What Was on Our Minds Last Year vs. This Year

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Search Trends

What a difference a year makes. The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives dramatically, starting with shrinking household budgets for millions of people and forcing us to spend most of our days at home, seeking new ways to entertain ourselves. What we look for on Google reflects those changes: A year ago, top searches with the term "cheap" included prom dresses and hotels in popular beach destinations — which seem frivolous compared with the top "cheap" searches now. Here’s a closer look at the top 10 search queries in the past three months, compared with the same period last year. 

girls at prom

No. 1 in 2019: 'Cheap Prom Dresses Near Me'

Increase in Searches: 650%
Ah, the good old days when proms were still a rite of passage each spring — when we were still holding large, communal gatherings and making memories to last a lifetime. Variations on this search made up two of the top slots last spring, with "prom dresses cheap" also trending, up 100% in volume.

gas station
MATJAZ SLANIC/istockphoto

No. 1 Now: 'Why Is Gas So Cheap Right Now?'

Increase in Searches: 1,950%
Gas is on people's minds — searches on the topic made up several of the top slots over the past 90 days, including "Why is gas so cheap" and "Why are gas prices so cheap," both up 900% in volume. The answer: Travel has plummeted, meaning so has gas consumption, yet Russia led in insisting on keeping production high when the oil had nowhere to go. Now there's so much oil that the industry has basically run out of places to store it.

Mainstays Stanton 4-Piece Patio Furniture Set
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No. 2 Now: 'Where Can I Buy a Cheap Printer?'

Increase in Searches: 1,650%
In our personal lives, most of us can get along without a printer. But they're practically essential for serious home offices, which are being set up by legions of new remote workers.

Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Tom Hirtreiter/shutterstock

No. 3 in 2019: 'Cheap Hotels in Myrtle Beach'

Increase in Searches: 150%
Remember the excitement of planning a spring break getaway? Or a fun summer vacation for the family? Seems like another lifetime.

Related: 50 of the Most Beautiful Beaches in America

Office Supplies

No. 4 in 2019: 'Cheap Bathing Suits'

Increase in Searches: 120%
Last year, spring break and summer vacation travel was still a thing — enough that "cheap swimsuits" was another term among the top 10 searches last spring, up 90%.

flower shop
Christina Vartanova/istockphoto

No. 4 Now: 'Where to Buy Cheap Flowers Near Me'

Increase in Searches: 1,600%
With in-person Mother's Day visits far more challenging amid social distancing, flowers can at least still be dropped off and left with mom. And some searchers may just be buying flowers for themselves to try to cheer themselves up.

motorcycles for sale

No. 5 in 2019: 'Cheap Motorcycles'

Increase in Searches: 70%
Nothing like hitting the open road come spring and summer, particularly on a motorcycle. Enthusiasts were busy searching for wheels last year. This trending search term was up 70% in volume.

Related: 25 Iconic Motorcycles From the Past 125 Years 

787 dreamliner
Martin Chavez/istockphoto

No. 5 Now: 'Cheap Flights Right Now'

Increase in Searches: 1,600%
Apparently there are souls brave enough to travel amid a pandemic. But there are fewer routes available as carriers reduce service, and there will be fewer seats — literally — as airlines rip out furniture and stop selling spots side by side to ensure social distancing. Prices could also rise with the installation of barriers. At least Frontier Airlines was forced to drop a proposed social distancing fee after public outcry. But with so many fewer customers on a flight, how will airlines keep justifying fees for bringing luggage aboard?

Related: 33 Ways the Travel Industry Is Picking Your Pocket

Best Flower Delivery Services
investing on smart phone

No. 6 Now: 'Cheap Stocks to Buy Now'

Increase in Searches: 1,000%
The stock market has been on a roller-coaster ride since the pandemic began, plunging dramatically at its outset. For some people it's been entirely unnerving, for others it's been an opportunity to buy good stocks at bargain prices.

Related: Not Into Stocks and Bonds? Here Are 12 Alternative Investments to Consider 

San Diego, California

No. 7 in 2019: 'Cheap Hotels in San Diego'

Increase in Searches: 70%
The nation's finest city — don't fight me — was trending last spring. It was, after all, the year Comic-Con turned 50, Legoland turned 20, and Sea World turned 55, all in March, followed by the San Diego Padres baseball team reaching 50 in April and the city itself celebrating a 250th birthday in July. And maybe people wanted to the San Diego Zoo's last pandas before they left for China?

Mother's Day Gifts She'll Use All Year

No. 7 Now: 'Cheap Mother’s Day Gifts'

Increase in Searches: 650%
No surprise this term is popular around a Mother's Day arriving as worried people are forced to try to do more with less money.

Related:  50 Mother's Day Gifts She'll Love for Less Than $50


No. 8 in 2019: 'Cheap Cars for Sale Near Me'

Increase in Searches: 60%
Car shopping was still popular last spring, a stark difference compared with this year. Stay-at-home orders nationwide have triggered a massive decline in automotive sales.

Related: 20 Reliable Cars You Can Drive Into the Ground 

Brother HC1850 Computerized Sewing and Quilting Machine

No. 8 Now: 'Cheap Sewing Machines'

Increase in Searches: 550%
Sewing machine popularity is not shocking in our new normal. Not only are countless bricks-and-mortar clothing retailers closed (or going out of business entirely), but making your own things can be far more economical, particularly in a recession, when money is tight. Some people may even be looking for the machines to sew masks to donate and help prevent coronavirus infection.

Related: How to Help the Essential Workers on the Front Lines of the Coronavirus Fight 

Buy Because It's a Bargain

No. 9 in 2019: 'Dirt Cheap Near Me'

Increase in Searches: 60%
Hard to say with any scientific certainty if this trending query last spring was about people searching for actual dirt or searching for things that are "dirt cheap." Either way, bargain shopping was clearly the theme, even when the U.S. economy seemed to be riding high.

woman buying tv

No. 9 Now: 'Where to Buy a Cheap TV'

Increase in Searches: 550%
Americans have already spent weeks cooped up, so it's little wonder we're expanding or improving our entertainment options. Also among the top search queries was "cheap TVs near me," which was up 500% in search volume.

Aviator Sunglasses for Gals

No. 10 in 2019: 'Cheap Sunglasses'

Increase in Searches: 60%
On the cusp of summer last year, of course people were busy shopping for a seasonal essential.


No. 10 Now: 'Where to Get Cheap Couches'

Increase in Searches: 450%
This year we're stuck at home, and we might as well be comfortable.