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6 Things That Are Getting Cheaper

Inflation is still rampant, but some prices are actually falling

Digital financial composite illustration with shopping basket and graphs
Moment / Getty Images

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Inflation numbers have been lousy the past 12 months. The consumer price index (CPI), the government’s main gauge of inflation, soared 9.1 percent, its biggest year-over-year rise since November 1981. Gasoline prices jumped 59.9 percent since last June, and food rose 10.4 percent.

side by side image of packages of beef steaks with a yellow special price label and hands on a fuel pump filling a car's gas tank
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But there’s a sliver of sunshine in the few items that saw their prices fall in recent weeks. Whether or not these decreases indicate that broader inflation is ending is anyone’s guess. But consumers paid less for these six items of late.

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1. Gasoline

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded hit an all-time high of $5.02 in June, and currently sells for $4.28 a gallon, according to AAA.

It’s probably not a bad time to top off your tank. The price of a barrel of crude oil dropped below $100 on July 21 for the first time since earlier this month, but the government’s Energy Information Administration says that stocks of crude oil have fallen by 13.5 million barrels in the past 12 months. That could eventually push prices higher.

The wild card: Russia, the world’s third-largest oil producer, is still facing heavy sanctions because of its invasion of Ukraine. Tom Kloza, an energy analyst for OPIS, says he thinks gas prices could revisit the $5 level before settling back down in the fall. “It will be because of [Russian president Vladimir] Putin and all the different buttons he can push in his desperation to react to the Western sanctions,” Kloza says.

2. Steaks

Beef prices in general rose during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to a shortage of both beef processors and employees who work at beef processing plants. In the 12 months ended January 2022, steak prices rose 17.1 percent.

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Move ahead six months, to June 2022, however, and steak prices at the grocery store are down for the previous 12 months, albeit very modestly. Steak prices fell 0.3 percent the 12 months ended June.

What has changed? Corn prices have fallen since March, and beef cattle eat lots of corn. And some meat processing companies have been feeling political heat for the sharp price increases. President Biden, in his State of the Union speech on March 1, noted that 85 percent of the nation’s meat supply comes from just four companies. Those companies appear to be doing quite well. Tyson Foods, for example, saw its 12-month profit jump 74 percent in the second quarter of 2022.

3. Televisions

a sports event is on a large screen TV; two different hands with smartphones are held up and being used simultaneously
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Falling prices on televisions should warm Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s heart. The Fed again raised short-term interest rates on July 27 to slow the economy and drive down inflation. When the economy slows, people spend less, which reduces demand — and prices.

COVID-19 lockdowns in China pushed prices up in 2021, but flat-panel prices have fallen as Chinese ports reopen and the supply of TVs increases, according to industry website TechRadar. When prices are rising and the economy looks iffy, buying a new 65-inch TV for the living room doesn’t seem like a great idea. So the supply of TVs is up and demand is down, which means that a new set costs less. Television prices fell 2.3 percent in June from May, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), following a 3 percent decline in May from April. In the past 12 months, the price of a new TV has fallen 12.7 percent.

4. Smartphones

Do you remember the early cellular phones, which were the size (and weight) of a brick, made hugely expensive calls and had no other features? Sure you do. Today’s smartphones are basically small computers with a voice feature. You can take pictures with your phone and get turn-by-turn directions if you decide to shuffle off to Buffalo.

BLS economists realize that today’s smartphones aren’t cheap, but they give you a whole lot more for your money than the brick phones of yore. Think of it this way: Your phone may cost $800, but you don’t have to buy a camera, an atlas or, for that matter, a computer. Adjusted for greater functionality, the BLS reckons that smartphone prices have fallen 20 percent in the past 12 months.

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5. Cruise fares

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COVID-19 has been particularly tough on the cruise industry, with prices still in a funk compared to 2019. Celebrity Cruises, for example, advertised the “lowest fares of the year” in May. The BLS says cruise fares are down 7.8 percent in the past 12 months, and 2.1 percent in June from May.

Some customers have been rebooking their fares at lower prices as the date for the voyage approaches. If you’re looking for bargains, book closer to the sailing date. According to Travel Weekly, prices can fall as much as 20 to 30 percent as the departure date nears.

6. Gold

Long touted as a hedge against inflation, gold has been deflating this year. The yellow metal began 2022 at $1,811.40 an ounce and closed July 27 at $1,714.05, according to metals dealer Kitco. It sold for $1,800.35 an ounce on July 27, 2021.

At least part of gold’s slowdown could be because of the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia, where gold is a popular investment. And China has been busily increasing its gold mining activity. It’s the world’s largest gold producer; in the past decade, it has mined 15 percent of all the gold in the world. So supply may be outstripping demand, even in these inflationary times.

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