Prices on many consumer products are either creeping or galloping upwards, fueled by the rising cost of gas and most food items. According to the most recent data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices on many items increased an average of 0.4 percent in January and by 1.6 percent since the beginning of 2010. (The Bureau tracks the changing cost of goods and services as part of its monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI).)
Even during this same time, however, dozens of products declined in price. Here's a look at items that are going up...and several that are sinking fast.
1. Hotels and Motels
Need a reason to dump the staycation? The average price of hotels and motels dropped by 7.7 percent in the second half of 2010, as the hospitality industry attempted to lure U.S. consumers unwilling to splurge for lodging. Consider giving your friends and family a break next vacation and forgo that spare bedroom for a cozy hotel room.
2. Home Furnishings
Come on in and set a spell. The cost of furniture, including comfy chairs, declined by 6.5 percent in the first half of 2010 and by 0.9 percent between July and January of this year. Linens also took a dive by 11.3 percent in the first half of 2010 and another 5.1 percent in the last half of the year.
That 3-D TV you have your eye on isn't going to drop in price anytime soon, but the fact is prices have plummeted on technology like smartphones and computers, after you factor in inflation. The price for personal computers dropped 9.2 percent from July to January last year. Prices on stereos and other audio equipment also fell by a full 5 percent in the same time period. Non 3-D televisions declined the most of all electronics by a stunning 35.8 percent in 2010.
Going down? Adult and children's clothing are enjoying sinking prices, if you have a little expendable income. Much clothing is manufactured outside the U.S., particularly in China, which has kept its exchange rate low in comparison to the dollar.
Lamb, pork and beef have remained at a stable level while chicken fell 2.4 percent in the second half of 2010. This situation may soon come to an end because ranchers and producers are looking at increasing prices on feedstock.
6. ATM Fees
Banks are continuing to amp up the threat of making consumers pay for the price of increased regulation. Chase is testing out charging non-customers in Illinois $5 for withdrawal fees. In Texas, they're trying to sneak in a $4 charge.
7. Cell Phone Plans
Some companies are talking pretty loudly about doing away with unlimited plans. The recent AT&T/T-Mobile merger will no doubt put paid to this strategy. Some services even try to charge customers who go over their bandwidth allotment. That's just so wrong!
As of March 28, the New York Times will charge readers $15 per month for its online version of the paper. (You also may have noticed the price of your local newspaper has steadily crept up to $0.50 or more per day while the content continues to shrink.) The New York Time's company shares lost 62 percent of their value in the past four years, while digital revenue increased 15 percent in 2010, accounting for 16 percent of total sales. Add that to the face the Times's website had 48.5 million unique visitors in January alone and it's not surprising the "Gray Lady" is taking a big leap forward by charging for NYTimes.com.
9. Cigarettes and Alcohol
Strapped state governments continue to slap smokers and drinkers around by increasing "sin taxes." These taxes create less public outcry than others as they discourage behaviors deemed to be socially unacceptable. Maybe it's time to slap on that nicotine patch and learn to love tea.
This one's a real "duh." The economy may be getting stronger, but so is the stench coming from raised fares and insulting fees. But you've no doubt heard enough on this topic to make you want to ditch planes and grow your own wings.
not that long ago you could pay a minimum of roughly $5 per month for a steady stream of those red envelopes. Now you'll pay $9.99 for one DVD rental at a time and unlimited movies and TV shows streamed over the Internet. Of course, this assumes you have a fast enough connection and good enough computer to make it worth your while. A streaming-only plan costs $7.99 a month but, to be fair, Netflix does have an excellent selection.
Here's another "duh" item. Back in the day, you could fill your tank for $10. Now you have to give up your first born to gas up. Commuting by bike is looking better every day.
13. Snail Mail
Back in 1898 you could mail a letter for $0.3. With the U.S. Postal Office hemorrhaging money, however, what used to be a real bargain has skyrocketed to $0.44. No wonder consumers have turned to email. Or is that what caused the problem in the first place?