Consumer Comeback Blog

12 things that will cost less in 2012, but you still shouldn’t buy

There was a recent article on msn money by a guest poster from Dealnews called: 12 things that will cost less in 2012. It was a fantastic article highlighting why this year the following 12 items will probably either fall in price or remain low for consumers. It is refreshingly specific and more than likely accurate about its pricing forecasts, and it’s a very nice read for consumer optimism.

With that said, you probably still shouldn’t buy any of these things. Let me qualify that statement: most of you shouldn’t. It’s not that you can’t get a good deal on any of these items this year, it’s just that from a sense of frugality, almost every single item is a consumer value trap. Purchases of excess that while cheaper than before, still may not be a frugal purchase.  Just because they’ve dropped in price, doesn’t mean they make sense to buy or that you’re even getting the best value.  Here’s why:

iPad 2

These things are great. They’re a lot of fun, and as tablets go, it doesn’t get much better. And of course the iPad 3 is coming soon…so the price should drop. The problem is, when it comes down to it, they’re a VERY EXPENSIVE toy. They don’t make a very good replacement for computers unless the only thing you do on the computer is browse the web. But even as web browsing machines go, tablets are still a costly solution. And even after the price drops, the iPad 2 will still be “middle of the road” in terms of tablet prices… for an outdated model.

Wine

This is an item that you can buy on the cheap already and get a great value. Studies have shown that most wine drinkers can’t taste the difference in quality of ‘proportionately’ priced wines. As a result, discount wines are selling very well. This, then, causes brands and wineries that claim higher quality to drop their prices to meet the demand. So a $30 bottle of wine will cost $20, but the “two buck chuck” remains $2. So my question is this: if you already enjoy discount wines, why would it make any more sense to pay $20 for a bottle of wine than $30? It wouldn’t.

If you haven’t tried two-buck chuck, or other discount wines try them.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Desktop replacement laptops

I don’t have a problem with people buying powerful laptops that can do the job of a desktop. Especially if portability and performance are important to your computer choice. I have a problem with the term “desktop replacement”. No matter how inexpensive laptops become, for working at a desk, nothing can replace the value of a desktop with a separate monitor. You still get the best bang-for-your-buck on performance (on both the screen and the computer itself) and are a good amount easier and cheaper to upgrade. Also, because computers lose value faster than monitors, when you need to upgrade the entire machine, you aren’t replacing both computer and screen at the same time.  It’s all about value.

Android tablets

If I were to buy a tablet, it would probably be an Android.  The thing is: I simply don’t have a need for another $200+ toy that my cats can break. My netbook is more than adequate for browsing the web on the couch, plus when I’m on the road, I can actually use it to do work. If you really love the apps, you might consider getting an Android smartphone. Sure, they’re not as fun as a 10” screen, but that ultra-portability (i.e. pocket size) coupled with the functionality of a phone & tablet in one device, there’s a much better value there.

Solid State Drives

The time may be soon that the advantages of SSDs and their rapidly dropping prices have eclipsed the value of traditional hard drives. But the fact remains: price per gigabyte is still higher for SSDs. So once again, “value” for this product is more of question of needs and uses than price.

Car Rentals

I’m actually excited about this one because my wife and I just booked a vacation to Miami to visit my sister. The last few days, we’re planning on renting a car and driving out to the keys. I can’t wait. Otherwise, the price of car rentals isn’t much of a thought to me as a consumer.  And unless you were already planning on it too, renting a car will make no more sense this year regardless of the price.

Ebook Readers

These things are fantastic. In fact, for some people, it’s the one item on this list I would recommend to buy this year. They’re cost effective and more environmentally friendly than books while still being easy on your eyes (unlike tablet and computer screens). I honestly recommend them for anyone who loves to read a lot.

Otherwise, however, they’re not much use. That’s why they seem to be losing market share to tablets. Even the Amazon kindle brand has given into the tablet craze. Old models seem to be going the way of the dodo bird. That’s why it might be a good time to buy.

Apple MacBook Air refurbs

I have nothing against Apple computers. As great as they are, I simply don’t believe they’re worth the money. But, if you must have one, this might be the best time (and way) to do it. When the newest model (expected this year) comes out, the current model of macbook airs will drop in price, and refurbished laptops may even go under $700. But consider, for a second, that the very same article that tells you this also points to brand new “desktop replacement” laptops for under $300. So just to recap: the most cost effective way to buy this computer would still cost more than twice as much as a comparable brand new PC laptop… for an older & refurbished model. That’s not “value”.

Standalone GPS units

Few inventions have made long road trips and traveling by car to unknown places a more pleasant experience than the GPS device. And because smartphones are more than capable as such, prices have dropped significantly for standalone GPS units. Still, if you’re considering this as a purchase, I highly recommend, first, considering going all-in and getting a smartphone instead. At nearly $100, a GPS unit can do one thing well. But with some new plans, you can have a smartphone (that acts as a GPS device and so much more) for about the same price (not including data fees). You do the math.

Media Streamers

If you enjoy streaming services such as Netflix, you probably have a device or two that streams directly to your television or home theater. Now, many blu ray players and even TV’s include services making stand-alone streaming boxes (like Roku) less relevant. But for those who have older or multiple televisions you’d like to use these services with, this is the ideal solution. And while the dropping prices are nice for those who were waiting for a cheaper way to add netflix to their bedroom TV set too, they’re value is limited beyond that.

3-D HDTVs

Televisions in general drop in price quite rapidly. It’s one of those purchases where you always pay a premium for the newest models & technology. And because 3-D TV sales haven’t been great, the extra supply is causing prices to drop even faster. But they’re still not dropping below comparable 2-D sets, and with the added cost of the glasses, 3-D blu ray player and discs, in the end: the added feature still seems pricier than it should be. For a technology that might not be supported 10 years from now.

Home Prices

Historic low interest rates and dropping home prices are the recipe for a fantastic buyers market. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to buy a home, now might be that time. But just because the conditions are right and financially it makes more sense to buy than rent, that should be low on the reasons for making such a purchase. There are advantages to renting over owning a home even when (financially) you are losing money by doing so. If you’re settled down, starting a family, and/or are otherwise ready to own a home, now is the time. Otherwise, don’t get into something just because experts tell you this is the best time.

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