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Kansans get 10 percent off every day for living here

Lifelong Kansan Belle Gray said she seldom shops anywhere but Kansas and Oklahoma but was delighted to find out that a dollar spent in Kansas buys about $1.10 worth of goods compared with the national average.
Lifelong Kansan Belle Gray said she seldom shops anywhere but Kansas and Oklahoma but was delighted to find out that a dollar spent in Kansas buys about $1.10 worth of goods compared with the national average. The Wichita Eagle

Are you sick and tired of spending a dollar and only getting $1.10 worth of stuff?

Wait a minute. That’s actually a pretty good deal.

And that’s the deal that the Tax Foundation says you’re getting by living and shopping in the Sunflower State.

This week, the Washington-based research and advocacy group released a report ranking the states by the purchasing power of $100. The study is based on what a standard “market basket” of goods and services tallied by the federal government costs in each state compared with the national average, said its author, Alan Cole.

The Great Plains – with the notable exception of Colorado – did quite well on prices.

Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Kansas came in at No. 14. The study calculated that for every $100 a Kansan spends, he or she gets $110.25 in value.

Essentially, you could think of it as getting a 10 percent discount every day on everything.

People who have lived in higher-price states say they notice the difference.

Juan Delgado, a naturalized citizen who loads and unloads planes at Garden City’s airport, said he can definitely tell the difference between Kansas prices and prices in California, where he lived for five years after immigrating to the United States.

I think it’s much cheaper in Kansas. I feel good.

Juan Delgado, former California resident

“I think it’s much cheaper in Kansas,” he said, smiling as he walked his dog through Wichita’s Delano district with his son, John Escobedo. “I feel good.”

Kansas isn’t bad, but most of our neighbors are actually doing even better on pricing.

In Missouri, $100 spends like $111.86. Kansans could also find bargains in Oklahoma, where that same $100 spends like $110.99; and Nebraska, $110.38.

Almost nobody beats Arkansas when it comes to stretching a dollar. One hundred dollars spent there is equivalent to $114.29, making the Natural State the second-biggest bang for the buck in the country, trailing only neighboring Mississippi, where $100 gets you $115.34 worth of goods.

And then there’s Colorado, the only Plains or Rocky Mountain state where a dollar doesn’t spend like more than a dollar. The theoretical $100 there is worth only $98.04, the equivalent of throwing away $1.96 of every $100 spent.

Cole explained that high real estate costs in Denver are probably driving the difference. High land cost leads to high rent, which leads to high prices on just about everything, he said.

If you want a gym membership, well, your gym pays rent too. That’s why services could be more expensive.

Alan Cole, Tax Foundation analyst

“If you want a gym membership, well, your gym pays rent too,” he said. “That’s why services could be more expensive.

“And then when it comes to goods, if you’re buying goods at a grocery store, that grocery store pays rent too. So land is a huge factor of production for basically everything that we do, and if land is more expensive, everything else gets more expensive.”

To some extent, the difference in purchasing power is offset by higher wages offered in high-price areas – otherwise people couldn’t afford to live there. But it’s not a direct relationship, according to 2014 figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the latest available.

For example, compare Colorado and Kansas.

Colorado’s per-capita income is $48,896, nearly $5,000 more than Kansas’ $43,978.

But when adjusted for the lower prices in Kansas, real per-capita income flips to Kansas’ favor, $45,421 to $44,891.

It can go the other way too.

The District of Columbia has the highest prices in the nation, with $100 spending like $84.67. But it also has the highest per-capita personal income at $69,838, leading to a real per-capita income of $54,280, blitzing Kansas’ real income by about $8,800.

Kathy Schutte of Wichita, who works in a laundry at a senior care center in Haysville, said her son is a florist and landscaper in California and complains often about the high price of everything. She said he was paying $1,600 a month for a two-bedroom apartment and recently moved to a $575 efficiency apartment attached to a single-family home to save money.

Schutte said she’s generally satisfied with the price of things in Wichita, although “food, it varies.”

But, she said, it’s difficult for a lot of people to get by even with a favorable balance of consumer prices.

“I think the minimum wage should go up,” she said, adding that workers can’t support a family on the current state and federal rate of $7.25 an hour. “I think it should go up to $10 at least.”

Belle Gray, 75, said she’s lived her whole life in Kansas and occasionally shops in Oklahoma where her son lives, so she’s never really had much reason to contemplate what things cost elsewhere.

“I travel quite a bit, but you can’t bring home much,” she said.

But she was delighted to learn that Kansans generally get about $1.10 worth of goods for $1, especially since she was buying her first laptop computer Thursday.

“It’s got to be a little bit better than 88 cents or 97 cents,” she said.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

Purchasing power

The following are the states where $100 is worth the most and least in purchasing power compared with the national average. In Kansas, $100 buys an estimated $110.25 worth of goods and services.

Top five

Bottom five

Location

Value of $100

Location

Value of $100

Mississippi

$115.34

District of Columbia

$84.67

Arkansas

$114.29

Hawaii

$85.62

Alabama

$113.90

New York

$86.43

South Dakota

$113.64

New Jersey

$87.34

Kentucky

$112.74

California

$88.97

Source: The Tax Foundation

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