Even in a tough economy, there are some bright spots. Many expensive purchases have gotten a lot less costly because of industry problems, a steep decline in consumer spending or both.
The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJSCPA) describes three big-ticket items that may cost less than they did a year ago:
Buying a Home
By the middle of the year, home prices nationwide had fallen a great deal from their recent peaks, and the decline is much larger in some former boom neighborhoods. That’s why many people who might have been priced out of the market during the buying frenzy of the last few years are now wondering whether it’s a good time to purchase. As you shop, keep in mind that just because a house is cheap doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good value.
Be sure to take all the usual precautions before committing to a purchase, including getting a home inspection from a qualified, independent inspector who checks to make sure the house is sound and not in need of major repairs.
And while the home may feature a big price cut from the original asking price, ask your realtor to show you examples of recent comparable sales of similar houses in the same area. It may be that the house is still overpriced for the neighborhood, despite any price reduction.
Finally, make a realistic assessment of your own budget for housing costs and determine whether the purchase price and monthly costs are truly affordable for you.
More Attractive Car Prices
Many auto manufacturers have lowered their prices in recent months due to a drop in sales in the midst of the recession and because of troubles in the auto industry. As a result, this may be a good time to shop around for great deals on new or used cars. When you do your shopping, ask car dealers about any incentives, either in the form of cheaper prices or lower interest rates.
Before you go to a dealer, get information on the best value for the car you want (and any trade-in you may have) and what the competition is asking. Websites such as www.kelleybluebook.com and www.edmunds.com provide information on basic prices on different models. When you’re an informed shopper, you have a better chance of getting the best deal.
Air fares and hotel rates have been attractive in recent months. Why? First, prices have dropped because of the problems in the economy and second, travel cutbacks by both businesses and individuals. In addition, airlines no longer have to pay for the high gas prices we had last year. Shop wisely, being aware of hidden costs for any flight you book, such as extra charges for luggage, onboard meals or cancellation fees if you change your plans. They could wipe out the value of your bargain.
It’s not only the most expensive items — houses, cars and air fares — that are now on sale. Many retailers have cut prices on a wide range of items to attract buyers and they are continuing to do so as the holidays draw near. Watch out for sales and you will likely be able to keep more money in your pocket this holiday season.
Consult Your Local CPA
It’s important to remember that even a bargain is not a good deal if you can’t afford it, so don’t be tempted by low prices if you don’t have the money to spend. There are many ways to stretch your dollar in tough times, and your local CPA can help you make the most of them. Turn to him or her with all your financial questions.
If you don’t have a CPA, you can easily locate one online using the NJSCPA’s free, online Find-A-CPA service. Just go to www.findacpa.org, and in a few clicks you can locate a highly qualified professional who can assist you.
For more information on various personal financial matters, visit the NJSCPA’s public service website at www.MoneyMattersNJ.com. While visiting, you can subscribe to Your Money Matters, the NJSCPA’s free, monthly email newsletter to receive valuable personal financial planning advice throughout the year.
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