4 things that will cost less in 2013
While the price of food and other essentials continues to climb, some costs are bucking the trend.
This post comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site MarketWatch.
Experts say some items and expenses are bucking the trend, and may actually be cheaper in the new year. In some cases, the drop is due to evolving technology and increased competition. In others, shoppers are making choices that may result in lower bills -- without leaving them feeling deprived.
In particular, the cost of these four essentials may seem less daunting in 2013:
Used-car values have been on an upswing in recent years, with lower supply from fewer leases and inventory cleared out by 2009's federal Cash for Clunkers program.
But after peaking in 2011, used-car prices have begun to ebb again. "Consumers shopping for a used car will find that pricing will be more affordable in 2013 than in 2012," says Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
He expects prices to be 1% to 2% lower by the first quarter, and 3% to 4% lower by the end of 2013. Many cars in the new used-car supply will be recent off-lease returns.
Drivers in the market for a new car may also see some savings, although that opportunity is more about the ability to downsize than falling prices. Compacts and subcompacts in the $25,000-and-under category are getting more features typically found in full-size and luxury cars, Gutierrez says.
"That's part of what's been driving additional sales in the smaller-car segments," he says. The category also includes a few hybrids, such as the popular $20,000 Toyota Prius C.
The cable bill itself isn't getting any cheaper. Prices for expanded basic service rose 5.4% in 2011 from the year before, according to the Federal Communications Commission. But there may be less need to pony up for a subscription.
Talk of cord-cutting -- ditching paid television subscriptions in favor of a combination of free and inexpensive streaming options -- has been on the rise in recent quarters, as providers like Netflix and Amazon.com gain more partnerships to stream movies and television shows. During the third quarter of 2012, providers lost an estimated 127,000 subscribers, according to reports from research firm Sanford C. Bernstein, after losing 400,000 in the second quarter.
But experts say the trend isn't yet an option for everyone. Live sports aren't always available for streaming, nor are many TV shows -- especially those on premium channels.
It has become cheaper and easier for manufacturers to make large flat-screens, which has steadily pushed set prices down.
Average prices for 32-inch sets have dropped nearly 50% since 2010, from $600 to just below the $300 mark, says Mike Fridgen, the chief executive of price-comparison site Decide.com.
Fewer consumers are in the market for a new TV, and the competition among manufacturers and retailers is likely to fuel further drops, he says. Global demand for new TV sets fell 4% this year and is expected to stay flat for 2013, according to DisplaySearch, a division of research firm NPD Group.
But surprisingly, falling prices may spur consumers to spend more -- on a bigger set. The $600 budget that in 2010 might have bought you a 32-inch set would today be enough to get one measuring 40 to 55 inches, depending on the brand.
Prices for electronic editions already often edge out their print counterparts. Barnes & Noble, for one, sells the novel "Gone Girl" in hardcover for $14.34 and as an e-book for $12.99. The gap could widen in 2013.
In recent months, four publishers reached settlements with the Justice Department in a lawsuit alleging that they and Apple had conspired to raise e-book prices. (Apple and the fifth publisher named in the suit, Macmillan, will continue to litigate, according to the DOJ.)
The settlements give retailers more pricing flexibility. Deeper discounts are likely to pop up on current best-sellers and trendy topics, says Peter Hildick-Smith, president of consulting firm Codex Group.
As more people opt to buy tablets instead of e-readers, though, consumers may not buy as many e-books. "What we find is when someone has a tablet only, they're spending a lot less time reading books on it," says Hildick-Smith.
E-reader owners spend five hours a week reading on the device, according to Codex Group. But iPad owners spend two hours per week reading books and 72 minutes reading newspaper and magazine tablet editions.
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to make it clearer, I have to pay for a package of channels I don't want just to get a couple Ido want. A la carte and paying for what I do want would be nice....
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