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13 Things That Will Be Cheaper in 2021

Take heart—these expenses will dip now that our rough COVID-19 pandemic year is over and we turn a fresh calendar page.

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The ball is in the consumer’s court now

The pandemic has put our small towns and big cities, our health care system, and all of us, to the test, but in the crush, Americans have changed their spending habits. Now there is hope in the form of a vaccine and a silver lining: As businesses try to bounce back they will compete harder than ever for your dollar, so you can save more money day to day. It should be easy to slash your spending in these categories.

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Clothing

During the pandemic, droves of people have stayed home in their sweatpants or other outfits that made Casual Fridays look dressy. Department stores took a hard hit—after all, who needs new suits or good shoes just to wear on Zoom? As the vaccine rolls out, brands will keep fighting for your dough, dangling every carrot from buy-one-get-one-free sales to rewards programs that earn you insider discounts or store bucks to spend on future purchases. Keep an eye out for price-match guarantees; you’ll find them everywhere from Nordstrom to Home Depot.

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Apartment rents in big cities

Flocks of employees have proven they can do their jobs anywhere, including from their kitchens, cereal bowls in hand. This will force some businesses to be flexible about working remotely—and allow people to continue the move from cities to suburbs as they no longer face a daily commute. “More organizations will permit employees to continue to work from home in some capacity even after the vaccine distribution,” predicts Lawrence Yun, PhD, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. “That means people can live farther away from expensive city centers.” He expects Manhattan and San Francisco will be particularly hard hit. The benefit for those who do want to stay in urban areas is that more vacant apartments in these metropolises add up to lower rents. City landlords are already offering free rent for a period of time just to get leases locked in. Don’t miss these 18 signs you’re about to hire the wrong real estate agent.

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Gasoline

While it is difficult to predict gas prices a year ahead, they’re driven by crude oil prices, gas demand, and gas supply; demand was decimated in 2020 as people worked from home and limited travel, says Jeanette Casselano McGee, AAA spokesperson. “For the bulk of 2020, crude was very cheap—prices actually went negative and demand saw 30-year lows.” She expects pump prices to stay down in the early part of 2021. “That assumes demand and crude oil prices remain low—which is most likely the scenario until the vaccine is more widely available,” she notes. Check these other ways to save on gas prices.

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Airfares

All travel tanked in 2020 and that includes air travel. With demand for travel lower, it follows that the cost of airfare has also followed suit. As the vaccine rolls out, you’ll likely still be able to take advantage of lower fares. Once it’s widely available (and who knows exactly when that will be), ticket prices will start to rise again. Here’s more on what airfare could look like in 2021.

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Hotel and Airbnb stays

Hotels took some of the first—and worst—COVID-19 hits. Now, as some travel restrictions start to subside, hotels along with Airbnb hosts are eager to fill their rooms after months and months of lost bookings in a dismal 2020. Travelocity, for example, is already baiting consumers with hotel reservations with no cancellation fees. Airbnb hosts set their own pricing—and many are lower than usual—you may find offers such as a book two nights/get the third free and many have generous cancelation policies. See the most extravagant Airbnb listing in every state.

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Student debt

While this one is more of a hopeful guestimate than a done deal, President-elect Joe Biden reportedly supports proposed legislation to forgive a portion of student federal-loan debt. We can hear that collective sigh of fervent hope all over the country.

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Pet foods and medicines

With so many businesses from Chewy to California Pet Pharmacy competing for bark bucks and meow money, the chances are good that you can score some deep discounts when it comes to four-legged friends. You can also check competitive rates for pet insurance, which can potentially save a bundle on office visits and meds if you’re starting out with a relatively young and healthy pet. Progressive, for example, offers coverage for your fur baby at affordable prices.

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Starbucks

Casual meetings over soy lattes, we miss you so. The coffee giant has currently paused its afternoon buy one drink, get one free happy hours, due to the rise of coronavirus cases and the guidance to avoid gathering indoors in large groups for prolonged periods of time. Happily, a spokesperson tells Reader’s Digest that the company is keeping a close eye on the situation to see when they can bring back the bargain brew offers.. Find out 13 things a Starbucks employee won’t tell you.

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Credit card interest payments

“In response to the pandemic, many card issuers are supporting customers by offering flexible bill payments and waiving late fees and interest,” according to Jeff Sigmund, spokesperson for the American Bankers Association. “Our latest data shows consumers are doing a good job managing their accounts, with a record number of cardholders paying off their cards in full.” Call your credit card company to find about lowering your interest rate, adjusting payment dates, and any late-payment forgiveness programs. Review the 12 credit card rules you should never break.

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Commercial real estate

Coast to coast, from law firms in Portland, Oregon to marketing companies on NYC’s Park Avenue, businesses now see that they can function well on Zoom and Google Meet—so why pay to lease multiple floors with conference rooms, corner offices, cubicles, and coffee rooms? Consider that nearly 14 percent of office space in Midtown Manhattan is vacant, the highest rate in 11 years. Companies that need office space are definitely in the driver’s seat now and can upgrade to luxe leases for less money, or negotiate for lower rents on current ones.

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Electric cars

While you won’t be able to buy a Tesla for less in 2021 than you could in 2020, electric vehicles will cost less overall as more mainstream brands, like Ford and Volkswagen, jump into the fray, notes Mark Rechtin, editor in chief of Motor Trend. He expects pre-owned older-tech, outdated EVs will sell for less “if automakers slap incentives on the hood to help unload inventories.”

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Discount grocery stores

Food prices soared in 2020, at the worst possible time for consumers who most needed groceries to fuel home cooking (and bread baking) and feed kids all day while favorite restaurants shut their doors. On the brighter side, alternative sources for your groceries abound. Aldi stores, which offer lower prices on foods, opened up its 2,000 store in 2020 and is now in 37 states. The expansion continues in 2021 when the company is planning dozens more grand openings in the United States. Imperfect Foods, a San Francisco-based business, expanded its offerings beyond produce to also include nicked almonds, surplus coffee, misshapen eggs, and other essentials at up to 30 percent less than grocery store prices while reducing food waste at the same time. In addition to offering more fridge and pantry items, the company has a wider delivery range. For more ways to save, check out these 10 cheap ways to order groceries online.

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Cocoa

Good news for chocolate lovers: the prices of cocoa, the key ingredient in everything from Oreos to truffles, melted a bit in December 2020 after a more than four-year high. We can only hope it will hold for 2021 because we all need more of the sweet stuff.

Sources:

  • Lawrence Yun, PhD, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors
  • Jeanette Casselano McGee, AAA spokesperson
  • Jeff Sigmund, spokesperson for the American Bankers Association
  • Mark Rechtin, editor in chief of Motor Trend

Alice Garbarini Hurley
Alice Garbarini Hurley is a lifestyle, consumer, feature, profile, and essay writer who worked at Seventeen, Good Housekeeping, and Sesame Street Parents and is a long-time Contributing Writer for ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Coastal Living, InStyle, and Brain & Life. Hurley has blogged daily since 2010--often late into the night--about chocolate, Cape Cod, style, and more, at her website, Truth and Beauty. Her writing touches readers, who write to tell her so. She is proud to be swift, detailed, and accurate, and lives in Montclair with her family.