If you're having breakfast before driving to the mall in your new Toyota Celica GT to buy clothes for your daughter, you already know plenty about the cost of living.
If you're a coffee drinker, you may know that Brazil has suffered two frosts and a drought recently, so harvests are stunted and prices are soaring.The Celica GT? The '95 two-door coupe is sticker-priced at $19,288, 4.7 percent more than in '94.
But there's good news at the mall. Clothing prices are down 0.2 percent, led by a 2.4 percent drop in the price of children's wear.
Where is the cost of living headed? Based on the headlines that punctuate the daily papers, you might think raging inflation is in store.
Wages will outpace inflation, but not by much. Pay increases are expected to average 4 percent, just half a percentage point above the expected rise in cost of living.
The problem with such numbers, of course, is that they're averages. If you received a 7 percent raise for 1995, you might think you're sitting pretty, with your income handily outpacing inflation.
That's great, if you face average inflation. But a couple of kids in college and an adjustable-rate mortgage about to step up two percentage points could make that raise seem paltry.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly CPI is the result of price changes across a wide range of consumer goods, weighted to reflect that we ordinarily spend more on housing than on sporting goods.
You can figure your inflation rate by customizing the percentages of your budget spent in each category.
For each category below, multiply the inflation factor shown by the percentage of your budget it consumes (for a total of 100 percent): Food and beverages, 0.023; housing, 0.025; apparel, -0.007, transportation, 0.933; medical care, 0.047; entertainment, 0.025; other, 0.044.
Now, add the resulting figures to compute your own rate of inflation.