $30,000 wedding expense has become too much for many to bear without going into debt.


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Vacations inside and outside the US have become overbearingly expensive. For instance, prices for tickets to Disneyland have more than doubled since the start of the 21st century. You would’ve also had to spend only $800 or even less in 2000 for vacations for the whole year, compared to the $4,000 most people budget today.

New Cars

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Driving technology has been great in recent years, but it has also driven the cost of cars up. Gone are the days when the price of a new car was an average of $25,000, or even $15,000, as the Department of Energy shares. Today, prices have doubled and are still rising out of the reach of more middle-class citizens.


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Those who eventually get to afford their weddings find it difficult to get out. For one, separation has become unaffordable on a single income due to the rise of housing costs. This is especially true when there are children to take care of. The cost of litigation to settle divorces also makes it all the more unaffordable, especially for the lower middle class.

Staying at Home While Sick

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The luxury of skipping work due to illness is not possible for many Americans. CNBC reports that 33% of employees always go to work sick, while 57% go to work sick sometimes. Barely anyone can afford to go on unpaid sick leave.

Private Schools

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It’s no longer a privilege for the middle class to easily afford top private schools today. Harvard, which cost $22,000 to attend in 2000, is now more than double that price, and many schools have followed suit. It gets even worse when you see that most middle-class people don’t qualify for full financial aid.


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For the middle-class today, the dream of home ownership has continually faded away as the prices of homes skyrocket. Talking to CNN, Nadia Evangelou, a senior economist at NAR, says that the middle class faces the biggest housing shortage among all income groups and can’t build wealth through it anymore.

Dining Out

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Reports from 2023 show that restaurant traffic and sales dropped, and the main cause of this is that people can’t afford to dine out as they used to. With an average compounding food inflation rate of 2.4% since 2000, even groceries, snacks, and beverages have become harder to afford.

Exclusive Clubs

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Many in the middle class can’t afford to be exclusive members of country clubs and golf clubs. Barely anyone has an extra $10,000 to drop as initiation fees or $500 to drop as a monthly due to a club. The cost of housing and food has taken away this luxury.

Investing for Retirement

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Forbes reports that over half of middle-class Americans believe they can’t put money aside to save or even invest for retirement. Inflation is hitting hard, and the comfort of retirement is looking more like a disaster fast approaching on the horizon for many in the middle-class today.


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Alongside college costs, the price of basic healthcare services has staggeringly increased over the years, rising even faster than the inflation rate. Most of the middle class can’t afford it without insurance, and long-term medical planning has become a strain. What’s more, more middle-class individuals today have medical debt than even the lower class.

Dental Care

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A lack of financial access to dental care isn’t just a worry for low-income earners today. Even the middle class is feeling the brunt of price hikes—feeling it so much that dental care insurance doesn’t fit into budgets. Many have resorted to delaying or even skipping visits to the dentist.


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Kids are so expensive these days that Fox reports middle-class parents have to sacrifice stay-at-home care for a second income. Middle-class children cost almost $300,000 over the years of care, and raising more than two or even one has become a no-go area for many.

Debt-Free Living

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The worries of meeting monthly debt payments have taken over more people in the middle class. Only 23% of people in the US live debt-free, and the middle class holds most of the country’s debt. The lower middle class holds up to 60% more debt than the lower class, due to more access to credit cards.

Emergency Savings

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It has become harder for the middle class to spontaneously pull money from savings to cover unexpected expenses. CNBC explains that “one-third of middle-income adults don’t have enough savings to cover an unexpected $400 expense without selling something or borrowing money.”


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Nearly 60% of Americans cut back on their spending on concerts in 2023 alone, according to the Wall Street Journal. In fact, even those who went to concerts say they had to take up a second job just to afford this pleasure. It has become harder than ever for the middle class to enjoy live performances from their favorite artists.


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Americans love their pets, and adoption rates haven’t fallen. The problem, however, is that inflation has caused many to send theirs back to shelters. The cost of veterinary care has spiraled out of control, and more people have also found it harder to spoil their animal friends with toys and high-quality food.

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