Miscellaneous costs are not indicated in this logo

Measuring the Cost of Good Times

Morris County Cost of Living Series

Let’s take a closer look at the data used to compare Morristown’s basic costs to the costs in Newark, Manhattan, San Diego and elsewhere.  We’re not talking about subsistence living here.  Fun is included.

Fun, as far as C2ER is concerned, involves newspaper reading, owning a dog, playing tennis (or purchasing the balls for your dog?), movie-theater-going, alcoholic beverages and yoga classes.

I was tickled by the alcohol we needed to price:  a six pack of Heineken and one of those big bottles of wine (1.5 liter).  When I think of a 1.5 liter bottle of generic white wine, I think “book club” or “girls night in” or “bachelorette party.”  A six pack of Heineken says “backyard barbeque”, “Friday night” and “Super bowl party.”  All fun times.  The grocery list supports these hypothesizes.  It includes ribeye steak, hamburger meat, potato chips and soda.

The Best Things in Morris Life are Free

I’d say C2ER has an captured fun with a few purchases.  It does bring to mind though how much family fun there is in Greater Morristown for little-to-no out-of-pocket cost.  Morristown is high cost – but look at what your tax dollars buy.

The playgrounds, bike paths (with bike rentals), swimming, paddle boating and camp-on-the-beach night at Sunrise lake, picnicking at the arboretum, etc. are provided by the Park Service.   Sledding is free of course.  There are some great hills.  Ice skating is affordable.  Revolutionary war reenactment – cheap.  Civil war reenactment – usually free.

Summer movie nights, outdoor concerts and winter jump-rope nights are free.  Admission to the Gingerbread Wonderland exhibit costs $2.  Hay rides and pumpkin slingshot are similarly priced.  Fruit picking can add up – but the strawberries in particular are divine.

Morristown Festival of Books is free.  Ditto the Jazz and Blues Festival.  Fall Festival on the Green.  St. Patrick’s Day parades.  Meet-Me-In-Morristown craft fairs.  The Farmer’s Market on Sundays.  Blessing of the Animals services.  Pumpkin Illumination night.  First Night Morris buttons are ~$25 for up to six hours of concerts and performances.  The New Year fireworks that go with First Night are free and the half-time show is at a kid-friendly stopping point.

Our local newspaper, MorristownGreen.com doesn’t have a paywall.  Our libraries are amazing.  They’re expanding into the Library of Things (musical instruments, sewing machines) in addition to photo exhibits, digital material and the traditional hardback books.  The Morristown/township library lets you borrow museum passes.  That would make Morris Museum free.  Oh – and they host a free income tax help day.

Prices at fundraisers range from cheap (road races like the Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot) to expensive.  It’s money for a good cause, and often a fabulous party at a breathtaking venue.

Getting back to Business

For those who are interested in the Cost of Living deep dive, here are our instructions for pricing “fun” goods and services:

  • Newspaper Subscription: Report the cost for a home-delivery daily-and-Sunday subscription to the newspaper professional and managerial households in your area normally choose for state, regional, and national news.  (That would be the Star Ledger.)
  • Veterinary Services: Please price exam only, without vaccines, blood work, grooming, etc. The exam is for a yearly check-up of a healthy 4-year-old dog.
  • Tennis Balls: Report the average price for one can of three Wilson or Penn brand extra-duty tennis balls. This item can be found in department stores, sporting goods stores, drugstores, and discount stores.  (I had to include Livingston and Roxbury shopping malls to collect enough data.)
  • Beer: Report the average price for a six-pack of Heineken’s beer in 12-ounce containers. Exclude deposit, if any. Do not price 12-packs or cases and then report a prorated price.
  • Wine: Report the average price for a 1.5-liter bottle of white table wine. It may be Pinot Grigio, Chablis Blanc, or other white table wine of your choice. The basic rule of thumb for this item is, ‘Would you serve it in your home?’ Price only blends—don’t price vintage years, which are more expensive.
  • Drop-In Yoga Class: Report the price for a one hour yoga drop-in class. The rate may be listed as a “single class pass”. If a membership is required at the studio, please do not price there, or find the rate that is accessible to nonmembers. This will likely exclude classes available at fitness clubs that offer monthly members and a variety of group classes (nonyoga). No discounts for first time visitors or students should be reported.  (I didn’t include the free yoga at the library or the Farmer’s market)

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C2ER’s Cost of Living Index measures regional differences in the cost of consumer goods and services, excluding taxes and non-consumer expenditures, for professional and managerial households in the top income quintile nationally.  “Fun” as discussed here is under the miscellaneous category.  Miscellaneous goods and services is weighted at 32.44% for the composite Index.

— Beth Kujan