Sun 13 Jan, 2013 08:41 am

Change you can't afford

Household incomes are expected to remain steady this year, but experts expect the prices of some consumer staples to increase due to supply and demand or inflation issues and consumers can expect to pay more for these four items in 2013.

According to GasBuddy.com’s 2013 forecast, drivers in major cities including Atlanta, Boston, Dallas and Los Angeles should expect prices to creep above $4.00 a gallon during the year. The pain at the pump could be worse for West Coast residents with expectations of the price to surpass $4.50 a gallon in Los Angeles and San Francisco at some point.
Drivers should expect volatility in gas prices all year, especially from April 1 through May 15 when refineries typically face problems when starting to produce cleaner-burning summer gas. Prices tend to also fluctuate August through mid September for hurricane season and October 15 through November 15 when winter gas is coming into retailers.
“Even with increasing energy production in the U.S., declining fuel consumption and improving fuel efficiency, Americans may still face rising gasoline prices in 2013... and that appears to be closely tied to the nation's $16 trillion debt,” said Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy in prepared remarks.

The severe 2012 Midwest drought didn’t have an immediate large-scale impact on food prices, but consumers won’t be so lucky in 2013.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the drought impacted prices for corn and soybeans and other field crops, which will increase retail food prices and finally trickle down to the consumer level this year.
What’s more, the USDA says inflation will remain strong for all animal- based food products because of higher prices of feed and that inflation should be above the historical average for cereals, bakery products and other foods.

Airfare and Lodging
Traveling will cost a little more this year as airfare and lodging prices are expected to creep up.
According to the American Express Global Business Travel Forecast, business class air fares in the U.S. are expected to increase 1% to 3% while fares for short haul economy class tickets will rise 2% to 4%. Travelers staying in mid-range hotels will see an increase of 2% to 7% in rates while those looking for high-end hotels will pay 4% to 9% more.
But there is some good news for U.S.-based travelers in 2013: the survey also says increased competition will result in lower prices for car rentals. International travelers, especially those visiting Europe, Middle East and Africa may actually enjoy decreases in airfare, largely due to the euro zone crisis. According to the forecast, countries hit hard by the crisis like Spain will see a decline as much as 8% in long haul fares. As for international hotel fares, only conservative increases are predicted for 2013.

Health Plan Premiums
Last year was the lowest health-care premium rate increase in six years, according to Aon Hewitt, but that won’t be the case this year.
In 2013 the average health-care premium is projected to increase 6.3%, and according to Aon Hewitt, the average health-plan premium cost per employee is projected to increase to $11,188, with the average contribution by the employee coming in at $2,385.
Average out-of-pocket costs including co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles are projected to be $2,429 in 2013. In 2008, employees’ contributions came in at $3,199 which is expected to increase to $4,814 based on Aon Hewitt’s analysis.
Aon Hewitt also forecasts health maintenance organization or HMO plans to experience a 7% increase in premiums while preferred provider organization or PPO plans will see a 6.1% increase as will point-of service or POS plans.

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